Natural Amusement Park

02/02/2019

Geoff, Gabby, Kent, Ash, Gemma, Mick and meeeee

So before Christmas I had organised a trip to Luna Park canyon. It was suppose to be a big trip for a soso canyon but it’s one I wanted to check out.

Then Thing 1 and Thing 2 surprised me with tickets to see Paul Kelly at the Domain on the same day and I had to pull out.

Kent graciously offered to run the trip, they copped a stinking hot day and the majority of the group swore they’d never do that F$#%ing canyon ever again.

But I was still keen and so when Geoff asked me if I’d join him for a trip I rearranged some other commitments, scored a leave pass and jumped at the chance.

In contrast to the other group our day was cool and drizzly making perfect conditions for big day in steep terrain

Before long we leave the trail and head off into untracked scrub

Kent is the ultimate mentor. Here he is in the s̶c̶o̶t̶t̶i̶s̶h̶ ̶m̶o̶o̶r̶e̶s , I mean Aussie bush giving Ash some Navigation tips. “Just head for that big rock. You can’t go wrong”
First big rock

Now, Ash, all we need to do is head for that other big rock. ©Gabby

It’s a big walk in, you have to drop down a steep ridge, cross the Bungleboori and climb an even steeper break in the cliff on the other side but the day was pleasant and the company was great so it didn’t see that big an ordeal. In fact I really enjoyed the walking.

Some 4 or so hours later we arrive at the start of the canyon, suit up, have a bite to eat then drop on in.

The first abseil has an awkward start into a small chamber. I go first, belay Gabby and Kent down and then me and Gabby go ahead to set up ropes on the next drop

In the rain it was a really pretty section of canyon but the moss was very slippery and a few of the down climbs needed some creative thinking

Kent holding 2 logs steady for Geoff, Well I say logs, sticks really
Ash modelling the latest trends for the fashion conscious canyoner

And then comes the abseil Kent had been warning everyone about. Crowded start. Sharply over hung lip. I offer to be LPAR and wait at top with safety rope just in case.

Kent has no issues but most others have some difficulty. Geoff (a very experienced and capable abseiler) gets the rope jammed badly between device and the rock and needs assistance. Ash goes upside down off the start. Gemma almost gets into the same predicament as Geoff but manages to free herself. Mick gets a finger of his glove stuck under the rope and for a bit I thought we’d need to cut it off.

All this is made me a bit nervous but I go over without drama only to get through the difficult bit and then slip at the very bottom, ungraciously ending up on my butt under the water fall.

One of the most awkward starts I’ve done

The canyon below this might be short but with the atmospheric drizzle adding to the ambience I thought it was outstanding

Gabby under the first arch. TTFH pointed out the photo makes it look like a kangaroo head

And then comes the “Luna park abseil” so called because the arch you abseil through is meant to look like the Luna Park Mouth. I don’t see it.

Maybe if it’s rotated 90° left it might look a bit like the clown mouth, maybe… Ash on rope

Gemma
Gabby

And then we have a long but pleasant walk up a magnificent section of the Southern Bungleboori.

Gemma is a bit of a fungi appreciator and had mentioned finding some rare blue specimens on a recent trip in the blue mountains. I don’t have a clue about fungi, or most things really, but told her I had seen blue mushrooms on a couple of trips in the bungleboori

And sure enough


Not the best shot but
Entoloma virescens ?

Gemma assured us they were very rare but the seemed to be popping up everywhere along the banks of the ‘Borri today.

Before long we are changing back into not so dry clothes and making our way back up through the broken cliff lines back to civiliation

We’ve been going for about 10.5hrs at this stage. It’s been drizzling all day. I haven’t been dry since I got out of the car but I’m smiling like a simpleton.

I turn to Gemma and Mick, People must think we are insane. Say I. But I love this shit.

They laugh and agree. It’s been a great day

Part Size: 7 all experienced

Time: 11hr car to car steady pace.

Do what makes you happy and be happy with what you do

BACK

draft Canyoning Good Practice Guide

The draft Canyoning Good Practice Guide (“the Guide”) has been released under the Australian Adventure Activity Standards (AAAS).  Feedback or submissions on the document are due by 12 November 2018.  

 

While the standards are currently voluntary, they can be adopted by land owners, regulatory agencies such as National Parks and Wildlife Services, insurers, etc.  They are also a bar against which a Court or Judge can compare a provider’s or leader’s negligence. 

 

The Guide is clearly written by and intended for commercial providers, yet it applies to Clubs and any recreational trip with dependent participants.  Most club members on a canyon trip would be considered dependents under the Guide.   

 

Whilst the Guide is not legally binding at present, we can foresee a time when canyoning will be so popular that a permit system will be applied to many of our most visited canyons, like Empress and Claustral.  If this document was enforced by National Parks and Wildlife Services for example, no Club trip would meet the standards for us to be able to visit these natural beauties freely.  Canyoners would have no other choice but to pay a commercial provider to attend these canyons.  For example, to comply with them the Club would be required to own, maintain, store and retire all the equipment used on canyoning trips such as harnesses, ropes, descenders, carabiners, etc.  Leaders would have to be qualified in various units / courses and know the canyon being visited beforehand.  It would effectively be the end of exploration and the bush would be covered in more unwanted red tape. This would of course be detrimental to every canyoner, member of a Club or not.  

 

We believe canyoners, recreational organisations, clubs and its members should oppose the Guide.  

We note that Bushwalking Australia recently issued a policy opposing the Bushwalking AAAS  (link:http://www.bushwalkingaustralia.org/images/docos/Policies/Bushwalking_Australia_Policy_-_AAAS.pdf)   

 

The same would be a desirable outcome from Clubs and Associations regarding the Canyoning Guide.  

 

Commercial providers have a higher duty of care to their paying customers than volunteer groups.  The Guide should only apply to them.  

 

Below are Craig Flynn’s and my submissions on the Guide.  If you agree with our objections, please copy (amend if you like) and paste the submissions in an email to: info@australianaas.org.au (RE: Submissions on the Canyoning Good Practice Guide) 

Here is the link to the full Guide: 

http://yoursay.australianaas.org.au/canyoning/?fbclid=IwAR2uj3ucSIj33Ij60KBcqZ7q87VxfpSEhREHu0Bydg_zi97Voh5OmSGXKms

http://yoursay.australianaas.org.au/canyoning/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2018/10/Canyoning-GPG-v1.0-public-consult.pdf

SUBMISSIONS 1

 

It would be extremely difficult, daunting and in some cases even impossible for volunteer groups such as Bushwalking Clubs to comply with the provisions contained in the Canyoning Good Practice Guide.

 

The Guide has the following MANDATORY requirements for example: 

 

1)    Equipment MUST be checked that it is serviceable before each activity or before being used (Rule 6.5);

2)    Appropriate procedures MUST be in place for inspections (Rule 6.5);

3)    Equipment and inspections MUST conform with the law and regulations (Rule 6.5)

4)    Equipment MUST be stored with reference to the manufacturer’s recommendations or instructions (Rule 6.6)

 

Analysis:  On Club trips members purchase, provide and look after their own equipment, including storage. These provisions would be impossible to comply with.

 

5)      Requiring certain Competencies from leaders (Rule 7.2)

 

Analysis: Requiring accreditation in certain units or courses to lead a canyon could only apply to Commercial Activity providers.  Most clubs are constituted by volunteer hobbyists with no formal accreditation or qualification.  This requirement would make leading a canyon by a recreational group extremely difficult.  

 

6)    Requiring knowledge of the site (Rule 7.5.2)

 

       Analysis: This provision fails on 2 fronts for recreational groups:

 

   a)    It refers to factors the provider should consider when allocating activity leaders to a trip.  However, in Clubs the trips are organised or volunteered by the members and NOT allocated;

 b)    While commercial groups are expected to have previous knowledge of a canyon, recreational canyoning frequently involves exploration.   Again, this provision is an example of a requirement that cannot apply to a recreational group. 

 

7)    Unprotected climbing MUST only be used where the risk is acceptably low of a fall from height indicate the climb does not require the use of a fall protection system or spotter (Rule 7.6.3)

 

Analysis:  Many climbs in canyons in the Blue Mountains involve exposure and unsafe heights.  A fall protection system or spotter is many times not possible.

 

8)    To reduce the potential for falls from height, procedures MUST include designating what areas that are not to be entered (Rule 7.6.7)

 

Analysis:  Recreational groups would not be able to limit the members’ mobility in certain areas, even if unsafe.  

 

9)    Abseil belay systems MUST use at least one belay method to protect the abseiler if they lose control of the descent and the belay method used MUST be a releasable top belay system, unless other considerations indicate another belay method is more appropriate.(Rule 7.6.8)

 

Analysis:  Requiring a belay system on every abseil is very onerous.  Recreational groups may not belay the first person or use a top belay over a bottom belay in many instances.     

 

Conclusion:

 

An exclusion clause in the Guides would be appropriate, such as:

 

“The Canyoning Good Practice Guide does not apply to Independent (Non-Commercial) Participation in Canyoning Adventure Activities in NSW”  

 

By Gabriela Faura

 

SUBMISSIONS 2

 

 

If you rated the Good Practice Guide ‘I cannot support this’, please provide your reason:

The document is poorly worded (It’s “voluntary” but you “must”) with no scope to define exactly who it applies to.

“Dependent” and “Activity Provider” are grey terms which the document fails to clearly define.

It appears written by commercial interests for commercial interests. Under current legislation it would be unenforceable towards volunteers and recreational groups however I foresee a time when canyoning becomes so popular a permit system will be applied to the most popular canyons and this document could then be used as a minimum requirement by land-managers when issuing permits.

Unfortunately, several sections of the document become completely impracticable in a recreational or club setting which may then exclude such groups from obtaining said permits.

eg.

3.2 Canyoning emergency management plan. A documented emergency plan is impracticable for recreational groups. Specific clauses such as escape route mapping are not practical when exploring rarely visited canyons.

6.2.1 “Training in the use of equipment used MUST be provided to activity leaders and participants”. In my recreational group who provides this training to the leader and participants? This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction.

6.4.5 “A procedure regarding participant supplied equipment SHOULD be developed.” Completely irrelevant to recreational groups

“6.4.6 Rescue systems Anchor systems and belay systems MUST be rigged for a timely and effective rescue. Abseils that involve running waterfalls MUST use releasable rigging” Again, less practicable for recreational groups where the level of “dependence” is far less than in a commercial setting

6.5 Maintenance of equipment Again, completely impractical for recreational groups where each person is expected to look after their own equipment.

6.6 Storage of equipment Again, completely impractical for a leader of recreational groups where each person is expected to look after their own equipment

7.1 Naming conventions. This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction with no relevance to recreational groups.

7.2 Competencies. Completely irrelevant to recreational groups

7.4 Supervision ratiosIrrelevant to recreational groups

7.4.2 Supervision of belay systems Less relevant to recreational groups

 7.4.3 Assistant canyoning guides and supervision ratios Irrelevant to recreational groups

7.4.4 Single activity leader – all canyoning Irrelevant to recreational groups

7.4.5 Single activity leader – vertical canyoning Irrelevant to recreational groups

 7.5.1 Progression through a canyon Procedures MUST be used to reduce the potential of: This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction and completely irrelevant to recreational groups

7.5.2 Knowledge of site Completely irrelevant to recreational groups who may be doing an exploratory trip or visiting a canyon for the first time (whether using a guide book or beta from others). If this clause was in play previously canyons would not have been explored in the first instance.

7.5.3 Canyoning activity information for participants This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction and less relevant to recreational groups

7.6.5 Deep-water belays Procedures to assess the suitability and safety of deep-water belays MUST be developed and used. This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction. Procedures are completely irrelevant and impracticable to recreational groups

7.6.7 Abseiling and Climbing To reduce the potential for falls from height, procedures MUST include: This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction. Procedures are completely irrelevant to recreational groups

7.6.8  through 7.6.18 While offering a handy guide of what should be done the use of the word “Must” limits it relevance to recreational groups who may choose to use different methods and systems.

7.7 Aquatic canyoning activity management.  As above This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction. Most of the clause are less relevant/impracticable for recreational groups. Procedures are completely irrelevant to recreational groups

 

Are there any topics that should have been included but were not? 

If the document is to be adopted in any from it requires a scope that clearly defines who it is intended for. My suggestion would be something along the lines of “This guide applies to Commercial groups, youth group such as scouts, rovers, guides, recreational clubs (but only when the primary purpose of the trip is skills instruction)…… While it is a handy guide for recreational canyoners it is not expected to be applied to independent or co-dependent recreational groups”

I also feel the definitions of “Dependent group” and “activity provider” provided in the core guide are vague at best and clearer definitions need to be developed.

 

Are there any topics that were covered that you do not think need to be? 

Grading system.

There are 2 simple grading systems already in use in Australia, Jameison’s 1-5 and Brennan’s Easy,Medium, Hard

I feel these are more than enough to cover the relatively small diversity of difficulty in the Blue Mountains and the introduction of a new, more complex grading system only adds confusion.

 

What are your key concerns regarding the activity Good Practice Guide, if any?

A cynical person might suggest the guide is written by commercial interests to make it harder/less appealing for Recreational clubs and youth groups to compete with them.

 

My concern is if land managers decide to adopt the guide as a minimum standard for allowing recreational groups continued access to canyons. This decision could well be made by persons with little actual knowledge of canyoning who assume that as there is a published guide it would be applicable to all canyoning groups.

 

Other concerns include the document having an over use of the word “must” in a guide that is meant to be “voluntary” and the fact it tries to aim itself at groups and organisation that current legislation would view as exempt from it. Thus it is an impracticable document that exists for the sole purpose of existing.

 

Issues with the core guide

Incident reporting Not always practicable for recreational groups

Planning Management and approval of activities. Less relevant and practical for recreational groups

Activity plansLess relevant and practical for recreational groups

Purpose of activity. Less relevant and practical for recreational groups. I’d like a clear purpose for this document though.

Emergency management planning Refers to procedures. Documented procedures are completely irrelevant to recreational groups

Reporting notifiable incidents Completely irrelevant to recreational groups

Work health and safety Completely irrelevant to recreational and volunteer club based groups

Activity leader required documentation Irrelevant to recreational groups

Consent Less relevant to recreational groups

Trigger points. Documented T.A.R.P.s and trigger points are not relevant to recreational groups

Equipment and logistics Less relevant to recreational groups with some clauses being impracticable.

Naming conventions and roles Less relevant to recreational groups with some clauses being impracticable.

Competencies Less relevant to recreational groups with some clauses being impracticable

By Craig Flynn

Regards,

Flynny and Gabby 

Walls Lookout

Access: A short walk to a great view over the Grose Valley.

Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward once on the trail

Map: Mt Wilson 8930-1N 1:25000

Time: It’s only 15-20min walk out to the look out from car park but the views are worth spending some more time at.

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Looking across the Grose with Hanging Rock and Baltza lookout just left of center and Burra Korain head right of center

Walls Lookout is a nice spot near the Pierces Pass track that offers great views Down the Grose Valley

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The trail out

Getting There: Turn off the Bells Line of Road on to Pierces Pass road (In between the Mt Wilson and MT Banks turn offs). Either park at the Top and follow thew signs for Walls Look out or go down to the  bottom car park (A bit steep and rough in places)

There are basic picnic facilities and toilets at the car park.

From the top the trail is sign posted. From the bottom it’s not but walk back up the road a few meters and go right towards the toilet block. The trail goes right before you get to the toilets.

Once on the trail it’s a pretty easy walk out to the end .

Return the same way

 

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Got Views

Back

 

Note: The great outdoors is an ever changing place. Bush fires, changing weather, vegetation growth and forestry activities can all affect the trail conditions and thus the difficulty of the walk, or even the drive to the car park. These are a rough guide only and are by no means meant to be a definitive guide . They do not replace the need for adequate map reading and navigational skills

Note 1: Taking care  While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails.  Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.

Cliffs in the area are seldom fenced off and are often under-cut. Fragile ironstone ledges can extend out a meter or more yet be only centimeters thick. the rule of thumb is no closer than a body length and a half to the edge without tying into a safety line.

On pagodas this is disastrous in a different way. It’s taken millions of years for the distinctive Platey pagodas to form but one careless footstep can damage the formation. Platey pagodas are unique to our area. Don’t ruin them from carelessness.

Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police or Blackheath NP office for very little.

Note 2: First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. First aid training is highly recommended

Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for your first few outings is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.

The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.

Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.

 

 

 

BACK

Views over the wolgan

19-05-2018

Madie, Autal, Catherine, Chris and meeeeee

With the weather turning cold it’s time to focus on dry trips. Depite popular opinion there are a number of dry(ish) canyons not to far from the usual summer trips that are worth a look. This one is a short day in the Wolgan.

The canyon itself isn’t that great in regards to length and depth of the constriction but it has a couple of standout features and great views.

We met at the servo bright and early and sorted car pools to drive down to the car park. Mick was joining us for the haul up through the cliff lines but then leaving as he had afternoon plans in the bigsmoke

Madie was running 5min late but, hey she had a 4hr drive to get here so no one blamed her. Oh, in a previous blog I stated she needed a constant supply of chips and chocolate. that was just a bit of fun after she brought a large pack of chips on the trip I didn’t mean it to sound like she was a snack scoffing fatty. She usually eats nothing but kale washed down with a cup of steam, or sumfink. I’m the fat guy on our trips.

Anyhoo.

The frost was lifting off the tops and down in the valley it was a glorious morning so we wasted little time in setting out up the hill.

Our path up is typically steep but relatively easy for the Wolgan.

Some Pretty section of creek and grand overhangs break up the climb

 

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©Madie

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Ignore me, I’m an idiot… ©Madie

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Autal reaching up for that last hand hold….

and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.

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Chris stretches out in the warm sunshine

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Nice spot of a morning tea break

This is where Mick leaves us and heads back the way we came up. For the rest of us it’s a relatively easy stroll up through the scrub to intersect a faint trail along the ridge.

There is a pleasant bit along the ridge before we drop back down through the scrub to our first anchor point above a 30m abseil down through one of the  highlights

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©Autal

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Me in my happy place ©Autal

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Autal filming Cat as she starts her descent into the unknown. ©Madie

Over the millenia water running down a sloping face have carved a deep groove into the rock befre hitting a band of iron stone that created a small pool halfway up the cliff line. Evenually this pool eroded deeper and deeper  until it bored a hole staright through the cliff

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Abseiling down through that hole is an amzing experience and somewhat scarey as at first it looks and feels like you wont fit ©Madie


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Madie preparing to drop into the hole ©Autal

From below the hole is stunningly circular

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And once through there is still a long abseil to the gully below

A short, dark cave section follows

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Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up

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Autal at the start of the short canyon section ©Madie

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Autal dropping in ©Madie

On our trip last year we were greeted with a deep, very cold pool here that soaked every up to their necks. Today we didn’t even get our feet wet.

click to enbiggen

 

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Cat and Chris in the canyon ©Madie

And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock

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©Madie

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The light in this section is just magical but hard to capture with a little point and click camera

At the bottom is usually a deep plunge pool that takes some manoeuvring to get across without falling in. Today it was nearly dry but I made them do the bridge anyway 🙂

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Madie demonstraighting the technique

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Autal emerging from the hole

The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan

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Autal in a hidden slot int he wolgan cliff line

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Yours truly heading back out into the sunlight ©Madie

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Autal emerging from the upper cliff line

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Chris

We have lunch in the sun light on the halfway ledge and then there is one more long abseil before the quick march down the hill to the cars

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It doesn’t get much better than this on a warm Autumn day ©Autal Farkas

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Autal high above the Wolgan ©Madie

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A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world

 

Party Size: 5 all experienced

Time: 6hr car to car

BACK

Dione Dell

02-09-17

Tim, Scott, Louise, John, Autal, Craig B, Peter and I

Canyoning out near Kanangra Walls generally means epic full or multi-day adventures in big terrain.

Dion Dell is a little more sedate trip than most out this way. That said the waterfalls are very pretty and the terrain is just as aweinpiring.

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Craig B got nominated leader of the trip and so leads down the first drop

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Dione Falls at the junction of Dione Dell and Christys creek

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The early spring light was very harsh so photos were hard to get

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I always though the 60m absiel down the slot of Wallarra falls was a sure way to get wet. Tim proves otherwise

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The first half is the easy bit.  Now to stay dry it’s across  the slot and down the side

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The bottom of Wallarra falls. I’d set up the usual shorter drop (red rope) while others choose to have a got at the direct route (Blue rope)

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Autal and Tom admiring the views from the top of Margaret Falls

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Lunch at the top of the 110m drop at Margaret falls

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An arse of a cave… I mean the grotto of Uranus

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Wallaby pass up to Pindari tops

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On a clear day with a set of binoculars you can see Sydneys Center point tower. But it’s not all about the view

 

Party Size: 8, all experienced.

Time: 5hrs relaxed pace

 

To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, it’s the most valuable part: Aldo Leopold

 

BACK

 

 

 

Yileen

Yileen Canyon

06/05/2017

Ed and me

Ed hadn’t done Yileen before and I thought it was good one for this time of year as its a nice trip and the swims are fairly short.

The walk in is a nice stroll down a ridge with great views out over the Grose Valley

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And it’s not long before we reach the left branch of the creek with some of the clearest water you are likely to see.

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There is a brief canyon in this section then the right branch joins and the creek opens out a bit before the canyon proper

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A shallower canyon section carpeted in moss

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Canyon formation

We get to the first little drop. Apparently some people abseil it but it’s a fairly easy shimmy down a squeeze on the right or you can skirt along a high ledge on the left with one balancey move and then walk down just down stream. Some one has set up a hand line on the left that just looks dangerous.

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Ed down climbing the slot. You can see the long fix line in front of him. That’s a long hand over hand to overhang.

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Lower down the water must pass through a mineral deposit as it takes on a glassey green tinge

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Canyon formation

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It’s like jumping into a pool of midori 

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Ed Dropping into the final constriction

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Then it opens out with cracking views over the Grose

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What follows is a big abseil down to the back of the cliff line. This is one of the bigger canyon abseils in this part of the Blue Mtns

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There is a choice of routes down. We choose this one to keep out of the spray

The usual method is to rap down to the big ledge then rebelay for the last 8m or so. As we had plenty of rope we did it in one drop.

For the first time ever I got a rope struck. I had carefully pulled the knot passed the vegetation at the top and then passed the lip on the ledge and thought it was all good, however as the end dropped down it threw a loop around a boulder at the back of the ledge….

Cheer to Ed who scampered up the sloping wall to the side of the drop to free the rope. No knots or tangles just the friction of the rope end looping around the rock.

All in all a pleasant day out in the bush

Party size: 2 both experienced

Time: 4hrs car to car relaxed pace

 

BACK

 

2017 Wests Cycle Classic

The Wests Cycles Classic is a charity ride based around the Newcastle area that raises money for the Westpac Helicopter rescue service. I work for one of the major sponsors and my work mate, Jill has been quietly suggesting I should do it for a couple of years now.

But I never felt it was my kind of thing. Five days of longer (for me) rides of mostly on bike paths and fire trails, I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea.

You have to do it this year, says she. It even does a lap of Awaba bike park.

What the hell. It’s for a good cause and I haven’t had a break from work for a while. I get my leave pass and sign on up.

Still, I’m a bit apprehensive. I hadn’t done much riding in 2016 at all and was still having achilles issues on the bike. But it seemed like a good excuse to try and get a little bit fit again.

As always it snuck up faster than expected and while I’d managed to get a bit of time on the bike I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up over 5 days.

Heading up to Newcastle I almost needed a boat along the Bells Line. Some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever driven through. This is going to be interesting.

Driving into the helicopter base I was a it nervous. Not being to most socially apt person out there I was worried about how I’d fit into the established group, most of them ride or work together around the Newcastle area and most of them were old hands at the classic.

No one I knew was there yet but those that were made me feel welcome straight off the bat. I often say mountain bike makes me feel like a kid again and one of the ways it does that is by breaking down the barriers of making friends.

Remember as a kid how you became best friends with someone just cause the lived nearby, or you randomly sat next to each other at lunch… Well it doesn’t matter if you’re the executive general manager and I’m the guy that sweeps out the office, you’ve got a mountain bike, I’ve got a mountain bike, we’re riding in the same general direction at the same general time. Automatic friends.

Finally everyone is there and luggage is stowed in the pantec and ride captain, Bernard, calls for the rider briefing. It’s going to be a wet five days but lets get this show on the road.

Day 1 Broadmeadow to Norah Head

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https://www.strava.com/activities/900647747

Into back roads and then bike paths and down the Fernleagh trail. The pace was pretty steady. Riding two abreast and lots of chopping and change so got to have a chat with a few 0f the bunch. I soon got the idea of the ride. Cruz along, drink break, morning tea break, lunch break, coffee break… OK my fitness should be OK for this.

It rains on and off but it’s not cold so it’s all good. Once we hit the dirt though it is very damp and the wise decision was made to drop off the single track segments that had been planed. Wise but I was still eyeing off the  swooping trails that paralleled our paths at times.

We roll into Catherine Hill bay. The rain has eased and over lunch the sun comes out with vengeance. That is until Bernard calls 5 minutes to ride and  it pisses down again. This would set a pattern for the entire trip.

This might be a bit wet through here says Wiggy, our  guide for the time. We head down into swamp land. There are stepping stones, but they are 3 feet under water and stop 20 meters short of the either side of the water course and may in fact be alligators. I’m sure this is how people end up on the news but we wade (some ride, some attempt to ride) through the water before heading up for some awesome coastal views as we follow the head lands down into Norah head.

I’m bunked in with Scott P AKA Noodles and Scott B AKA Scott or Beddo. We bond over beers and bikes. There is Yoga for those so inclined, nibbles for those so inclined and diner. Then more beers

All in all a tip top Day

Day 2 a loop of Tuggerah lake

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https://www.strava.com/activities/90189809

More of the same. Cruzy riding. Chatting. Plenty of stops. In the wet with just enough glimpses of sun to somehow get sun burnt. A cooling dip in the rock pools back at Norah Head then beers and out to diner. Here Patrycja decides it’s vodka night.

Being Polish, Patrycja is impervious to hangovers and come morning is bright as a button. Others not so much.

Day 3 Norah head to Myuna bay. Buddy Day.

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https://www.strava.com/activities/903231192

This was a bit of fun. You are paired up with a buddy and are suppose to stay within a few meters of them all day. Riders are split into A and B grade… Riders from A are “Randomly” paired to riders from B via a lucky draw and some bribery.

Little sprints and break aways disrupt the usual steady pace as riders compete for nothing more than bragging rights

Now I have to say I’m looking a bit tubby at the moment. Heaviest I’ve ever been so it’s ease to see why, not knowing me at all, Bernard put me into the B grade bucket. Paired up with Beddo we make a pretty strong team.

Rolling out we hit some dirt and soon Kerry and Merryn launch a surprise attack and take out the first hill climb. A bit of Cat and Mouse ensues with no one wanting to take the lead.

There’s a small pinch coming up, Beddo informs me.Then a nasty downhill and a longer peak. I’m up for it if you are you are.

The girls veer across the road trying to get those following to take a lead. We see a gap and go for it. I’m not made for climbing, never was. But we get a gap and hit the top in the lead.

I’m blowing hard but the steep winding descent I see before me has me grinning. Grab my wheel, I call and  take off. So much fun on slippery wet roads. I hit the bottom and start up the next climb thinking Scotty is on my wheel and expecting him and everyone else to pass me at any moment.

As I’m grinding toward the top I hear Bernard yell out. I think you may be a bit far from your partner! I look back Scott is about 20m back, no one else (other than Bernard) is close.

That’s only 2ms says I. Are you sure? The bungy chord hasn’t snapped there’s no one between us.

Fine. But I’m officially awarding you the sandbagger of the year. Hey I didn’t nominate B Grade.

Scotty catches up. Sorry about that I thought you were on my wheel. No worries. The next one is the coveted one. We hit the tar and there’s about 15km of undulating road until the snacks break. We still have a fair gap and decide o go for it.

It felt good to blow the cobwebs out and I’m surprised I could sustain a reasonable pace without my achillies playing up. In fact they are feeling better than they have in a long time.

There are a few shorter sprint points and we are pipped a the post  on the final one by Patrycja, who seemed to be dragging her partner Jared along. Or he was pushing her as she screamed at him to “slow down you …….. idiot.” One of the two.

A good day on the bike. I’m enjoying it far more than I thought I would.

Day 4. King of the mountain.

Ok Day 4 was suppose to be Awaba MTB park day. It was the bait Jill used to reel me in but with the wet weather it was pretty obvious we shouldn’t  ride there. Alternative plans were made. The Bentley brothers would organise a hill for a KOM stage. Have I mentioned I’ve never been made for climbing and am at present as tubby as I’ve ever been?

day 4

We roll out get to the very bottom of the nominated climb and have a drinks break.

And then it’s on. I give it a crack but I’m well back in the field. Early on I hear Patrycja unleash a tirade of swear words and she comes screaming past. Once again J Bentley is barely and arms length behind. This time however his brother C Bentley is on the other side and equal distant behind her.Together the brothers propel Patrycja up into over all 4th with her pedalling as hard as she could too.

Noodles took the over all win with a strong climb.

Me mate Jill had a point to prove after the ride captain may have jokingly fined all the male riders  (lots of fun fines each night to boost the fund raising) who Kerry and Merryn smashed up the first hill yesterday, ie all of us. There may have been a tongue in cheek comment about girls shouldn’t be able to out climb boys.

Jill is riding amazingly strong at the moment and let’s just say she smashed pretty much every one else. (Can’t remember if she was 2nd over all or 3rd. either way she was a long way in front of me.) That night she fined Bernard for every hill she beat him up that day. We must have rode up 50 hills. It was an expensive lesson

From the end of the KOM stage it was up and up and more up on the wet dirt that seemed to alternate between rocky steps and slippery clay.

Jared and Clint earned some curses as they kept promising there was no more up before deciding to go up to this lookout or take this short cut up a rocky trail. Most walked that bit. Short techi climbs I don’t mind and I found it a great challenge but didn’t have the legs to get up the final rock step. Jared rode pretty much the lot with just a dab here and step over and get back on there…

The descent down of the top was hella fun. By even 1/4 down all was forgiven and I was grinning like an idiot.

Once down and regrouped Jared lead a freight train along the flat. Al always jumps down here and its a sprint to the 60 sign you can’t beat him but we can try to break him before we get there…

The pace was on. I don’t think I’ve ever held that speed for so long on a road bike let alone a MTB. Even at the back of the line I was starting to struggle.

Al jumps right on cue and I try and top grab his wheel. I think we hit about 65km/hr. I fall off his wheel as he passes the 60km/hr sign. Stuffed for the first time on the ride I exhausted and it’s a slow ride back into camp.

I am suppose to be heading back tonight for a 3hr race at Rydal but I get a call. It’s still pissing down at home so the race is cancelled. There are a dozen phone calls and a lot of (de)organisation but at least I can now ride the last day.

Day Five. Myuna Bay to Spears Point. Bike rafting

day 5

There’s the promise of single track. It’s the most technical stuff we’ve done so far. My legs are heavy from yesterdays effort but I’m looking forward to it.

We’ve had a soggy 4 days so far but day 5 belts down, some of the heaviest rain I’ve ridden in. The trails around the foreshore are Noodles home trails and he leads us in. It’s slippery. It’s snotty. And, at times it has an axle deep torrent of water flowing down, across and long it. It was great fun.

So there we are 5 days of riding in the rain. I haven’t bothered lubing my chain all week as I’m just assuming it will be trashed and the brake pads will be shot. Surprisingly both are fine and after regreasing all my bearings and servicing the folks the bike is all good.

So all up just under 300km riding for the 5 days. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it all that much but I did. So much so I’ll be back next year if at all possible.

30 riders. Over $100K raised for the rescue helicopter which helps ensure it stays free of charge for those that need it.

I believe the presentation is not until may so there is still time to chuck some money towards the cause

https://cycleclassic2017.gofundraise.com.au/page/CraigFlynn

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Rocky Creek Canyon

18/02/2017

Jeff, Sam, me

Rocky Creek canyon is the most popular canyon on the Newnes Plateau , especially when combined with Twister Canyon,and it is easy to see why.

They are fairly easy to get to, don’t require abseiling and are relatively non technical. Twister is like natures theme park. Lots of jumps and slides and fun. Rocky Crk is deep dark and awe inspiring, It is the canyon that got me hooked on canyoning.

Despite the ease, or maybe because of it, many people have been caught out under estimating the dangers. There are been many rescues over the years and at least 1 fatality. Rocky creek has a massive catchment so the threat of flash flooding is very real. I have been flooded out of it myself, second guessing an afternoon storm.

Anyhoo.

Jeff grew up exploring the iconic canyons of Zion NP and has been keen to check out Rocky Crk. Finally we go a weekend where we were both free. One of the advantages of living close by is you can time your trip to miss most of the crowds. Last time we went at night this time around we went really early and the light was awesome. It changed in the little time it took us to go down and start reversing back up.

And we didn’t see a soul until we were back at the car park.

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The start of Twister Canyon

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One of the many water jumps in Twister Canyon

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Where the entry track meets Rocky crk with Rocky coming in from the right and disappearing down the cleft on the left

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Sam coming down the entry chute

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Sam in Rocky Creek

Click to enlarge

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Jeff and Sam make their way down the canyon

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The soft morning light

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Looking back up the canyon where it opens out just up stream of the Budgary crk junction

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The majestic Rocky creek canyon

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As you carefully pick out your footing you have to remind yourself to look up

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With the sun a few degrees higher the soft light disappears and these striking rays appear

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The more open section around about half way through

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Jeff and Sam in the last swim before climbing back out where the canyon started

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Jeff and Sam back at the start with Rocky creek canyon behind them

Party Size. 1 experienced Aussie caynoner, 1 experienced USA Canyoneer(er). I beginer

Time:3.5hrs car to car

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Empress Canyon, AKA Valley of the Waters canyon

05-02-2017

Ed, Tal and I

A quick trip through Empress with Tal and Edwin after aborting an attempt at something else.

 

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Tal at the start of the canyon. Hot day and relatively warm water so we opted not to take wetsuits.

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You can make out the bridge that spans the canyon as part of one of the walking trails

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Canyon formation

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It was a busy day in the canyon, even before the commercial groups start showing up after noon. We leap frogged these guys at the start as they suited up and they caught us as we waited for the group in front to finish absieling

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Waiting for a slower group with some beginners on the abseil. Waiting in the breeze coming down the canyon here was the only time it felt a little cool. We could have set up on the right hand anchor but we weren’t in a rush and I think it can put beginners off a bit having another group set up beside trying to push past.

 

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Ed on the start of the dramatic 26m abseil

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The group behind follow on their brand new rope.

Party Size: 3 all experienced.

Time: 1.5hr car to car with a bit of waiting.

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