Anyone available to do something on the 2nd? Asks Ed
Sure, says we.
You want to do a Flynny bash to look for a canyon of probably poor quality? says I
And so we find ourselves walking down a long disused fire trail that is barely distinguishable from the rest of the post-fire landscape.
Soon we leave even that vagueness of a trail and make our way due(ish) north down a ridge looking for a short slot. The only thing I’d heard about it was a. “it’s ok for an unpublished canyon on the Plateau” and ii. The last abseil was meant to be “a gooden” (TM)
When I say “unpublished” there is a grid reference in the guide but checking the satellite that GR looks well off what I am sure is the target, so we go with my gut feel and just wander down for a look, find the slot we are looing for and drop on in.
The start was pleasant. Straightaway dropping down a small waterfall. We contemplate setting the rope but after a good look I decide to slide. We had considered not taking wet suits…. Glad we did
Almost immediately we were greeted with another drop, one that would require abseiling
everyone safely down, rope and pull cord stowed and just around the corner the bottom dropped out of the creek dramatically.
We set a temporary anchor and throw down 27m or so of rope on a releasable and Ethan volunteers to go first. Its a tricky start and then an awesomely spectacular abseil. I bleed out rope and as Ethan reaches the bottom the end is just high enough off the ground for him to land and dismount comfortably.
Ed follows him down then Russ helps me set the fiddlestick and takes the pull cord.
There are some dry canyons around the edge of the Plateau that have long abseils but it’s rare to get a wet one this high in these parts.
And that was it. All over red rover.
Plenty of action for a shortish walk and 150m of canyon
OK, right should get us out. Says I, but left looks interesting.
We follow Ed and Ethan up to the left through the king ferns
All the (short) way up the gully teased us with the prospect of turning a corner into a canyonette that would ramp up through the cliffs
But in the end it cliffed out in a gloriously over hung ampitheatre
We head back down and up the other side. The gully looked like it would go easily but we opted to climb out early
We have lunch on the cliff tops above what becomes a major gully as it makes it’s way towards the Wolgan. Its barely 12.30.
Shall we do sumfink else? says I
After not much deliberation we opt for one of a pair the rest had not done before. I didn’t have my notes or map with me. But how hard could it be?
Last time I remember the scrub leading to the good bit was horrendous and the fires hadn’t seemed to touch this little bit of the forest so I drive a bit further down the road, check google maps, and aim for the most canyony looking bit.
and we arrive smack bang on the most canyony bit
Only as soon as I see it I remember the most canyony bit was the very end and we’ve missed a few jumps and slides and fun bits.
And then it’s back up the hill to the car before it pisses down.
Kylie, Kristo, Hywaida, Jason, Jen, Ethan and Meeeee
When Gadget asked me if I had any plans for the 17th I was like you know I don’t plan that far ahead.
Well would you be interested in doing the Kanangra Main trip that we changed plans for earlier? Says she
Does the Pope shit in the woods? Wait, that’s not the saying. Does a bear poop catholics? Still not it….
Anyhoo, I rocked out to Kanangra Boyd on the Friday night to met up with Kylie and we set up camp in the fading light.
We were soon joined by Jen for diner and banter around the camp fire
Jason rocked in a little later and as the temperature dropped we retired for the night with nervous excitement for what the next day would bring.
The day brought an early start.
A quick breaky around the camp fire and then off to meet Ethan, Hywaida and Kris at the carpark.
Are we doing the wall or the slot?
The Slot. Let’s plan on that and we can reassess if we have to once we see the water levels
Getting to the start of the slot involves traversing across a loose narrow ledge. Jason was leading the way.
hey, did you see that? Calls I
Of course now the rest of us need to get past. I’m pretty comfortable around snakes and I’m hoping no one else freaks out. I point out the unexpected hazard and step over.
Kylie steps up but the rock she steps on moves. The tail quickly disappears.
OK be careful and don’t step on those 2 rocks….
To my relief everyone comes across without hesitation and snakey stays safe in his hole.
The slot has a bit of a reputation for projectiles. The top of P1 and the stance in between P1 and P2 are littered with loose rocks, anything from pebble size to large slabs. If you are heading in you need to make sure your group is extremely careful. It’s Kylies trip and I didn’t want to take over but I did stress no one was to move above P2 while people were on rope and we didn’t have an issue.
And then we are back onto the Main route
The rest of the photos are in no particular order as there are so many waterfalls and I enjoy the experience so much that looking back I struggle to remember what order they came in.
Photo credits to the various people mentioned above
It’s getting late by the time we reach our exit. When doing awesome stuff with awesome people time has no meaning for me and for various reasons the descent had taken longer than expected.
With the days getting shorter it was going to be touch and go for us to get up the scrambles before dark.
I’ve done the exit up the ridge several times now but each time I seem to go a slightly different way and experience a different number of scrambles with varying degrees of dodginess.
There’s a bit of a track starting to form now but that’s not to say it takes the best path and a coupe of branches definitely takes you on more difficult routes. This time up we miss all the trickiest scrambles except 1. It was shitscary but we all got up it with just a little swearing and encouragement and we reach the tourist track just as the light is fading.
All in all another excellent day out with truly amazing people
So I wanted to checkout a couple of small, less visited creeks in the mountains. The above mentioned legends joined me. I had a tip one creek had a small canyon section but I wasn’t expecting much. We packed ropes just in case. We didn’t pack wetsuits….
Our creek soon starts to develop a little canyonette
The creek contained two small, but very pretty canyon sections.
Our original plan was to continue down through the clifflines then skirt around and walk up another creek. But changing plans is what we do the bestest
I reckon the gully might give us a short cut over the ridge, says I
Lets do it, says Madie
It would save a couple of kilometres of creek walking, says Marcia
Geoff looks sceptical
I scramble up and drop a rope down
And then we had lunch and made our way back to the cars
As always a great day exploring new things with good mates
After being devastated by fires, ravaged by flood and generally off limits with COVID restriction Russ and Libby looked like they were finally going to get hitched… Wait, that’s a different story, I mean the Kanangra-Boyd NP was quietly re-openned to remote activities on Christmas eve 2020. That meant access to the Kanangra canyons was back on. Woot Woot!
‘Cept the weather was miserable and water levels kept most sensible parties away.
But water levels began to recede and reports started coming in that well equipt groups with white water experience and skill had successfully begun negotiating a couple of the more popular ones or, at least, parts there of.
We needed to get the gang back together for sumfink big before Russ had to take a break to keep himself pretty for the nuptials or sumfink and photos from Kanangra Main to the emergency exit below pitch 3 looked ace. So plans started to be planned in our very unplanned, half planned, let’s solidify the plan as we go kinda planning routine.
The Kanangra area tends to hold it’s water levels longer than the typical Blue Mountain canyons but a week of sunny weather had things easing off a bit and a bunch of different options were optioned up before we finally opted a full run of K-Main via the Slot option.
Last time I attempted a trip through the Slot things did not quiet go to plan and eerily as we traversed across the top of the usual entry there was another group were setting off down the main wall again.
We slip past the main entrance and gear up above the slot. There is a buzz of excitement as I set the rope and one by one the others make their way down
Myself and Sterlo were the last to arrive at the start of pitch 2 and relieve Leo off anchor duties so that he can head down to lead the money pitch
The roar of the falls and the spray at the start of pitch 3 was intense.
Leo heads off grinning as I reach the anchor.
Flynn, You’re up next. Says Madie
Who made her the boss?
Tingles. Nervous excitement. Stoopid grin. I rope up and head on down.
But not what I was expecting. P3 crosses through the falls but as it has tumbled down the 100m above the water has bounced of the walls and spread out, dissipating the full force into a wide mist. And lots of wind.
Hitting the pool below I was surprised it wasn’t a torrent of flow. I make my way through the mist to once again relieve Leo at the anchor. He continues down the next drop where the other group are just setting their next anchor
I man the anchor and enjoy the spray and wind as the others make their way first to me and on to Leo
From here down we are on the standard route though the extra water makes it seem anything but standard
We soon leap frog the other group and continue our way down
So the usual exit is to continue down 45mon or so to the Kalang (Kanangra Creek and Kanangra brook) junction and then up murdering gully or manslaughter ridge. We thought we might try another option
We make good time and eat the elevation but are nervous we will get cliffed out. The map wasn’t exactly inspiring. About half way up I spot a vegetated gully coming in to the side. I reckon that will go. Says I
We have a bit of a pow wow and Russ checks the map.
I think he could be right says, Russ. The side gully looks more promising on the contours than the main gully
Should we take Flynny’s gull or stay in the main one.
Whoa there! If the gully goes it can be Flynny’s gully. If it doesn’t it’s Russ’s gully. Say I
We head up the side gully.
It’s steep and loose. Think manslaughter ridge but looser with no room to traverse. Crawl up 2 steps. Slide back one. Shower your mates below with pebbles, rocks and the occasional boulder. Grab a spikey shrub or cutty grass, hope for the best
Sometime later we reach the base of the top cliff and begin to traverse around hoping that it will peter out.
Peter, peter. Pumkin eater.
But soon it appears our way is going to be barred by cliff dropping back into the gully below.
The nose always goes, sometimes.
Leo finds a weakness in the nose above us and manages to get up to drop a rope back down. Gibbo heads up. Followed by Madie.
Hey there’s a gully around the corner you can walk up… Sterlo is up top. Me and Russ opt to follow him up
Flynny’s gully is renamed Craigs Crying Crack. I mean I only cried once, but whatever. It goes but it has some hair on it. it ain’t fun and we’re not sure if it saved us any time
How ’bout dem views thou
party size: 6
Time: 8hr car to car with along lunch
Remember your comfort zone is a very dangerous place to be
Ed, Ethan, Dick, Russ, Libby, Jared and Paul and me
So New Years Day we have developed a bit of a tradition of doing an “easy, recovery” canyon. This year the families ditched us but other mates came along.
All photos here a copy write to Ed as my camera still needs repairing
We meet up at the car park and head off down the trail. Post fires the trail is very overgrown with grass at the moment and despite knowing it reasonably well there were a couple of spots at the start where we really had to look for it.
Some off us were smart enough to don wetties at the car park. We were soon soaked from pushng through the grass
But soon we reach the river ad crossed over
And then scramble up the small broken clifflines up the other side aiming for the short but pretty Horseshoe canyon
And then it’s time to blow up the floaties and get a floating.
With the usual banter, laughs and good times we continue down the river
Logs wedged high in the rocks above were a reminder of how much the water levels can rise in the ‘Gambe. But it hadn’t properly rained for a few days and even after the wet conditions we had experienced earlier in the week the water levels were fairly normal.
I’d say the river at the usual entry and exit beaches was up about 50-100mm on what it was in 2019 at the end of the long dry spell but the mighty ‘Gambe, usually viewed as a benign, casual family trip was about to remind us that even in these conditions our water playgrounds should never be taken for granted.
The following day tragedy would strike.
There had been no more rain. Water levels had not risen. But a change in hydrology had caused a dangerous, and hidden siphon to develop and unfortunately 2 canyoners lost their lives, 1 in an attempt to save the other.
My heart goes out to their family, friends and party members. It is a sad reminder that there is inherent risk in everything we do.
Stay safe and I hope to catch you out there somewhere
I’m in. Dad has photos of it from Jeep trips in the late 60s early 70s, though they knew it as the Wolgan Earth Pillar, a name they got from the Luchetti’s who had the farm down Valley. They got it off Carne’s map from his early 1900s mineral survey where he recorded it in his journal as “Earth Pillar, the Pinnacle, Wolgan Valley”. Anyway it’s been on my list of things to visit for a long time.
Of course Madie was in too.
Hey, do you want to go in from the top and check out a few canyons while we are down that way?
Some times I wonder what it would be like to have friends who hear out my hair brained ideas and say things like, That sounds ridiculous, Flynny. No way we should to that….
But noooooo. Despite several epic scrub bashes my friends keep saying things like, hell yeah lets do it.
Lucky, otherwise this blog would be rather boring.
Besides no one is going to be telling there grandkids about the epic weekend they had playing golf, right?
Well unless they win a major or sumfink.
We were planning to walk out to a base camp Friday night. 3pm and it’s pissing down. None of us want to start walking in the rain but the rain parts, the radar is clear and it looks like it’s going to be a perfect night for a stroll.
Leo and Madie swing past my place to drop off Pippa the Wonderdog.
Should we take 2 cars?
There’s only 3 of us….
Maybe we should have taken 2
Driving up on dusk and the sky to the north looks like something out of an Armageddon movie.
Rolling storm clouds and blasts of lightning heading right to where we are going. That wasn’t on the radar!
We get to an intersection. Swing right. says I. Left has a 4wd creek crossing.
When was the last time you looked? Says Leo. I got a 2wd through there last year.
While I thought they had done a bit of work to the crossing I hadn’t tried going that way since getting rid of my old FJ45 Cruiser.
We go left, much to Madie’s trepidation.
The creek crossing is up but it’s much easier than the deep rocky drop off of years gone past. We get through easy enough. Except the hill up the other side is a soft rutted mess. 1 quick go at getting up and the ute sinks to the diffs. Lucky it is very wet and Leo is able to reverse out with help of the steep terrain.
We are going back the other way! Madie puts her foot down. And I’m driving from here!!!
We take the by-pass. But halfway down a sharp log hidden on the inside of a corner rips the side wall out of her rear tyre. Pssssssssssssssss.
We get out to change the wheel. Armageddon skies open and the rain belts down. There is an issue with the jack handle which also doubles as a thingie to wind the spare tyre down. Nothing that a quick adjustment with a shifter or screwdriver to open up the slots wont fix.
Where’s your tool box.
I don’t have one….
Apparently Madie cops one of my infamous eye rolls . My kids take the piss out of me about them all the time but surprisingly this is the first one thrown Madie’s way.
Anyway, a bit of dicking around with a small multitool and a blood sacrifice and Leo has the handle working.
Tyre changed we rock into the car park and decide it’s way too late to start our walk so we set camp for the night .
Before you read on; Part of the joy of visiting lessor known canyon areas is not knowing what you’ll find. Sometimes its a disappointing creek bash and sometimes you get a good one. If you ever plan on exploring this area do yourself a favour and leave the rest of this post until after you come back.
We are up before the sun and after a quick breakfast we are on the trail a little after 5.30am.
After being closed to vehicle traffic 20 years ago this trail devolved into a nightmare scrub bash, like the type of scrub even I avoid, and that’s saying something. Post fires it’s easy walking and we pick our way along the ridge line the old road use to follow for about 8km before spearing off into untracked territory.
We reach our chosen base camp around 8.30am, dump the camp gear and head off for our first canyon in good spirits.
To be honest we weren’t expecting great things from canyons out this way but this one had a nice start
After a bit the canyon opens up somewhat and then begins to drop steeply. We abseil the first drop and then I scramble down the next few to see it it’s likely to drop into a lower section. It’s pretty but the walls are getting wider and more impenetrable so we make the call to ascend back up the line and try to force a pass to the ridge and drop into another creek.
At about the same point we decided to scramble out of the last canyon we had a quick bit to eat. Despite covering a lot of ground so far we are still full of enthusiasm and even talk about trekking down to Dick Rock today. We must have been delusional
Heading down to our 3rd canyon of the day and we drop into a tributary thinking it will be an easy pass down
We spent longer in this one than we thought we would, definitely longer than the previous two so squeezing in Dick Rock today was out the window. Time to beat a pass up to the tops again
We get out of the canyon and through most of the cliffs easily except for one little bit that Leo scrambled up with a couple of little boosts from me at the bottom and balls the size of a medium sized car at the top.
He dropped a rope for me and Madie to ascend. I go up to to the ledge and haul Leo’s bag then drop the rope back to Madie. She begins to ascend as I go up the ramp and begin to chimney up the last bit.
Rock! Rock! Rock! Fugg!
I’ve knocked a large rock loose and it tumbles down the chute. Luckily it misses the rope and gains enough momentum to sail out into space. Madie was 5m up the rope with nowhere to hide. The adrenaline rush was real.
But we are up and encounter our first unburnt ridge of the trip. Thick, scratchy, cutting scrub. It was a relief to finally get to a burnt bit.
It’s getting late. We have a couple of deep saddles to get past on the way to camp but Madie navigates us there easily. I have to say I was well and truly slowing down.
Night descends but we are back to the ridge we walked down on our way to the first canyon.
Then Madie lets out a whoop at the sight of the reflective stripes on my Overboard dry bag I had hung up in a tree above camp.
35km and 3 canyons in 14hrs.
We roll out the sleep mats, have a quick diner, a few laughs and then we’re in bed engulfed with satisfaction and a glorious star filled night
A slightly more sedate wake up time, a casual breakfast and we are off a bit after 8.
I’m feeling a little dehydrated from yesterday so I’m determined to drink more today. The plan is to descend a canyon, punch down to Dick Rock and then up another canyon. We knew of a couple of easy passes up ridge lines but it’s going to be a hot day so ascending up a canyon that is supposedly reversible is more appealing
But first we work our way down through the cliff lines once more. This time we manage to scramble right down into the creek
It’s pretty but never really canyons up
It’s hot in the valley we have lunch then take a higher route back which avoids some of the the scrub and short cuts the corner and we work our way up to our intended creek.
Where this morning’s “Canyon” was a pretty creek walk this wasn’t even that. The heat is oppressive and despite drinking a shit load I’m starting to struggle.
But we boulder hop and scrub bash our way high enough up to starting thinking of forcing a pass to the tops.
Thoughts of squeezing in another short canyon are out the window.
By the time we reach camp it’s around 5pm and I’m suffering camps. I’ve drank about 8l of water already today but haven’t pissed since breakfast.
We pack camp, I mix some extra electrolytes into my hydrapac bladder and we start up the hill.
I’m really struggling and a few times have to call for a rest. Much to my equal parts chagrin and relief halfway up the ridge Madie and Leo split my gear between them leaving me with minimal weight. I’m still slow but finally we reach the ridge with the old trail. We still have 8km to go but it’s going to be easier walking.
I’m making OK pace now but my stomach is dehydrated and refusing to take much in. I’m taking small sips out of my hydrapack trying to get through. The cramps are bad, the slightest miss step and something locks up. I get service on the phone and text Mandy to let her know we’re going to be late. My finger camps bad. That’s a new sensation for me.
About 4km along the fire trail we stop for a rest. I try and take a slightly bigger drink. 3 steps later I spew that up. We march on.
I tune out and walk on.
200m to go calls Madie, you can do it Flynny.
All that’s between us and the car is Natural bridge. I stumble my way down. I normally wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the climb up the other side. I stop for a rest. I spew again. There is nothing in my stomach. My whole abdominals cramp and lock tight.
If that’s what period cramps feels like , girls you get even more respect from me.
Finally we get to the car.
68km walking for the weekend, mostly off track, 3 nice canyons, two disappointing creeks, and one big a tick on the bucket list.
Home at last, I spill out of the car and spew again.
He’s alive, Madie tells Mandy, but he’s got a bit of heat stroke. You may want to get him checked
A quick shower and I think I’m good for bed but Mandy suggests a trip to hospital to get checked out.
At hospital they whack me on the scales, I’m 10kg lighter than I was Friday!
They take some blood and put me on a drip. 3 bags in they send Mandy home and book me in for the night.
6 litres of fluid later, do you think you can pee now? we need to see it before we can let you out.
I feel I want to but it’s not coming out.
Well, we can always put a catheter in.
Apparently that threat works every time.
They release me lunch time Monday.
It’s the adversity as much as the victories that makes the lasting memories.
I’ve said in the past I don’t like repeating a canyon too many times a season as it takes the sense of exploration away from it for me.
Well 2020 has changed a lot of things. With bush fires and COVID and park closures I think I’ve done Empress Falls more this year than I have since my short stint as a guide in the 90s but I’ve been reminded that as much as the conditions on the day it’s people you go in with make each and every experience unique
So when I get a text saying, We’re heading to Empress, Wanna come.
I think why the hell not
Rolling into the car park late. I hastily gear up, hug some old friends, meet some new friends and off we go.
Some hadn’t done Empress before so there is that buzz of new excitement that I find infectious
It helps when they are all just a little bit nuts
Signing the log book we note Lib and Justine are not far in front of us
We meet Libby and Justine at the bottom of the final abseil and make our way back to the car park all smiles and banter