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
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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
Despite (or possibly because) starting the year doing some amazingly awesome and epic trips I’ve been struggling to get out lately. Trying to find that balance between family, canyoning, the mountain bike club, work and all the other crap I do has needed a bit of tending.
Anyhooo I had a weekend free and the guys were keen. Our plans to do something in the Wolgan took a dive when I remembered the glowworm tunnel marathon was on and the valley would be packed.
Shall we go one valley over and do Coinslot.
It’s really short shall we follow up with Doomsday (AKA Bull Ant)
They are an argumentative bunch…
Anyhooo, We converge at my place, load gear in ute and head off.
I’d considered doing the climbing route as I know all the guys are competent but then thought if we wanted to do another canyon none of us had done before it might be best to take the quicker way up thus we take the not quiet climbing route.
Previously with different groups, some of whom needed roping up, the climb up to Coinslot always seemed a longer expedition but in no time we were up and into it.
And then it’s back down to the hill to the car, it’s barely lunch time.
I’ve got some vague track notes to get us to the start of Doomsday and after a bite to eat we head off up the other side of the valley. The climb up starts steep and gets steeper. Some dodgy not-quiet-rock-climbing sees us standing on a summit over looking the valley.
Down into a gap and up the other side then steadily up a ridge.
The canyon must start fairly high up in the system….
We reach the point were the notes say to turn towards the creek and need to drop back down through a fair portion of the elevation we just ascended.
I’m already thinking of Chardie and Autal’s comments on my complex bush bashes to visit not so awesome canyons…
Not sure if Madie told you guys but I have a reputation for this shit, say I
Canyon better be good, says they. And I have to agree
This involves an abseil into a pool and then a duck under a low arch. The bottom of the arch is only a couple of inches above the top of the water. As I was already wet I strip off my shirt and volunteer to go first. It was freaking cold
And then we boulder hop, abseil and stumble back down the hill to the maintenance trail and thus back to the car.
It’s not often I finish a canyon wondering whether it was worth it but I doubt I’d rush back to do Doomsday. I know other friends enjoy it and to be fair on a warmer, wetter day it might be more appealing but today it didn’t grab me as anything special.
Everyone wants to experience the view at the top of the mountain. Very few realise the magic, wonder and growth happens while you are climbing it
Party Size: 4 all experienced
Time: Coinslot 2.5 hours car to car. Doomsday 4.5hrs car to car
With a bunch of bike and family commitments throughout March it’s had been nearly 4 weeks since I managed to get a canyon in. Or is that get in a canyon?
Anyhoo, I was tonguing to get out and I had missed some good trips with some good people so when the mad one said she wanted to do a canyon out in the Northern Wollemi on a weekend I finally had free I begged a leave pass and we started to plan.
Invitations were sent and a few people were keen but in the end most were unable to make it.
Briefly we discussed doing it as a day trip but decided that if we camped at the increasingly popular Dunns Swamp we’d have time to squeeze in another little canyon while we were out there.
Let’s go down one and up the other.
Doesn’t the guide say the other has some abseils?
Pffft, It says 1 abseil or a down climb, how hard could it be.
I first visited Dunns Swamp back around 1992 for wild party, now it’s all families and quiet time, lights out at 10pm and stuff. Camp sites were filling up fast and continued to do so well into the night,
We set up camp. This is gonna be fun. We can stay up late, swappin’ manly stories and in the morning, I’m making WAFFLES!
In the morning no waffles were made but we make our way out to the forestry gate. For which I have the combination as it’s part of the bicentennial trail, ‘cept they have changed the locks. This would mean a 10km fire trail slog.
Sometime later we ditch the bikes and do the last bit on foot. I’d driven across this fire trail in dads jeep in about 86, it’s a stunning bit of the world.
We had next to zero info on the first canyon but it looked like we needed to get through some complicated clifflines to reach it. In the end with some less than attentive navigation it was fairly simplez, we just walked around until we found it
Then it was down to the main creek for lunch in the dappled sunlight. Now to reverse the next one. Some of you may die, but its a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
And then we are at the top looking back down and it’s time to head home
Party Size: 2
Time: 7hr (and 2 minutes) car to car being fairly quick on the fire trail with few stops but lots of faffing in the canyons themselves
I’m not allowed the mention the canyons by name for fear of the canyon illuminati kid-napping me and beating me senseless. 1 source of info said we wouldn’t need wetsuits but I’m glad we took them as the second canyon was fairly cold and sustained. Good thing we didn’t wait until mid(dle of) winter to do it.
All in all it was another good day in the bush in a beautiful part of the world. After some late summer rain it sure was green up there on the hills
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.
I often browse websites, blogs, trip reports and photos looking for inspiration and in doing so years ago I stumbled across a name of a canyon I’d not heard of before. My interest was pipped. More research revealed nothing but another name of a second canyon close by.
After some assumptions, deductions, guess-work and staring at satellite imagery I mark 2 points on the map with question marks. But at the time I didn’t have a group I thought would be willing to go in search of a probably low quality canyon through thick scrub just for the hell off it. And, well life got in the road And that was the end of that.
But the other week I pulled out my old map and those 2 question marks burned into me. I put out a call to see who’d be keen on an exploration trip that would probably involve a wet canyon but probably not stunning or wow material.
To my surprise the above mentioned folk said yes and so we found ourselves parked on a seemingly random bit of otherwise highly trafficked firetrail and we headed off into the untracked scrub.
Only then we stumbled over an old vehicle track that was heading right where I’d marked would be the most likely easy way to enter the creek.
The track stopped at a rock outcrop and while there was no obvious path down it was an easy scramble into the creek. Surprisingly there was a footpad of sorts along the creek edge. OK this must get more visitors than I thought.
I was pretty sure I was looking at a small Wollemi Pine. But this isn’t where they were suppose to be. I fire off a few photos to compare images later on but I convince myself it was something else.
What going on? says they
I thought that was a Wollemi pine. say I
The plaque says it is a wollemi pine.
OK I missed that. It seems it was planted in 2008 as a memorial to two people who enjoyed the area. OK that explains that.
From here the faint track disappears and is replaced by not so faint scrub.
At some point the conversation turns to buggery and bestiality. WTF? the weird conversations you have in the bush. Those who recognise where we are may get the reference.
Anyhoo Chardi, who missed the memo that it was going to be a wet trip until Tim picked him up and asked if he had his wetsuit packed, is not impressed with the scrub so far. He makes comment on our 6 dope trip and threatens to wipe me off his list if things don’t improve dramatically
Luckily we round a bend and are greeted by a drop into a heavenly looking pool. Well it would be heavenly looking if it was 28° summer day instead of at 14° mid spring day…
How’s the water?
Bathy and only knee deep, or sumfink…
What follows is a delightful little Sheep Dip style of canyon with lots of slides
Chardi forgives me for the scrub on the way in.
And in-between were some surprisingly nice bits of canyon. Not mind=blowing wow but nice
And after another little drop we find a spot in the sun to warm up and have a bit of morning tea. There are signs that this spot is more visited. I point out there is a popular walk in the area and this bit could be visited from the bottom up before the waterfall stopped you.
We continue down a track of sorts but now I’m looking for a pass out to try to link up with the other possible canyon. I’m starting to think there wont be one when a steep gully appears that looks like it might go.
Tim and Gabby follow Madie up a steep bit of scrub out of the creek. Chardi and Marchelle follow me a few meters down stream where I think looks to be an easier ramp.
I scramble up a steep rock using a small sapling as a hold and reach out with my other hand to grab a reasonable size tree root.
That’s not a tree root. Tigersnake! Big one. Now I’m generally pretty good around snakes so I slowly stand and be as non-threatening as I can be. Old mate has flattened out but on a cool spring day I doubt he is going to waste energy on me if I don’t threaten him. I slowly reach for my camera. The bugger stands up and comes straight at me. I jump back off the rock.
Did I mention the rock was steep. so now it’s on top of the rock where I was just standing and I’m at the bottom of the rock which pretty much puts us eye to eye about a foot and a half away from each other.
It comes at me again. Shit!
Ok so snakey people know that Tigersnakes put on pretty good threat displays but unless you try and pick one up or step on it they’ll often do a bit of bluff where they launch a closed mouth headbutt to scare you off. This one had it’s mouth closed. I highly doubt it was looking to bite but when it’s coming at your face all that goes out the window. I launch myself backwards down the hill.
Chardi is wondering what the hell is going on, surely I didn’t fall of that bit of rock, did I break and handhold or…. Oh Snake.
I stumble in the loose rocks and fallen branches, I’ve put a good couple of meters between us but I look up and it’s still coming at me. I’m all tangled up on the ground and have nowhere to go. Shit Shit! Shit! I’m f#$ked.
It gets to within about a meter and veers off. Shit!
Marchelle cottons on to whats happening. The Snake coils around. Takes another good look at us, sees there is now 3 big things not just 1 and takes off into the undergrowth directly towards the other group.
Watch out! Angry Tigersnake coming across towards you.
They all take it nice and calmly and continue up the hill. I compose myself and do likewise.
Later, back at the cars Chardi brings up the snake encounter.
What? Where? Oh wow we thought you called out you couldn’t continue up where you were and were coming across toward us. Then we wondered why you didn’t
No wonder they were so calm about it.
But we get ahead of ourselves. For now we continue up and reach the top of the gully only to be blocked by a small overhang and the last little bit of the cliff. Using Chardi as a ladder a scramble up the overhang and the dirty, not quiet vertical scree and set a rope. I call,Rope below .
Don’t bother there is an easy pass up to the side.
Now they tell me.
Once through the cliffs it was an easy stroll through fairly open scrub down into the next gully along until we are stopped by a reasonable sized cliffline. We had plenty of ropes but as they say in the Bluies “The nose always goes! Sometimes.” Just up-stream on a bend I see a steep nose that looks like it would indeed go.
The scrub to get there was horrid but it gave us a way down. It was steep and slippery and at one stage Gabby slipped bounced into me and like a snooker ball I shot off down the next bit. Then again she slipped and landed on me…. Well she says she slipped but I’m taking it as a compliment or sumfink.
Anyhoo we reach the creek. The dry, dirty creek filled with razor grass and dead fern fonds and choss and disappointment.
We fight our way down stream. Chardi revokes his forgiveness and when we are sure this isn’t going to be a canyon suggested the creek be renamed Flynny’s Folly.
And then a trickle of water. Then a rocky bottom. And then, out of nowhere
I didn’t think the previous creek was as cold as I expected. This one seemed to make up for it.
At one point we drop into a pot hole to find the other side to be rimmed with a 2 meter high wall (Water must flow underneath but the passage was silted up with sand. I scramble up. The wall is about a foot wide and drops straight back down into a pool on the other side. I help Gabby up and then use her pack to lower her down until her feet touch the water and drop her.
I must admit I didn’t really pay attention to her landing. I help Tim up. Just slide down the wall and land soft it’s only about waist deep. says I.
Tim slides and disappears under the water. OK chin deep….
But just around the corner it opens up into a glorious amphitheatre and we warm ourselves in the sun thinking that’s it. But just just down stream
One more short swim through the darkest and prettiest bit of canyon so far on the trip
And then the gully opens out.
Near by was far more popular canyon and while we were in the area we thought why not
And then it’s up the hill and back to the car.
Party size: 6 all experienced
Timing: 6hrs car to car
Life is more enjoyable and less oppressive with some mountain air, a little adventure and just the right company
So I wouldn’t normally repeat this one so soon as there are other trips nearby I prefer but Tim was back and his trips are always awesome, plus I was keen to see if it was possible to descend the side slot we visited from the bottom last time, also Ed still hadn’t done Windows and was free, and, well, what the hell
Anyhoo, Ed arrives at my place and we head off to meet the others. With a couple of extras the group was going to be over the max group size recommended by NPs so we decided to break into 2 smaller groups.
I’d head off with the first group and Tim would follow with the second group 15min later. Well I say Tim but we all know Chardie is the real leader, or so he says or sumfink.
We planned to take my pass up for something different. It adds about 30min-1hr to the trip depending on how long to spend soaking in the ambience as the route takes in an impressive bit cliff line that is riddled with slots and niches.
We spend a bit of time enjoying this and the second group breifly catches back up as I’m leading my group out.
The plan is to meet up again at the top and stay reasonably close until we find the top of the side slot but first we need to get up my pass
Now we had a breif bit of scrub to get through then we should drop down right on top of the slot I wanted to look down and, sure enough I come to the top of a slot except I turned off the ridge slightly too early and living up to the reason I orginally dubbed this spot Kenobi point, this was not the slot I was looking for.
I should have used the GPS….
Anyhoo. It was a tad scrub-bashy but the slot lead us down into the valley easy enough and while it did threaten to canyon up at one point it was nothing on the other slot
The Slot we descended
The slot I wanted to descend
Click to enbiggen
And then we split up again. My group would push forward with the bulk of the ropes and set the first couple of abseils. Tim’s group (Chardie’s group) would follow collecting the ropes which would then be exchanged again at the lunch ledge.
Actually, I don’t mind this one either
I set the rope just to have it out of my pack and headed to the lunch ledge. Pointing the way to the ledge to those behind. Laurie missed the memo and as I was eating lunch I hear him call, On rope is any one on Belay?
NO, we’re up here.
I can here them down there but I cant see them. Is some one on belay?
We’re up here. No one is down there.
Best lunch ledge in the Wolgan
Click to largify
We finish lunch and have a bit of time to soak in the ambience before we hear the second group behind us so we meet them at the base of the abseil, exchange ropes and continue on
Looking up through the arch
Trying not to make it a but shot of Marchelle in the arch
click to size up
Once down we wait for the second group to catch up before all stringing out for the short walk back to the cars.
Another great day out with awesome people
Most of us are pretending to awesome while struggling to be normal. But what’s the point of normal? Normal never left it’s mark on anyone.
Windows is a nice winters canyonish abseil trip and I was keen to link it up with a slightly different way up the hill using the pass we mistakenly discovered on our scrub bash to nowhere, using the approach I later took with Yuri, as I thought it would add to the trip with out adding much time while also avoiding the need to go right to the top of the ridge before fighting our way done through the scrub.
Turns out it works well.
We meet up at the usual spot and head on down the valley. Up top a bitter wind made things nippy at best. Once in the valley we we’re out of the wind. Still jumpers and beanies were on as we crossed river via the log and made our way up the old rail line.
Soon though, beanies and jumpers were stowed in bags as we left the easy grade behind and headed steeply up beside Penrose gully.
Instead of continuing up the slot through the final cliff line like normal we skirt around below the upper cliff. This section cliff between here and my pass is riddled with slots, erosion caves and other interesting features.
Following the cliffs we pass many slots, most finishing too high to explore from the bottom but eventually we come to the micro canyon I call Kenobi.
Like a natural chimeny the wind whistles up here and jumpers were dug out of packs while we explored it’s confines.
After a short stop here we continue around the corner to my pass. A steep gully leads up and soon becomes blocked by chock stones but a hidden pass up an alcove in the walls lets us continue up. I slip up and drop a rope down for the others to use as a hand line. We are now on a ledge which will let us get on top of the chock stones.
What follows is a narrow squeeze
I slip back down to collect Pete’s bag and opt to climb around the squeeze
Once up we have a quick look at the Top of Kenobi but the harsh contrasting light made it hard to photograph so we slip up the other side to take in the views from a spot Yuri has dubbed Jedi Point
And then we are only a couple of hundred metres west of where we normally drop into the gully that leads to Windows canyon right next to the side slot.
And then it’s down the gully until it canyons up
It was here admist banter and laughter I pull the ropes and then realise there is a second part to the abseil….. We hitch a make shift anchor and go again.
We bask in the sun and have a bite to eat before we continue down to the windows
And then it’s down the hill and back to the car
Group size 3: all experienced
Time: 5hr 45 car to car.
If life gives you lemons you might be a lemon tree