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.
Plans were hatched but the weather played havoc with them.
I wasn’t comfortable entering the canyon we wanted to do after so much rain. Luckily the others sort of agreed with me.
Alternate plans were needed. In the end we settled on a return to Wolgan Falls
When Laurie first took me on the trip he had pioneered I was impressed. It’s a lovely waterfall and I had wanted to get out to it for a long time. It’s a testament to his drive to find the line in and out.
But…. Well, I’ve said it before, abseiling for the sake of abseiling doesn’t really do it for me. Sliding down a rope on one wall is much the same as sliding down a rope on another.
For me it’s always been just a means to see new things and get to the next bit of canyon.
So after we had done the standard dry line we were itching to get back and do a wet line. Which was fun but now we had done that too.
Still, in the back of our heads was always, Geez it would be good with more water.
After 2 weeks of constant drizzle interspaced with a couple of good gully rakers we thought it would be worth a look.
Hearing the roar of the falls from the ridge top sent a tingle down my spine. But I’m a notorious over thinker and despite what some might think I tend to the cautious side so we dropped down the first abseil knowing we had an escape route and wandered down to the point to get a look at the falls.
My only concern now was that the water coming across the shelf above the falls might make it tricky getting off rope on the standard line that required you to swing in to land on the shelf.
So we modified the line and dropped into the side just to play it safe. As it was the water wasn’t quiet all the way across
And then there was only 1 thing left to do
The water wasn’t a bad temp. The icy wind thou….
Mission accomplished. What now?
I knew of another waterfall on the other side of the plateau that might be worth a look in the rain.
I’d first done it last year with Russ after a good dump of rain in what may have been a first decent. But anyhoo the drive to get back across was longer than the trip….
Sadly H and Kris had to leave us.
That left 3
Ok so last year was not long after the fire and the gully out was an easy scramble… Post fires, bit of rain and it’s Jurassic Park with full grown T-Rexs hidden in the ferns. Like lots of them.
Breaking a trail through the ferns was tough but we were soon back at the top. People knock my nav but we popped out onto the road 100m from the car. I aint need no stinking map and compass…
And as it was so close it would be rude not to drop into Alcatraz.
So I squeeze. I strip of clothing. I try bridging higher. I can’t bend me knees to get lower….. There is just 1 bit where I can’t get past. If memory serves there is one more tight bit further in so rather than forcing myself through and possibly getting stuck further in I opt to reverse out, with some difficultly and let the young skinny beautiful doggo continue through with Madie and Leo…..
At one point the crack drops sharply, here Pippa decides to take advantage of things and crawl onto Leo’s head.
I slip around and scramble down Crack of Doom 2. We then check out some of the other cracks/Canyonettes in the area
And check out a possible First Nations occupation site before reversing up Crack of Doom 2
A Short easy scramble gets us out the top
Lets get wet. Alcatraz on the way home!!!
Winter Alcatraz Undie run comingup
TBH I sooked a bit and put a top on so that I could go first and then stay to help Madie at the bottom with Pippa and then pull ropes.
Getting back into dry clothes felt soooo good and we relished the sunshine one back up top
The following day we head into the Freezer. Despite the name its a pleasant crag out of the wind and, today at least, sheltered from the rain (mostly)
Madie leads up the delightfully run out slopperfest, Soul Sister (18). Leo then leads up making it look easy before I struggle my way up on top rope.
Then I leave them to play on the harder stuff and head for home feeling somewhat out of shape and deflated but determined to crack myself back into gear.
Your future. It awaits only you, to live it and to write it. R Hobb
Hey, I know you’ve just done Kanangra Main but would you be interested in doing it again with us? says Kylie
Hell yeah. Says I
‘cpet the water levels are up.
A week of dry should settle it. says I, let’s suck it and see.
Good theory but the week wasn’t exactly dry and as the gang set up camp it pissed down then rained steadily all night. I felt sorry for them as I opted to snuggle up in my nice warm bed at home but I’m sure they were having a great time.
When I rocked up in the morning Kanangra brook could be heard gushing away in the gully. I wandered down for a look. The amount of water on the ground was concerning and the little brook below the car park trying to burst it’s banks.
If the brook is flowing like that Kanangra creek will be pumping. Say I. We can walk out to check it out but I’m thinking we need to play it a little safe.
The others agree and we opt to do Kalang Falls instead. It is a bit more open with bigger stances between abseils. It’s usually done as a dry trip but has options so we could choose to get into the flow if it was safe.
And off we went
The rocks at Kanangra are always slippery and loose and the dampness added to this so we went slow and steady, setting up a small abseil to get to the first abseil.
But soon we opt to take the wet line.
We were bleeding the ropes each abseil but a few drops in we core shot Jason’s 70m rope.
A few abseils later I notice a cut in my 60m, right in the centre
Luckily the bigger drops were done as that was our two longer ropes relegated to pull cord status.
There were lot of laughs and plenty of smiles in between the serious stuff.
There was lots of highlights but I think THE highlight was this two stage drop in a good bit of flow
The final drop gave us a good show too
And reaching the junction with Kanangra creek we get back into semi dry gear, have a bit of lunch and then make the steep, slippery, scratchy, bitey haul back up to the cars.
Kylie may have swore once or twice.
The most scared I was on that entire trip was the exit. Says Mon
Stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path. Well unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path then by all means follow that.
Russ and meeeee. With a late inclusion of Leo and Madie
A few options were thrown about for weekend adventures but in the end it was cold and damp… Perfect weather for descending a couple of pretty little slots on the Sunnyside plateau
First stop Zorro
The road out is surprisingly clear. Of course I took the first fire trail, belatedly remembering the rough hill down the rocks. I pull up and explain my error. Madie doesn’t look too keen on testing the 4WD capabilities of her ute. Leo, in the drivers seat, looks like a kid on the way to a lolly shop but I decide to turn back and do the detour. Lucky, as looking back up the hill at the junction the link trail hadn’t been cleared for fallen trees
We find our car park and in no time we are descending between the parallel walls of the entrance hall.
And it’s not long until we get to the first abseil
Last year the canyon was as dry as I’ve ever seen it. Today more normal conditions saw a couple of pools, some of which required some tricky bridging to keep feet dry.
I’ve always just down climbed this one. With some careful bridging you can stay dry. I missed a step and right leg went in up to my knee. That leg was too warm anyway
Have I ever mentioned how pretty the central chamber is
The soft light and mist really adding to the beauty
The exit hall was also very atmospheric today with the mist rolling in
Then it opens out for the final abseil.
Not mentioning any names but somebody <Coughitwasrusscough>may or may not have left the safety draw attached to the pull cord and had to prusik back up to retrieve it. Fun times
Then it’s a short stroll back up the hill to the car and we drive back up around the head of the main gully to some cool little features on the other side. The Cracks of DOOM!!
Finally, a quick stop at Bardens lookout where Madie and Leo romp up a pumpy little climb to finish the day off
Mandy and me
We’d had a lazy morning but decide to head out of a lunch date.
I’ve always thought this one a pretty little canyon so I was a little apprehensive as to the state it would be in post fires.
Turns out the canyon itself was fairly untouched. Some of the ferns in the main chamber were brown but that looks more a result of drought
Some people like to cause commotion. Others like to be the commotion.
Time-To-Go, Sketchy, Marcula, BeerandScotch, Justadlib and meeeee
Ah Straylia! You’ve done it again. After all the devastation of the fires it’s pissing down rain.
Driving out of town I half expect to see a line of animals marching into an Ark two by two while a crazy dude calls out damnation from god.
I have to admit I was a little anxious. Empress is one canyon that always had me worried in rain. For a small canyon it has a large catchment and a relatively tight constriction. The Falls at the end have a rep for going from a gentle trickle to a wall of water in not much time. In 2005 Matthew Donovan lost his life when his party was hit with a storm burst part way through and he failed to negotiate the second last pool, being pinned under the sharply undercut wall by the sheer force of water.
While our canyoning cuzies from around the world often play in much higher water flows there are additional dangers of doing flooded canyons that don’t usually experience high flow. Canyons that see a lot of water generally clean themselves of the log jams and boulder chokes that feature in many Aussie canyons. Rising waters often pickup and sweep down stuff lying on previously dry banks creating hazards, both from solid impacts and hydraulic stoppers.
There’s definitely a skill to being able to spot and avoid hydraulic hazards, as well as speciality equipment, techniques and team work required to negotiate the canyon safely.
But I knew I was in good hands, people whose skills and judgement I trust. And overriding the nerves was an undertoe of excitement
I get to Mt Vic only for my brain to do this weird thing where it remembers it forgot to remind me to pick up my wetsuit! Some swearing happened. Passing cars probably thought the crazy dude in the ute had a bad case of road rage…
A quick phone call to Mandy and she offers to grab my wetty and meet me half way back home. She really is golden.
I’m slightly late as I pull into the car park and was surprised to see just Madie and Leo. It appears there was a little confusion over the late night change to the start time. They all know changing plans is what we do the best. Or sumfink
Anyhoo, we decide to head off for a look and if all goes well we’ll do a second run when the others arrive. But all agree it is probably going to be a none event today, we’ve had a lot of rain.
On the way down we discuss Go/No-Go indicators. If its below this rock at that point that section is good, If you can see such and such from that vantage… Blah Blah Blah. We also talk emergency exit options. The good thing about Empress is it is short and you can get many looks down into the canyon on the walk in and there are options to get out.
At each inspection point things look better. Time-To-Go’s been through at higher levels. A quick look at the radar and while there is going to be steady drizzle the heavy stuff isn’t due to hit until later. This thing looks like it is on. Woot Woot.
We are warned about which sections have siphons and whirlpools and where the water wants to force you into under cut walls and then we are in.
I’m a bit cautious as I go over the edge but I am grinning like an idiot. Dropping over the edge I get hit by a wall of water but I’m through it quick and behind the main brunt. Working my way down I’m being peppered but the main flow is to the left of me. At the halfway ledge I say hi to BeerandScotch
and then I’m into the flow.
It’s hard to describe the sensation. White water. White noise. It’s almost instant sensory derivation as the water pounds into you, pushing you down the rope. I feel a weird mix of being a passenger, being in control, being in consequential, being alive… I’m watching for the tail of the rope as I know Sketchy set up short so she could bleed rope out as I went. I see the bottom, Well I think I do and I let go and fling myself down. What A rush.
I float there being smashed by the spray and just enjoy the moment.
I hear the others calling and It’s-Time-To-Go hurls the throw bag. Perfect throw. I grab hold and they pull me across the pool. I’m still grinning like an idiot.
We laugh and high five and all that. The others are keen for their turn.
Damn phone rings and I’m stupid enough to check it…. Work. Looks like I’ll miss run 2:-(
By the time they get back to the start the water is up another 2 foot or so. Still doable and it looks like they had a ball.
The heavy rain hits a few hours later pushing water way up past safe levels. I’m glad we got in when we did. It was a great experience.
As usual there are a lot of opinions on the socials as to whether people should be out in these conditions.
Should people be encouraging others to do so. Most definitely not.
Personally with this group, at that time, in those conditions I felt perfectly safe, or as safe as usual when canyoning.
As stated earlier I trust their skill levels and their judgement. I think they are amongst the most safety conscious groups I have ever been out with. There is a level of skill across the group that we have worked to achieve and a level-headedness that I admire. I wouldn’t suggest others try to do it without building those attributes up first.
Was it risky? Yeah sure. But it was a calculated risk based on skill levels, knowledge of the canyon and escape routes, team dynamics, keeping a close track of weather apps and always being prepared to back out.
500 people die on the roads in NSW every year. What risk analysis did you do last time you hopped into a car?
“It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.” Aaron Lauritsen . Substitute “quiet little towns” for adventures and it captures this group prefectly