With a couple of birthdays around this time Kylie wanted to get the gang together for an excursion. As it was going to be July and the gang likes dressing up Xmas in July made sense
And then we moved it forward a week so Xmas in July in June it was.
Lucky, as that afternoon the Gubberment announced lockdown,/stay at home rules for the filthy flatlanders and extended them to include the pox ridden, beanie wearing, hippies in the Blue Mountains
Anyhoo, We’d been talking about wandering down Valley of the Waters to check out Vera falls (the highest falls in that particular creek, one I had done before but only had vague memories of) and thought why the hell not. Surprisingly many in the group hadn’t ventured further down than the base of Empress falls. Oh man the next two, Sylvia Falls and Lodore Falls are beautiful and not 10min further down.
But I get ahead of myself. Pulling into the car park I see Kylie in candy stripes and Hywaida is busy Grinching up Kris.
Shit! this green stuff doesn’t come off. says she as I get out of my car
Kris looks alarmed. What is a grinch anyway?
Worth it but
Others rocked up, frocked up and off we went
First stop: the base of Empress for a photo op
After lots of photos and nearly as many laughs we continue our way down the trail. Vera is a long way down but it’s pretty walk
Below Lodore the trail gets rougher but not as vague as I remember it and despite the distance the time flies in good company and banter and before long we are standing on the large, slippery AF rock shelf at the top Vera
You are probably thinking, That’s a big group, but technically we are not canyoning and only half of us are doing the abseil. The rest are out for a walk and Xmas in July cheer.
So now we need to work out how we are going to do it.
We want to go through the falls and work out a good anchor option. Aimee and Krys get busy setting it up.
Me and Kylie breifly discuss the abseil. The toppo suggest the falls are 45-50m. My rope is a tad over 50. We left Jason’s 60m in the car. I tie the end of my rope into Aimee’s anchor and toss the end down to see if it will reach. Then try to get to a spot were I can see.
I can’t see if the tail is on the ground.
We know there is a large ledge about 10m from the bottom but I can’t see it. Kylie suggests first person down takes the spare rope and if possible joins the two at the ledge so that we are not needing to pass a knot mid abseil in what is going to be very cold water spray.
From here we had some communication break downs.
I was planning to be anchor bitch… I mean “monitor”. I know me and Kylie spoke about whether to swap over to a releasable or leave it as we would probably need the full length of rope.
Those not planning to abseil had already continued down the walking track to the base so Kylie moved up to a place where she could signal down to them. The rope isn’t on the ground.
People looked nervous and reluctant to go first.
I have ascending gear, I’m happy to go. I volunteers.
Aimee took over anchor duties. We discussed that if I needed to tie the extra rope on at the ledge I’d give 5 clear whistle blasts. Or maybe I discussed that with Kylie. As I said communication broke down. We all put trust in each other and assumed things.
Never assume things
Kylie somehow makes phone contact with Hywaida who confirms the rope reaches the ledge. Relief.
Ok no need to whistle, everyone knows the ropes will be joined and they need to pass a knot on the ledge.
I check Aimee is good, get on rope and go. We didn’t pause to discuss changing the anchor now that we had updated info.
Slippery Start. Then boosh.. I’m into it. It’s pretty much 40-45m of overhanging abseil. You’re in the main flow, then behind it. The wind moves the waterfall meters sidedways and front and back so you are in it then not in it then bam! back in.
I stop on a small ledge 3/4 the way down. There are a lot of loose rocks and I kick them off now rather than have them dislodge and smack someone on the noggin later, not thinking the sound of rocks crash down might freak out those up top….
I reach the big ledge. There is 4 or 5 m of rope on the ledge and a large dead tree between me and the edge. Rather than leave a long tail to possibly tangle in the tree I go off rope and signal for the slack to be taken up.
I hadn’t discussed this possibility with Aimee but she takes up the rope and when I signal to stop she is wondering what now? Remember, we hadn’t converted back to a releasable system.
She realised I needed the rope reset so ties a alpine butterfly and captures the slack in the loop. Yep that’s 4m of rope in the AB’s loop.
Meanwhile, down below I’ve joined the ropes and tossed the end down. Rookie error, I don’t keep hold of the rope and the angle takes it out away from me. Gingerly leaning over the dead tree I grab the rope and pull it back to me.
Unbeknownst to me, Aimee feels this but without being able to see and with communication difficulties she thinks I’m getting back on rope, she is only halfway through tying the alpine butterfly. Understandably it freaks her out and she gets it locked off as fast as possible, leaving a bit of her hair in the knot in the process
So she believes I’m on rope. I’m on the ledge waiting for an OK to go.
Once again the waterfall is swaying in the wind. I’m out of it. I’m in the spray. It’s dumping on me. I’m getting cold.
I look to the others at the bottom for guidance. I get a thumbs up (I think that is they have confirmation from the top I’m right to go, later it was explained it was confirmation the rope now reaches the ground
So I give the rope a gentle test pull. It holds. I pull again. Sweet. I get back on rope and make my way around the tree to the edge of the ledge. There I notice the rope has caught behind a flake on the next ledge up. I flick it a few times to free it and this gives me a tiny bit of slack,
I’m stranding on the lip.
I try to adjust up as I normally would but I’m using the cutaway tag on my harness to leave room for my ascender so where I’m use to the device taking up is 2 inches above where it actually does. I have a little slip
Now back in my misspent youth I may or may not have done some dumbshit(TM) that I don’t condone now. One of those dumbshit(TM) things my brother and I may or maynot have done on the odd occasion was the old Hollywood throw a heap of slack out and jump over the edge trick. So as I slip it’s second nature to me to make sure I have the least amount of friction at the device as I can so when the rope takes up it reduces the shock load as much as possible.
As dramatic as it looks my “big slip” was just a few inches (story of my life) followed by a fast but controlled slide into the pool at the bottom (shut up)
Safely at the bottom I dance about to get warm.
How was that rope stretch at the ledge, Jen laughs.
Near shit myself, says I
Kylie and Ethan come down
Jason had opted out of the abseil as he had thought we were doing the dry line and didn’t bring the right gear. I offer him mine and we head back up.
Up top Aimee fills me in on her freak out which freaks me out…. She was still a bit rattled and wasn’t going to do the abseil. We talk it out and she decides to give it a go. It really is an awesome abseil
We all head back up to the top of the falls for a bite to eat, some not so awesome Xmas carolling and bell ringing and a bit of a debrief on how the communication had fallen down (the great thing about this group is there is no blame or finger pointing. Just, this is what we think went wrong and this is how we think we can improve. The conversation continued online over the proceeding days)
Now all that’s left is an hour and a half or so up stairs to get out….. Of course we had to break up the walk with a bit of fun….
Icy cold fun
The tourists were amused
So in the end the falls were about 60m lip to pool, add in the anchor is a fair way back…. Take long ropes.
All in all a very Yuley day out with very Yuley Folk
Find people who inspire you, make you laugh and are great to hang out with. then hangout with them
Gadget, Penny, Chief Quimby, Professor Von Slickstein and Me… I mean, Dr Claw
Whatya doing on the Monday of the long weekend? Asks Gadget
No plans. What do you have in mind? Says I
Options were thrown up before settling on a Go Go Gadget excursion back to Wolgan falls.
We’ve been talking about getting back there to do a wet line after rain. It almost happened after the March deluge but we wimped out fearing the road maybe impassable.
And the stars just haven’t aligned since.
But now we have had a bit of rain through the week, then a good dump of snow on the plateau.
Time to give it a crack
Unfortunately Brain had to bail last minute…. Now I was concerned. How would Penny help Gadget and the others foil Dr Claw without him?
We meet up at the ZigZag railway on a crispy morning, pile into cars and head in (Yeah we were going the long way, or at least the slow way, but we had our reasons)
The road was boggy but some awesomely excellent driving by Von Slickstein saw him follow us through in his 2WD ute.
Packed up, nervous whizs and off we go
The trip is pretty basic, some easy nav along the ridge, and a couple of dry abseils land you on a large flat shelf above the falls.
Its a pretty spot
And it’s from this point we plan to mix things up. The usual line is in 2 stages a few meters to river left of the falls. Despite ice in puddles and a few patches of snow up top we are hoping to rig things to go straight down the guts.
We discuss options, a tree would have us in the perfect spot, but it’s a looooooong way back.
We have everything we need to build a long anchor but ideally we’d set it as a retrievable so we don’t leave anything behind.
Options were discussed before deciding to use a shorter rope around the tree set on the fiddlestick near the edge then tie join the main line below the stick…
Go Go Gadget retrievable anchor and Roberts your Aunty’s husband or sumfink
Stirlo’s down and so far nobody has died. Wootwoot
And we are all down, now to see if we can retrieve things
Kylie pops the fiddle stick. Success.
Stirlo and Ed pull the rope. Success
‘Cept the fiddlestick then wedges itself in the only crack on the halfway ledge and the tail of the rope wraps itself around the only stick in the only crack on the halfway ledge…
Luckily the way out goes up to the halfway ledge and a delicate bit of rope work with the spare rope gets me in a position to release both
We high 5 and begin to pack up for the haul out
Voices…. Up above smiling faces pear over the cliff. I recognise Dick. He is with Laurie, Mick, Peter and crew. This is 2 trips in a row we’ve run into them. We head up and say g’day
Then we are back in the cars for a bite to eat and then back through the mudbath for a little add on that took longer to get there than to do.
Worth it but
Anchor trees in this one can be a bit hard to get and ghosting (Fiddlestick/smooth operator..) is definitely the way to go. Would hate to see slings or chains in this one
And 10min later we’re back up at the cars
Another awesomely excellent with awesomely excellent mates.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” — Amy Poehler
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
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.