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
Anyone available to do something on the 2nd? Asks Ed
Sure, says we.
You want to do a Flynny bash to look for a canyon of probably poor quality? says I
And so we find ourselves walking down a long disused fire trail that is barely distinguishable from the rest of the post-fire landscape.
Soon we leave even that vagueness of a trail and make our way due(ish) north down a ridge looking for a short slot. The only thing I’d heard about it was a. “it’s ok for an unpublished canyon on the Plateau” and ii. The last abseil was meant to be “a gooden” (TM)
When I say “unpublished” there is a grid reference in the guide but checking the satellite that GR looks well off what I am sure is the target, so we go with my gut feel and just wander down for a look, find the slot we are looing for and drop on in.
The start was pleasant. Straightaway dropping down a small waterfall. We contemplate setting the rope but after a good look I decide to slide. We had considered not taking wet suits…. Glad we did
Almost immediately we were greeted with another drop, one that would require abseiling
everyone safely down, rope and pull cord stowed and just around the corner the bottom dropped out of the creek dramatically.
We set a temporary anchor and throw down 27m or so of rope on a releasable and Ethan volunteers to go first. Its a tricky start and then an awesomely spectacular abseil. I bleed out rope and as Ethan reaches the bottom the end is just high enough off the ground for him to land and dismount comfortably.
Ed follows him down then Russ helps me set the fiddlestick and takes the pull cord.
There are some dry canyons around the edge of the Plateau that have long abseils but it’s rare to get a wet one this high in these parts.
And that was it. All over red rover.
Plenty of action for a shortish walk and 150m of canyon
OK, right should get us out. Says I, but left looks interesting.
We follow Ed and Ethan up to the left through the king ferns
All the (short) way up the gully teased us with the prospect of turning a corner into a canyonette that would ramp up through the cliffs
But in the end it cliffed out in a gloriously over hung ampitheatre
We head back down and up the other side. The gully looked like it would go easily but we opted to climb out early
We have lunch on the cliff tops above what becomes a major gully as it makes it’s way towards the Wolgan. Its barely 12.30.
Shall we do sumfink else? says I
After not much deliberation we opt for one of a pair the rest had not done before. I didn’t have my notes or map with me. But how hard could it be?
Last time I remember the scrub leading to the good bit was horrendous and the fires hadn’t seemed to touch this little bit of the forest so I drive a bit further down the road, check google maps, and aim for the most canyony looking bit.
and we arrive smack bang on the most canyony bit
Only as soon as I see it I remember the most canyony bit was the very end and we’ve missed a few jumps and slides and fun bits.
And then it’s back up the hill to the car before it pisses down.
Kylie, Kristo, Hywaida, Jason, Jen, Ethan and Meeeee
When Gadget asked me if I had any plans for the 17th I was like you know I don’t plan that far ahead.
Well would you be interested in doing the Kanangra Main trip that we changed plans for earlier? Says she
Does the Pope shit in the woods? Wait, that’s not the saying. Does a bear poop catholics? Still not it….
Anyhoo, I rocked out to Kanangra Boyd on the Friday night to met up with Kylie and we set up camp in the fading light.
We were soon joined by Jen for diner and banter around the camp fire
Jason rocked in a little later and as the temperature dropped we retired for the night with nervous excitement for what the next day would bring.
The day brought an early start.
A quick breaky around the camp fire and then off to meet Ethan, Hywaida and Kris at the carpark.
Are we doing the wall or the slot?
The Slot. Let’s plan on that and we can reassess if we have to once we see the water levels
Getting to the start of the slot involves traversing across a loose narrow ledge. Jason was leading the way.
hey, did you see that? Calls I
Of course now the rest of us need to get past. I’m pretty comfortable around snakes and I’m hoping no one else freaks out. I point out the unexpected hazard and step over.
Kylie steps up but the rock she steps on moves. The tail quickly disappears.
OK be careful and don’t step on those 2 rocks….
To my relief everyone comes across without hesitation and snakey stays safe in his hole.
The slot has a bit of a reputation for projectiles. The top of P1 and the stance in between P1 and P2 are littered with loose rocks, anything from pebble size to large slabs. If you are heading in you need to make sure your group is extremely careful. It’s Kylies trip and I didn’t want to take over but I did stress no one was to move above P2 while people were on rope and we didn’t have an issue.
And then we are back onto the Main route
The rest of the photos are in no particular order as there are so many waterfalls and I enjoy the experience so much that looking back I struggle to remember what order they came in.
Photo credits to the various people mentioned above
It’s getting late by the time we reach our exit. When doing awesome stuff with awesome people time has no meaning for me and for various reasons the descent had taken longer than expected.
With the days getting shorter it was going to be touch and go for us to get up the scrambles before dark.
I’ve done the exit up the ridge several times now but each time I seem to go a slightly different way and experience a different number of scrambles with varying degrees of dodginess.
There’s a bit of a track starting to form now but that’s not to say it takes the best path and a coupe of branches definitely takes you on more difficult routes. This time up we miss all the trickiest scrambles except 1. It was shitscary but we all got up it with just a little swearing and encouragement and we reach the tourist track just as the light is fading.
All in all another excellent day out with truly amazing people
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