I’m not sure I’m keen enough to drive down, says Kylie. But I haven’t caught up with them in ages.
The others were already at Bungonia canyoning away.
How about we meet up somewhere and share the bulk of the drive? Say I
Deal says she.
We enact the plan.
The others look a little wrecked from the previous day.
It was hot, say they, and the creek water was horrid. We almost ran out of water.
I throw in an extra water bottle.
And we are off.
We reach the creek without too much effort but the day is already heating up. I’m glad I left the wetsuit in the car.
The pool below looks so inviting
Then we get to a larger drop. The notes say bolts on the right but they look a bit sketchy to get to ( thou belatedly we spit a traverse bolt)
We opt for a sling on a tree up to the left. This gives us about a 42m abseil into the pool below.
The pool is full of string algae and pulling the ropes throu is like fishing for slime monsters..
Some more cool pools and a 12m abseil follow
Which Jason opts to jump
And then we get to Jerrara falls themselves
At this stage I’m a little confused with the notes. They say the full thing is 85m. But it can be split in 2 doing 60m (bypassing a small semi hanging rebelay) and 35m or in 3 doing 30m, 35m, 30m…. Or sumfink
I don’t know if maths has changed since I was a boy but when Brother John taught me my sums those numbers did not add up.
Still Bro John also said, quiet frequently, You’re strong in the legs but weak in the heads boys. So maybe the calculation issue was on my end.
So the notes indicated a 5m scramble to the first bolts. It looked bigger than 5 and exposed AF so I opted to abseil off slings on a tree. As I’m abseiling down Kris walks over a knob and scrambled down to meet me on a big sloping ledge. We can see anchor bolts just over the edge where it starts to get steeper.
There are also bolts at the back of the ledge which I urge the others to use. it’s a reasonably grippy surface but sloping and a big drop below so we want to opt for caution.
I go down to the anchor and set the 70m rope thinking we are going to bypass the first rebelay and do pitch 1 and 2 as one.
In hindsight I think I’ve just come down pitch 1 and the little ledge I’m standing on is the semi hanging rebelay at the start of pitch 2. But there’s no way it was 30m from the top. I’d say it was well less than 15 and I couldn’t see and bolts further up that would match the description for the pitch 1 anchor
Anyhoo we needed to swap out ropes as I’d come down on the short rope and we are thinking we’ll need to keep the 2nd long rope as a pull chord and send the short rope down to set the last pitch.
As they sort ropes I’m on a baking hot ledge in full sun in short sleeves. I’m roasting. Eventually I remember I have sunscreen in the top of my pack. I lather it on to my face shoulders and legs. did I mention it’s hot? It’s baking freaking hot. Soooooo hot. Oven hot
Eventually the ropes are swapped and Jason heads down. And signals to take rope up. I had about 65m out and pull up about 10m before he signals stop. That doesn’t make sense.
Things are a little confused, there’s a large group in line of sight with us in bungonia canyon and so whistle signals are getting a little crossed.
Kylie heads down. And signals rope up. I take up another 15m or so.
This is not making any sense with our plan.
The rest of us head down. We get to a big sloping ledge, there’s anchor bolts, Jason’s is on a ledge about 20m below and out to the left. None of it matches the small rebelay ledge we bought the long ropes to bypass but we haven’t gone down enough to be on top of pitch 3. Have we?
There’s some discussion on whether there’s 1 or 2 pitches left.
There is no way that is 65m to the pool says I. But we rig the 70m so it can be lowered with the 60 just in case.
Kylie goes down and signals rope up
I’m sitting the the spray of the waterfall longing to get into the pool below but I’m anchor bitch a going last.
Eventually we all get down.
It seems we have done the 3 pitches as described but the heights are off, especially for the first pitch.
Anyhoo, slightly older and not very much wiser we continue down
There had been some discussion about taking one of the short cut exits. But given the choice between scrambling up an exposed, loose knife edge in the baking sun or boulder hoping down and walking up the tourist track at a slightly cooler time of day everyone opted tourist track
And then we reach the junction with the red track.
Ok National Parks down here have a much more liberal idea on what constitutes a “tourist track” than those softly graded , full of stairs and boardwalks tourist tracks found in the bluies.
The start was a hell of a lot more scrambley than I had expected.
Nothing overly difficult or exposed but different to what I was thinking.
But the start was in a shady gully which was nice.
Coming out of the gully onto the open ridge was like hitting a wall of heat. But it snaked it’s way the ridge easy enough and I hightailed back to the campground and grabbed the ute thinking I’d do the gentlemanly thing and save the others another 2km walk
But they got to the top of the hill and took a sharp right., following the green trail back. So I missed them and the bastards beat me into the showers 🤣🤣
All in all another great day with awesome people.
“Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton
Gadget, Penny, Chief Quimby, Professor Von Slickstein and Me… I mean, Dr Claw
Whatya doing on the Monday of the long weekend? Asks Gadget
No plans. What do you have in mind? Says I
Options were thrown up before settling on a Go Go Gadget excursion back to Wolgan falls.
We’ve been talking about getting back there to do a wet line after rain. It almost happened after the March deluge but we wimped out fearing the road maybe impassable.
And the stars just haven’t aligned since.
But now we have had a bit of rain through the week, then a good dump of snow on the plateau.
Time to give it a crack
Unfortunately Brain had to bail last minute…. Now I was concerned. How would Penny help Gadget and the others foil Dr Claw without him?
We meet up at the ZigZag railway on a crispy morning, pile into cars and head in (Yeah we were going the long way, or at least the slow way, but we had our reasons)
The road was boggy but some awesomely excellent driving by Von Slickstein saw him follow us through in his 2WD ute.
Packed up, nervous whizs and off we go
The trip is pretty basic, some easy nav along the ridge, and a couple of dry abseils land you on a large flat shelf above the falls.
Its a pretty spot
And it’s from this point we plan to mix things up. The usual line is in 2 stages a few meters to river left of the falls. Despite ice in puddles and a few patches of snow up top we are hoping to rig things to go straight down the guts.
We discuss options, a tree would have us in the perfect spot, but it’s a looooooong way back.
We have everything we need to build a long anchor but ideally we’d set it as a retrievable so we don’t leave anything behind.
Options were discussed before deciding to use a shorter rope around the tree set on the fiddlestick near the edge then tie jthe main line below the stick…
Go Go Gadget retrievable anchor and Roberts your Aunty’s husband or sumfink
Stirlo’s down and so far nobody has died. Wootwoot
And we are all down, now to see if we can retrieve things
Kylie pops the fiddle stick. Success.
Stirlo and Ed pull the rope. Success
‘Cept the fiddlestick then wedges itself in the only crack on the halfway ledge and the tail of the rope wraps itself around the only stick in the only crack on the halfway ledge…
Luckily the way out goes up to the halfway ledge and a delicate bit of rope work with the spare rope gets me in a position to release both
We high 5 and begin to pack up for the haul out
Voices…. Up above smiling faces pear over the cliff. I recognise Dick. He is with Laurie, Mick, Peter and crew. This is 2 trips in a row we’ve run into them. We head up and say g’day
Then we are back in the cars for a bite to eat and then back through the mudbath for a little add on that took longer to get there than to do.
Worth it but
Anchor trees in this one can be a bit hard to get and ghosting (Fiddlestick/smooth operator..) is definitely the way to go. Would hate to see slings or chains in this one
And 10min later we’re back up at the cars
Another awesomely excellent adventure with awesomely excellent mates.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” — Amy Poehler
I’ve said in the past I don’t like repeating a canyon too many times a season as it takes the sense of exploration away from it for me.
Well 2020 has changed a lot of things. With bush fires and COVID and park closures I think I’ve done Empress Falls more this year than I have since my short stint as a guide in the 90s but I’ve been reminded that as much as the conditions on the day it’s people you go in with make each and every experience unique
So when I get a text saying, We’re heading to Empress, Wanna come.
I think why the hell not
Rolling into the car park late. I hastily gear up, hug some old friends, meet some new friends and off we go.
Some hadn’t done Empress before so there is that buzz of new excitement that I find infectious
It helps when they are all just a little bit nuts
Signing the log book we note Lib and Justine are not far in front of us
We meet Libby and Justine at the bottom of the final abseil and make our way back to the car park all smiles and banter
Joel, Amber, Jen, Madie, Matthew, Gabby, Andrew, Sonya, Mark, Bernie and meee. Oh, and Geoff as the devil taking photos at the bottom
One day Joel (the sweet, innocent, shy fella he is) had an idea to do something wild.
Let’s have a dress up canyon party, says he.
And so we had to ask ourselves. What would Ginger Jesus do?
Um, He just suggested a dress up canyon…. Well der, dress up canyon party it is
The theme went from Anti-Valentine to Porn to Slotty to hot and wet to anything goes and eventually a mixed bag of fun loving freaks turned up to, um , have fun and, ah, be freaky in one of the most popular canyons in the Mountains.
If only someone had taken a camera…..
Note: there were more cameras than people
We gathered out the front of the Conservation hut for some snaps
By the time we were all down the abseil there was a large ensemble of tourists/walkers cheering, jeering and leering at us. Well I say “us” but it was mostly at Joel.
and the looks we got as we hiked back up the tourist track for a bite to eat at the hut were priceless.
Party Size: 11 but we split into 11 groups of 1 because, like, who’d want to associate with those other weirdos.
Time: Time has no meaning when you are having that much fun
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be: Maya Angelou
*March 2019 I am once again participating in the Wests Cycle Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter. If you enjoy my blog or just want to help this great cause think about making a small donation
Last time I did the Empress Falls/Grand canyon double, Empress was still better known as Valley of the Waters canyon. We were still amazed that civilisation hadn’t been wiped out by the Y2K bug. The Euro was still brand new. NASAs Mars Odyssey was mapping the red planet and Queen Lizzy was pomping about for her Golden Jubilee…
So when Gaz and Jodie said they were keen to ease back into it I thought why not.
Being anti social, disliking crowds and line ups I like doing Empress early morning or very late afternoon. The light frost on the windscreen when Gaz came to pick me up may have indicated we needn’t have worried too much about that but, anyhoo, we went early and had the place to ourselves .
When Gaz announced he and Jodie had brought 2 sets of wetsuits, spring suits of Empress and Steamers for Grand, it was one of those Why-have-I-never-thought-of-that moments. I mean I had been contemplated doing Empress in with just a thermal top. I had a spring suit hanging in my cupboard…
You Eeeejit Flynny!
Too bad they gave me that epiphany after we left, But anyway.
A quick 15min hike up the tourist track and we are back at the car putting dry clothes on for the drive back to Blackheath.
While we pretty much had Empress to ourselves we struggled to get a spot at the Neates glen car park and a steady stream of walkers filed up and down the track.
Despite plenty of walkers up top we had the depths to ourselves
Unfortunately the early start in Empress meant we were in Grand in the harshest mid-day light so the photos are no where near as good as previous trips.
Party size 3: all experienced
Time: Empress 1hr 40min car to car Grand 3hr Car to car
Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better:- Albert Einstein
I’ve said before that for me the abseils are just a means to get to the next bit of canyon.
I’m far more excited by exploring the dark confines of a slot canyon. I’m captivated by the play of light as the sun arcs over head. I get fascinated by the way water and time have sculptured the rock, and I’m dazzled by the ferntacious greenery…
Ayhoo with that in mind the Kanangra canyons have never held a massive appeal to me but when Tim invited me on a trip down Kalang Falls I thought I may as well check it out to see what the fuss is all about.
After a week of drizzle mixed with rain we’d check the water levels and if it was too high we’d abort and do Dione Dell instead.
As it was it was pretty much prefect
And so our group of merry adventurers set off from the car park with a buzz of excitement and a swagger in our steps.
Despite a few of the others having done the trip before myself and Al got nominated leaders so the real leader, Tim could follow along at the back of the group as safety man with the spare rope. So we set off to rig the first drop.
There is a bit of scrambling to get down to the first anchor and Tom’s notes warned the final drop before the anchor could be dangerous so in the wet slippery conditions we rigged the abseil from above it.
As with all of Tim’s trips we had multiple ropes and walkie-talkie communi-doonies so the group could spread out. Me and Al would set rope, the next person would arrive, we’d take their rope and descend to the next one. And so on and so forth etc etc etc. So even with a largish group taking their time on slick rock we made good time down the ravine.
Rope management was the theme of the day. Lots of vegetation and ledges for ropes to get tangled on. I can see where flaking it out of a rope bag would be handy on a trip like this.
I found the scrambles between the falls took a lot of concentration. The quartzite is a lot slipperier than the standard Bluies sandstone and also tends to have a lot more loose rocks ready to roll your ankle.
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Probably really common, but can anyone tell me the species?
How did I find it? Well the waterfalls were stunning, the company was awesome, the abseils were abseils and the walk out wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.
Another great day in the bush with great people.
The mind is like water: capable of going anywhere but once hemmed in by walls of it’s own making it takes a powerfull flood to burst it’s banks and change its course: me
Group size: 8 all experienced
Time: 9hr 20min car to car, not rushing in the slippery conditions and taking it easy up the exit ridge.
Access: Easy walk, thanks to Ty N. and all his hard work fixing up the old track. There is some steep uneven dirt steps and a couple of spot where you are stepping over or along logs but no abseils or rock scrambles.
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward.
Map: Lithgow 1:25000 These can be purchased at Lithgow Tourist information center or online for around $10 each though not really needed here
Time: It takes about 30min to walk up to the falls.
Ida Falls is a nice little walk on the outskirts of Lithgow. There are hand stencils in the area suggesting it was important to the native peoples prior to white settlement. The lower gully was once a coal mine and relics from that era are easy to spot.
Familiar to generations of Oakey Park kids as a semi secret hidout and yabbie hunting spot.
Half way up the gully is over looked by Top Points on the ZigZag railway to the left and a forgotten look out (opposite PoW memorial on Scenic Hill) and old climbing crag to the right.
In recent years a young local took on the task of fixing up the trail so others less adventurous could visit it. Please respect not only all his hard work but the very nature of the location, a piece of pristine beauty right on the edge of town
Head down Inch st this becomes Bells St after the second rail over bridge. At end of Bell st cross a little bridge (Notice the tunnel this creek comes out of on the right) and there is a small parking area on the right. Walk back towards the last house, down toward the crk. You need to get to the other side of the railway line and you do this by passing through a cool old culvert.
Once through the tunnel look for Ty’s home made signs as the guide you across the creek then up to the right to avoid the boggy ground and hence up the gully towards the falls
The Falls don’t always have a flow going over them so it’s best to do the walk after a bit of rain, or even while it’s raining. Return the same way
It’s possible scramble up through breaks in the cliff lines and visit the upper gully to but care and respect is needed
Note: The great outdoors is an ever changing place. Bush fires, changing weather, vegetation growth and forestry activities can all effect the trail conditions and thus the difficulty of the walk. These are a rough guide only and are by no means meant to be a definitive guide . They do not replace the need adequate map reading and navigational skills
Note 1: Taking care While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails. Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.
Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police for very little.
Note 2:First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. A basic first aid is highly recommended
Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for you first few outing is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.
The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.
Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.