Gloucester River Falls

  Party: -

 Ken H, Rob T, Steve R, Dug F.

Overcast with spits of rain on the way up.  Quite cool, drizzly and misty on the Gloucester Tops.  The road to the falls is barricaded off where it turns of the main trail so we take advantage of the nearby picnic shelter sheds to change into wet suits mostly in the dry (it is also a bit gusty).  The NP contractors arrive while were doing this and take down the barricades.  Its clear from there head shakes and look what they think of us.  They’ve just knocked off because of the rain! 

We can now drive to the track head, walk to the river, scrambled over the fence and headed out the narrow rocky ridge, in the mist.   Mostly we can’t even see the river not all that far below.  As has been said often before, “the views should not be mist and they were damn it”. One saving is that this ridge is a bit scrambely here and there and we cannot see into the, would be, scary depths below or the scary rocky climby bits ahead.  We wander in the mist between the scrub and rocks until; eventually we reach the river, (having passed a spot where we discussed “is this the first abseil”? we could see rope burns on a tree, but it was very scrubby below it down the cliff face).  From beside the river, the cliff looks too inviting to go by, so we scramble back up and find a sling on another tree, an obvious start point, with a clear track straight down.

This abseil is one of the imposing kinds, sort of very tall, quite narrow for its depth.  A waterfall about 20 m upstream behind two rather big chock stones seeming to hang in space.  We walk down the long cliff on the rope, admiring the falls and other views, to land in a long deep pool, flowing gently to a rock jamb.  The rope is stuck so Ken and Rob dash up to free it.  Of course they have to come down the rope again!  At least it’s not misty down here now but it is cool.  This river would have to be called one of the wild kind.  Very rugged, lots of boulder jambs and waterfalls to negotiate.  The brown slime on many of the rocks is very slippery which makes for relatively slow going.  The cool temperatures seen to discourage everyone from the usual, slippery dip slides, jumps and swims.  Many of the pools up here are too shallow to invite jumping any way (it is not always easy to judge the depth of water with black rock underwater on an overcast day).

The vee shaped valley is very deep and drops away sharply.  The walls are covered by vegetation, sometimes typical rain forest with vines, in other places in Antarctic Beech forest.  We need to do a couple of 25 m abseils as we go.  From here we look ahead to see where the river seems to have fallen down between vertical rock walls and the sky has moved in to fill the void, a very airy appearance.  Good place for lunch with the sun sort of nearly getting through, briefly.  When the cold snap hits we are eventually driven to pack up and move on.  Still rout finding between the rocks, and pools and cascades and waterfalls.  Still that reluctance to commit to the water, as we should normally on such a trip. 

Here we have to commit to water, a very narrow twisty chute with gushing frothy water dropping over the end into a pool.  No one wishes to commit to this today.  The water strength could jamb one into the narrow bit; in addition there is no surety that we could stop before the drop (how deep is the pool at the end).  Rob nearly slips trying to scramble down.  I cannot find an obvious abseil belay.  From here the next exit point will be more than an hour away.  We vote for an early mark as we think we can scramble up out of here – sort of.  We will come back here hopefully in warmer sunny weather and with better water depth.  Were back to the car by4:30 still cold drizzly weather but we’re hot after the hight gain out.  Thanks Steve, Ken, Rob for an enjoyable day.  © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd.