A quick run through Empress with Russ and Libby then a slow trip into the Grand at night with Russ, Mark, Ethan, Jamie, Marc and Ariadna.
I can’t believe it’s February and this is my first canyon trip for the year.
Mark invited us out on a night trip through The Grand Canyon so to make a bit of an afternoon of it Myself, Libby and Russ decided to hit the only other canyon in the Bluies that is officially open, Empress, beforehand.
It was a stinking hot day and I get a message, “Car park is full. Russ parked like a dick so we could save you a space. k.”
They straighten up and I pull in next to Russ and do the meet and greet.
Did I say it was hot? We quickly make our way down and enter the refreshing coolness of the canyon.
No surprises we weren’t the only ones to have this idea today… We’d passed a couple gearing up at the entrance and come across a group at the little jump just after the matrix jump.
Want to go through? They offer
If you don’t mind, say I. But we’re not in a hurry.
Oh come through we are just practising.
They’d set the drop up as an abseil with a very awkward start.
We jump on past
We climb up on to the ledge to wait our turn. Only to learn later earlier in the day some dirty grub decided that was where they really needed to drop a turd. Lucky some guides saw it take place. Chastised old mate and cleaned things up
A group just in front said they waited inline for an hour…. It’s a 20min canyon…. Luckily the crowd had thinned a bit and about 20min later we set up on the left and dropped on down.
Luckily it had cooled down slightly for the walkout but we were still hot by the top. So After chatting with a few people we head to the servo for a frozen coke. Except their frozen Beverages machine wasn’t frozen…
Here we say bye to the Libster and head around to Evans Lookout to check out the views over the Grose
Anyhoo, We are soon met by Mark and Jamie, followed by Ethan and then Marc and Ariadna and spend some time chatting and waiting for darkness before doing a car shuffle back to the entrance track and heading on in
Once again we aren’t the only ones and there is a couple dropping in as we reach the abseil point. We Phaff about to give them time to have the canyon in peace
Once in we spend a fair bit of time just soaking in the ambience
Making our way down there is a constant feeling of awe as we stop often and for long periods just to sit in the darkness and admire the glow
I fall behind a little taking photos. When I catch up they have stopped in one of the more spectacular chambers. Mark, Ethan and Jamie sit quietly talking on one side of the canyon. I set up some photos then sit talking to the Spaniards on a ledge on the other side.
I have no idea how long we stayed there, certainly longer than I normally like to sit still, but I figure its such a beautiful night and atmospheric situation that everyone is just blissing out
Some time later I hear. Do you think we should go back and look for them?
Russ turns on his light. Oh there you are. We thought you were still back there taking photos.
The two groups were about 4m apart from each other 🙂
We though you guys we just enjoying the stillness
We have a bit of a laugh and continue on our way
And then we continue down to do the loop out to Evans lookout. I haven’t been out this way for nearly 20years. The impacts of the fires are more noticeable beyond the canyon proper. What was more disappoint was a wall completely covered in new graffiti, If scrawling your name can be call graffiti. I don’t get it.
Anyhoo. We slog back up to the lookout and stare out into the darkness. The stars are out. An orange glow to the south east reminds us the fires have finished with us yet.
Back at the cars we say good bye to the others and wait for Libby to come back to pick up Russ. She brings beer and Cherry the dog. I like Libby.
Another two emerge from the track followed shortly thereafter by 2 more we say hi but in the darkness don’t take much notice. Towards the end of the beer Russ looks up and says, Is that Kylie?
The same friend of theirs we’d been chatting too at the end of Empress.
It had been a great evening with truly awesome people but its time to go home.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: We are all worms, but I do believe some of us are glow-worms
Empress: A bit over 2hrs with a long wait for the abseil
Grand: About 4 hours with lots of just sitting in the dark.
When evening closes nature’s eye, the glowworm lights her little spark, to captivate her favourite fly and tempt the rover in the dark: James Mongomery
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
Dropping off the end of the rope we swim into the cave and wait for the others
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
And then we swim out and make use of Laurences cave ladder to climb out of the water
Be a cool jump. Say I. Looking back up to the arch
Oh Coop jumps from that platform there, Says Laurence
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.
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.
And to finish things off we head to the Catho Bay hotel for a cooling beverage or two
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
Dirt Girl, Bad-arse Barbie, Shreevy, Dare Devil, Monners, The Wizard, Sketchy Maddog and meeee
Bad-arse Barbie mentioned she needed a bit of support to get back on the horse after last weekend’s incident so in a funny sort of round about way me and the Mad One pretty much invited ourselves, and later The Wizard, on to the trip she was doing with Dirt Girl. Belatedly we worked out it was originally suppose to be a girls trip….
It had been awhile since I’d seen some of this crew and it was the first time meeting Sheervy and Monners in real life so we do a meet and greet and I notice every one had the packs out ready to go.
Um, we still need to drive down a bit to the car park…..
At the carpark we wake some campers with our not so quiet banter and then make our way along the trail
Last couple of times I’ve followed the trail down a bit far east and had to traverse back through scrub. This time I make more or less a bee line down the ridge. Through the scrub
Sketchy Maddog starts to “question” my navigation. It’s just down there. Says I. pointing to a big tree down the ridge
I think it’s over there. Says she. You’re shit navigator. It’s over that way
I’m pretty sure it’s just there. Say I
Oh shit, I can see the sling on the tree. Says she pointing to the very same tree I pointed to earlier.
1 point: Flynny
We gain the creek and boulder hop down to the start of the canyon and one of the coolest abseils in the Blue Mountains.
Even in this dry spell it didn’t disappoint
Click to enbiggen
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Click for the sake of clicking
We’ve gotten through the canyon fairly quick without ever feeling like we were rushing. So we have an early lunch and chill out in the sun
The traditional exit was to continue down, then traverse the Carne Wall, then get benighted. then cry a bit, then swear you’d never ever, ever do it again.
A climbing exit now makes Arethusa one of the most funnest, adventurous little canyons in the mountains. Not to mention how pretty it is.
But you need to have reasonable climbing skills
And as luck would have it a cool breeze greets us for the walk out
Party size: 8 all experienced
Time: 6.5hr car to car
I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.Alice Roosevelt Longworth
The Wizard, Aimee, Ed, Ethan, Gabby, Jamie, Matthew and me. Plus a bunch of unexpected but very much appreciated guests.
When the Wizard invited me out to do K-Main again I was in 2 minds. I don’t like repeating canyons too soon, I rarely do the same canyon more than once a season. Getting to know them too well takes a bit of the adventure out of it for me. But he had an awesome crew assembled, and it’s K-main and they were going in via the Slot.
I really wanted to check out the slot.
I knew Ed was super keen on it too so I OKed an invite for him and Ethan and jumped aboard the K-Main train.
With fires raging across the state it was definitely a factor we considered before heading out but with more favourable conditions predicted and with Kanangra-Boyd so far unaffected we felt comfortable with the decision to head out
We weren’t the only ones with that plan. Pulling up to the car park I passed a group of 3 heading out towards the entry track. There were also cars I recognised, I’d forgotten friends had planned a trip out here too. Later Gabby confirmed the group were doing K-main but had departed a few hours earlier.
Anyhoo, in dribs and drabs the rest of the crew arrived and after the usual meet and greet we hoisted packs and set off in good spirits.
We reached the cliff above the start of the main wall just as the party of 3 were setting up ropes and had a bit of friendly banter with them while we harnessed up before heading further around to the top of the slot.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves
We traverse around to the top of the slot. And what an awesome looking slot it was.
I help the Wizard rig up and he sends me down first
Ethan and Jamie followed
Jamie was just heading down to start setting up the next anchor when we heard one of the most horrid sounds I’ve ever heard, the unmistakable sound of a body falling onto rock. There followed silence. It probably lasted a fraction of a second but it seemed like an eternity. My heart sank as I feared the worst. We were 60m down a 150m waterfall. Then a scream and a god-awful moan.
It might sound odd but that moan was like a relief valve being set off. At least he was alive, if in all sorts of trouble.
Then the girls in his group began screaming for help. We called out desperately trying to reassure them we were coming.
Looking up I saw Jamie’s son Matt was on rope and descending. At the time I thought he was too far down to get him to stop so belayed him down.
Up top others in our crew had mobilised to see what they could do, but for now I was oblivious to that.
The calls for help seemed to becoming from below us and with Jamie being a paramedic our first thought was to get him down to the injured person ASAP. The abseil line was set up and he was getting ready to go but luckily training kicked in and we stopped to talk through the situation.
Are you sure they are below us or even if we could get across to them?
Not really. We’d be better approaching from above.
We call up that we will ascend. The others call down and agree it’s our best option and ask us to send up the spare rope in case they need to set up lines to get down to the injured party. They let us know Aimee had set off her PLB and Ed was going to where we knew there was mobile reception to phone through details as we knew them.
Again I was thinking we needed to get Jamie up so he could respond if necessary. Now I’m going to admit I was making some big assumptions at the time. For whatever reason I had assumed Jamie was a member of vertical/access squad, even when he said he hadn’t prussiked for a while I didn’t register that wasn’t the case. In hindsight I probably should have went up first and set a top haul but hindsight is as handy as a hat full of dandruff when you are neck deep in a shit sandwich.
A 55m prussik isn’t fun at the best of times so I tried to set him up with an assisted system where a little redirect meant by pulling on the rope from below in time with him stepping up I could give him a little help. Coordinating that is a bit harder than it sounds but eventually he got to the top.
It was about then the chopper arrived, I was blown away about how quick it had responded. But to be honest I have a poor concept of time anyway so I have no idea how long it had been. I’d been told about the down draft by friends in the rescue crew and got Matt and Ethan to hug the walls in case debris came tumbling in. To keep a 9t machine in the air requires 9t of air to be pushed down. It’s bloody awesome.
My turn up the rope. Ethan said he wasn’t confident in his prussik skills. Once up top I planned to set a up a haul system to bring Matt up anyway and we decided it would be best to get Ethan out the same way.
After watching Jamie I got an idea to improve my prussik technique. Is now the best time to test a new technique? Bugger it, it would be quick and simple to convert back if it wasn’t working so why not. To my relief it worked well and if I’m totally honest I very nearly enjoyed the ascent.
I’m greeted at the top by Gabby and we go about setting up a 3:1 haul system.
Now this is stuff I know and I went into autopilot as we threw ourselves into the task at hand. We had limited space so would need to reset time and time again (pretty sure we went up and down the 3m of hill 254gazillion times) but we got Matt up reasonably quick and easy.
That may have made me a little over confident and I got Ethan to bring mine and Jamie’s packs with him.
By this time my office boy hands were blistered ( Well the blisters had well and true burst by then, There was big chunks of skin missing. note to self pack gloves even if you don’t use them to abseil) and I had resorted to tying a VT prussik from my harness to the haul line and basically throwing myself down the hill as Gabby assisted. (pretty sure I did this an extra fuctillion times) but even that got a bit much and I converted the system to a 9:1.
This made hauling much easier but much slower, which gave us an extra complication. Ethan’s harness was starting to cut circulation in his legs. Hang syndrome is a very serious hazard. We got him to a ledge where he was able to stretch out his legs and get blood flowing. While he did that we hauled the bags up separately. The old hindsight chestnut again, I should have done this to start with.
By then Mark and Jamie were back and between us we got Ethan up the rest of the way, stowed our gear and made our way around to see if we could help at all. The chopper was dropping another paramedic and a doctor as we arrived. We helped cart their gear down.
Rounding the corner I see our mate Jen was one of the first responders. I would have been reassured no matter who was in the cavalierly but I was doubly put at ease to see Jen’s smiling face.
We were put to work, both us and our gear recruited to help set anchors for the haul system while waiting for more ground troupes to arrive.
TBH I was honoured they put their trust in us to do that but will say they definitely double checked all our work and changed a knot or two to comply with their standards
Once the ground crews arrived we were pretty much just spectators and moral support. and once more volunteers were confirmed to be on the way it was suggested we leave to make room. By that stage t was about 7:30pm and they had 50m of haulling to get the patient to the top. Not to mention His two friends still down on the ledge.
I wish the injured person a speedy recovery and hope his party members are not too traumatised. I know it would have shook me up something terrible.
Now I haven’t put any details of the incident into this write up. The reason for that is even though we were close by and assisting a lot of it is hearsay and some of the stuff reported on social media already isn’t right. And to be honest it’s not my story to tell.
Hopefully when the people involved recover they will be comfortable enough to share the facts as I think there are some good learnings to be had from it. For now I’m just thankful it was a rescue and not a body retrieval and I’m in total awe of the response from the rescue crews
I’ll add some thoughts on things from my perspective about how our group responded
Practising self and assisted rescue techniques is essential. Knowing how to do stuff is very different from being able to do it when the pressures on. Being well practised means that when the heat is on things become second nature. Certainly helps keep you calm
Stay calm and talk through options before committing yourselves to a course of action that might not be the best one. Your first priority is making sure you are not putting your self in danger or making things more complicated for rescuers. We very nearly committed ourselves to the next abseil. Jamie’s paramedics training and my experience as a workplace responder meant we were able to pull back to discuss our plan and make the much better choice of ascending and approaching from above.
PLBs are great but if you can get reception and make a call as well it gives the rescue teams a far better chance of mobilising exactly what they need from the start. (Consider getting a SpoteXe or Inreach between your group of friends). Both our group and the other set off PLBs, interestingly responders stated having 2 units go off at the same location gave them confirmation the situation was urgent and not just someone lost. This somewhat contradicts advice I had previously that you should only set off 1 as 2 is unnecessary and may confuse matters
Having a spare safety rope/pull cord/ fiddle stick set up. is a “very good idea”.
I’ve always tended to lead abseils on the trips I do, for what ever reason people put their trust in me going first. In the continuing debrief our group is going throu it was suggested by one member that while several of our party are just as proficient at setting anchors and abseiling when it came to rigging haul systems they all turned to me. And so perhaps it would have been better for me to be the safety guy at the top. I had full faith in the people behind me but its definitely something each group should consider. Whose skill set best suits what role in the party?
The rescue personnel are bloody awesome
Oh and a massive thanks to each and every member of our group. Your quick thinking, level headedness, team work and just the way you lot looked after each other, at the time and in the following days, is a credit to each of you.
Stay safe out there people. And dig into your pockets or consider donating your time to our awesome rescue teams, SES, VRA as well as the professional services from Police and Ambulance Rescue.
PS most of the photos above were provided by Gabby and Aimee, even thou I didn’t credit each individual one and rescue crews OKed and even encouraged the documentation.
Oh except the photos in the slot they are mine. Unfortunately for them the girls didn’t get to do the best prussik ascent ever, or sumfink
PPS There has been a bit of noise on the socials about whether the earlier group should have aborted their trip to come back to help. What a load of bollocks.
a. Their first priority is the safety of their party
b. They were 200 vertical meters , several abseils, scrambles and swims further down
c. At least 1 of their leaders ascended the pitch he had just descended but realised the incident was too far back up the canyon for them to get to
d. They heard the calls for help. They probably also heard our calls we were coming to assist
e. We were 25m away with no easy way to get across. By the time I ascended 1 55m pitch and got my party members up First responders were already onsite. By the time the other party could possibly have made it back the ground crews had arrived and things were getting crowded. We got thanked and it was politely suggested we leave. What exactly was the other party going to do other than get in the way?
f. Unless you are there with the limited the info at the time and were part of the decision making process I think it takes a fair bit of arrogance to criticise. Sure, ask the question of why they made the decision they did and decide for yourself what you would or wouldn’t do in the situation but to pay out on them when you have no idea what it’s like to be in that situation….. As some one who was there and who went through the decision making process of whether it was safer for us to continue down or ascend back up to try and assist I have full respect for them and the decision they made. Deciding to risk people on ascent is not a decision that sat lightly with me and I know it put pressure on those at the top. Ascending puts you on the rope a lot longer than descending. There is also a lot more moving around so edge protection is so much more crucial. In the end it was the right decision for us. it might not always be the best option thou.
g. Some people need to realise no matter how much they carry on like a dick online it wont make theirs any bigger
I had a busy weekend lined up and didn’t think I’d get out bush at all but when The Mad One lined up a trip with the awesome Canyoning/Climbing fam I was keen as a bean for a catch up so I rearranged some stuff to free up my Sunday. They really are a great bunch of like minded folk and a ball to hang out with
Anyhoo we meet at Mt Wilson at a very lazy 10am and dither about before setting off along the fire trail. Laziest start to a canyon day for ages.
The walk in would soon address that….
The shade of the overhang below the first abseil proves an enticing place to have lunch so more lazing about before we slip down the creek. I scramble into the start of the canyon and try to entice the others down with my best Pennywise impersonation, Do you want a balloon too, Georgie? but they go over the top to the next climb down.
The first little bit was as dry as a nuns nasty
The swim into the first “Duck under” was little more than a deep wade. There followed an impromptu chorus of Ooooh shit it’s cold. Which had Libby dubbing the trip the Whingee Whungee trip.
Whungee is usually such a high quality canyon but the low water and lack of glowworms took a bit of the shine off
Ok the top section was a little down on it’s usual high standard but the final hallway is still bloody stunning
We briefly check out a rumoured short cut exit but decide the climb is too dicey today so it’s into the ‘Gambe for a float down to the usual exit.
Surround yourself with exceptional people, experience exceptional things
Party Size: 8
Time: I didn’t really pay much attention but I think it was 7-8hrs with plenty of stops along the way
Jamie, Aimee, Mamie, Gamie and shamie…. I mean Jamie, Aimee, Matt, Mark and Meeeeee
Confession time: I’d not done Kanangra main before.
Abseiling for the sake of abseiling doesn’t really float my boat so it wasn’t a trip that ever featured high on my priority list but with anchor options that put you into more of the waterfalls rather than beside them it sounded fun and when Mark invited me on a trip I thought it high time I pop my K-Main cherry
After an early meet up we set off into the Kanangra wilds amidst banter and bravo. Before long we arrive at the start of the epicness and gear up
Epic is a word used a lot with the Kanangra wilderness and I have to admit it humbles you as you get dwarfed in the terrain.
While water levels are down after a long dry spell, and even at normal level it’s not considered anywhere near hi-flow there is something about being swallowed into a waterfall halfway down a rope
Below is a typical “Ethical and safe” blue mountains anchor…. sling crumbled with 1 sharp tug
I’m glad Mark converted me to releasable systems and flaking ropes into/out of bags. Constantly coiling and uncoiling ropes on this trip would be a PITA. We got the others into it too
And then we rock hop down the the Kalang junction and begin the “gentle stroll” back up manslaughter ridge… Helps if you stop to smell the orchids every now and then
Another great day with great people
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face : Eleanor Roosevelt
With too many hobbies and a bunch of commitments I just wanted to get out for a pleasant, short afternoon canyon and thought to myself Dalpura is pleasant and short and a canyon and Saturday has an afternoon. A plan started to form…
I’d hadn’t caught up with this lot of awesome folk for few weeks and they were keen enough to join me. Awesome.
Um, Russ, did you not pack your harness and stuff? said all of us as Russ rigged up a munter hitch on makeshift tape harness
I have them in my bag, says Russ. But I couldn’t be bothered getting them out. I’m a minimalist….
OK then, cool beans. Rock on,
From there the canyon opens out, closes in and opens out again. There are some nice bits but nothing mind blowing
Hey there is a little ledge down here with stunning views…. It was fogged out
Hey from up here there awesome views toward Mt Vic and Blackheath…. FoggyMcfogfog.
Still the wild flowers were out on display
Party Size: 4
Time: 2.5hrs car to car
If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be,