I’m not sure the physio had this type of walk in mind

GLEN DAVIS – 12 May 2018
John G had scheduled a return trip to Drowned Rat Canyon for this weekend and even though I couldn’t do the canyon because of my injured knee, I wasn’t going to miss out on the trip!

What’s the story on the knee?  Yep, when I fell off a retaining wall on the Forresters Beach to Crackneck tourist walk with my Grandson Bailey back on Anzac Day, I tore or stretched my MCL ligament on my right knee.  My physio, Michael, said that I could do a walk in the bush, not sure he had this type of walk in mind though.

Trip Background:  Back in October 2017, we had sussed out this canyon (temporarily referred to as Drowned Rat Canyon – it was raining on the day and we were soaked, looking like drowned rats).  We found a creek with an abseil and knew that the creek disappeared over a cliff, so we determined to return to do the full trip and the Big Abseil at the end (part of the attraction).

(When I loaded this post (on 11/5/18) I had a pic here of what the end of the canyon looked like from the valley, but I had a dream last night (22/5/18) and in the dream at the end of the canyon before John and I were going up to retrieve the anchors there was a group of 30 canyoners, like a “meet up” group all going to do the canyon and they’d figured out which one it was from the photo – really freaked me out, so I’ve deleted the photo!)

Whilst I knew my knee wouldn’t stand up to a full day, I figured I could walk to the base of the abseil to check if the 60m ropes that we had would reach the bottom.  Cooper’s Granddad, Jeff B, said he’d drive up with me to Glen Davis for the weekend. It was good that Jeff would go with me, as with a dodgy knee, I didn’t want to walk the k on untracked ground by myself.  As it turned out Garth McL joined us for the walk too.

John G, Andrew B, Cathi H-H, Cat McL and Anna O-B were doing the canyon trip and set off from camp at 8am on Saturday morning.  We did a rough estimate and figured they’d be at the start of the abseil (at the earliest) around 12.30pm.   Jeff, Garth and I lazed around until 10.30am and then drove over to Glen Davis to start the walk in.

We discovered that there’s a bloody great fence around the Glen Davis ruins and a couple of houses on the fenced off land, so we backtracked to the campground and parked Cat’s car just beyond the ford and headed off.

Looking down to the Glen Davis Shale Oil mining ruins.  The ruins that you can see are surrounded by a big fence.

A better view of the ruins.  John told me that 20 years ago, when they were canyoning the area, they just walked through the ruins to where they wanted to go, can’t do that now.

For the first 500m there was an old graded dirt road which was easy on the knees.  Note the fence surrounding the ruins.

A little further up the hill, and we came across an old fence around the mining area, amazingly sturdy metal fence posts and massive amount of barbed wire, not entirely sure what they were trying to keep in (or out), all the infrastructure dates back to the 1940s.

Garth heading up the hill.  Up to this point the going hadn’t been too bad, and I managed to avoid twisting my knee.  I have to say though, you don’t realise how much twisting around on your knee you do when walking off track, I really had to concentrate.

Cooper’s Granddad in the distance.  We’re getting closer to the cliff face now and the terrain is very uneven with a steep drop off to the right.

Garth negotiating through Skinny Woman slot, there’s a big drop off to the left and this was the easiest way without dropping down 15m. I couldn’t get through the slot (not skinny enough) so gingerly climbed over the top – not sure Physio Michael would have approved of my moves!

More scrub/uneven ground.

Finally we reached the base of the abseil.  John had obtained a pair of walkie talkies for us to use and I had turned mine on at 11.30 (as agreed), but all we got was silence.

We sat around for a while, and then it was 1pm.  Were we in the right place? (yes), had they already done the abseil and gone done past us? (possibly), how long should we wait? (who knows).  We sat around and got colder and colder … should we start a fire to warm up? (maybe) but did we have enough water to put it out? (not really).

2pm came and went and we’re getting colder and colder.  We retreated back closer to the cliff face trying to get out of the bitterly cold wind.  Eventually we decided to light a small fire to keep warm and what a relief!  Finally, around 3pm we heard John’s dulcet tones on the 2-way.  They were up the top of the cliff face.

Another half hour went by when they had to set up another abseil to get further down.  Finally we can see John at the top and he set up an anchor and threw over his brand-new 60m (pink) rope.

John:  Does it reach the bottom?  Us:  no, about 7m too short.  They rigged another anchor – does it reach now? Yes, it just reaches the bottom.

They then threw over the other 60m rope (white).  They had thrown the middle part of the rope, followed by the end and the rope didn’t reach the bottom.  We thought that it was coiled up a little higher above (and let them know what we though), so Andrew started abseiling, but when he got to where we thought there was rope coiled up, we discovered that no, all the rope was deployed and it was 10m too short.  Turns out that John’s 60m white rope may have shrunken a little over the years (the ropes do that)!

So, they had another 30m of rope with them, pulled up the white one and joined the 30m onto the end of the 50m with a knot, isolated the ropes at the anchor with the intention of everyone, save the last person abseiling on a single 9mm rope (the pink one).

Andrew, who was the first to do the abseil.

Because they were abseiling on a brand new 9mm rope, and single strand (a couple in the group were used to only abseiling on double 9mm ropes) we decided that a belay was necessary as new rope can be very fast.  Because the rope only just reached the bottom, we tied another rope on the end (that we’d brought up “just in case”) and Cooper’s Granddad Jeff belayed Anna, Cat and Cathi.

Great shot of one of the girls abseiling down (possibly Cathi).

Closer to the bottom.  They had to be careful with the white rope not to get tangled in it.

With everyone but John down, Andrew did a “test pull” to make sure we could pull the ropes down and then it was time to anchor the white rope down below (around a big stone), so that John could take the knot out of the top and then abseil on the single pink rope without fear of falling to almost certain death.  Once down, the knotted white rope would be undone and we’d pull the white rope to retrieve all three ropes.

John on the abseil, by now the white rope is way out of the way attached to the big rock.

With everyone down the bottom now, we all headed back down to the campground, arriving around 5.30pm.  A little later than expected!

So, would they go back.  The consensus was that it was nice enough but no reason to go back!  Hold on … what about me, I haven’t done it.  Ok, John’s agreed to do it again, this time with two ropes that are definitely both 60m!  When we do it, someone (probably John) will not do the final 60m abseil but will take out the anchor that he left behind today and then retreat up the canyon (prussicing each pitch) and take out all the anchors, that way the next party that goes down will have the feeling that they are the first descent, a much better experience than finding an old anchor and knowing that you’re not the first to do it.

So, did the knee survive.  Well, not quite, I slipped on a rock and jarred it, but I think it’s ok, we’ll see when I visit the physio on Tuesday!

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3 Responses to I’m not sure the physio had this type of walk in mind

  1. Kathy Leslie says:

    Thanks for sharing another amazing experience. You are far braver than I!!!!
    Hope your your knee heals despite your escapades!!!

    • marilyn says:

      Thanks Kathy, nothing brave about this trip! Yes, seeing physio tomorrow, hopefully will get a good report.

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