The Fabulous Falls Abseil Trip

NEWNES PLATEAU – 20 October 2019
A new off the beaten track abseil trip pioneered by Mike B and Lozz C of Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking Club.  I felt so fortunate … I was on a trip with the pioneers, the waterfall was stunning and the weather was perfect … doesn’t get much better than that.

I don’t often go on the UBMBC trips, they’re usually day trips and unless I’m in the mountains at the time, it’s just too far to travel for one day.  Fortunately, Marcia K alerted me to the fact that I’d be up there on the Saturday anyway, why not book onto this trip. It was touch and go for a while there as 4WD vehicles were needed to get to the start (and there weren’t enough for all the participants), but by Friday I’d been confirmed – it was like winning the lottery.

Mick and Lozz live in the Lithgow area, so this river system is virtually on their doorstep.  This is a definite advantage, to put together a multi pitch trip like this involves numerous trips to determine the best route both in and out, what are the best lines for the abseils and what are the safest spots for the anchors.

As you can see from this photo taken from a lookout on the way in, the terrain is challenging.  The river is in amongst the rocks – looking up stream it is in amongst the trees in the bottom right and then tightly swings around to the left and then makes a sharp right hand horseshoe bend beyond the pagodas in the middle distance.  Lozz (and Mick) have sussed out every possible entry and exit point along this rock face.

The walk in was dead easy, along degraded fire trail, down a dis-used logging track and then onto a footpad that Lozz and Mick put in to ensure that a proliferation of tracks don’t appear over the coming years.

Before long we were at the anchor for the 1st abseil, Marcia always wears nice bright clothes on these trips, so good for photos!

Me on the 1st abseil. About 40+m and a nice walk-down to start and then a couple of small overhangs, the sort of abseil that it’s a pleasure to do and you wish you could go back and do it again. (Photo: Jen C)

The base of the 1st abseil, as this is a relatively new route, there’s a distinct possibility of loose rocks falling from above, so it’s good to be out of the fall-zone, mind you if a big rock came down and shattered, you would still potentially be hit by flying rocks. (Photo:  Jen C)

After the first abseil, we then walked along the base of the cliff-line to the next anchor.

Marcia on the 2nd pitch, another 40+m abseil with an easy start.  Note the white cliff-face to the left of Marcia, this is a rock fall that happened a couple of years ago.  As we were standing around at the bottom of this pitch, we were looking at all the small overhangs around us and speculating that a rockfall such as this could happen anywhere in this area.

Me on the 2nd abseil, you can just see Mick on a ledge above me (a half-way ledge), he’d gone over to check the anchor(s) for the next abseil. (Photo: Geoff F)

Jen at the top of a small waterfall in the river, the base of the second abseil is at the bottom rh corner (Photo: Geoff F). It’s a fairly easy scramble to get from the river up to where Jen is standing.

This is a photo Jen took whilst up above the small waterfall. You can just see the rope hanging down over the big waterfall, it’s anchored to the tree above the corner of the cliff, and another tree just back from the edge. This is a “new” anchor, previously it was way back to the left of the photo in amongst some bushes and apparently was such a long anchor/or difficult pull down, that Lozz and Mick set up the new one, I wouldn’t have liked to be the person working that close to the edge to set up the anchor, although am sure he was on a safety line. (Photo: Jen C)

Mick and Richard setting up the ropes for the third abseil. The anchor is high above on the half-way level around two very big trees (Photo:  Geoff F)

Marcia at the top of the third abseil.  When Marcia gets to the bottom, the rope will be stretched out, well out of reach.  The rope that Marcia is holding out of the way is what we use to drag the anchor back so we can safely reach it.

The third abseil, 50+m, the anchor tree is at the top (middle of the photo), and you can just see the person going over the edge and Lozz watching.  The abseil was a little tricky in that the rockface was very slippery in parts.

Many of the group were able to stay in the dry section, but I felt that the line of the rope was pulling me over to the wet section, so I just “went with it”. Consequently, I was abseiling where the water was flowing down and got wet feet and legs (lol). If you tried to stay dry, there was the distinct possibility that you’d pendulum over into the wet section anyway.  I fractured a rib once pendulum-ing so I try to avoid that risk, better to have wet legs than something broken. (Photo: Geoff F)

Group shot at the bottom of the waterfall (back l-r) Mick, me, John, Richard, Heni, Lozz (bottom l-r) Jen, Geoff & Marcia (photo: Geoff/Jen)

The exit was a short scramble up a spur (not the obvious gully that we all looked at). There was a lot of scree and the potential for rocks falling from above. (Photo Geoff F)

Mick mentioned that there was a bit of exposure (I tried not to look and virtually hugged the rock face), Jen’s looking as though it’s a piece of cake (Photo: Geoff F)

The ledge of death was followed by a small rock climb. The exposure wasn’t much but it was quite committing for me (without a hand-line), so I opted to drop down and walk around to a convenient gully that Mick knew about. Marcia and John making it look easy (Photo: Geoff F)

Jen making it look easy too – I must be a wuss! (Photo: Geoff F)

It was then a short walk to two stunning look-outs over the river that we’d just been in. Mick and Marcia on one of them (Photo: Jen C)

My photo of the look out from a different perspective, it looked daunting scrambling out to where Marcia was standing but it was actually fine, for some reason the exposure on this didn’t worry me.

There was then a small climb up to a section of pagodas, and a nice little bit of scrambling – well, nice to start off with.

The cave was followed by a couple of committing moves that I had to take my pack off to do, I’d also taken off my helmet at this point (not a good idea). (Photo: Geoff F)

Lozz took a different route to me, and that looked worse than mine (Photo:  Geoff F)

A lovely shot of our two pioneers, Mick (l) and Laurence (r), overlooking the river/valley (Photo: Geoff F)

It was then a matter of climbing up one side of this pagoda, and down the other side and in what could only be called brilliant planning by the pioneers, we were back at the first abseil point and on the track to walk out. (Photo: Geoff F)

A mere 300m of fire trail, all up hill, but at the end of the day it seemed like kilometres! (Photo: Geoff F)

We started at around 9am and were back at the vehicles by 3pm, BUT, we spent about 90 minutes at the bottom of the 2nd pitch allowing a group of four to go through.

Thank you so much Geoff F for organising a great day out and to Mick and Lozz for putting in all the effort to explore this route, it’s a great trip.  Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Big thanks to Geoff F and Jen C for use of their photos (much better than mine) and to the rest of the group for your company, was really good to catch up with some of you again.

Banner shot:  the two groups when they merged at the bottom of the 2nd abseil.

 

 

 

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