Hole in the Wall

11/10/2020

Russ, Dick, Izy and meeeee

So for her first and second trips I’d taken Izy through a couple of obscure “canyons” and while she enjoyed it and thought they were pretty they were more creek walks with abseils so I wanted to get her through something decent.

Next stop Hole in the Wall

Dick hadn’t done this one either and Russ is always keen.

The walkout was fairly uneventful though the usual clear trail disappears towards the end and we double check the map just to confirm we hadn’t gone to far left and missed the turn to the entrance.

A one stage we disturbed a reasonable size copperhead (well I think it was a copperhead based on its behaviour but couldn’t get close enough to see for sure or to get a good photo) and before long we were at the start of the upper section.

I’m always in two minds whether to suit up for this bit or not but it was a coolish day so far so we decide to don the wetties.

She is impressed by the first bit of canyon. I share a bit of a smile with Russ. This is just the warm up

We round the corner and enter the canyon proper

Hole in the Wall is definitely a stunning example of a Blue Mountains style slot canyon

Emerging back into the light, but only temporarily
I purposely forget how deep, dark and pretty the upper section of HITW is. So like a goldfish it’s a surprise every time

And then we are back into the light.

The wetties are starting to get hot as we make our way down the creek to the lower section and by the time we get there we are looking forward to the cold water.

We reach the plunge. It’s a relatively simple down climb. There is anchor set up, I guess for a hand line. I normally jump but it looks shallow today. I remember this happening after the big fire in the early 90s, with the soil loosened and not vegetation to hold it back a lot of canyons and swimming holes silted up with sand…

I assess it and take a leap

©Russ
I suggest the others down climb it…. ©Russ
And into the glowworm cave we descend ©Isy

I tend to find glowworm displays are better late November through December but they still put on a good show for us today. Like previous pools the cave has silted up quite a bit. It makes the climb out on to the ledge a bit easier though how it will clean out with the lower exit now blocked I don’t know

Russ exiting the cave

Other than the glowworm cave, where we sat still for a bit, I hadn’t found it that cold but then we stepped out into the ‘Bungleboori/*hackspit*Dingo crk. It was a good deal colder so we waste little time make our way upstream to the exit.

Group size: 4

Time: around about 6 and a bit hours car to car

The higher we soar the smaller we look to those who cannot fly: Friedrich Nietzsche

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Butterbox

Leo Madie Russ and meeee

Hey Butterbox is open, wanna do it this arv

Does the pope shit in the woods… I mean, Is a bear catholic… I mean… ah fuggit, yeah sure

It’s mid afternoon when we roll into the car park. It and every other car park on the Mt Hay road is jam packed. Oddly no one else is in the canyon though.

We start gearing up.

Did anyone bring quick draws……

Karabiners will have to do but that’s future us problems. We set off down the trail.

It’s a cracking day and a relief when we drop into the shade of the gully

I’d always abseil straight down the creek from a tree this alternative is nice and a bit quicker
Madie taking the leap on the 3rd “abseil”
Russ heading for the chock stone.
Leo heading down to join him
Russ and Madie Chilling out
Power Rangers

We had trundled through the canyon itself fairly quick, the water was chilly but the day outside was baking (well baking in the sense that we haven’t acclimatised to summer yet) so we spread out on the rocks below the final abseil for a snooze to allow the gear to dries out and the afternoon to cool down.

I’m not good at sitting still so eventually I gather my gear and begin the trek out, knowing the others will catch me soon enough. It was still a hot march up to the climb

Once there I grab Russ’ spare Biners and free up a couple of mine and lead on up.

The view from the ledge at the top of the climb in stunning afternoon light

Another quality afternoon in a quality canyon with quality people.

Do what gives you peace

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Fools, Pools and Prison Islands

19-9-2020

Dicky, Izy, Libby and meeey

Many years ago I helped carry a girl with a broken leg out of a little known canyon in the Newnes state forest. For the life of me I can’t remember how I got involved in that but I remember asking her party what the canyon was like.

The pools were really pretty, says they. But not worth the scrub bash

Certainly the scrub hiking back up the hill was not pleasant that day.

Figuring that may not be such an issue just now I thought I’d go for a look and the above named legends decided to join me.

Beforehand I asked my mate/guru, Bob if he knew the creek, he mentioned there was an old 4wd track right down into the creek and he use to take his kids down there to teach them to abseil and go yabbying in a pool in an erosion cave but he hadn’t followed the creek further down.

Now I may or may not have misinterpreted the track notes I made from the aforementioned party’s description and so we may have taken far more rope than we needed. Where I wrote Second abseil 50m down creek. I should have wrote 50m further down creek to 2nd abseil… Carrying 100m worth of ropes where the longest abseil was less then 10m may have been overkill…

Anyhoo

Despite some dire weather predictions it was a glorious spring day, mostly, and after Dick and Libby met at my place we swung over to pick up Izy at the crack of d̶a̶w̶n̶, I mean 11am

I chose not to take the 4wd track that goes all the way into the creek as one on the opposite ridge should give us a sorter walk out while still getting us within a few hundred meters of the start of the canyon.

It also gave us great views

Bungleboori Pagodascapes
Libertybell zenning out as the creek starts to look promising
‘Tis just a downclimb
Dick on another down climb. It would be a fun slide into a crystal clear pool except the pool has silted up with sand

So far it’s a pleasant, canyonish creek. Unfortunately it’s about now my camera battery died and I realised I left my spares at home. Everyone else had left their stuff at the car as it was going to be a short one….. Thus we’ve no photos of the best bit, 3 abseils in a very short but very pretty canyonette.

The fires had taken out any decent anchor trees so the fiddle stick came in handy on the first two. 1 off a big log over hanging the drop and the other off a rock wedged low down for a short abseil to a ledge and then a jump into a stunning pool

The third drop proved a bit harder to find an anchor. I was searching in the creek for a suitable rock or some where to wedge a log when Libby says What about that!

She is pointing to a stone pillar in a small overhang up on a ledge just down stream of the waterfall.

We slip up to check it out. Some delicate traversing along the narrow ledge gives me access to the pillar that is in an alcove above a wider ,dirter end section of the ledge, It is about 30cm in diameter and looks and feels nice and solid. I give it a test and drop on in then dig out phone to grab a few final photos.

The little section on top of this was quite stunning. Pity it wasn’t 3 or 4 or 5 times longer. Again this pool was full of sand, that you sank waste deep into. I remember a lot of pools silting up like this after a big fire in the 90s. took a couple of years an some big rain events to clean them back out
The girls were happy with it thou

A final bit of canyon like creek

And then it’s up the hill, across a narrow saddle and back to the car

Did I mention the pogodas out here are awesome

So it’s still early and we decide to leave the wetsuits on and drive across to drop into Alcatraz

all the alcatraz photos are copywrite to Izy

Party Size:4

Timings: First one 2hrs car to car

Alcatraz: ~1.5hrs car to car

You can’t please everyone, unless you’re an avocado: Maddy G

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Kamarah Gully

8/9/2020

Meeeeee

Kamarah:

  1. Aboriginal word for Sleep
  2. Sleepy little town on the outskirts of the Riverina
  3. A small sleeper of a canyon somewhat less visited than it’s neighbours

The name fits with other creek names in the area. Yileen = To dream/dream like. Dalpura = Peaceful, Kamarah = Sleep. I’ve not been able to find a meaning for Koombanda, Jungaburra or Jinki but assume they fit the theme somehow.

Like most canyons in this area it’s not that deep or sustained but has some pretty bits to it.

From the bottom of Koombanda it’s possible to scramble up the nose below the junction and drop back down into the top of Kamarah. I guess this is the way most people do it, it makes sense as they are both short and adding in Kamarah then exiting up to the west via convenient tree roots can be a quicker than exiting via the old mine, especially if you don’t want to do a car shuffle.

You do, however miss some nice erosion caves further up the gully

Anyhoo this description is almost longer than the canyon already

With a day off and everyone else seemingly busy I took the opportunity of a quick afternoon stroll. The creek is drier than I’ve seen it before. I wander down off the ridge, check out the caves which seem to have a lot more block fall than I remember, then make my way down until the walls start to canyon up

The water level is down at least 30cm from my last visit
But it’s still a lush green in contrast to the burnt out ridge lines nearby
First drop is about 3m, some careful bridging meant I could keep my feet dry today
You can see how far down the water level is from usual
More shallow canyon follows

Then the creek drops into a dark hole

Typical of canyons in this area it has one, shallow but stunning chamber
And some nice bits follow

And then just before the junction with Koombanda brook you can climb out on the right, or continue down this this nice overhang to scramble up on the left

Time: 2.5hr car to car with a lot of faffing around

Whatever you do today don’t forget to be just that tiny little bit awesome

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Waterfall Weirdos

08/08/2020

Kylie, Aimee, Mattie, Muzzie, Monie, Hywie, Kristoie, Kennie, Jasie, Russie, Libbie, Maddie, Leoie, Gibbie and meeeeeeeie.

NB: Uncharacteristically I didn’t take a single photo all day so full credit for all the photos herein goes to the awesome bunch of folks above.

The forecast was for torrential rain, slushy snow and freezing conditions so when Kylio put out an invite to do a wet canyon followed by a wet abseil trip of course we all said a great big enthusiastic yes.

The day before I’d swung by Adventurebase to catch up with Leo and pick up a bit of gear. It was a miserable day but the torrential rain was more an annoying drizzle and I duck out to check the track out of our second option, as it had been closed for a while last year, but I was happy to see it open.

Anyhoo, Saturday dawned awash with sunshine. Unfortunately we didn’t get as much rain as predicted but Empress was running a bit better than usual and we were keen to hit it.

I don’t think anyone was expecting every one to turn up so we’d need to split into smaller groups to abide the group size limit but also to keep things moving, we were expecting it to be coolish in the canyon, waiting in line for an abseil wouldn’t be ideal.

Jumping into the first pool was a bit of a rush and instant icecream headache. But by keeping a relatively quick pace I never really felt cold, even while manning the abseil line at the end.

We’re not cold, noooo-sireee.
Sunshine and Bubbles
Monas
Yours truly in the flow
Someone in the pump
Krysto photo bombing
Photos upon photos
Me and Russ pulling the rope and enjoying the swim

We all regroup at the base of the falls. Some of us jump in a few times just for the hell of it then we shake ourselves off and head back up to the cars.

Here we say good by to half the group and the rest of us stay suited up and head off for our next adventure

This is one I’ve thought about doing for a while, but in summertime the waterhole at the bottom tends to be busy with all sorts of people from families trying to relax to thrill seekers and instagrammers so I never through it appropriate to toss ropes. Therefore when Kylie suggested it doing it in winter I was in like uncle Errol.

Glad I did, it might just be my new favourite abseil in the blue Mountains

The rocky bottom creek was a bit slippery in places but we all stayed up right, mostly, and soon we came to the main event

Ken rigged it up with a temporary redirect to get us in the centre of the flow, and Kylie took control of the anchor duties

An over hanging start drops us straight into the flow but a short way down was a ledge that ended in a v slot which funnelled the full pump directly intp your face as you dropped into a lovely 10m of free space.

With beaming smiles we make our way back up to the cars and make a bee line for warm food and cold beer.

Find your freaks and run with them

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It’s the Little Things in Life

Sunday 11/07/2020

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

Bottom of 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.

Leo contemplating the first of the little pools
Checking out the second drop. Russ pointing out the dodgy anchor some people abseil off.

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

Saturday 12/07/2020

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.

I prefer just to be in motion

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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