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The Final Beginners Trip for the Canyoning Season

Party:-

  Rob T, Ray, Anita, Theo, Jim S, Dug

Five of us, with all our gear, fitted in the CRV much more comfortably than I expected and the trip down seemed no effort at all.  A stop at the “regulation” pizza place in Richmond was demanded, not leat by Starvin Marvin, who again let the side down, couldn’t even finish a large on his own (giving away some slices).  To the Mt Wilson campground by 10:15, Jim turned up while we were setting up tents (overcast and misty with damp grass – reason enough for me in tent).  A pleasant night, an overcast morning, with only muted bird song.  Not as many campers as last Saturday but many more than most other days this season.

Tentative plan A for today is to do Serendipity, a good easy canyon, as a gentle introduction to first timer Ray and make up our minds about the next one when were in the Wollangambe, and know how cold we are.  Whungee Wheengee has a strong vote from Rob and I after the fun last week, but I am well aware of how long we will be in the water.  We wander along the well-defined track system to the little gully that leads to Serendipity.  It is very pleasant wandering through the bush, cool and overcast, we pass a black tailed wallaby hopping through the scrub, enjoy the calls of the lyrebirds mimicking away in the gully.   Rob has a good memory for bush trivia and remembers that we turn off at a termite mound, he also discovers that there are lots of termite mounds on this ridge system! 

Everyone dons their harness while I set up the rope from the slings round the tree near the edge.   A coachwood tree 160 mm diameter stands on the 1.3 m ledge, well trodden between the rocky face of the cliff on one side and the drop on the other.  This is a cool green mossy place nice to be.  The slings are checked, first the knot – ok a tape knot, then the wear – ok no damage from the last rope pull down, finally general condition completed with a hearty tug (away from the edge).  Rope passed through the slings, coiled in “rabbits ears” and tossed down into the void after a loud call of rope below.  Everyone files past clips on does their check, shouts “abseiling” and on the reply “on belay” slides past the 7m of smooth dark sandstone to land on the rock and sand floor of the, mostly dry, river bed.  Even these well used creeks are good to be in with canyon rainforest lush vegetation, tall trees mostly straight up to the light but some bent and twisted as they grow seeking the most sunlight – sometimes hard to find down here in the deep gullies. 

We file down stream, sometimes dancing from rock to rock, sometimes traipsing gently over the dirt bank trying not to damage the plants that struggle so hard to live here, sometimes smooth rock of the river bed, sometimes giving up and wading through the knee deep pools, sometimes ducking under an overhang created by centrifugal forces of the water where the creek bends, lots of little climb downs through the boulders or where small sold rock water fall is the way to go, always changing, always different, always of the same family – a Blue Mountains Canyon Stream.  The next abseil is into a small chamber with waist deep water, then wade on with hands touching a wall each side, cool and subdues lighting in this narrow place.  Now the wades are deeper with some short swims, lots of rock and green moss not much soil and few plants down here. Another short abseil into shallow water then another into deep water, I jump to show the way - after every one has abseiled.  Soon were through to the Wollangambe at a very nice spot, with fantastic rock formations – unfortunately no sun today.  We stop to nibble and remove harnesses.  Then it’s upstream.  Just round the first bend I scramble up to leap into the deep clear pool starting the jumping sport but since it is cool this doesn’t last long as it usually does.

Decision time – upstream 250m and then into Whungee Wheengee or a shorter canyon with less water.  Generally the party is feeling cold so Dalpura is the choice with Rob voicing his disappointment as we scramble up the V through the first cliff line then wander about on the track to the ridge and then back to the camping ground for lunch.  By the time we drive to Dalpura it is bright sunshine.  This is a nice little canyon I described a short while ago.  Main things of note are the shoes and things that have been left drying in the sun with no sign of the owners and then the party in swimmers jogging the canyon to see how quick they can get through – why??  Of course the warm sun is of note too.

Back to Mt Wilson just after 5 the old tea and scones tearoom is still there and open but now it has been developed into an upmarket coffee house.  What the hell, we all enjoy the gentility of it all, big mugs of coffee or hot chocolate to wash down very decadently big slices of cakes or pies with cream.  I should explain that is the first time we have finished so early – why wast daylight when there are so many great things to see and do.

After such a good afternoon tea, dinner has to be good and so it was.  We have the campfire and the Uni of Technology party join us this time, until the drizzly rain drives us to bed one by one.  A reasonable enough night despite the mist and rain.  Morning dawned slowly misty and overcast no need to hurry today well only do something short.  Plan A is to do Better Offer but we decide it is not a good idea to do a new to us canyon if it is going to rain, particularly with inexperienced members in the party.  Plan B we’ll do Yillee as only Jim and I have done it and we feel the others will love it (and it’s a short day). 

While Jim and I are doing the car shuffle thing another party of 4 leave a Nissan on the fire-trail and get ahead of us.  I show Rob how to tie prussic loops with a double fisherman’s knot, he practices as we follow the fire-trail out the ridge.  Theo, Anita, Bob and Ray navigate – made easier because of the worn trail (but as has been said before “a track is the most dangerous thing in the bush”).  We drop into the creek and wander down stream, still not much water despite last nights rain.  Catch up with the others just at the start of the narrow part. They are putting on wet suits and harnesses.  We wait for them to finish and get on ahead, those of us, wet suits already on as we have walked in them because of the cool and drizzle, but we do done harnesses.

There is a very nice canyon section for the next few 100m – longer and nicer than I remember.  We catch up wit the party at each little climb down and it is obvious they have 2 or 3 beginners.  At the jump the water has been tested by that party jumping, we wait around for the others to get well ahead, so we don’t have to wait around too long when we are wet.  The water is somewhat cool for me in just thermals without a wetsuit.  Theo manages to lose his glasses and Anita can’t find them by diving.  This jump is “interesting” about 6m into a pool of clear water, only about 1.3m wide, aim true, jump out but not too far.  We continue on wading, short swims, squirmy climb-downs to the first abseil.  A wider place of high straight cliffs a few trees, the stream continues on down into a chasm below through an awkward looking bolder jamb. 

The other party has only just set up from the trees on the left for an abseil down a clean face.  We wait while the less experienced are coached in the finer points of what to do.  They offer use of there rope but it seems better if they get ahead and get going on the big abseil.  I go, first down the 16m to make sure the rope is ok and land in knee-deep water.  Anita coaches Ray, by now he is ok and confident.  Bob and Jim go ahead while we pull down the rope.  When we catch up, Bob is coming back from the abseil belay tree – he has just shown the other party how to tie their two ropes together with the learnt today fisherman’s knot! – scary stuff ~J.  ¾ hour later they are all down.  The rope gets caught during their pull down, first the knot jambs in a grove worn in a tree root, then the rope jambs a few time more. 

We all enjoy this big airy abseil with views of the Gross River, the tall coloured cliffs, the rolling forest, the deep valley.  45m down a nearly dry waterfall onto a wide ledge then a 10m abseil to the flat area formed by the plunge pool.  The ropes joined by a simple overhand knot is recovered easily.  Late lunch as we packed  up ready for the walk up Pearce’s pass, unfortunately still overcast and cool but the wind evident on top doesn’t reach here.  A call of rope followed by snaking white strands, heralds the arrival of another group at the top, but they don’t get down here before we leave.  The walk up Pearce’s pass is always pleasant and were soon back to Jims car, parked at the highway, for the car shuffle to pick up the CRV at the start point. 

Thanks all for a good weekend.  Well done every one, the novices who coped well and the seasoned travellers who helped to make every thing go smoothly.  © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd

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