CLAUSTRAL WITH SOME OF THE BEST

23/04/2022

Stirlo, Madie, Leo, Kylie, Jason, Aimee, Mark and meeeee

I was hankering to get out. Some options were discussed then Leo says BMNP is set to re-open.

Claustral it is than.

It seems impossible to me but I’ve never done Claustral with the above mentioned folk before. It’s one of my favourite canyons and they are some of my favourite people.

Time to fix that.

I’m a bit early so I make a quick stop to check in with the ancestors,

And on to Claustral. Whether you think it Claustrophobic inducing or Cloister like or a combination of the two is irrelevant right now. We meet up, gear up and shut up….

Wait, that’s not right.

We meet up, gear up and set off, chattering like magpies with lots to chatter about.

That’s more like us.

Once again photo credits go to a mix of the crew

Rightously Ferntacious
I’ve never abseiled this one before but Madie had the rope set up and threatened to cut me if I didn’t use it. Kylie follows me down

And we work our way down to where the real show starts

Stirlo on the first drop into the Black Hole of Calcutta

Click the photos to make the magic

Compulsory “Hulks Fist” photos and shenanigans ensue

Get fisted ©Aimee

Click to enbiggen

Then there’s not much left to do but make our way down the gorgeous canyon and in the gorgeous company of gorgeous souls.

Oh, The “National Geographic” shot is also compulsory ©Jason

We are too early and it’s too misty for Sunbeams but the muted misty light is nice too

There was a little bit of pump in spots
Top bunch of humans and me. ©Madie

A bit of team work never goes astray

The tunnel swim

and all to soon it’s over.

We have a quick bite to eat on Tash’s rock of Shame and then it’s up Rainbow Ravine and onward

I have a fear of heights and I’m claustrophobic: Kunal Nayyar

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Claustral Calling

Ed, Ethan, Russ, Tash, and Meeeee but not Adrian (Cameos by Stu, Lindsey and the MadOne.)

19/12/2021

Adrian wants to do Claustral. Anyone available?

Fugg yeah!!! Said everyone except Adrian who had some last minute family stuff pop up….

Anyhoo

The rest of us set off at the crack of 8am. There was already a couple of groups in front of us but we’re just cruising so no wukkas

The new track work on the entry is excellently done and much needed to prevent erosion but personally I hate stairs, up or down they cane my knees… I’m happier on a scree slope. By the time we get to the bottom of the gully my legs were feeling a bit worse for wear. Not a good sign considering the relatively easy walk…

But we head down to the first climb down and suit up while the other groups make their way down, some abseil off newish looking rap rings.

Tash and Ethan opt to abseil it too which is ok by me.

We get to the main abseils just as the two guys in front of us wait for the last of the group in front of them to finish the first one.

As odd as this sounds this is the first time I’ve ever had to line up for the Blackhole. I can’t remember ever seeing too many other people in Claustral when I have been in there…. But, again we aren’t in a hurry and it’s not a bad spot to hang about

The (not so) Black Hole of Calcutta
Come on down

I join the guys in front waiting for the second abseil

He is part Viking, part Care Bear and all awesome. He is FoeShamBo
Tash having a dunk on the way to the Key Hole

So as we set up for the key hole I tell Tash, who hasn’t been here before, that it’s worth heading down first or second as it’s amazingly dark and makes for good photos and videos.

So I’m not sure if it’s just the time of the day but it turns out its the brightest I’ve ever seen it in there….

©Russ
©Russ
It’s Still nice ©Ed
©Tash or Ed. IDK
This chamber is normally very dark
Which makes emerging into the green room just that little bit more spectacular. But not complaining
And then we continue down the amazing slot.

We are too early for sunbeams but the soft light on a misty morning is special in it’s own way

And bright packs add to the image.
The Birth canal
A side trip up Thunder Canyon is well worth the slight extra effort and time

Back down to the junction and from here down it’s technically Thunder Gorge and it opens out a little before closing in for the tunnel swim

We jump the first down climb then opt to abseil the second

We get to the end and it’s barely midday. I’m looking forward to lunch but not the hot walk out…

But things were going to go a bit awry.

A slight mishap

A mistimed jump into the last pool and Tash comes up with with a moan.

Help!

Ethan and Russ dive in and bring her across.

She has jarred her back. Bad

We get her out of the water and onto what forever more will be named Tash’s Rock of Shame after Stu the Paramedic (actual name) coined it so.

Sure some people would like it to be call Rest Rock or Sandstone Slumber or Back support Boulder or even Dicky Deckchair but they are never going to stick

But we get ahead of our self

We get her onto Tash’s Rock of Shame and try to make her slightly less uncomfortable.

What’s your pain level?

2, if I don’t move. Says Tash

2? Says Ed. I’m a bloody 2.

1 is good. 10 is bad

Tash moans, Oh it’s 8 if I try to move.

We give her some pills to pop. They do 4/5th of freak all. She aint walking out today.

We agree to push the big red button. Which on the Inreach(TM) is actually small and grey, probably

Ethan and Russ take the inreach and head up to call the Calvary

Ed and myself go about trying to make Tash as comfortable as possible. She keeps ever so slowly slipping down the rock. We slowly drag her back up… it passes the time.

Cash Money. Anything for the Gram
If you still carry around those little “space blankets” do yourself a favour and grab one of these as well. Well worth the extra coin

Hopefully Damo Approves of the burrito wrap

Time passes.

A few groups come passed and all offer help, food and water. But we reassure them we have it under control

We amuse our patient by regaling her with the tale of the Kanangra Rescue we got caught up in.

Not long after we finish that tale another group come swimming down the canyon.

Hey, calls one of them, I recognise you. You guys rescued me at Kanangra

No fucking way.
It’s Timmy!

I’d never seen him before the Kanangra Incident. I’ve not seen him since.

You can’t make this shit up

But after a chat they head off too

I’m expecting the ground crew at any minute. I’m being outwardly positive but in my head I’m looking at the wind in the trees up above us and thinking the Chopper wont deploy, we are over-nighting.

Nek-minnit

Hey Flynnsticles! I have Chippies.

WTF! it’s the Mad One

What the hell are you doing here. I can’t help but smile

I heard you were in the shit and came to save you. Again. With snacks

She had got the message from Russ, met our wives at Mt Tomah and put them at ease. Then ran in with supplies to help us out. She is kinda Golden

Russ had returned with her. Ethan continued up

Ground crew was marshalling up top they say.

And then. The Chopper circles over

Woohoo.

Now over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be part of some charity work for the Westpac Rescue service up north (PS I’m doing it again) and have been privileged to get to speak to some of the air crews and engineers and ask them all sort of silly questions so I know the Toll guys are up there scoping the scene and risk assessing the drop zone and I am 100% confident they wont deploy.

The Chopper comes lower.

No Way.

And Lower

For some perspective, the cliffs you can see rise about 40m above us. From the tops we can see the gorge widens out a little but then there is about another 100m of cliff above them. Those cliffs in turn are tucked deep in a steep ravine.

If you were up top the helicopter would be out of sight, 150m below you.

tucked down in this fold in the earth

And still they come lower.

And down comes Stu the Paramedic (actual name). I do a quick hand over. He assesses the situation.

So if we lift her out do the rest of you need assistance to get out?

No we are good to walk.

What if it gets dark?

There’s plenty of light and we have head torches just in case

Good stuff. Now let’s get this girl some pan relief and get her off her Rock of Shame.

He radios up and goes about trying to jab the spikey thing into the blood carrying things. While he fills Tash will holes trying to find a vein the chopper comes back and drops Lindsey the Other Paramedic (not actual name)

The pin pricking does no good. She has been lying in the cold for a few hours so her veins arn’t exactly pumping. The friendly banter with Stu the Paramedic (actual name) reaches a crescendo when Mads asks if she can have a go at getting the needle in…. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t work out is she was serious or not

She was serious.

But

We are going to have to air lift her, Says Lindsey the other Paramedic (not actual name) But I’m worried about the stretcher on those trees

It’s a bit more open just down there, says I.

They send Russ down for a look.

I’m sure its a bit more open down there, says Ed.

Russ comes back. It’s a bit more open down there. Says he

Stu the Paramedic (actual name) and Lindsey the other Paramedic (not actual name) consult, go through scenarios and assess things again. We are going to have to move her, say they. It’s a bit more open down there

It wasn’t that much more open but it worked.

Let me say this. When the excrement hits the rotating cooling device in the mountains The Toll Rescue Helicopter crews are the best in the business

We split Lindsey the other Paramedic’s (not actual name) gear between us and suggest while waiting for the chopper to return we could get him up to a more open spot for a pick up. Just as we head up the exit the wirlybird comes back…..

it’s just after 7pm as we reach the cars. Mandy is waiting for us with extra food. it was most welcome

The rescue crews have packed up and left. They had started walking in but got the coms from the air crew that things were under control.

Massive thanks to all the crews who responded and massive shout out to the chopper pilot. I honestly had myself psyked up for an over night stay.

And once again to the cool, level heads of my crew. no panic, no bullshit everyone knew what needed to be done communicated well and just got on with it.

PS Tash is back on her feet a bit stiff and sore but recovering, and hopefully planning her next outing.

Stay Excellent

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Claustral Canyon, with a side of Thunder

24-03-2018

Ed, Ethan, Garry, Jodie, Dick and me.

So Ed had just about run out of awesome photos to edit awesomely into awesomer photos of our awesomest trip to Claustral with Lewis last season.

If you haven’t seen his photos do yourself a solid and look him up on the book of faces or find him on flickr

Anyhoo, with Ed being a new dad he had other things to occupy him and thus was only going on limited trips but we had hatched a plan ages ago for a return trip to Claustral for more photos.

But it just didn’t seem like it was going to go to plan. Ed’s camera had some issue which meant it needed to be sent away for repair. I strained a calf muscle a couple of days before the trip and could barely walk and the weather turned wet and cold and the best laid plans of small  rodents and hairless apes seemed like they would crumble.

In the end it came together and we found ourselves signing the visitors book on the walk in track just past 8am. We had thought the weather might put people off but a group of 3 was just in front of us and a party of two pulled up just as we headed off. We’d perfectly time it to briefly meet each other at the thunder canyon junction and exit but otherwise not see each other in the canyon. (more cars were lined up on the side of the road by the time we returned to the car park)

Ed showed up without his camera. It was just back from repairs and he didn’t want to risk it in the rain. Probably be too gloomy anyway…

The day was actually sunny and we wasted no time getting into the good bits.

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Ed in the ferntatious fernery of the fernilicious entrance gully fernery

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After a week of rain water levels were up a bit

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And the water was a little on the chilly side

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But the light was divine

We get to the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta. They are roaring. We agree on whistle signals as voices wouldn’t be heard and work out a plan to piggie back the ropes down the abseils to avoid a large group waiting in cold water.

In I go

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last time I was awed by this section. Today even more so.

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Descent into the Maelstrom

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Despite the sun shine up above the black hole seemed even darker than usual. Around the corner the Green Room at the Ranon junction was as spectacular as always. A lovely soft light had Ed regretting not bringing the camera but if he had I think we’d still be there…

Free of camera duties he was quick to strike some poses

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The quintessential Claustral shot of recent years is looking back towards the Green Room with someone standing on a rock that looks a bit like Hulk’s fist. Just about every group that goes through takes the shot. I’ve heard of people booking a commercial tour just to get the shot. You’d think it would be blasé by now.

But it still holds some magic.

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Ed contemplating shades of green on the Hulks Fist

Still I try a few different angles and poses just to be different. Now I wouldn’t claim to be a photographers areshole but I think they turned out ok

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And we move on.

It’s dark in the canyon. With the mist lifting I was expecting sun beams but it seems we are a tad early. In a few spots I’m glad we had head torches

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The low angle of the sun creepng down the walls  throws up interesting shots like this shot below

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Jodie in the spotlight of Garry’s Ay-Ups while up above the light plays hard to get and a mist fall sprays the walls

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Ed posing in a scene he made famous with his 2017-18 season Ozcanyons banner

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Jodie joins him to pose for Ethan. I’m pretty sure thats the angle that featured on the cover of National Geographic a few years ago.

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And onward we go

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And th greenery continues

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As does the dark

We get to the junction with Thunder Canyon and I convince them it’s worth the side trip with it’s cold dark swims.

The group in front of us are just coming back out. they have found an intense light ray and are warming them selves in it’s brilliance

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It was a small teaser of the light show that was about to burst forth

But first to brave the cold swim. Thunder Canyon is deeper and darker than it’s more popular siblings.

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It has glowworms shinning throughout the day if you know where to look and are game to turn off your light

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Oh look light rays are starting to come through

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Dick and Ed admiring the sun beams

And didn’t they what

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We spent quiet a bit of time here

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It gt better and betterer

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But eventually we dragged ourselves away. Further up was more dark but it was worth venturing up to join the short finned eels in the cold waters.

Just around the corner is the base of Westerway Falls.

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Believe it or not this is 100% natural lighting. As Ed declaired you couldn’t design a light scheme that perfect. And check out the play of that water feature.

But still there’s more. Hidden behind the falls is another delight

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A deep dark cave behind the falls themselves. You may be able to make out some glowworms in this shot

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The biggest draw back with the little TG4 is the 4 second exposure limit. Thi s needed about 30 to bring out the glowoworms in their full glory. Olympus get around this somewhat with their live comp mode which builds a little in camera histogram type magic that takes multiple shots and blends the bright bits into the back ground image. It works ok for waterfalls, fireworks and stars but glowworms are hard.

I could have stayed here much longer but we needed to move on. This was as far up Thunder we’d be able to get. Time to back track to the junction

 

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Back down we go

The light beams were waiting for us again

And then we are back to the junction.

Most people consider the next bit to be part of Claustral but technically it is Thunder Gorge in Camathan brook and Clautral brook is it’s tributarty. Sure Thunder comes down and takes a right angle turn while Claustral seems to go pretty much straight but Thunder was the first one explored and named so it gets the glory. Or sumfink

There is some energy sappng boulder scrambles and tricky climb downs

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but then the walls close back in for the tunnel swim

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Ed at the start of the tunnel swim

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Dick heading into the tunnel swim

And some more gorgeous canyon

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And then it’s time for lunch and the haul up Rainbow ravine.

It’s hard going in the humidity but the veiws from the top of the camels hump are worth it.

Just up there is the old car park… But we turn back down steeply into the top of Claustral Brook  where we work our way down through some more nice canyon sections. Above us thunder rumbles and a storm hits.

Well that saves the dilema of whether to dry bag the dry clothes or just swim in them. By the time we get to the swims we are soaked any way. The rain was heavy but refreshing and we reach our second exit point and do the climb out to the cars.

It’s later than we had planned. We’d sppent longer in Thunder canyon than I thought we would have but it was just so mesmerising. Still Gaz has to be at work for a 12hr night shift in just 45min so no time is waisted and it’s into dry clothes and a hurried good bye.

All in all a top day.

Your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to stay.

Party size 6 all experienced

Timing: 9.5 hrs not rushing and my injured leg holding us up a bit.

The video is a bit longer than my normal opnes but I could have put up 20min just on the Black hole abseils.

 

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Ranon Canyon

17-01-2018

Kent, Anna, James, John, Tal and me

Last time I had done a trip through Ranon canyon Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas were Smooth and Mmmbop was unfortunitely still a thing. A drunken conversation between myself Della and Lerch on the wrong side of 2am saw us up a few hours later working off hangovers in the heat.

It was Lerch’s first big canyon I remember getting to the Junction with Claustral and him asking where the exit was. The look of dejection when I told him it was 2hrs down stream was almost as good as when we got to the top of the camels hump and I pointed out our destination up on Mt Tomah that looked to be separated by another deep chasm and I jokingly said we had come up the wrong ridge…..

Lerch is not a violent man but I think I saw murder in his eyes that day. Luckily he was too stuffed to chase me.

Anyhoo, I had some time off and Kent was out on another one of his multiple day canyon extravaganzas and he happened to be doing Ranon on a day that I could get to. Sweet.

The “normal” entrance to the Claustral system through the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls is spectatualr and all but I always preffered going in via Mistake Ravine and Ranon Canyon. Originally that was probably a snobby thing knowing it was far less visited but it does give you more bang for your buck with some very nice canyon above the junction that gives Claustral a real run for it’s money in terms of greenry. IMO it’s even more fernilicous and still has few signs of visitation.

Anyway there was so much beauty in this trip I think I’ll leave the words to a minimum and let the photos tell the story.

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Looking down Mistake Ravine towards the Ranon Brook Junction

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Tal on a slippry hand over hand into Mistake Ravine

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Ferntacious

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Fernilicious

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Like a lost world

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Sandstone, Sassafras and Coachwood

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Tal giving Anna some tips on foot placement

 

After the junction with Ranon it somehow gets even more ferntacualr

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John dropping into Ranon

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Fern ceilings are cool

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Kent all chilled out and relaxed

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Work life ballence or something

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Tal resetting after having negociated the deep pool mid abseil

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Anna on another 2 stage abseil with a deep pool between drops.

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Kent and James pulling ropes

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John dropping down towards the Claustral junction

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James in the slot at the Claustral junction

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Sun beams in Claustral

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Looking out of the Black Hole of Calcutta towards the Ranon Junction. You can make out Anna belaying Kent down the final abseil

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Claustral Canyon

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The Hulks Fist

OK so this location/pose is probably the most snapped shot in any canyon in the Blue Mtns, if not the southern hemisphere. Sure it’s almost getting cliche and is certainly the classic “Claustral photo” but who cares it is such an epic spot. I thought it became “the shot” after it was featured in National Geographic but a quick google informs me that was the next one down which Ed has captured from a slightly different angle for the 2017-18 Ozcanyons banner.

So who first took it? No idea but two of the best comes from Ed and Jake 

Anyhoo

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Claustral canyon

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Claustral is such a great slot, deep and sustained. Unfortunitey in 1982 3 people lost thier lives when they got caught in this section in a  severe storm. Between the Black Hole and the Thunder Canyon junction there is little to no refuge in rising water. The Claustral system has a large catchment so it’s important to stay uptodate on weather forcasts and if it looks dicey or you are unsure… Well the canyon will stillbe there next week, next month, next year

 

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Enjoying a bit of sun light

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Looking up Thunder canyon

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Me and Tal go for a quick look up the bottom 100m or so of Thunder. The water is so much colder

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From the Thunder junction down there is a bit of boulder hopping before the canyon closes back in

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Tal in the tunnel swim. On my first trip though here it was silted up and was more a shallow wade. Deep and clear today

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In the tunnel swim

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The chock stones in the tunnel swim seem so far above you as you swim through but the cliffs above dwarf them

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A final swim to the exit spot

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And then it’s up and up and up

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Though the exit gully, Rainbow Ravine is very pretty itself

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Looking across to Mt Banks

in my report on our Claustral trip last year I explained how George Caley thought it would be an easy traverse from Mt Tomah across the “low saddle” to Mt Banks. Without knowledge f the deep canyons, only some of which we had just traversed, it’s easy to see why he had thought that.

Anyway anther great trip with great people, thanks again to Kent of organising.

Anna was pleased that on a canyon trip with 5 blokes no F bombs were dropped. Personally I think she blanked a few out.

Party Size: 6 all experienced

Time:8.5hrs car to car, relaxed pace

Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves-Friedrich Nietzsche

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