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

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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

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No Better Offer

30/08/2020

Ed, Jen, Russ, Dick, Izy and meeeeee

You getting out this weekend? asks Ed

Well

  1. I haven’t caught up with Ed in ages
  2. I’d had a couple of big weeks at work
  3. I was in a shit of a mood and needed an adventure break

So a big fat Hell Yes says I

For various reasons Dick hadn’t been on a canyon trip in 12 months or more. Ya keen mate

Keen as, says he.

A couple of quick messages to Jen and Russ and we have ourselves a possie

I swing around to the top office and throw Isobel and invite too, she’s down from Brissy for work and seems keen to explore. She is in.

Now I’ve said it before I’ll say it again Magnifying Glass canyon, AKA Better Offer isn’t the most spectacular canyon going, I mean it barely earns the right to be called a canyon but it has some fun bits and my other pick, Yileen was still closed post fires

Anyhoo we pop out along the ridge in good spirits and soon reach our first abseil. We could have easily walked around this one but I knew it was short and not steep and wanted to give Izy an easy one to practice on.

The anchor was burnt to a crisp and we start setting up the fiddle stick

Hey Russ do you think it a good spot to fiddle?

Why’s that

Well it’s as scrubby as an early 70’s music festival.

We opt to replace the anchor and go wit a standard set up. It’s a crap abseil. I’d probably just walk around it next time

Jen belaying Izy down the first nice abseil
Ed

Comparing photos form 4 years ago this drop was bone dry, weirdly the pools later were shallower, more from having silted up

A short hand over hand that last time was very slippery was easily negotiated and then we are at the abseil into the pool. I offer to go first and sacrifice my dryness, I was keen to see if a guided abseil was possible to keep the others dry.

I strip off my top but couldn’t be bothered taken off my harness so pants stay on much to the relief of the others

The guide worked a treat

Dick may have set his sling a tad long and got wet feet.

I’m stuffing the rope back in my pack feeling all gallant and chivalrous when PLONK!

Izy has decided the cool, clear water of the Blue Mts is too much to resist and has thrown herself backwards of a log into a nice deep pool. So much fro keeping her dry

Next up is the big one, Last time we went straight down the creek, this time we went from the left which gave us a stunning 22m abseil, much of it over hung

The last abseil is barely worth roping up for, It’s only 2m to the ledge but it’s a tricky 2 m

Russ opts to stay on rope for a bit longer

And then the creek starts to open up and we have lunch on a less than flat rock enjoying the views the fires have opened up over the Gross

the views might be good but the lack of vegetation make traversing the slopes a little dicey in spots

And because it was such a nice day and we were having such a good time we decide to forego the easy exit gully and reverse Birrabang

Again it’s not much of a canyon but it has some pretty spots
Some careful ledge work keeps us dry…. for now

For some the dryness wasn’t to last through

The beauty made up for it but
That deep ravine in the the centre is where we have just come out of
He’s probably seen a glossey back or two
Izy and Jen and the might Blue

Party Size: 6

Time: I have no idea

If life gives you lemons, you might be a lemon tree

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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

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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

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It’s the Little Things in Life

Sunday 11/07/2020

Russ and meeeee. With a late inclusion of Leo and Madie

A few options were thrown about for weekend adventures but in the end it was cold and damp… Perfect weather for descending a couple of pretty little slots on the Sunnyside plateau

First stop Zorro

The road out is surprisingly clear. Of course I took the first fire trail, belatedly remembering the rough hill down the rocks. I pull up and explain my error. Madie doesn’t look too keen on testing the 4WD capabilities of her ute. Leo, in the drivers seat, looks like a kid on the way to a lolly shop but I decide to turn back and do the detour. Lucky, as looking back up the hill at the junction the link trail hadn’t been cleared for fallen trees

We find our car park and in no time we are descending between the parallel walls of the entrance hall.

And it’s not long until we get to the first abseil

Bottom of first abseil

Last year the canyon was as dry as I’ve ever seen it. Today more normal conditions saw a couple of pools, some of which required some tricky bridging to keep feet dry.

Leo contemplating the first of the little pools
Checking out the second drop. Russ pointing out the dodgy anchor some people abseil off.

I’ve always just down climbed this one. With some careful bridging you can stay dry. I missed a step and right leg went in up to my knee. That leg was too warm anyway

Have I ever mentioned how pretty the central chamber is

The soft light and mist really adding to the beauty

The exit hall was also very atmospheric today with the mist rolling in

Then it opens out for the final abseil.

Not mentioning any names but somebody <Coughitwasrusscough>may or may not have left the safety draw attached to the pull cord and had to prusik back up to retrieve it. Fun times

Then it’s a short stroll back up the hill to the car and we drive back up around the head of the main gully to some cool little features on the other side. The Cracks of DOOM!!

Finally, a quick stop at Bardens lookout where Madie and Leo romp up a pumpy little climb to finish the day off

Saturday 12/07/2020

Mandy and me

We’d had a lazy morning but decide to head out of a lunch date.

I’ve always thought this one a pretty little canyon so I was a little apprehensive as to the state it would be in post fires.

Turns out the canyon itself was fairly untouched. Some of the ferns in the main chamber were brown but that looks more a result of drought

Some people like to cause commotion. Others like to be the commotion.

I prefer just to be in motion

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Mayhem and Madness. Exotic Joel: the Tiger Snake King

20/06/2020

When Joel invites you out for a themed trip you know there’s going to be laughs and craziness aplenty

I swing past the ZigZag to pick up Kylie and Russ and we head on out to meet the others.

Amid hellos and banter costumes are donned, make up applied and the first of 10 gazillion photos are snapped and whips cracked

And then we split into groups and head off

Joel Exotic and an assortment of big cats
F**&^ing Carole Baskin has stolen the cats and Don seems to have gone missing

Along the way several scenes from the show were recreated thanks to ©Gabby for the snaps

And we even done some canyoning

©Kylie
©Kylie
The Nanny was hot but baby was creepy
You never know where the infamous Blue Mountains Leopard is going to show up. Russ didn’t know what he was abseiling toward
Keeping Joel Exotic under wraps. Playing spaghetti is wot I do the bestest or sumfink. ©Hywaida

I’ve done tigersnake canyon um, lets say a few times and the bottom of this section has always been pitch black so I’m up here telling people they’ll need torches….

Some piss taking of my warning ensued… No idea if it was the time of day or the fact there is no tree canopy post fires or just the glow of awesome folk but no torches needed.

Mons, Gab, Joel , Russ and me. ©Kylie

Regrouping at the end of the canyon we’re met by Jen who was unable to abseil due to injury so ducked around and got a little camp fire going. We enjoy some more banter and a bit of Kristos birthday cake that Hywaida had some how carted through the canyon without so much as smearing the icing.

And then it was time to climb out

Another great day in the bush with a seriously unserious bunch of awesome people

(Their) thoughts inhabit a different plane from those of ordinary (people); the simplest interpretation of that is to call (them) crazy.”
― Juliet Marillier,

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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

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