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 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
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.
Russ and meeeee. With a late inclusion of Leo and Madie
A few options were thrown about for weekend adventures but in the end it was cold and damp… Perfect weather for descending a couple of pretty little slots on the Sunnyside plateau
First stop Zorro
The road out is surprisingly clear. Of course I took the first fire trail, belatedly remembering the rough hill down the rocks. I pull up and explain my error. Madie doesn’t look too keen on testing the 4WD capabilities of her ute. Leo, in the drivers seat, looks like a kid on the way to a lolly shop but I decide to turn back and do the detour. Lucky, as looking back up the hill at the junction the link trail hadn’t been cleared for fallen trees
We find our car park and in no time we are descending between the parallel walls of the entrance hall.
And it’s not long until we get to the first abseil
Last year the canyon was as dry as I’ve ever seen it. Today more normal conditions saw a couple of pools, some of which required some tricky bridging to keep feet dry.
I’ve always just down climbed this one. With some careful bridging you can stay dry. I missed a step and right leg went in up to my knee. That leg was too warm anyway
Have I ever mentioned how pretty the central chamber is
The soft light and mist really adding to the beauty
The exit hall was also very atmospheric today with the mist rolling in
Then it opens out for the final abseil.
Not mentioning any names but somebody <Coughitwasrusscough>may or may not have left the safety draw attached to the pull cord and had to prusik back up to retrieve it. Fun times
Then it’s a short stroll back up the hill to the car and we drive back up around the head of the main gully to some cool little features on the other side. The Cracks of DOOM!!
Finally, a quick stop at Bardens lookout where Madie and Leo romp up a pumpy little climb to finish the day off
Mandy and me
We’d had a lazy morning but decide to head out of a lunch date.
I’ve always thought this one a pretty little canyon so I was a little apprehensive as to the state it would be in post fires.
Turns out the canyon itself was fairly untouched. Some of the ferns in the main chamber were brown but that looks more a result of drought
Some people like to cause commotion. Others like to be the commotion.
Time-To-Go, Sketchy, Marcula, BeerandScotch, Justadlib and meeeee
Ah Straylia! You’ve done it again. After all the devastation of the fires it’s pissing down rain.
Driving out of town I half expect to see a line of animals marching into an Ark two by two while a crazy dude calls out damnation from god.
I have to admit I was a little anxious. Empress is one canyon that always had me worried in rain. For a small canyon it has a large catchment and a relatively tight constriction. The Falls at the end have a rep for going from a gentle trickle to a wall of water in not much time. In 2005 Matthew Donovan lost his life when his party was hit with a storm burst part way through and he failed to negotiate the second last pool, being pinned under the sharply undercut wall by the sheer force of water.
While our canyoning cuzies from around the world often play in much higher water flows there are additional dangers of doing flooded canyons that don’t usually experience high flow. Canyons that see a lot of water generally clean themselves of the log jams and boulder chokes that feature in many Aussie canyons. Rising waters often pickup and sweep down stuff lying on previously dry banks creating hazards, both from solid impacts and hydraulic stoppers.
There’s definitely a skill to being able to spot and avoid hydraulic hazards, as well as speciality equipment, techniques and team work required to negotiate the canyon safely.
But I knew I was in good hands, people whose skills and judgement I trust. And overriding the nerves was an undertoe of excitement
I get to Mt Vic only for my brain to do this weird thing where it remembers it forgot to remind me to pick up my wetsuit! Some swearing happened. Passing cars probably thought the crazy dude in the ute had a bad case of road rage…
A quick phone call to Mandy and she offers to grab my wetty and meet me half way back home. She really is golden.
I’m slightly late as I pull into the car park and was surprised to see just Madie and Leo. It appears there was a little confusion over the late night change to the start time. They all know changing plans is what we do the best. Or sumfink
Anyhoo, we decide to head off for a look and if all goes well we’ll do a second run when the others arrive. But all agree it is probably going to be a none event today, we’ve had a lot of rain.
On the way down we discuss Go/No-Go indicators. If its below this rock at that point that section is good, If you can see such and such from that vantage… Blah Blah Blah. We also talk emergency exit options. The good thing about Empress is it is short and you can get many looks down into the canyon on the walk in and there are options to get out.
At each inspection point things look better. Time-To-Go’s been through at higher levels. A quick look at the radar and while there is going to be steady drizzle the heavy stuff isn’t due to hit until later. This thing looks like it is on. Woot Woot.
We are warned about which sections have siphons and whirlpools and where the water wants to force you into under cut walls and then we are in.
I’m a bit cautious as I go over the edge but I am grinning like an idiot. Dropping over the edge I get hit by a wall of water but I’m through it quick and behind the main brunt. Working my way down I’m being peppered but the main flow is to the left of me. At the halfway ledge I say hi to BeerandScotch
and then I’m into the flow.
It’s hard to describe the sensation. White water. White noise. It’s almost instant sensory derivation as the water pounds into you, pushing you down the rope. I feel a weird mix of being a passenger, being in control, being in consequential, being alive… I’m watching for the tail of the rope as I know Sketchy set up short so she could bleed rope out as I went. I see the bottom, Well I think I do and I let go and fling myself down. What A rush.
I float there being smashed by the spray and just enjoy the moment.
I hear the others calling and It’s-Time-To-Go hurls the throw bag. Perfect throw. I grab hold and they pull me across the pool. I’m still grinning like an idiot.
We laugh and high five and all that. The others are keen for their turn.
Damn phone rings and I’m stupid enough to check it…. Work. Looks like I’ll miss run 2:-(
By the time they get back to the start the water is up another 2 foot or so. Still doable and it looks like they had a ball.
The heavy rain hits a few hours later pushing water way up past safe levels. I’m glad we got in when we did. It was a great experience.
As usual there are a lot of opinions on the socials as to whether people should be out in these conditions.
Should people be encouraging others to do so. Most definitely not.
Personally with this group, at that time, in those conditions I felt perfectly safe, or as safe as usual when canyoning.
As stated earlier I trust their skill levels and their judgement. I think they are amongst the most safety conscious groups I have ever been out with. There is a level of skill across the group that we have worked to achieve and a level-headedness that I admire. I wouldn’t suggest others try to do it without building those attributes up first.
Was it risky? Yeah sure. But it was a calculated risk based on skill levels, knowledge of the canyon and escape routes, team dynamics, keeping a close track of weather apps and always being prepared to back out.
500 people die on the roads in NSW every year. What risk analysis did you do last time you hopped into a car?
“It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.” Aaron Lauritsen . Substitute “quiet little towns” for adventures and it captures this group prefectly
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….
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…..
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
We gain the creek and boulder hop down to the start of the canyon and one of the coolest abseils in the Blue Mountains.
Even in this dry spell it didn’t disappoint
Click to enbiggen
Click to make large
Click for the sake of clicking
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
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
And as luck would have it a cool breeze greets us for the walk out
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
I had a busy weekend lined up and didn’t think I’d get out bush at all but when The Mad One lined up a trip with the awesome Canyoning/Climbing fam I was keen as a bean for a catch up so I rearranged some stuff to free up my Sunday. They really are a great bunch of like minded folk and a ball to hang out with
Anyhoo we meet at Mt Wilson at a very lazy 10am and dither about before setting off along the fire trail. Laziest start to a canyon day for ages.
The walk in would soon address that….
The shade of the overhang below the first abseil proves an enticing place to have lunch so more lazing about before we slip down the creek. I scramble into the start of the canyon and try to entice the others down with my best Pennywise impersonation, Do you want a balloon too, Georgie? but they go over the top to the next climb down.
The first little bit was as dry as a nuns nasty
The swim into the first “Duck under” was little more than a deep wade. There followed an impromptu chorus of Ooooh shit it’s cold. Which had Libby dubbing the trip the Whingee Whungee trip.
Whungee is usually such a high quality canyon but the low water and lack of glowworms took a bit of the shine off
Ok the top section was a little down on it’s usual high standard but the final hallway is still bloody stunning
We briefly check out a rumoured short cut exit but decide the climb is too dicey today so it’s into the ‘Gambe for a float down to the usual exit.
Surround yourself with exceptional people, experience exceptional things
Party Size: 8
Time: I didn’t really pay much attention but I think it was 7-8hrs with plenty of stops along the way
Jamie, Aimee, Mamie, Gamie and shamie…. I mean Jamie, Aimee, Matt, Mark and Meeeeee
Confession time: I’d not done Kanangra main before.
Abseiling for the sake of abseiling doesn’t really float my boat so it wasn’t a trip that ever featured high on my priority list but with anchor options that put you into more of the waterfalls rather than beside them it sounded fun and when Mark invited me on a trip I thought it high time I pop my K-Main cherry
After an early meet up we set off into the Kanangra wilds amidst banter and bravo. Before long we arrive at the start of the epicness and gear up
Epic is a word used a lot with the Kanangra wilderness and I have to admit it humbles you as you get dwarfed in the terrain.
While water levels are down after a long dry spell, and even at normal level it’s not considered anywhere near hi-flow there is something about being swallowed into a waterfall halfway down a rope
Below is a typical “Ethical and safe” blue mountains anchor…. sling crumbled with 1 sharp tug
I’m glad Mark converted me to releasable systems and flaking ropes into/out of bags. Constantly coiling and uncoiling ropes on this trip would be a PITA. We got the others into it too
And then we rock hop down the the Kalang junction and begin the “gentle stroll” back up manslaughter ridge… Helps if you stop to smell the orchids every now and then
Another great day with great people
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face : Eleanor Roosevelt
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.
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.
I started setting up the second drop using a figure 8 block.
Can we fiddlestick this one. asks Allie
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
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…
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
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