Mayhem and Madness. Exotic Joel: the Tiger Snake King

20/06/2020

When Joel invites you out for a themed trip you know there’s going to be laughs and craziness aplenty

I swing past the ZigZag to pick up Kylie and Russ and we head on out to meet the others.

Amid hellos and banter costumes are donned, make up applied and the first of 10 gazillion photos are snapped and whips cracked

And then we split into groups and head off

Joel Exotic and an assortment of big cats
F**&^ing Carole Baskin has stolen the cats and Don seems to have gone missing

Along the way several scenes from the show were recreated thanks to ©Gabby for the snaps

And we even done some canyoning

©Kylie
©Kylie
The Nanny was hot but baby was creepy
You never know where the infamous Blue Mountains Leopard is going to show up. Russ didn’t know what he was abseiling toward
Keeping Joel Exotic under wraps. Playing spaghetti is wot I do the bestest or sumfink. ©Hywaida

I’ve done tigersnake canyon um, lets say a few times and the bottom of this section has always been pitch black so I’m up here telling people they’ll need torches….

Some piss taking of my warning ensued… No idea if it was the time of day or the fact there is no tree canopy post fires or just the glow of awesome folk but no torches needed.

Mons, Gab, Joel , Russ and me. ©Kylie

Regrouping at the end of the canyon we’re met by Jen who was unable to abseil due to injury so ducked around and got a little camp fire going. We enjoy some more banter and a bit of Kristos birthday cake that Hywaida had some how carted through the canyon without so much as smearing the icing.

And then it was time to climb out

Another great day in the bush with a seriously unserious bunch of awesome people

(Their) thoughts inhabit a different plane from those of ordinary (people); the simplest interpretation of that is to call (them) crazy.”
― Juliet Marillier,

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Empress with a bit of flow

08-02-2020

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.

Usually dry side creeks are gushing
Normally a trickly requires a bit of bridging
Frothin’ on the froth ©Madie
Its hard not to have fun. My friends inspire confidence and laughter
I’m so familiar with this canyon it can bore me a little. I like the challenge of finding the path through a new canyon rather than doing ones I know well. No boredom today. It was like a whole new canyon
Contemplating the whirlpool ©Madie
Moslty you walk on down, climb up on the ledge and jump. but with a bit of flow the second last pool turns into a whirlpool death trap. Leo negotiates it on safety and sets up a traverse line for us

Me being a passenger on the guide line ©Madie
Madie negotiating the whirlpool on a guide line
New years eve it was a disappointing trickle. Last week it was a bit of a splash. Today was going to be the biggest flow I’ve abseiled 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

The halfway ledge, in the calm before the power ©Russ

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.

Sketchy about to disappear into the beast
Spot the abseiler. Madie is just above the halfway ledge getting pumped in the best possible way. The others had arrived to watch us

The throw bag was pretty much a must

We laugh and high five and all that. The others are keen for their turn.

2nd run!

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.

Libby Smiles for miles ©Madie
Guided abseil needed this time around. ©madie

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

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Empress Falls and Sweet Dreams

31-12-19

Madie and meee

I’d strained a tendon in my arm so hadn’t climbed for ages but with 99.99% of canyons closed due to the devastating bush fires that are raging across the country I was going a bit stir crazy.

I text The Mad One to see what she was up to over new years.

Want to go climbing now?

It’s like 6pm Monday afternoon. Sure

There’s an easy climb at Mt Boyce that I use to really enjoy that she hadn’t done yet so we decide to go give it a crack.

A quick look at the guide. You need bolt plates she says.

I have plates.

Cool.

We meet at the car park. a quick check of the guide and we drive around to the new car park…. It’d been 20+ years since I’d climbed this one.

Mandy 2/3s the way up the Eyrie, circa 1996

So we abseil in, and leave a rope in place. Good call

and head around to the start of the climb.

©Madie

I can’t see many bolts, says she

I remember it being run out, say I

And up she goes to clip the first bolt 6 or 7 meters off the ground.

Um, Flynny. I can’t see any bolts above me.

I lock her off while she pulls out her phone to check the online guide .

Um this is a mixed route….

We didn’t pack any trad gear. Ooops

A delicate retreat was made and by the time we ascend our abseil line it’s dark… Bugger! shall we try something again tomorrow?

It’s New Years Eve and we skived off work early to see if we could find somewhere open.

Pulling into the car park we step out of the car… holy crap it’s hot.

Wanna do a quick run through Empress to cool off first?

Yep.

Changing plans is what we do the best

Back in the car and out to the conservation hut

Entering the cool confines of Empress Canyon ©Madie

Back at the car we check online to see what crags are open then head off for the classic Sweet Dreams. A climb I’ve never done before

I totally sooked it and “let” Madie lead every pitch but I thoroughly enjoyed the climb,

Cheers 2019. you have been eventful.

Here’s to 2020

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Arethusa

30-11-2019

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….

Anyhoo,

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…..

The Crew

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

Two crazy souls right there. Sketchy Maddog took control of setting the abseils for the day. 1 point: Sketchy Maddog

We gain the creek and boulder hop down to the start of the canyon and one of the coolest abseils in the Blue Mountains.

Explaining the system. The rope goes through the thing and then you do a thing with the things so that when things happens you can do things and it keeps ya mate safe. Simplz ©Shreevy
Stunning shot by ©Madie. How good are phone cameras these days.

Even in this dry spell it didn’t disappoint

Click to enbiggen

The gang

Click to make large

It’s a great little canyon ©Madie

Click for the sake of clicking

Team work makes the Dream work

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

Just around the corner is a magnificent view ©Madie

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

There are 3 proper climbing pitches, that are a little run out on lead, and several scrambles and hand over hands
Madie lead all of them. 3 Points Sketchy

And as luck would have it a cool breeze greets us for the walk out

Champion crew ©Shreevy

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

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Flynny’s angels… or sumfink

A peaceful dapple in Dalpura

05/10/2019

Aleasha, Gibbo and Macca and meeeeee or sumfink

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.

Dalpura starts with a nice little section
You only get wet to your waist, said I. Forgetting that takes a bit of effort and even then it was more like chest deep

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,

It is still a nice spot thou
a-13.jpg

From there the canyon opens out, closes in and opens out again. There are some nice bits but nothing mind blowing

It’s odd how compelling these little challenges can be. We were already wet but we all had a crack
The I’ll have a Crack kid may or may not have made it to the end… You can do it Jez… Maybe
Never overly deep or narrow it does have pleasant bits
And crystal clear water

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

How awesome are Waratahs? The correct answer is Very.
And Spiderwebs in the rain… this one was tiny, Captured with the macro setting

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,

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Previous trips 26/03/16 / 31/03/2018

Looking Glass Canyon

21/09/2019

Kent’s Crew and Me….

So I’d been thinking about doing Looking Glass but then had a few other offers. For various reasons I was either unable to get to the other offers, they got cancelled or I decided I’d really rather do Looking Glass. After a bit of a shit week at work a long, complex walk and tricky little canyon was just what I needed

As luck would have it Kent was doing a trip there so late Friday I gave him a call and jumped on board.

Pulling into the meeting place I was pleased to see Louise and Scott as I hadn’t managed to catch up with them for a trip in ages and they are always good value.

Others arrived. Stuff was jammed in cars and before we knew it we were in the Wolgan and on our way.

The haul up through the cliffs was no where near as difficult as I was expecting. The walk along the ridges made up for it though. Lots of spurs where it was easy to loose the main ridge if you wasn’t paying attention, thou a fire in recent years meant there wasn’t much scrub so walking was easy.

Splinter removal time

We managed to scramble down into the head of the creek then followed it down to the first abseil. I was so caught up in enjoying the bush and the banter it took me by surprise when someone said we’d been going for 4hrs already.

On my last trip with Tim I mentioned we’d been using releasable anchors. Today he packed his “Gate” which he had picked up as a freeby when he bought something at Adventure Base but had never used. And by gate he meant Gigi but none of us knew how “Gigi” was pronounced so “Gate” it was.

I’d be keen to see the figure 8 block. said he.

Did you bring your fiddlestick, Said Scott

Let’s rig every abseil different and see how they compare, said someone else. Oh wait, that was me.

I’ve been loving learning and sharing new techniques lately so this was going to be a fun day.

Kent on the first drop rigged with the Gate, I mean GeeGee, I mean GuyGuy, I mean the Giggey…. Um… “gate.”

I started setting up the second drop using a figure 8 block.

Can we fiddlestick this one. asks Allie

Sure.

I’ve been wanting to try this. Says Scott. I bought one but Louise is a die hard member of the DRT crew (Double rope techniques or, as we re-dubbed it, the Dinosaurs (using) Redundant Techniques…. 🙂 )

Ok well she wont have a choice for this one. I grin

Allie keen to see how it all worked

So, I’d been toying with an idea to help manage the pull cord. I’d tested it a bit on the cliffs behind my place and it was working a treat. So confident in it was I that I posted a video of it to the Australian Canyoners facebook group to show people how it worked.

So of course today in the wild in front of a bunch of keen onlookers the whole thing turned to shit, the bobbin fell apart and I’m mid way down the abseil looking at a knotted mess wondering how rectify it….

Back to flaking it into the throw bag like a normal person…

On our Nightmare trip a few weeks ago I showed Tim and Chardi how to set a guided abseil to get them over the pool without getting wet. Today they returned the favour. Well, I’m pretty sure Chardi tried to dunk me but I’m too crafty for that old buggar
Awesome people to hang out in the bush with

Next up Figure 8 block.

You wont be able to release that when it’s loaded. Says Kent

Yeah I will, say I. Pull on this I’ll show you

Na I’ll get on rope. I’m telling ya, ya wont be able to lift my weight to release it.

Kent gets on rope , locks off so his whole weight is on the system… I pop the lock and lower him down. Easy peasey.

Well I’ll be buggered. Says Kent. You have to show me that

Kent!
Allie beside the Looking Glass arch
Looking back up FireFly from the junction
And 1 more optional abseil

And then we stroll back through the ruins and back to the car

Time: 8hrs car to car relaxed pace with plenty of stops and discussions around anchors

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. I ignored both, went my own way and discovered more than I ever thought I could

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Dione Dell and Margaret Falls

07-09-2019

Before setting off Libby dubbed us the Six Pack.

Half a Coopers, Bottle of St Rieul, Pint of Stella, Glass of Chardonnay, a Wild Yak and a Tooghey’s Old or sumfink

The weather was shite, windy as all get up and a grass fire was raging across the Wolgan road.

Our plans had changed and changed again before settling on a quick trip out to Kanangra-Boyd to do Dione Dell. Well sort of

The wind was still raging. There was snow on Oberon Hill and Mt Trickett, but Madie declared, We’re not Pussies! and Leo confirmed, We press on.

I’m not scared.

No really, I’ve done Dione Dell in snow before.

Still, I got slightly concerned when all the others pulled out wetsuits and put them on… At the car. Um are we setting up wet?

Don’t you get wet?

You can but I’ll be staying dry.

Before leaving the car park a familiar car pulled up. Hi Flynny. Ah Phil Clegg and co had the same idea, he’d actually invited me on the trip weeks ago but at that stage we had other unformed plans. We have a chat before we set off.

Dione Dell has some very pretty waterfalls but in between there is a bit of walking across loose Kanangra scree.

At the top of the first abseil we run into Dylan Jones and co. Popular little spot today.

Dione Falls
Madie and Leo at the base of the first abseil between Dione Falls and the Larger but AFAIK unnamed falls where Christy’s creek meets Dione Dell Brook

As expected it was fairly sheltered in the gully and warm in the sunshine

At the base of the second Waterfall, Also unnamed

After a bit of a walk we reach the top of Wallarra falls. We consider doing the big abseil starting on the left, crossing the fall and finishing on the right but opt to stay dry, So scramble the first pitch, where Dylan graciously offers to let us leap frog his group and we drop in beside the falls. I still think this is one of the prettiest waterfalls going

Russ filming Lara Crof…. I mean the Mad One
The 4th abseil, Suns out guns out or sumfink

And then there’s more scrambling and boulder hopping down to the top of Margaret Falls. This is what we are here for. Abseiling beside the 110m waterfall has become a popular option lately. Previously it involved silly long ropes and/or passing knots so not many people contemplated it. New rebelay options make it more appealing but please note it’s not simple and you need to be familiar with hanging belays and advanced techniques. Just getting to the anchors is not straight forward.

It is goddamn spectacular thou

Madie 3/4 of the way down the stunning free hanging 2nd pitch

The guys at the hanging belay at the start of pitch 2. Leo and Madie’s experience in Europe definitely came into play in getting us all down here nice and efficiently

And then we were down.

It took the 6 of us about an 1hr to do the pitch, that’s almost as long as it took us to do the rest of the canyon. We used single rope techniques to string out all 3 pitches with Leo aiding every one on the first rebelay and Madie looking after us on the second.

I got to the bottom first but now the issue, a slippery traverse to stay dry. I sidle my way around… I’m doing ok but there is 6m of blankness between me and keeping my socks dry… It’s slippery as snot. In the end I decide choosing wet feet is probably better then falling in and having wet everything…

Then its back up the hill where the wind nearly blows us off the tops…

Party size: 6

Time: 5hr 50min car to car

Don’t try to understand life. Live it

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Deep Pass

1/09/2019

Mandy and Meeeee

We thought we’d make the most of the pleasant first day of spring weather with a little jaunt down to Deep Pass AKA Gawaymbanha Ngurambenggu

Working your way up from the bottom this is the first pool you encounter.

Mandy at the base of the water fall. Its a great place to hang out on a hot summers day. WOuld the allure drag me in? I’ve been coming here since the 80s and that’s the least amount of water I’ve seen trickling over the falls. It doesn’t bode well for summer
The narrow bit. For as long as people can remember log have been tied across this narrow section to allow you to get across without getting wet.
It’s not exactly the prettiest and considering the water is only waist deep…

More rope to help stay dry. Where it crosses around the corner is the only spot where you have to get your feet wet
One the way back down I couldn’t help myself. Even in the height of summer I reckon the water at deep pass is some f the coldest I’ve swum in. Today was no different.

After a quick bite to eat in the warm sun at the camp ground we poke around some of our other hidden gems

There are various pieces of rock art around the site. A lot of it is genuine

There are little nooks and crannies and dry slots scattered around the cliffs
Split rock is pretty amazing. This narrow hall branches off at right angles from another hall that is only slightly less narrow
Mandy at the bottom of Split Rock

“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” 
― Terry Pratchett,

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Another Nightmare

03/08/2019

Tim, Ev, Allie, Roy. Chardi, Peter, Richard and meeeee

It’s been awhile since I’ve managed to head out with Tim and his crew but thankfully they let me jump in on this one at the last minute.

We sort gear at the NP gate and amidst much banter waste no time heading off, down toward the ruins, across the river and, up everyone fav access trail, The Pipeline track.

A quick drinks break at the top of the Pipeline trail with some in depth discussions where we sort out the woes of the modern world. ©Roy

It was a glorious winters day and the rest of the walk in was uneventful. Before long we find ourselves scrambling down through the small, broken cliffline immediately above the start of the canyon.

The day was so nice even Ev was in a T-shirt

We opt to traverse to the right along the top of the canyon to the wall abseil. This avoids the two stage drop we did last time. It’s nice but often has a pool at the bottom and a difficult pull down. Going right gets you a long abseil directly above the narrow crack abseil and keeps your feet dry

Chardi on abseil 1

From there it’s into the fun… or horror… or sumfink

What menace awaits Ev in the abyss below? Usually for me some scrapped skin… Big shoulders or sunfink
Oh the horror of it all
There is often a shallow pool at the bottom off this one. Careful use of the log can help avoid wet feet. No such worries for Richard today, it was dry as a Nuns nasty.

Next up is a short drop with a diabolical start. Not really, it’s fairly simple…

And then we come to the log.

There’s an anchor here. Says Allie

Na I couldn’t be bothered, reply I. I’m just going to hump the log.

Is that a thing?

Oh course it is. Reluctantly she decides to give it a go

Wow lot’s of people must do this, it’s so smooth. No splinters…. Yas! Converted

Of course Roy has to out do every one by walking down the log instead of humping it. He’s only broken his neck twice, but never while canyoning….

Richard on the chock-stone abseil. If you go underneath the 2 chock-stones it’s a real nightmare of a pulldown, thou like seeming all the longer drops in nightmare there are options to rebelay to break it into 2 shorter drops ©Roy
The stuff of sleep horrors. Classically dodgey blue mountain anchor, loose bolt backed up by 2 rusting climbing nuts. At least the tape and nuts have been renewed..
Final abseil. 30m into a waist deep pool. Being the gentlemanly chap I am I offered to go first, sacrifice my dryness then set up a guided abseil to get the rest across ©Roy
Orange rope is tied off just tight enough to keep the Abseiler up out of the water. Abseiler comes down the purple with an extended biner clipped to the orange rope. It’s kinda a cross between an asbeil and a flying fox
Then it’s a simple matter of following the base of the cliffs back around to the Pipeline trail and down to the cars from there

Another magnificent day out in the bush with wonderful people.

Party Size: 8

Time 6hr 14min car to car relaxed pace.

Being normal is the ultimate goal of the boring

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