Sure I’d done a heap of other cool stuff in mean time but I was itching to get back out.
Wanna do Arethusa?
Does the pope shit in the woods…. wait, um, that’s not it. I mean, hell yeah
Anyhoo we meet up. Head in and gear up.
It’s a big call but Imma call it anyway, Arethusa is the best bang for buck micro adventure in the Blue Mountains.
All thrilla no filla. Beautiful canyon sections with minimum creek walking. Pretty waterfall and cascades. Abseils that can be techie unless it’s supper low water levels. Interesting down climbs with optional jumps. Stunning views at the end. And some easy but adventurous climbing to get out.
Some extra bolts have appeared recently and I would caution people to assess the landingzones. We scrambled/walked past most (all) of them simply because it was quicker and easier (even in the slipperiest-shoes-known-to-man(tm). OK I had a few moments but none of them near the optional abseil bolts) but one anchor in particular looked like it would drop you into recirculating water at the flow level we did it in. At lower levels (and maybe higher levels) it mightn’t be an issue but today we looked and said nope to that.
So make sure you assess things yourself rather than just blindly follow. And that goes for all canyons. We got use to the low water levels during 10years of drought, now they are flowing again reassess things.
Kylie, Hywaida, Kris, Jason, Aimee, Tash and meeeeeeeeee
I’ve done the lower section of Bell creek a couple of times. It’s beautiful.
Like really, jaw droppingly beautiful
But the first time it took us 3hrs to walk into the start of the access canyon, Bell Fry(which is a pretty little canyon in its own right)
Next time we knew where we were going and a hazard burn had taken out a lot of the scrub on the ridge. So we cut that down to just under 2hrs.
But it was still a difficult walk, having to scramble into the start of Du Faurs creek then climb up the other side.
Anyhoo, the Jamieson guide says a good overnight trip is to include the upper section. It also suggests you could do both in a very very long day.
Myself and Madie had mentioned a few times about having a crack of doing it in a day. But we never got around to it
This year a trip got planned. Unfortunately last minute I had to work
I get a text. Ok we are heading in.
Just over 6hrs later. We are out.
Anyhoo I finally got the chance to give it a crack.
Now I’m not as quick as Madie and Russ but a 30min walk down a fairly easy ridge, with me just following my nose until Aimee checked the map and corrected my course and we slipped down a short side canyon and entered Bell creek just upstream of where it canyons up.
So the girls hadn’t caught up for a while and there was a chatter. Well, I say chatter but it was more weird noises and giggling. And, I say giggling, but it was more like cackling. Like b grade movie witches planning downfalls.
TBH I wasn’t expecting the upper section to be so good.
“Upper sections” as described in the book can be hit and miss around here. The upper section of Du Faurs creek is good. The Bowens (North and South) have upper sections that contain pretty canyon sections but they pop in and out and there is scrub and scrambling between. Upper Wollangambe is basically a creek walk…. But this one has sustained sections of quality canyon.
Ok so there are no abseils… I get that’s what some people are after but it’s like 2 totally different sports. Vertical canyoning and this.
Maybe the old skool bushwalkers had it right when they described these trips as Swalks (Swim/walks)
Because I knew it wasn’t the very very long day Jamieson suggested we weren’t rushing at all. We even stopped for little lunch… I never stop of little lunch… but we still managed get from the car to the junction with Bell Fry in just a bit over 3.5hrs. So not much longer than the standard way into the lower section and far more interesting.
As surprisingly nice as the upper section is the lower section really is special
The Lower Section just keeps going
Click the images to enbiggen ’em
We stop for a bite to eat and Kris finds this little beauty
And then the Canyon opens out a bit. It’s still grand and dwarfs us as we boulder hop down to the junction with Du Faurs creek. Then up to exit out Joes and up to the fire shed.
Group Size: 7
Time: 8.5hr car (Water Trough Hill) to car (Fire Shed).
Some of God’s children just are naturally wild: Ray Wylie Hubbard
Mandy hasn’t abseiled for a few years, she lost the passion so when she asked if I’d take her out I got a so excited that I didn’t explain the 2 options she proposed, while short trips were actually 2 of the more awkward abseils…
Anhoo after a week that involved Danae, Rocky, and a quick afternoon running throu Empress 3 times squeezing another little canyon in sounded like just the ticket
Beth decided to join us and off we went to a pretty but short little canyon near Clarence
and what better way to finish it off with
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night― Sarah Williams
So for some years (with a break in 2020 due to bush fires) I’ve been joining Ed and Ethan for a New Years Day recovery canyon.
It started as a family thing but kinda morphed and pretty much has had different people joining each yea . This year we decided to do a trip to Rocky Creek New Years Day Night and the above mentioned legend joined us
Anyhoo I first visited Rocky cr nearly 30 years ago. It blew my mind and have made a visit to it at least once a year ever since. I have waxed lyric about it both in day and at night heaps before so I wont bang on to much this time around
and of course the Glowworms.
We went in earlier than usual for doing a night trip but had enjoyed the serenity so much it was the 2nd before we were were out of the canyon
Hey Flynny, want to do something tomorrow. The standard message from Madie
Would you rather do K-Main or Danae or both?
Now some people may think she was joking but Leo and Madie had recently completed the 3 in a day, Danae, Kalang and Kanangra Main challenge in a tad over 13hrs car to car. She was serious
Now both canyons are awesome but I’d missed out on some great trips to Danae this year due to other commitments and I ain’t fit enough to do both in a day I so I’m pushing for Danae.
Cool. Leo wants to try the exit over the Spires…..
In the back of my head I recall horror stories of the Spires. Climbing up to abseil down to climb up some more. Getting benighted. destroying souls…
Will I get up the climbing? Ask I
It’s easier than Butterbox. Says Leo. It’s just a walk. (The things Leo says: 1a.)
Anyhoo it’s early but not stupid early when we hit the fire trail and trek in.
During their 3 in a day the Mad Ones had descended Danae in fairly high flow. As we crossed the upper reaches of first, Kanangra brook (Kalang) then Kanangra creek they remarked they were up considerably compared to then. Hmmm.
But Danae is hard to judge. Despite the Kalang and Kanangra crossings being up the top of Danae looked to be down a bit
And once in the slot it water levels were considerable lower than I had expected (Though still highish for me)
Back not that long ago I hadn’t been all that interested in the Kanangra canyons. I’d done Dione Dell and Kalang (dry line) a few times but mainly because of the company. The trips themselves just seemed to be about abseiling beside waterfalls for the sake of abseiling beside waterfalls, which wasn’t a big appeal to me.
But then we did Danae. I’d been told Danae was a bit Blah in low water and a bit Waaa in high water. We got it pretty much perfect for our skill levels at the time and when we got to the waterfall abseil. I was like, Ok. Now I get it.
Looking back the water levels were quite tame, but our skill set has grown a lot since the days of us using double rope throw and go.
Today it was a good level for fun with an experienced crew
And then comes the boulder field
Field is misleading. It’s more a tumble. A steep tumble.
Last time I was here is was fairly dry and hot. In the cool with more water it was a lot more interesting. But I was having a bit of an off day. I just felt a bit unbalanced so I was slow(er than usual) and it and the creek walk below sapped a bit of energy
I was pretty glad to get to the junction with Kanangra creek and stop to stuff some food in
but then it was time to go up.
But still we go up. Still it gets steeper.
And every rock was loose under hand and under foot.
Hey Madie. Say I. I think we are even
What for? asks she
For whatever the fuck it was I did to you to make you hate me so much (Things Flynny says 1.0)
Hey Leo are you sure it’s easier than Butterbox?
It’s nothing like Butterbox. You don’t need a rope (The things Leo says 1.b). It’s just a walk
From the top of the lower Spire we descend down a bit to a narrow saddle/bridge to gain the upper Spire. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous getting to the saddle or crossing it
We get almost to the top of the second Spire and there is a small wall in front of us.
What do the track notes say?
If you get to a spot where you think you need to rope up you are off track, retreat and look for another way.
Well that’s as handy as a handful of dandruff to a bald man. There were spots where Id say a lot of parties would have liked to rope up already. We are on a narrow ridge, left looks shit. Right looks worse. There’s no other way.
This is the most fucked exit I’ve ever done. (Things Flynny says. 2.0)
Madie sends Leo down to check out a ledge to the right..
I like the look of the face. (Things Leo says 2a)
Leo ropes up and climbs the small nose. hey there is a pass on the left if I can get rid of this tree. He proceeds to jump on the fallen tree to dislodge it.
You still have me on belay yeah? (things Leo say 2b)
The pass proves to be another easy scramble.
This seems to be the theme of the Spires. You look up at an imposing face and just around the corner sometimes left, but mostly right is a much easier scramble
Now we are on top of the Second Spire and we are looking at a deep saddle and the imposing face of Spire Head. 3 Abseils are needed to get down to the saddle.
and then it’s up again.
From there it’s a fairly easy walk with Madie leading the way up over Big Misty and out to the car
13.5 hrs car to car at a fairly steady pace.
As I said before I had been a bit off (too much Xmas cheer or sumfink) so it was a big day for me. But an awesome day none-the-less, spent with amazing people.
Now lets never ever mention exiting by the Spires ever again (Things Flynny says 3.0)
TBH the views were amazing and the climb up, while long and expose in spots wasn’t too difficult so I probably would do it again. Just not tomorrow. Or even next week. but maybe one day…
I didn’t tell you it would be easy. Only it would be worth it. Anon
Ed, Ethan, Russ, Tash, and Meeeee but not Adrian (Cameos by Stu, Lindsey and the MadOne.)
Adrian wants to do Claustral. Anyone available?
Fugg yeah!!! Said everyone except Adrian who had some last minute family stuff pop up….
The rest of us set off at the crack of 8am. There was already a couple of groups in front of us but we’re just cruising so no wukkas
The new track work on the entry is excellently done and much needed to prevent erosion but personally I hate stairs, up or down they cane my knees… I’m happier on a scree slope. By the time we get to the bottom of the gully my legs were feeling a bit worse for wear. Not a good sign considering the relatively easy walk…
But we head down to the first climb down and suit up while the other groups make their way down, some abseil off newish looking rap rings.
Tash and Ethan opt to abseil it too which is ok by me.
We get to the main abseils just as the two guys in front of us wait for the last of the group in front of them to finish the first one.
As odd as this sounds this is the first time I’ve ever had to line up for the Blackhole. I can’t remember ever seeing too many other people in Claustral when I have been in there…. But, again we aren’t in a hurry and it’s not a bad spot to hang about
I join the guys in front waiting for the second abseil
So as we set up for the key hole I tell Tash, who hasn’t been here before, that it’s worth heading down first or second as it’s amazingly dark and makes for good photos and videos.
So I’m not sure if it’s just the time of the day but it turns out its the brightest I’ve ever seen it in there….
We are too early for sunbeams but the soft light on a misty morning is special in it’s own way
Back down to the junction and from here down it’s technically Thunder Gorge and it opens out a little before closing in for the tunnel swim
We get to the end and it’s barely midday. I’m looking forward to lunch but not the hot walk out…
But things were going to go a bit awry.
A slight mishap
A mistimed jump into the last pool and Tash comes up with with a moan.
Ethan and Russ dive in and bring her across.
She has jarred her back. Bad
We get her out of the water and onto what forever more will be named Tash’s Rock of Shame after Stu the Paramedic (actual name) coined it so.
Sure some people would like it to be call Rest Rock or Sandstone Slumber or Back support Boulder or even Dicky Deckchair but they are never going to stick
But we get ahead of our self
We get her onto Tash’s Rock of Shame and try to make her slightly less uncomfortable.
What’s your pain level?
2, if I don’t move. Says Tash
2? Says Ed. I’m a bloody 2.
1 is good. 10 is bad
Tash moans, Oh it’s 8 if I try to move.
We give her some pills to pop. They do 4/5th of freak all. She aint walking out today.
We agree to push the big red button. Which on the Inreach(TM) is actually small and grey, probably
Ethan and Russ take the inreach and head up to call the Calvary
Ed and myself go about trying to make Tash as comfortable as possible. She keeps ever so slowly slipping down the rock. We slowly drag her back up… it passes the time.
A few groups come passed and all offer help, food and water. But we reassure them we have it under control
We amuse our patient by regaling her with the tale of the Kanangra Rescue we got caught up in.
Not long after we finish that tale another group come swimming down the canyon.
Hey, calls one of them, I recognise you. You guys rescued me at Kanangra
No fucking way. It’s Timmy!
I’d never seen him before the Kanangra Incident. I’ve not seen him since.
You can’t make this shit up
But after a chat they head off too
I’m expecting the ground crew at any minute. I’m being outwardly positive but in my head I’m looking at the wind in the trees up above us and thinking the Chopper wont deploy, we are over-nighting.
Hey Flynnsticles! I have Chippies.
WTF! it’s the Mad One
What the hell are you doing here. I can’t help but smile
I heard you were in the shit and came to save you. Again. With snacks
She had got the message from Russ, met our wives at Mt Tomah and put them at ease. Then ran in with supplies to help us out. She is kinda Golden
Russ had returned with her. Ethan continued up
Ground crew was marshalling up top they say.
And then. The Chopper circles over
Now over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be part of some charity work for the Westpac Rescue service up north (PS I’m doing it again) and have been privileged to get to speak to some of the air crews and engineers and ask them all sort of silly questions so I know the Toll guys are up there scoping the scene and risk assessing the drop zone and I am 100% confident they wont deploy.
The Chopper comes lower.
For some perspective, the cliffs you can see rise about 40m above us. From the tops we can see the gorge widens out a little but then there is about another 100m of cliff above them. Those cliffs in turn are tucked deep in a steep ravine.
If you were up top the helicopter would be out of sight, 150m below you.
And still they come lower.
And down comes Stu the Paramedic (actual name). I do a quick hand over. He assesses the situation.
So if we lift her out do the rest of you need assistance to get out?
No we are good to walk.
What if it gets dark?
There’s plenty of light and we have head torches just in case
Good stuff. Now let’s get this girl some pan relief and get her off her Rock of Shame.
He radios up and goes about trying to jab the spikey thing into the blood carrying things. While he fills Tash will holes trying to find a vein the chopper comes back and drops Lindsey the Other Paramedic (not actual name)
The pin pricking does no good. She has been lying in the cold for a few hours so her veins arn’t exactly pumping. The friendly banter with Stu the Paramedic (actual name) reaches a crescendo when Mads asks if she can have a go at getting the needle in…. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t work out is she was serious or not
She was serious.
We are going to have to air lift her, Says Lindsey the other Paramedic (not actual name) But I’m worried about the stretcher on those trees
It’s a bit more open just down there, says I.
They send Russ down for a look.
I’m sure its a bit more open down there, says Ed.
Russ comes back. It’s a bit more open down there. Says he
Stu the Paramedic (actual name) and Lindsey the other Paramedic (not actual name) consult, go through scenarios and assess things again. We are going to have to move her, say they. It’s a bit more open down there
It wasn’t that much more open but it worked.
Let me say this. When the excrement hits the rotating cooling device in the mountains The Toll Rescue Helicopter crews are the best in the business
We split Lindsey the other Paramedic’s (not actual name) gear between us and suggest while waiting for the chopper to return we could get him up to a more open spot for a pick up. Just as we head up the exit the wirlybird comes back…..
it’s just after 7pm as we reach the cars. Mandy is waiting for us with extra food. it was most welcome
The rescue crews have packed up and left. They had started walking in but got the coms from the air crew that things were under control.
Massive thanks to all the crews who responded and massive shout out to the chopper pilot. I honestly had myself psyked up for an over night stay.
And once again to the cool, level heads of my crew. no panic, no bullshit everyone knew what needed to be done communicated well and just got on with it.
PS Tash is back on her feet a bit stiff and sore but recovering, and hopefully planning her next outing.