Fools, Pools and Prison Islands

19-9-2020

Dicky, Izy, Libby and meeey

Many years ago I helped carry a girl with a broken leg out of a little known canyon in the Newnes state forest. For the life of me I can’t remember how I got involved in that but I remember asking her party what the canyon was like.

The pools were really pretty, says they. But not worth the scrub bash

Certainly the scrub hiking back up the hill was not pleasant that day.

Figuring that may not be such an issue just now I thought I’d go for a look and the above named legends decided to join me.

Beforehand I asked my mate/guru, Bob if he knew the creek, he mentioned there was an old 4wd track right down into the creek and he use to take his kids down there to teach them to abseil and go yabbying in a pool in an erosion cave but he hadn’t followed the creek further down.

Now I may or may not have misinterpreted the track notes I made from the aforementioned party’s description and so we may have taken far more rope than we needed. Where I wrote Second abseil 50m down creek. I should have wrote 50m further down creek to 2nd abseil… Carrying 100m worth of ropes where the longest abseil was less then 10m may have been overkill…

Anyhoo

Despite some dire weather predictions it was a glorious spring day, mostly, and after Dick and Libby met at my place we swung over to pick up Izy at the crack of d̶a̶w̶n̶, I mean 11am

I chose not to take the 4wd track that goes all the way into the creek as one on the opposite ridge should give us a sorter walk out while still getting us within a few hundred meters of the start of the canyon.

It also gave us great views

Bungleboori Pagodascapes
Libertybell zenning out as the creek starts to look promising
‘Tis just a downclimb
Dick on another down climb. It would be a fun slide into a crystal clear pool except the pool has silted up with sand

So far it’s a pleasant, canyonish creek. Unfortunately it’s about now my camera battery died and I realised I left my spares at home. Everyone else had left their stuff at the car as it was going to be a short one….. Thus we’ve no photos of the best bit, 3 abseils in a very short but very pretty canyonette.

The fires had taken out any decent anchor trees so the fiddle stick came in handy on the first two. 1 off a big log over hanging the drop and the other off a rock wedged low down for a short abseil to a ledge and then a jump into a stunning pool

The third drop proved a bit harder to find an anchor. I was searching in the creek for a suitable rock or some where to wedge a log when Libby says What about that!

She is pointing to a stone pillar in a small overhang up on a ledge just down stream of the waterfall.

We slip up to check it out. Some delicate traversing along the narrow ledge gives me access to the pillar that is in an alcove above a wider ,dirter end section of the ledge, It is about 30cm in diameter and looks and feels nice and solid. I give it a test and drop on in then dig out phone to grab a few final photos.

The little section on top of this was quite stunning. Pity it wasn’t 3 or 4 or 5 times longer. Again this pool was full of sand, that you sank waste deep into. I remember a lot of pools silting up like this after a big fire in the 90s. took a couple of years an some big rain events to clean them back out
The girls were happy with it thou

A final bit of canyon like creek

And then it’s up the hill, across a narrow saddle and back to the car

Did I mention the pogodas out here are awesome

So it’s still early and we decide to leave the wetsuits on and drive across to drop into Alcatraz

all the alcatraz photos are copywrite to Izy

Party Size:4

Timings: First one 2hrs car to car

Alcatraz: ~1.5hrs car to car

You can’t please everyone, unless you’re an avocado: Maddy G

BACK

Kamarah Gully

8/9/2020

Meeeeee

Kamarah:

  1. Aboriginal word for Sleep
  2. Sleepy little town on the outskirts of the Riverina
  3. A small sleeper of a canyon somewhat less visited than it’s neighbours

The name fits with other creek names in the area. Yileen = To dream/dream like. Dalpura = Peaceful, Kamarah = Sleep. I’ve not been able to find a meaning for Koombanda, Jungaburra or Jinki but assume they fit the theme somehow.

Like most canyons in this area it’s not that deep or sustained but has some pretty bits to it.

From the bottom of Koombanda it’s possible to scramble up the nose below the junction and drop back down into the top of Kamarah. I guess this is the way most people do it, it makes sense as they are both short and adding in Kamarah then exiting up to the west via convenient tree roots can be a quicker than exiting via the old mine, especially if you don’t want to do a car shuffle.

You do, however miss some nice erosion caves further up the gully

Anyhoo this description is almost longer than the canyon already

With a day off and everyone else seemingly busy I took the opportunity of a quick afternoon stroll. The creek is drier than I’ve seen it before. I wander down off the ridge, check out the caves which seem to have a lot more block fall than I remember, then make my way down until the walls start to canyon up

The water level is down at least 30cm from my last visit
But it’s still a lush green in contrast to the burnt out ridge lines nearby
First drop is about 3m, some careful bridging meant I could keep my feet dry today
You can see how far down the water level is from usual
More shallow canyon follows

Then the creek drops into a dark hole

Typical of canyons in this area it has one, shallow but stunning chamber
And some nice bits follow

And then just before the junction with Koombanda brook you can climb out on the right, or continue down this this nice overhang to scramble up on the left

Time: 2.5hr car to car with a lot of faffing around

Whatever you do today don’t forget to be just that tiny little bit awesome

BACK

Waterfall Weirdos

08/08/2020

Kylie, Aimee, Mattie, Muzzie, Monie, Hywie, Kristoie, Kennie, Jasie, Russie, Libbie, Maddie, Leoie, Gibbie and meeeeeeeie.

NB: Uncharacteristically I didn’t take a single photo all day so full credit for all the photos herein goes to the awesome bunch of folks above.

The forecast was for torrential rain, slushy snow and freezing conditions so when Kylio put out an invite to do a wet canyon followed by a wet abseil trip of course we all said a great big enthusiastic yes.

The day before I’d swung by Adventurebase to catch up with Leo and pick up a bit of gear. It was a miserable day but the torrential rain was more an annoying drizzle and I duck out to check the track out of our second option, as it had been closed for a while last year, but I was happy to see it open.

Anyhoo, Saturday dawned awash with sunshine. Unfortunately we didn’t get as much rain as predicted but Empress was running a bit better than usual and we were keen to hit it.

I don’t think anyone was expecting every one to turn up so we’d need to split into smaller groups to abide the group size limit but also to keep things moving, we were expecting it to be coolish in the canyon, waiting in line for an abseil wouldn’t be ideal.

Jumping into the first pool was a bit of a rush and instant icecream headache. But by keeping a relatively quick pace I never really felt cold, even while manning the abseil line at the end.

We’re not cold, noooo-sireee.
Sunshine and Bubbles
Monas
Yours truly in the flow
Someone in the pump
Krysto photo bombing
Photos upon photos
Me and Russ pulling the rope and enjoying the swim

We all regroup at the base of the falls. Some of us jump in a few times just for the hell of it then we shake ourselves off and head back up to the cars.

Here we say good by to half the group and the rest of us stay suited up and head off for our next adventure

This is one I’ve thought about doing for a while, but in summertime the waterhole at the bottom tends to be busy with all sorts of people from families trying to relax to thrill seekers and instagrammers so I never through it appropriate to toss ropes. Therefore when Kylie suggested it doing it in winter I was in like uncle Errol.

Glad I did, it might just be my new favourite abseil in the blue Mountains

The rocky bottom creek was a bit slippery in places but we all stayed up right, mostly, and soon we came to the main event

Ken rigged it up with a temporary redirect to get us in the centre of the flow, and Kylie took control of the anchor duties

An over hanging start drops us straight into the flow but a short way down was a ledge that ended in a v slot which funnelled the full pump directly intp your face as you dropped into a lovely 10m of free space.

With beaming smiles we make our way back up to the cars and make a bee line for warm food and cold beer.

Find your freaks and run with them

BACK

Rediscovering back yard gems

2/8/20

Mandy And Me

When I was a kid a lot of amazing adventures started or finished at 166 Bells Street. We are 13 or 14 popping wheelies on our BMXes, or hanging out high up in the climbing tree, or digging tunnels in the river bank or making home made fireworks out of stuff you could still buy or find when we were kids or sumfink.

Let’s go yabbying.

We grab some string, stuff some form of meet into our pockets, race off on our bikes and head up to some long forgotten little dams in a long forgotten gully right at the edge of town. It all sounds very Huckleberry Finnish. But it’s nothing so grand, just a day in the life of me and my mate Smiddy some time in the 80s. Nothing overly memorable except we didn’t catch any yabbies and on the way back while bridging through what I’d now call a canyonette (but back then was just a nice bit of narrow creek) Pat slipped in. We are wearing jeans and jumpers, it was an icy winters day (the yabbies had been smartly tucked up in their nests) and it was cold ride home for Smiddy.

Anyhoo, fast forward mumblemumble years. (Would you believe 10? No? How about 20? Ok it’s closer to 30, and by closer I mean over 30) Mandy is keen for a small walk and thinks Ida falls might be the go.

Pulling up in the little car park it’s packed (well 4 or 5 cars but enough to ruin the uncrowded feel I like.)

Hey there’s another gully we use to frequent and from memory it’s kind pretty too… says I

Understatement!

Especially after we’ve had a bit of rain through the week.

Memories are Golden. Get out there and make some

BACK

A sigh in the Wolgan

1/08/2020

Russ and meeeee

I’d been a bit crook and carrying another minor but annoying injury so amid offers of epic adventure stuff I opted for the easier one.

I meet Russ in the Wolgan and we set off for a fantastical slot not too far yet not too close to the camp ground

After dodging the stinging nettle (mostly) a quick march up the steep slopes brings us to a breach in the lower cliff line with a little tunnel like arch for an entry way

Like a lot of the Wollemi the Gospers Mt fire has ripped through here. You see more and the walking is somewhat easier but it’s still a bit depressing.

I struggled to keep up on the ascent but am keen to push on

In normal times the gully between the lower and upper constriction is a glorious lost world. Now it’s black and charred, yet still somehow grand

Further up the Mother of Slots awaits us and I’m pleased to see the confines have been spared the wrath of the inferno

Mater Suspiriorum, The Mother of Sighs. With a room fit for a witches covern or an altar or sumfink

We phaff about with some photos and then make our way up

Toward the top there is a boulder choke. There are a couple of ways to get over. The easiest way up is to crawl into a little cave and twist your way up a short chimney to get on top of the first boulder.

I squeeze in and worm my way up. I have my foot on a chock stone as I propel myself up and out. The chock stone moves.

Then dislodges altogether.

There is a rumble and a tumble I hear the rock bounce down in a shower of smaller stuff. I hear Russ grunt and flee.

Two things go through my head.

First Russ’s safety. It was a large rock and there wasn’t much space plus I wasn’t sure if he had already followed me into the cave.

Mate are you Ok?

Yeeep.

You sure?

Um, Yeah.

Second thought. Was that wedging up the massive bit of rock above me? I claw may way out from between the two boulders as fast as possible.

Looking down Russ is fine. I can not see sign of the rock I dislodged. How did it miss him and how did he not take a tumble fleeing out of it’s potential path I don’t know.

We are both a bit lucky. I’ve been up that way a few times and that chock stone has always been solid. The extremes of wet and dry had loosened something

Russ wondering if one of those rocks was the one I kicked at him and happy that it missed.On return we found one that would be a good 40-50kg was wedged in the mouth of the cave,
Up top the landscape is surreal. Mater Tenebrarum, The mother of Darkness, the Inferno. The youngest, most cruel Mother

Our plan was to try and make our way around and down another slot I knew of.

We traverse around the base of the upper cliff line, only to find ourselves stuck on a tier bisected by slots and mini canyons all with tricky drops. We double back looking for a walk down, we had a short rope but weren’t sure if we descended we would just be stuck on another tier with 100m of cliff line below us

Mater Lachrymarum, The Mother of Tears.

We pick a spot to enjoy lunch with stunning views.

Should we push on or go back the way we came?

Most people who know me would assume me to say push on. I’m happy being lost in head high scrub and exploring ways forward. But today was not my usual day. I was feeling drained.

For probably the second time ever I concede my goal and we head back the way we came.

Party size 2

Time: a couple of hours

If you are feeling down remember that weird Beatles song. The sun is up. The sky is Blue. It’s Beautiful and so are You. Dear Prudence

BACK

Mt Boyce

A quick morning climb with Libby and Russ. It was good to dial back the difficulty and concentrate on trying to unlearn some bad technique that I have found myself falling in to.

Pun not intended.

Wait, yes it was.

BACK

Empress with a bit of flow

08-02-2020

Time-To-Go, Sketchy, Marcula, BeerandScotch, Justadlib and meeeee

Ah Straylia! You’ve done it again. After all the devastation of the fires it’s pissing down rain.

Driving out of town I half expect to see a line of animals marching into an Ark two by two while a crazy dude calls out damnation from god.

I have to admit I was a little anxious. Empress is one canyon that always had me worried in rain. For a small canyon it has a large catchment and a relatively tight constriction. The Falls at the end have a rep for going from a gentle trickle to a wall of water in not much time. In 2005 Matthew Donovan lost his life when his party was hit with a storm burst part way through and he failed to negotiate the second last pool, being pinned under the sharply undercut wall by the sheer force of water.

While our canyoning cuzies from around the world often play in much higher water flows there are additional dangers of doing flooded canyons that don’t usually experience high flow. Canyons that see a lot of water generally clean themselves of the log jams and boulder chokes that feature in many Aussie canyons. Rising waters often pickup and sweep down stuff lying on previously dry banks creating hazards, both from solid impacts and hydraulic stoppers.

There’s definitely a skill to being able to spot and avoid hydraulic hazards, as well as speciality equipment, techniques and team work required to negotiate the canyon safely.

But I knew I was in good hands, people whose skills and judgement I trust. And overriding the nerves was an undertoe of excitement

I get to Mt Vic only for my brain to do this weird thing where it remembers it forgot to remind me to pick up my wetsuit! Some swearing happened. Passing cars probably thought the crazy dude in the ute had a bad case of road rage…

A quick phone call to Mandy and she offers to grab my wetty and meet me half way back home. She really is golden.

I’m slightly late as I pull into the car park and was surprised to see just Madie and Leo. It appears there was a little confusion over the late night change to the start time. They all know changing plans is what we do the best. Or sumfink

Anyhoo, we decide to head off for a look and if all goes well we’ll do a second run when the others arrive. But all agree it is probably going to be a none event today, we’ve had a lot of rain.

On the way down we discuss Go/No-Go indicators. If its below this rock at that point that section is good, If you can see such and such from that vantage… Blah Blah Blah. We also talk emergency exit options. The good thing about Empress is it is short and you can get many looks down into the canyon on the walk in and there are options to get out.

At each inspection point things look better. Time-To-Go’s been through at higher levels. A quick look at the radar and while there is going to be steady drizzle the heavy stuff isn’t due to hit until later. This thing looks like it is on. Woot Woot.

We are warned about which sections have siphons and whirlpools and where the water wants to force you into under cut walls and then we are in.

Usually dry side creeks are gushing
Normally a trickly requires a bit of bridging
Frothin’ on the froth ©Madie
Its hard not to have fun. My friends inspire confidence and laughter
I’m so familiar with this canyon it can bore me a little. I like the challenge of finding the path through a new canyon rather than doing ones I know well. No boredom today. It was like a whole new canyon
Contemplating the whirlpool ©Madie
Moslty you walk on down, climb up on the ledge and jump. but with a bit of flow the second last pool turns into a whirlpool death trap. Leo negotiates it on safety and sets up a traverse line for us

Me being a passenger on the guide line ©Madie
Madie negotiating the whirlpool on a guide line
New years eve it was a disappointing trickle. Last week it was a bit of a splash. Today was going to be the biggest flow I’ve abseiled in.

I’m a bit cautious as I go over the edge but I am grinning like an idiot. Dropping over the edge I get hit by a wall of water but I’m through it quick and behind the main brunt. Working my way down I’m being peppered but the main flow is to the left of me. At the halfway ledge I say hi to BeerandScotch

The halfway ledge, in the calm before the power ©Russ

and then I’m into the flow.

It’s hard to describe the sensation. White water. White noise. It’s almost instant sensory derivation as the water pounds into you, pushing you down the rope. I feel a weird mix of being a passenger, being in control, being in consequential, being alive… I’m watching for the tail of the rope as I know Sketchy set up short so she could bleed rope out as I went. I see the bottom, Well I think I do and I let go and fling myself down. What A rush.

I float there being smashed by the spray and just enjoy the moment.

I hear the others calling and It’s-Time-To-Go hurls the throw bag. Perfect throw. I grab hold and they pull me across the pool. I’m still grinning like an idiot.

Sketchy about to disappear into the beast
Spot the abseiler. Madie is just above the halfway ledge getting pumped in the best possible way. The others had arrived to watch us

The throw bag was pretty much a must

We laugh and high five and all that. The others are keen for their turn.

2nd run!

Damn phone rings and I’m stupid enough to check it…. Work. Looks like I’ll miss run 2:-(

By the time they get back to the start the water is up another 2 foot or so. Still doable and it looks like they had a ball.

Libby Smiles for miles ©Madie
Guided abseil needed this time around. ©madie

The heavy rain hits a few hours later pushing water way up past safe levels. I’m glad we got in when we did. It was a great experience.

As usual there are a lot of opinions on the socials as to whether people should be out in these conditions.

Should people be encouraging others to do so. Most definitely not.

Personally with this group, at that time, in those conditions I felt perfectly safe, or as safe as usual when canyoning.

As stated earlier I trust their skill levels and their judgement. I think they are amongst the most safety conscious groups I have ever been out with. There is a level of skill across the group that we have worked to achieve and a level-headedness that I admire. I wouldn’t suggest others try to do it without building those attributes up first.

Was it risky? Yeah sure. But it was a calculated risk based on skill levels, knowledge of the canyon and escape routes, team dynamics, keeping a close track of weather apps and always being prepared to back out.

500 people die on the roads in NSW every year. What risk analysis did you do last time you hopped into a car?

“It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.” Aaron Lauritsen . Substitute “quiet little towns” for adventures and it captures this group prefectly

BACK

Munmorah Sea Caves

9-01-2020

Laurence, Chris, Tal, Della, Gabby, Ev, Matt, Adrian and meee

The bushfires that raged across much of Australia threw a spanner in the work of a family holiday to the south coast so some last minute phone calls were made to me old mate Della who generously offered us a couple of beds on the central coast, I threw the ropes in just in case

Laurence had been promoting some abseil trips to sea caves that looked quite alright and while under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have driven up just to visit them while I was in the area I thought why not drag Tal out of a mini adventure.

A quick message to Laurence to get some info and tips and he offered to meet us there and show us around.

Hey Dell, can you get Thursday off work?

It’d been about 20years since he’d done any abseiling but he was keen. A few other invites were sent out and before we knew it we had met up with the above mentioned folk and were setting up ropes above our first cave. The Nudie cave

We set ropes, and exit ladder and Matt even jumps in at the exit to test the water, then after a few quick tips and reminders me and Dell get on rope and drop on in

Looking up my snoz…
Me and Della dropping in, or “dangling for great whites.” as it was later described ©Laurence
©Gabby

.

Dropping off the end of the rope we swim into the cave and wait for the others

Inside was surprisingly large and the pebbly beach gave an awesome underfoot massage
Gabby and Ev dropping in to join us

As he was finding his feet on the beach the only wave we saw all week swept up to smash Adrian face first into the pebbles. We shouldn’t have laughed… but we did

What foul creatures lurk in the Nudie cave? Oh, those idiots…. ©Gabby

And then we swim out and make use of Laurences cave ladder to climb out of the water

Exiting without placing a ladder first would be difficult at best

Be a cool jump. Say I. Looking back up to the arch

Oh Coop jumps from that platform there, Says Laurence

I don’t take much convincing. Nor does Della

And then we make our way around to the next one, Pinney Cave. This is just a dunk in the ocean with a bit of a scramble out. By all reports the scramble out is much harder in normal conditions and out right dangerous if the swell is much over a foot. We must have got very lucky with not much swell at all as I found it much easier

But with Laurence’s warning only myself, Matt and Della decided to give it a crack, with Gabby and Ev opting for a dry landing on the exit route and the rest waiting for us up top.

Matt descending Pinney ©Gabby
Me scrambling out on favourable seas while Laurence descends the exit ©Gabby
Ev opting for the dry landing

And then we make our way a bit further along the coast to the Shark Hole. An ominous name for us country bunkins.

Actually this is the snake hole, explains Chris. The Shark hole is where u swim out.

Oh, well then. In we go.

So almost like a canyon I got a tear in my eye… or sumfink
What a top mob of fellow adventurers to spend a relaxing day with
Making our way our of the Snake Hole

And to finish things off we head to the Catho Bay hotel for a cooling beverage or two

Did I mention what a awesome mob this lot are? ©Gabby via Adrain

Group Size: 9

Time: I have no idea

Caution: You need low tide and a swell of under 2 feet to run this trip the way we did it. Also the rock is sharp as a finely honed cutty thing so rope protectors and good start technique are a must.

Adventure pushes your limits and lifts your soul or sumfink

BACK