Mark, Ed, Ethan, Rob, Russ, Mick, David and meeeeeeee
I’d first visited the Minotaurs lair (AKA Bell Minor canyon) with Ed in 2016. It was a hot dry winters day and too be honest I didn’t think much off it.
But on the way out we spotted a tight slot that’s looked like it may be interesting. Being short on rope and time we didn’t descend it that day so I guess it was time to go back for another look.
Also Geoff Fox had told me about a slot up above the lair that he said was worth visiting so after a cold wet week we set off for a bit of an explore.
Then we head around the corner and into the gully. We cross over and avoid the worst of the scrub by traversing the base of the cliff.
And then we scramble out to look for the slot Yuri ad Geoff labelled Ariadne slot. Just when we thought we’d have to be too high another set of clifflines rise above us and we follow them around.
Its a pretty slot and would make a great abseil in from the top but no Athenian princesses were found so we make our way back down to the junction with Minotaur’s lair and fight our way through tree fall up the other side.
It was about now we hear the dreaded whoosh, crack, kaboom.
With the exception of possibly soiled pants every one was fine. Russ had looked up in time to see a baby head size rock tumbling in slow motion down the canyon. It hit the wall then exploded on the ground where he had been standing moments before….
One more little abseil and we reach the junction with the main gully
Some dense scrub
Some complex boulder hopping….Sliding
And then an easy walk down the nose to the road.
All up a good day in the bush with great people. It was a fairly long complex walk with plenty of scrub and elevation for 3 fairly short slots but I love this shit and heading out with others likewise inclined sooth the soul and clears the mind.
Party Size: 8
Time: 6hr 15min car to car with a bit of a car shuffle
The hardest thing is to find a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat:- Confucius
Little Miss Sunshine, The Russian Gangster, The Dare Devil, Badass Barbie, Archie, White Water Wizard and Meeeeeee (the eeejiot)
When Kylie said her crew were keen on a trip to this area and invited me along I jumped at the chance and then pretty much rearranged the trip… But they were cool with it.
There has been a lot of good discussion on the Blue Mountains Canyoning group about rigging releasable contingency anchors and with Mark’s guidance we took the opportunity to practice setting up with a figure 8 block. A method I’ve not used before but one I’ll make use of in the future.
I’ve always like the idea of releasable anchors and have used munter-mule knots in the past but found them too much of a pain in the arse to bother with on most recreational trips, however there are a bunch of devices out now that take the hassle out of the equation. And for those not into buying more gear (weirdos) most people would have a spare figure 8 in the gear bag somewhere. I was surprised at how simple and quick the figure 8 block was to rig.
But I get ahead of myself.
It’s -4 when Little Miss Sunshine arrives at my place, minus the sunshine, and we head off to meet Mark and the others. I know the others only from online interactions so it’s cool to finally meet them in person.
After a gentle stroll up the hill, wait. No, that’s not right. After slogging up the hill we dump bags and set off for a side trip to our first canyon of the day, slipping up the usual pass and short cutting through the scrub to the top of the slot
An hour or so later we are back at the bags and make our way around to visit the next slot/micro canyon
And then it is up my pass and onto the tops for some views followed by more scrub
1 abseil to go and as I was pulling rope across for Mark to feed it through the anchor there was an almighty rumble, the world shook and a car sized boulder broke off the cliff above and went sailing past about 10m to the right of us….. It was impressive to witness but scary AF when it happened
And then its a combination of walking, stumbling and dirt skiing back down to the cars
Another great day in the bush with great people visiting 3 short but very different canyons
Party Size: 7
Time: 7hr 15 car to car
There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom. Ever!: Viggo Mortensen
The Clegganator, The Wonder Woman and the Flynnstien aka Meeeeeee
Unpublished canyons are like a box of chocolates.
I know at the end I’ll be left with half a dozen little cheery ripes that I wont eat…. Wait. No, that’s not right. Unpublished canyons aren’t like a box of chocolates at all….
This is one I’ve had in mind to check out for a couple of years now but I wasn’t expecting it to be high quality and with other stuff to visit I never got around to having a look.
Then Phil said he wanted to check it out so I thought why not. I still had low expectations but as they say in the classics you never know if you never go.
Rounding out our nice little party was Jen, who I hadn’t caught up with for a while so was good to be on a trip together again
A little frost made for a chilly morning but it wasn’t long before we were stripping off layers and stuffing jackets into packs.
There were two branches to the possible canyon and we wanted to check out both. The first branch didn’t show much hope and when we came to a abseil point we decided to slip over the ridge to check the other branch first.
So we get to the junction of the other branch hoping to reverse up it only to be blocked by a dry waterfall. A bit of traversing and we begin to scramble up the nose in between the two branches. Phil decided the scramble is not for him.
We get up above the fall only to find another immediately above it. I continue up the nose in what is the closest to proper rock climb I’ve done in a few years and manage to get above the next fall.
There isn’t much of a slot above this so I rig the rope and abseil back down to Jen and then we both abseil down to rejoin Phil
When looking at the satellite image my suspicion was the best bit of canyon would be below the junction and while the stuff in the north branch was tip top below the junction was a nice, if short slot.
Ummm I think we are going to get wet, say I looking down into a deepish looking pool far to wide to play water is lava over.
I stuff my shirt into my overboardau dry bag and drop on in while the others put wetsuits on.
The first drop lands in a pool waist deep. With some guidance Jen manages to stop on a ledge and carefully stem around to the shallower bit. Phil is not so lucky and plunges in
There’s another 2 stage drop straight away with the stages separated by a 5m diameter pool. In I go…
Then it was down to find a bit of sunshine and some lunch.
There’s a little grotto like canyon up here I want to show the others. It’s short but pretty in it’s own right and while it’s not very adventurous what makes it worth a visit is the old timber chute that once ramped it’s way up through it’s narrow confines
So the theory is it was built to slide logs down to the valley for pit props or fuel for coke ovens or for building poppett heads and bridges and stuff. Problem is there is no evidence up above it of any cut timber. Not a single sawn stump can be seen. It’s a mystery
Seek experiences not things. Live large and light up the darkness with a laugh
Party size: 3
Time: 7.5hr car to car relaxed pace with a bit of back and forth exploration
Madie, Ethan, Dave@, Kylie, Shauna, Roy, Mark, Dick, Luke, Joel and meeeeeee
I’ve said it before I’ll say it again Rocky creek is my favouritest canyon ever. I’ve been through it many times and hearing the the little waterfall on entry never fails to give me goose bumps and remind me of the first time Scott dragged us through there to spark my canyon addiction.
The light is always magical, even at night
Anyhoo with people coming from all directions several meeting places were teed up, things got confused, no one had reception but eventually we all met up at the Rocky Creek car park. Late but keen.
A quick meet and greet and then down the hill and into Twister.
We head on into Twister right on dusk and the light quickly fades and the glowworms begin to appear.
The glowworms are out and the crew spend some time just checking them out, but we are still on the walking track and I try to explain they are only going to get better.
Most canyons around these parts have glowworms, especially at night but Rocky is next level
There are 7(possibly 8) species of glowworm found throughout the world. 5 of those are found only in Australia and New Zealand and are the larvae of a fungus gnat, most live of fungus and their glow is redundant . The ones endemic to NSW are Arachnocampa richardsae and they are still predatory. Their light attracts small insects that get trapped in silk snares they trail down off the roof which they then consume.
For the most part if they are hungry they glow brighter and just after a feed they dim.
They are sensitive to noise and light and will turn off to hide
The pupae also glows but the males dim and stop glowing altogether just before they emerge as adults, while the female’s glow gets more intense to ensure they have a choice of males waiting as she emerges.
The adult flies can’t do much but reproduce, they can’t eat, they can barely fly but they do flash little lights to attract their mate.
Anyhoo, Glowworms are freakin cool ok.
But on we go
Back at the cars we revel in the night but some have long drives home and some have an early morning for their next adventure.
Party Size: 11
Time: 3hrs 40
Surround yourself with exceptional people, experience exceptional things
Disclaimer: While canyoning at night poses pretty much the same risks as doing it in the daylight the consequences of things going wrong is much greater. Without the beams of sunlight to warm you between darker swim sections Hypothermia is a heightened danger. Limited peripheral vision may mask hazards that would otherwise be easily identified.
Navigation can also be much harder. You should be very familiar the canyon and it’s entry/exit tracks before attempting it.t.
It’s also worth noting the creatures out and about at this time of day are creatures of darkness. They don’t want thousands of lumins shone on them and massive groups disturbing their peace. We kept our beams set on low and trod as lightly as possible. As you always should in these pristine environments.
*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
We’d just finished an epic day canyoning at Glen Davis. It had been a big day in scorching heat, we were driving home exhausted.
Oh course we started planning our next trip.
I wouldn’t mind doing Twilight some time this season says I.
Wanna do it next weekend replied Madie
Wheels were set in motion…
Anyhoo a ragtag group of adventurous folk meet up in the camp ground, the plan is to ride our bikes down the Wolgan river maintenance trail then stash the bikes and find a way up the hill. A bit of asking around had us confident our pass was viable and the bikes, in theory would make the haul down and back up the river faster, if not easier.
The ride down was fairly non-eventful and we were soon stashing bikes. The heat had already kicked in and Mark took a slight detour to lay in the river to cool off.
We follow a steep ridge littered with loose scree to the base of the mighty Wolgan cliffline. Breaching the cliff was surprisingly easy. Our original plan had been to scramble out onto the tops, across a ridge to descend into the top of the canyon. With the sun blazing overhead we opted to stay in a shady gully and found this gave us a relatively easy way onto the halfway ledge that runs above the canyon all the way up to the start.
And then the canyon opens up. A short bit of boulder hopping and we scramble out onto the ridge for an easy walk back to the bikes and hence back to the cars
Party size: 7: 6 experienced 1 semi experienced
Time: I did 7hrs car to car relaxed pace with a bit of laying in the river prior to the ride out but Steve busted a deraileur so Gibbo had to do some bush mechanics to convert it to single speed and I rode back down to assist with carting packs once they had it going so the group did 8hrs total
Live your life governed by a compass, not a clock:- -Stephen Covey
*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
The forecast was for rain, lots of it topped by severe storms…
Gaz had been keen to do Starlight canyon and I suggested the MTB/canyon combo rather than the full loop. If the tunnel was dry we’d get all the way up to the waterfall. And if it was not abseiling in from the top is not the best idea anyway.
Anyhoo. Dawn came sunny and warm and we crossed the Wolgan and pedalled our way down the management trail.
Even with a detour through the ruins the bikes turned an hour long walk into a 20min ride.
Almost immediately we ran into this little beauty
Morelia Spilota Spilota
This use to be our go to winter trip before realising the impact to the Bats. The tunnel is an important hibernation cave for bent wing bats so the canyon is now officially off limits over the winter months.
I’ve done this one quite a few times and while I’ve heard tales of people be caught out by high water levels personally I’ve never had water over ankle deep before
Just before the little climb up/down in the tunnel the water became too deep/cold for us to continue today so we turned back early
These guys did a few laps, some of the were so low it seemed we we looking down on them.
And then as it was only early and the predicted storm was still a few hours away we followed the cliff line around for a look up Devils Pinch
The better way to do this combo would be to abseil down Devils Pinch and then reverse up Starlight.
Once again more water in here than usual and after a coupe of cold wades and tight canyon sections we were startled by a gawdaweful rachet and something dashing past us into the next pool.
A young lyrebird… Not sure if it fell in or was nested here and got trapped by the rising waters after a wet couple of weeks but it was was panicked and trying to swim and not doing very well.
Producing a small hand towel Mckenzie and Jodie caught it as genitally as they could and carried it back out past the deeper pools to release it at the lower end of the canyon.
For a bird renown for mimicking the best sounds they sure produce horrible pitches when they are scared.
Party size: 4 (3 experienced I beginner)
Time: 6.5hrs relaxed pace bit of photophaffing
“There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan
With the worst of the scrub still recovering the effects of last years hazard reduction burn this is a pleasant trip at the moment.
I pull into the meeting spot and note someone is missing. Ev broke down on the highway, Marchelle informs us. She wont be coming.
But we load ropes and packs into my ute and off we go, weaving our way down into the mighty Wolgan valley in between green pastures, towering cliff lines and Kamikaze kangaroos.
We park at the start of the Ruins walk for Newnes shale works and make our way down river to everyones favorite little pass, The pipeline track
Well that’s a good way to warm up. We gain the top and make a quick side trip to the lookout.
After a brief stop we continued up the Pipeline trail spearing off just before it heads down green gully towards Glen Davis.
The trail out along the ridge between the Wolgan and the Capertee is reasonably clear indicating the canyons up this way are getting more visitation than they use to. The views out over the Capertee towards Tayan Pic are superb but soon we veer off trail and make our own way along a side ridge.
In the trackless terrain it is easy to veer off on the wrong ridge and end up in the much wetter Devils Pinch canyon but with the scrub mostly clear after the Haz burn following the right ridge is much more obvious.
Before long we begin descending into the gully that will soon drop into th etop of the canyon. We scramble around the first abseil described in the Jamison guide and find a big tree with an bright yellow tape anchor right at the start of the main constriction.
There has been much talk about using Single Rope Techniques (SRTs) on the ozcanyons group over the last few years and they seems to be gaining more momentuem, especially in the newer generation of canyoners. It’s the norm in most other countries. Thou other countries also tend to have either much higher water flows or much less prevelent anchor options.
Though I trained in their use and used SRT way back in my brief stint as a guide and it made sence to me in thate situation for private groups I’ve always preferred the throw and go, loop the rope through the anchor and every one abseil on double ropes.
When heading out with Tim’s group I’m happy to fit in with their SRT method of isolating the stands with a butterfly knot and people abseiling on alternate stands.
Last weekend I attended a training day with the Upper Blue Mountains Club where we practiced setting SRT with a releasable anchor. IE isolating the abseil strand with the Munter/mule.
The advantage of this is if someone gets stuck on rope for whatever reason you can undo the mule under load and use the munter hitch as a belay to lower them to the ground.
Now in mumblecoughmumble years of canyoning I’ve never come across a situation where I needed to do that but it got me thinking (must be getting old or the weekday job of Safety Cordinator is rubbing off on my weekend self) What if that 1 in 100000 case came along. Sure there are other methods to preform a rescue but are they as safe and as quick and if they didn’t work would I be kicking myself for not using the “Rigging for Rescue” technique?
Anyhoo Anna is pretty keen to put this technique to use in every canyon trip she leads and I thought it might be a good idea to run this trip that way for practice (Ev had done the training day too, so it’s a shame she missed it.)
So I rig the first drop. I really had to think about it as it was a long abseil requiring 2 ropes working out where to put the munter so the knott would not impede it took more thought than it should have, It’s pretty bloody obvious but I guess thats why you practice these thing is relativel benign situations so these it become second nature.
All sorted I head down first.
Hey Chardie, Calls up I from a ledge halfway down. This isn’t where we normally drop in.
It’s a very nice abseil down over 2 big ledges and around a corner.
If it wasn’t for the very dry conditions this would land in a pool that looks like it might get over waist deep, probably the reason we don’t normally drop in there but today was dry enough to get around.
Was a bit worried about the pull down around the corner and over the ledges but a test pull indicated it should come fine and Anna stopped on the last ledge to pull the knot down to her so it owuld be less likely to catch.
A short down climb and we round a slight corner to see the cliff face we usually come down directly above the next short drop.
This one is shortish, maybe 10m but its a tad narrow, and I’m not. Big shoulders and stomache bones or sumfink
This results in some gentle exfoliation as I squeeze on down.
From here there is short tunnel like bit and some careful bridging
The canyon opens out for a bit with some short abseils and tricky down climbs. We are blown away at how dry it is. Little holes that usually involve contorionistic moves to stay dry are now little more than damp sand and sometimes not even that.
Then there is 3 long abseils in a row. All of them can be done as shorter ones using intrim anchors on ledges and chock stones but they are nice to do as long ones and the rope pull seems fine on all of them.
The first of these involves a tricky start then some delicate moves to stay above some chock stones (going under would make the pull down difficult) then round the corner and down down down.
The next one use to be rigged off the log but pull down was very dificult. An eye bolt has been installed backed up by 2 very old climbing nuts whose wires seem very rusted… IF you are going to use that anchor I’d take nuts to replace the ones there.
The final abseil is awesome but lands in nut deep water. We opt to have lunch in the chamber at the top figuring it would be better to eat up here while we are dry than to get wet and then stop to eat down there in the wind.
It was a nice spot for a bit to eat.
3/4 of the way down the last abseil I run into the spot of bother and think maybe I’ll need Anna to put the lowering me down method into practice. There is a knot in the rope below me. Usually no big deal. Just stop pull the rope up and undo it (tip for young players. Stop early and pull the knot up to you. The closer you get to the knot the harder it can be to get slack and if you abseil down onto the knot you’ve got buckleys of getting it undone)
Usually when the rope knots itself it just a few loops caught on themselves and a bit of a shake get is clear. This had somehow done a proper job on itself and I had trouble getting it undone while hanging in space. I was nearly ready to call out for Anna to pull the mule and lower me when I got it sorted and continued down.
Now what if I hadn’t been able to undo the knot or hadn’t been on a lowerable system?
I hadn’t yet locked off properly and was trying to undo the knot left handed so I could lock off to get both hands free as my first option. Second option would be to prusik back up to the ledge or top and sort it out there so I’m confindent I could get myself out of that situation. But what if it happened to someone less experienced or without those skill sets? (Other than the obvious everyone on a private group should get themselves those skills sets. Good point but we were all beginners once.)
Those at the top could deploy the spare rope, someone could even abseil down to me to help out. That all takes time and hang syndrome becomes a factor. Abseiling down to help out puts the rescuer at risk too. So much to consider.
Anyhoo I clear the knot and continue down
I land in the pool. It’s cold. My outie becomes and innie and I make my way to the side to belay the others
With a bit of team work the first person down can pull the others across to the dry bosun chair style. if all works well. Chardie had rigged a bit too much friction and struggled to pull him self across and ended up in the drink. Anna and Marchelle managed to stay dry.
From here we follow the base of the cliffs around and back down to the car.
All up another great day in the bush with great company.
Party size: 4 all experienced
Time: 6hrs 50min car to car.
I wish I was a glowworm. Glowworms are never glum. How could you possibly be sad when the sun shines out your bum : Anon
How much did the rigging for rescue slow us down? Last year with a slightly bigger group the trip took us 6hrs 23min car to car. Today practicing what’s still fairly new to us took us 6hrs 49min. Though there is probably a bunch of other factors in there as well
So what are my thoughts? I’m still undecided.
Anna was keen to only lock off one side of the rope and keep the other stand at the top to avoid confusion.
I prefer to do a munter/mule in both strands to allow people to rig up alternate strands and quicken things up. If you then need to lower then the person on the spare strand gets off and it’s quick to undo that one altogether and lower the other. Which is fine until you have 2 ropes joined with a knot at the top and then it’s not posible.
So here what I see as the pros and cons. Feel free to comment if you have other ideas.
Simple to set up and fairly quick to tie once you practice a bit
Ability to quickly and safely lower a stuck abseiler down to the ground.
Ability set the end of the abseil strand just on ground/water level to make getting off the rope at the bottom quick and easy
Cons of releasable SRT using Munter/mule
It does take longer to tie and untie (not to mention it’s a ugly looking knot)
Rope wear and tear. A single strand taking full weight obviously is under more strain than if you were abseiling on double strand.
Chardie pointed out abseiling on double rope with an isolating knot at the top gives you some back up if you cut one strand on a sharp edge. Not an advantage if you use throw and go with out isolating.
Only possible to use one strand if the abseil involves joining ropes.
Can be tricky if the anchor is close to/below the edge but not too much more than normal.
So I’m still tossing this one up. the ability to quickly and safely lower a stuck abseiler down to the ground is a big consideration though if you have a competent person at the top with a spare rope is it that much quicker and safer?
If the stuck person is unconcious I’d say yes.
What is the liklihood of that happening though? And does that likelihood justify the slightly longer more complicated set up of each and every abseil?
Also when lowering do you increase the risk of having the rope fail while rubbing over unprotected edges fully wieghted?
I don’t know.
Is it appropriate for all situations? Maybe not.
I’m leaning towards it being a valuable tool that is appropriate for certain applications but should be backed up by various other skills and knoweldge.
Being able to set the end of the rope just to water height is a big advantage in highwater but we don’t tend to have that in Australia.
*Slight detour* in March I am again taking part in the West Cycles Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Whether preforming bush rescue, emergency patient transfers, and all the rest no one has ever had to pay to use the helicopter due to public donations. If, like me, you believe this is an invaluable service or if you just enjoy reading my blog think about pitching in with a donation. Large or small every bit counts. follow this link for details 2018 West Cycles