I might have to do Bjelke’s Mind again!

BLUE MOUNTAINS – Bjelke’s Mind and Bubble Bath Canyons – 26 – 28 January 2019.
Originally this was a much more ambitious trip (in fact it was an In Your Dreams M trip), I was going to knock off Crikey Canyon too, seeing I was so close. But, things didn’t quite go to plan (as so often happens!). Overall, nothing went “wrong” and nothing bad happened but when you lead a trip, it’s always nice when everything slots into place – ah well!

First of all the weather was a problem … forecast temperatures of between 30 – 35° C, should I change the canyons to some that have more water and aren’t 3 hours from the carpark?

Then there was the question of who was arriving when – frankly it got a bit confusing … Heather R (who’ll, bless her heart, will go anywhere with me) arrived on Friday morning and walked in by herself to the camp cave at Bubble Bath creek (well done Heather). Melinda T, Trish M, Peter T, Jeff B and I drove up on Friday afternoon, hoping to get there by 4pm. Given that it was a long weekend, the traffic wasn’t all that bad and we were all there by 4.30pm to start walking at 5pm. They could have started earlier but we had the ropes and Jeff and I weren’t carrying in four ropes between us! Emma P and Murray N were driving up from Marulan and expected to start walking by 6pm. Then Andrew B and Dave would be walking in on Saturday morning, rendezvousing with us at 9.30 to start the canyon. Alan C would also be walking in by himself on Saturday. How confusing was all that? I had to have contingency plans in case someone didn’t show up.

Usually, from the car park to the overhang is a 3 hour walk. As predicted, the temperature was horrific, and the humidity must have been 99% (well around there anyway), we had to stop and rest a lot and drink lots of water. I had decided to “tape” the track when it became indistinct so it would be easy to find for those walking in in the dark. That worked out well, except by the time I got to the hard part (walking down off highpoint 932), I’d run out of tape, we’d lost the track, and it was now dark (doh!).

We were making our way to where we should be in the dark, when Murray and Emma caught up to us (what a relief), and we eventually found the gully that you walk down to get to the overhang where we’d be camping, didn’t get into camp until 9.30pm (so much for a 3 hour walk in), Heather had built a fire for us but we were all stuffed so just collapsed and went to bed.

Saturday morning we’d gotten over the trying walk in and were all fired up and ready to go, we went up to the end of our gully (sweat already pouring off us) and waited in the shade for Andrew and Dave to arrive (eta was 9.30am), and just when I was starting to think “How long do I wait after 9.30?” they turned up 5 minutes early. Introductions all round and off we went.

I had decided not to go in the Jamieson guide book way, it would mean that we’d be bashing through scrub in a creek for an hour or more. There was a possible route in on John G’s map, and Andrew said he’d also found a route in/out on a previous aborted trip. So we decided to see if we could find either of these routes. Up to the ridge and we walked along on easy open country. (photo: Emma)
A little further along and we’re looking straight towards the lovely open ridge we’d be walking out on – well, that was my plan (photo: Emma)
We stopped and the guys (Andrew, Dave and Jeff) took a look out to see if there was a possible entry. Sadly no, so we backtracked on the mid-way ledge along the cliff top looking for routes down.
After 500m in the sweltering sun, we decided to just abseil into the Bjelke’s Mind creek, There were some really old slings on the tree, so obviously some others had the same idea. They were too old to use so we did a “quick and dirty” set up and off we went (here’s Peter T starting the abseil).
The (nice) abseil, you can just see Heather where the arrow’s pointing. We then walked down a small gully and entered the creek proper. There was still quite a bit of creek to walk down, and a few pools that we took advantage of to cool off (i.e. laid down in the water).
Dave on the first abseil, (well, the first one for us) this wasn’t an easy start. We’re all looking forward to getting out of the sun.
Heather on the abseil. After watching everyone trying to find a good spot to put their feet, I decided instead to go down through the gap to the left, made it really easy.
Heather still on the abseil, you had to go down into a pool, cross the pool, get out of it and then continue on.
Jeff on the next abseil.
Emma on the next abseil.
Peter on yet another abseil. (Photo: Emma)
Melinda on a log after an abseil. (Photo Emma)
And me on said log. By this time I have no idea how many abseils we did, and my camera was misbehaving. (Photo Emma)
Dave on an interesting climb-down, hard to find the right spot for your feet.
Finally, we’re at the Bunglebori. Andrew and Dave headed off to try and fit in a run through Bridge. They were only out for the day and wanted to try and get 2 canyons in (I wish I were that fit and young!). We walked upstream and quickly found the exit we needed to take.
Melinda at the top of the walk out, we took our time, despite cooling off in the river, we were still really hot.
Time out to rest in the shade before the walk out.

And this is where things got messy and our unintended adventure started. I had planned to go straight up the spur to the ridge, there is a route there, I’d taken it twice before, so knew it was a go and earlier on I thought I’d been clear about my intentions. But, (bad leadership) I didn’t take the time to reiterate my intended route before everyone started quickly walking off. Initially, the direction they took was not critical and could have been corrected (again my bad for not acting quickly), but they were quicker than me. Jeff and I (at the back) were beside a cliff-line and found a slot but decided for a variety of reasons that we couldn’t use this to get up above the cliff-line this way. And so, we kept on going, following the rest of the group who were by now way ahead of me. Jeff, Heather and I discussed it and agreed that in a perfect world we’d be on the half-way ledge and eventually come to where we abseiled in. But nothing’s that easy and after 750m we came to the spot that was at the bottom of where we’d abseiled in, we were definitely not on the half-way ledge. We’d gone too far to turn back so figured we’d just keep on going and exit via the Jamieson route (the route in) or any other convenient route. I took a rest with Melinda and then got up a small gully to discover that they’d chosen a rockface to head up.

The first little climb up wasn’t too bad. Murray who went first tied a rope to a tree and whilst the others managed to climb up using it as a hand-line, I decided that it was less risky for me to put on my harness and attach a chest prussic to the rope so that if I did slip I would only fall 50cm. Melinda (who wasn’t at all happy with the idea of climbing) did the same thing. The next climb up was a bit more daunting, here’s Emma climbing with Jeff spotting her feet, she free climbed the whole way (as did most of the others).
Melinda on the climb, again we had our chest prussic on for a safety.
Me on the climb, you can see Murray at the top where the anchor was. Jeff kept tension on the rope for Melinda and me so that our prussic could easily slide up the rope.

There was speculation that this was the “normal route in”, but having spoken to others, further on there is a less challenging route. I guess one can always look on the bright side, we walked all the way back in the shade, we did a rock climb without incident, we didn’t have any close encounters with snakes and we discovered that apart from the slot there was no other non-abseil way down into the canyon for that k of cliff-line that we’d walked beside. I think there are some other positives but they escape me at the moment.

Once on top of the ridge (there was a 100m slope we had to make our way up), we made a bee-line for the saddle and our route back down to camp. We got into camp at 7 or 7.30pm … another bloody 10 hour day! Most people do the whole canyon, and walk to and from the car park in less time than that!

For me the exit screw-up tarnished the whole canyon experience, so I might have to go back and do it again, maybe on a weekend that’s not so hot!

We got back to camp and those of us with the energy had dinner, we sat around for a while and I made the decision that I wouldn’t do Crikey the next day … I think most people breathed a sigh of relief when I suggested that we do Bubble Bath on Sunday and walk out on Monday. Everyone agreed (or at least sounded agreeable) and so we all collapsed into bed.

We took our time getting ready next morning and then out of the bush walks Alan, he’d started walking in on Saturday but when it got dark decided to camp up on the top and find us in the daylight. I was relieved to see him.

Up the gully again, and we’re all a lather of sweat. I then took a bearing to where I wanted to enter the canyon and with Jeff in front picking the best route, we set off across this nice open section of grassland. We got to a spot where we could have dropped in but opted to go further upstream to make sure we weren’t missing any of the canyon.
We knew there was an abseil not far away, so we suited up and headed downstream, this part was particularly nice, very ferny.
It wasn’t too far to the first abseil, off a convenient log (Peter sorting out foot placement).
Peter on his way down.
The swim after the abseil.
Murray and Trish cooling off.
Alan on the jump in (photo: Heather)
Murray on the jump. This was a good spot so we had numerous re-jumps.
Heather on the jump in, she does not look like she’s having fun!
After morning tea we dropped into a narrow bit.
Great spot for photos (me taking one), Murray posing for one (see below) (Photo: Heather)
Murray clowning around, don’t know how he manoeuvred his body into this position.
Still in the open section of the canyon, full sun, pools to cool off in.
The group waiting while we set up ropes.
Alan on Abseil #2
Murray clowning around on the abseil #3, you sort of had to belly over the edge as it was way slippery.
Me on the abseil.
Alan belaying Emma (Photo: Heather)
A nice “letter box” hole to crawl through after the abseil and pool.
Section of canyon after the letter box crawl, very pretty (photo: Heather)
At this abseil, there was a nasty start, first of all you had to walk across slippery rocks to get to a chock-stone (seen here above Murray’s head) then swing around to do the abseil. Awkward-as. Then Peter found another anchor, so we decided to re-rig after Murray and Jeff had done the “hard” one.
Peter after we’d re-rigged, going through the hole under the chock-stone, much easier (good spotting Peter!).
Emma getting off the abseil, a slipper log to go down then a nice ledge to stand on.
Alan on the abseil.

Before long we were at the end of the canyon, everyone agreed that it was a great little canyon for very little effort to get in.

Alan took a nap on a rock at the end of the canyon, our campsites were up to the right on a high ledge.

Everyone (bar Jeff, Heather, Alan and me) decided that they’d walk out on Sunday afternoon, so that left the four of us at the base camp. We had a campfire down in the creek and (finally) had happy hour and dinner. On Friday and Saturday none of us were in any mood to have happy hour! Then, just at the right time a thunderstorm hit us, loads of rain, thunder and lightning, so we all headed back to the overhang to keep dry.

We walked out next morning, it was overcast and a little cooler (but still high humidity). I retrieved most of the tapes I’d put in on the way out. We were back at the vehicles around 12.30pm and after cleaning up headed to Bilpin for milkshakes.

It was one of those weekends, as I said, nothing went “wrong” but it wasn’t the easy-as trip that I’d envisioned and it was far too hot. Sorry Peter T, I had hoped that the trip would go according to plan and you’d revise your opinion of my trips as always being a bush-bash!

Thanks to everyone who joined me for the weekend, who carried ropes for me (you all know who you are), and who kept their sense of humour when we were on the wrong exit in Bjelke’s Mind.

Heather carried a fan for the whole weekend, she was probably the only one who was cool (or able to cool off), when we got back she presented fans to the rest of us. (Looks like we’re sharing secrets). Photo: Heather

POSTSCRIPT: There’s a “back story” to our day in Bubble Bath that’s worth noting. From about 10am in the morning one, and then two helicopters were hovering around the creek that we were in. And they were there until about 3pm hovering above us, over towards Bridge and down towards the Bunglebori, at one stage they hovered what looked like 50m above us, when we were in the open section of the canyon, we gave them the thumbs up (not knowing what else to do). I was worried that something had happened to a lovely group of 4 canyoners that were camped near us and were going down Bubble Bath, crossing the ‘Bori and going up the Crikey entry and over to do Nosedive, I suspected there were plenty of spots to come to grief on that route.

Our group, when they walked out on Sunday arvo, came across him and Emma and Murray walked him back to the campsite of his friends. The guy didn’t have a GPS, any way to light a fire at night, and no mirror or space blanket to wave around at the helios (apparently he was waving his arms and they couldn’t see him). Someone (in the industry) estimated that the two helicopters searching for the 5 hours would have cost around $100,000!

On our way out, we came across a group of 3 going down to do Bridge canyon. Turns out that the helicopters were searching for their fourth member. On the Saturday they had done Bjelke’s (before us), then decided to do Bridge (just like Andrew and Dave). One of their group didn’t want to do that, so said he had map/compass and he’d walk back to their camp (on high point 932). When they got back to camp that afternoon (5 hours later), he wasn’t there, and didn’t turn up that night. So in the morning they got out their Sat Phone and called in the police to search for the guy.

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2 Responses to I might have to do Bjelke’s Mind again!

  1. Jeff says:

    Yeah it was hot!!
    Next time walk in about midday do Crickey the next day then Bubble bath the following day and walk out.
    Easy as nothing to it

    • marilyn says:

      Yeah, that’s what I thought, although John G is talking about attacking Crickey from Deep Pass, camping out the night and just doing Crickey, might have to persuade him to go out and attack it from Bubble Bath creek (lol).

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