Hartley’s Mistake & Bigfoot – 10 & 11 December 2016
Three times I had unsuccessfully tried to do the Hartley’s Mistake and Bigfoot combo (you have to camp in Deanes Creek to do both canyons) and finally I was going to get to cross it off my Wish List. As it turned out, it might have been better if I’d missed out on doing it, Sunday’s Bigfoot trip turned into a 15 hour epic.
If Jeff B, Trish N and Steve R hadn’t joined Rod and me, then the trip wouldn’t have gone ahead, and possibly they’re now reassessing what canyons that they’ll go on! Thankfully Rod was the leader, so the epic trip couldn’t be blamed on me (somehow I’ve gotten the reputation for trips not going according to plan)! Hartley’s Mistake is just a grid reference in the Canyon Guide, so we weren’t sure what to expect, Bigfoot is a Grade 3 canyon and has a small entry describing it.
The weekend started out well, we were all set to go at 9am and parked along Wolgan Road opposite Zobels Gully and there was a convenient log to cross the Wolgan River on right where we’d parked the cars. Note the red socks on Jeff and Rod, this MSS trip was graded “red socks” (possibly hard)
We used Zobels Gully North to access the plateau, it’s very easy walking and there’s a bit of a footpad most of the way once you get into the Gully, you pass under a couple of nice overhangs and walk through Coachwood forest.
We found a slot that I hadn’t used before to get up above the cliff-line, and there were lots of pagodas but eventually we found ourselves on the top.
Once on top there was a little map consultation and then the decision was made on what direction to take (l-r Jeff, Steve & Rod)
We had picked a spur to go down and planned to go down on the left hand side of it, but somehow we ended going down on the right hand side which meant we were accessing the creek via a side creek a few hundred metres upstream, it was easy walking though.
Until we came to a slot between two pagodas with a drop down the bottom. Rod down-climbed it but it was really too slippery to be done safely so we set up a rope and abseiled it. This was our first “unofficial” abseil
Another “unofficial” abseil to get us down another cliff-line, this abseil was off a log with a “tricky start”.
Rod getting onto the abseil, you had to hug the tree to get around to the start, and there was nothing to put your feet on.
Once in the creek, it was just a matter of walking through ferns to the canyon section.
The creek started to close in more with some boulder sections
And some wades, this one was ok if you chose the right path, I didn’t and ended up to my armpits in water.
The first “official” abseil
Steve at the base of the abseil, didn’t take much effort to stay out of the water
The canyon has now closed in with lovely ferny sections
The top of the second “official” abseil – this one was brilliant, going through a waterfall
Rod at the base of the 2nd abseil, very deep and cold water
Looking back at the swim section after the 2nd abseil, this abseil is followed by a long constricted section
Just after the 2nd abseil we came across a young koala, very wet and very cold. We decided that we couldn’t leave it there, it had obviously fallen in and made its way upstream, when we approached it, it backed down the log behind it and into the water and swam (they don’t swim that well), downstream.
We debated what we should do, couldn’t leave it in the canyon, it had no way of getting out, so we opted to wrap it in a rain jacket and Steve carried it out, his body warmed it up too so it wasn’t that cold. It was a good thing there were no more abseils as I don’t know what we would have done if there were, don’t think it would have liked being in someone’s pack!
After the 2nd abseil, there is quite a long flattish section it’s quite constricted in parts, with lots of boulder block ups, Steve did amazingly well to maintain his balance with the koala in his arms.
More boulder sections
We were all happy to get to the end of Hartley’s Mistake and directly across from the exit was our campsite, Steve and Trish walked up to the cliff-line where there were some likely looking eucalypts for the koala and they set it free, after a bit of hesitation it scampered up the tree. We were tempted to go up and see if it was still there next morning but didn’t want to run the risk of going up there and finding it dead on the ground, its canyon adventure would have been an extremely traumatic day for it.
Our campsite for the night, how nice is this?
And this is what it looked like after Jeff and Rod had strung up the 50m rope and we’d hung our wet clothes on the line to dry. They got really carried away with the clothes-line but we had a lot of wet stuff. Loos like we’re a pretty messy bunch. We had popcorn for happy hour then mint chocolate after (thanks Trish). (Photo: Trish N)
8am on Sunday morning, as we left the campsite, none of us were keen to get our feet wet at the start of the walk upstream
A short break to consult the map, Deanes Creek is a really pretty creek but unfortunately the amount of dead wood in it, makes it extremely slow going, we were travelling at less than a k an hour.
Then there are boulder jams in the creek, you either have to negotiate through them (time consuming), or head into the scrub, if you were lucky there’d be a section of Coachwoods where the vegetation was more friendly.
After dropping our packs at the nominated point where we “should” be able to access a route through the cliff-line, we headed up. I had been stressing over the climb that I expected (courtesy of a photo from John L’E), as it turned out we didn’t ever find that route, but found our own. Here is Rod climbing up to set up a handline for Trish and me.
Trish at the top of the first climb, the green grass that you had to cross was treacherous, very slippery and you’d fall to almost certain death.
You can see Jeff coming up through the slot, there were a few foot holds but no hand holds, hence the hand-line
Steve on the second small climb, doesn’t look bad but there were no hand holds
Finally at 1pm we were at the top and through the cliffs, and just a k away from the creek that we were aiming for. I think at this point we debated whether or not to go on, but we figured that we were almost there, and most of us would probably never come back, so we decided to press on.
It took us almost an hour to walk over to our creek, and then another hour to scout around for a way down into the creek. As we thought that there was only 1 x 8m abseil in Bigfoot, we’d not brought any long ropes with us, and so when we decided to abseil down – not being able to find any convenient route, we had to pick a spot that our ropes would reach the bottom. This was a 20m abseil and the 40m rope didn’t quite touch the ground but with a bit of stretch when you were abseiling it was fine.
By now it’s 3pm and we’re in the creek proper. It’s a really pretty creek.
It probably should be called Dead Log (if that name wasn’t already taken), as there were lots of logs providing a route down.
Sometimes Rod was our crash test dummy, being the biggest of us, we sent him across a log to see if it would hold his weight!
Finally we’re at our first “official” abseil, note the rotted log where the anchor is! The abseil had a bit of a tricky start, in fact almost all the abseils this weekend were tricky starts.
Trish on the first abseil, it was just easier to straddle the log to go down, although I think the guys wouldn’t agree.
Well, this is a surprise, another abseil. Trish on another tricky start. I actually got my foot caught in the crack of this abseil, wedged right in and was difficult for me to get it out (bloody Volleys).
What do you know a 3rd abseil! You could possibly down-climb it but it wouldn’t be pretty
Trish at the bottom of the 3rd abseil, you could stand on a ledge to the right and almost get through the pool without getting wet.
The fourth abseil. We had all come into Bigfoot with the thoughts after the mammoth effort to get to the canyon, “this had better be a good canyon” and it was.
Jeff at the base of the fourth abseil or maybe it was the fifth, by this time I’d lost track
There was then quite a long flat section of the creek, again, very pretty.
Trish and Steve on another log walk
And another abseil, you had to be very careful on this one as there was a hole at the bottom which would be difficult to get out of (for Trish and me), so you had to straddle across it and get on a rock to get down. Sounds harder than it was!
After the last abseil we walked downstream, and finally got to Deanes Creek again, arriving there at around 5pm and it took us an hour to go back upstream to where our packs were, we had a bit of a break to repack and then set off upstream. The light was fading and I was just concentrating on getting back as far as possible with the remaining light so didn’t take any more photos. We’d estimated that it would take us 2 hours to get to the bottom of Constance Gorge and we were probably on target for that, I think we got there around 7pm. We then headed up Constance Gorge in the fading light, it took us 1.5 hours to get to the saddle, it was really easy walking in the Gorge because it’s mostly Coachwoods and nothing much grows under the canopy.
By the time we got to the saddle, the moon had come up and it was dark. We got our head torches out and started down into Zobels Gully South. Jeff did the route finding, it was easier to keep to the creek, that way we wouldn’t run into cliff-lines, but the creek was treacherous, lots of ferns, when your headlight lit them up you couldn’t see where to put your feet and there was always the danger of a drop off. By 10pm we decided to get out of the creek and give the bank a go, and we seemed to come upon a footpad of sorts, that lasted for half an hour and the going was really easy. After that though, we had to route find again although we managed to keep out of the scrub. At 11pm we hit the tourist track, the cars were just across the river and 200m downstream. We arrived at the cars at 11.15pm, Rod decided to sleep the night in his car, but the rest of us decided to hit the road as some of us had to work on Monday. We stopped off at Maccas for something to eat, we hadn’t had a decent meal since lunch! We arrived back at my house at 4am, an epic trip that will be talked about around campfires for many years to come!
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