Kylie, Jason, Jen, Kristo, Hywaida, Aimee, Ethan, Muz, Sonya, Mon and meeeeeee
With a couple of birthdays around this time Kylie wanted to get the gang together for an excursion. As it was going to be July and the gang likes dressing up Xmas in July made sense
And then we moved it forward a week so Xmas in July in June it was.
Lucky, as that afternoon the Gubberment announced lockdown,/stay at home rules for the filthy flatlanders and extended them to include the pox ridden, beanie wearing, hippies in the Blue Mountains
Anyhoo, We’d been talking about wandering down Valley of the Waters to check out Vera falls (the highest falls in that particular creek, one I had done before but only had vague memories of) and thought why the hell not. Surprisingly many in the group hadn’t ventured further down than the base of Empress falls. Oh man the next two, Sylvia Falls and Lodore Falls are beautiful and not 10min further down.
But I get ahead of myself. Pulling into the car park I see Kylie in candy stripes and Hywaida is busy Grinching up Kris.
Shit! this green stuff doesn’t come off. says she as I get out of my car
Kris looks alarmed. What is a grinch anyway?
Worth it but
Others rocked up, frocked up and off we went
First stop: the base of Empress for a photo op
After lots of photos and nearly as many laughs we continue our way down the trail. Vera is a long way down but it’s pretty walk
Below Lodore the trail gets rougher but not as vague as I remember it and despite the distance the time flies in good company and banter and before long we are standing on the large, slippery AF rock shelf at the top Vera
You are probably thinking, That’s a big group, but technically we are not canyoning and only half of us are doing the abseil. The rest are out for a walk and Xmas in July cheer.
So now we need to work out how we are going to do it.
We want to go through the falls and work out a good anchor option. Aimee and Krys get busy setting it up.
Me and Kylie breifly discuss the abseil. The toppo suggest the falls are 45-50m. My rope is a tad over 50. We left Jason’s 60m in the car. I tie the end of my rope into Aimee’s anchor and toss the end down to see if it will reach. Then try to get to a spot were I can see.
I can’t see if the tail is on the ground.
We know there is a large ledge about 10m from the bottom but I can’t see it. Kylie suggests first person down takes the spare rope and if possible joins the two at the ledge so that we are not needing to pass a knot mid abseil in what is going to be very cold water spray.
From here we had some communication break downs.
I was planning to be anchor bitch… I mean “monitor”. I know me and Kylie spoke about whether to swap over to a releasable or leave it as we would probably need the full length of rope.
Those not planning to abseil had already continued down the walking track to the base so Kylie moved up to a place where she could signal down to them. The rope isn’t on the ground.
People looked nervous and reluctant to go first.
I have ascending gear, I’m happy to go. I volunteers.
Aimee took over anchor duties. We discussed that if I needed to tie the extra rope on at the ledge I’d give 5 clear whistle blasts. Or maybe I discussed that with Kylie. As I said communication broke down. We all put trust in each other and assumed things.
Never assume things
Kylie somehow makes phone contact with Hywaida who confirms the rope reaches the ledge. Relief.
Ok no need to whistle, everyone knows the ropes will be joined and they need to pass a knot on the ledge.
I check Aimee is good, get on rope and go. We didn’t pause to discuss changing the anchor now that we had updated info.
Slippery Start. Then boosh.. I’m into it. It’s pretty much 40-45m of overhanging abseil. You’re in the main flow, then behind it. The wind moves the waterfall meters sidedways and front and back so you are in it then not in it then bam! back in.
I stop on a small ledge 3/4 the way down. There are a lot of loose rocks and I kick them off now rather than have them dislodge and smack someone on the noggin later, not thinking the sound of rocks crash down might freak out those up top….
I reach the big ledge. There is 4 or 5 m of rope on the ledge and a large dead tree between me and the edge. Rather than leave a long tail to possibly tangle in the tree I go off rope and signal for the slack to be taken up.
I hadn’t discussed this possibility with Aimee but she takes up the rope and when I signal to stop she is wondering what now? Remember, we hadn’t converted back to a releasable system.
She realised I needed the rope reset so ties a alpine butterfly and captures the slack in the loop. Yep that’s 4m of rope in the AB’s loop.
Meanwhile, down below I’ve joined the ropes and tossed the end down. Rookie error, I don’t keep hold of the rope and the angle takes it out away from me. Gingerly leaning over the dead tree I grab the rope and pull it back to me.
Unbeknownst to me, Aimee feels this but without being able to see and with communication difficulties she thinks I’m getting back on rope, she is only halfway through tying the alpine butterfly. Understandably it freaks her out and she gets it locked off as fast as possible, leaving a bit of her hair in the knot in the process
So she believes I’m on rope. I’m on the ledge waiting for an OK to go.
Once again the waterfall is swaying in the wind. I’m out of it. I’m in the spray. It’s dumping on me. I’m getting cold.
I look to the others at the bottom for guidance. I get a thumbs up (I think that is they have confirmation from the top I’m right to go, later it was explained it was confirmation the rope now reaches the ground
So I give the rope a gentle test pull. It holds. I pull again. Sweet. I get back on rope and make my way around the tree to the edge of the ledge. There I notice the rope has caught behind a flake on the next ledge up. I flick it a few times to free it and this gives me a tiny bit of slack,
I’m stranding on the lip.
I try to adjust up as I normally would but I’m using the cutaway tag on my harness to leave room for my ascender so where I’m use to the device taking up is 2 inches above where it actually does. I have a little slip
Now back in my misspent youth I may or may not have done some dumbshit(TM) that I don’t condone now. One of those dumbshit(TM) things my brother and I may or maynot have done on the odd occasion was the old Hollywood throw a heap of slack out and jump over the edge trick. So as I slip it’s second nature to me to make sure I have the least amount of friction at the device as I can so when the rope takes up it reduces the shock load as much as possible.
As dramatic as it looks my “big slip” was just a few inches (story of my life) followed by a fast but controlled slide into the pool at the bottom (shut up)
Safely at the bottom I dance about to get warm.
How was that rope stretch at the ledge, Jen laughs.
Near shit myself, says I
Kylie and Ethan come down
Jason had opted out of the abseil as he had thought we were doing the dry line and didn’t bring the right gear. I offer him mine and we head back up.
Up top Aimee fills me in on her freak out which freaks me out…. She was still a bit rattled and wasn’t going to do the abseil. We talk it out and she decides to give it a go. It really is an awesome abseil
We all head back up to the top of the falls for a bite to eat, some not so awesome Xmas carolling and bell ringing and a bit of a debrief on how the communication had fallen down (the great thing about this group is there is no blame or finger pointing. Just, this is what we think went wrong and this is how we think we can improve. The conversation continued online over the proceeding days)
Now all that’s left is an hour and a half or so up stairs to get out….. Of course we had to break up the walk with a bit of fun….
Icy cold fun
The tourists were amused
So in the end the falls were about 60m lip to pool, add in the anchor is a fair way back…. Take long ropes.
All in all a very Yuley day out with very Yuley Folk
Find people who inspire you, make you laugh and are great to hang out with. then hangout with them
And remember you are awesome too