MOUNT BANKS, BLUE MOUNTAINS NP – 23 November 2019
With the Wounded Knee trip cancelled because of bushfires in the Colo area, Louise suggested that Mickey D and I do a day walk in an area that was far enough away from the bushfires to be safe. I think the most notable comment for the day was “we’re almost at the end – we’ve got enough daylight hours to go and do Dalpura Canyon!” Typically, it didn’t quite go according to plan.
So, the “back story” – years ago, Mount Banks was a popular climbing route, and you could do a multi-pitch abseil (about 10 pitches) which was apparently amazing. Then, about 20 years ago, NPWS went in and took out all the bolts and anchors. It’s unclear (to me) whether this was for the abseil route or both the abseil and climbing routes. There are two traverses that can be done, both of which were tracks that climbers used. The Mid-Level traverse (photo record by the Fat Canyoners) and the Traverse of the Gods (photo record by Tom B & Rachel G & David N). We all agreed that we had no desire whatsoever to do the Mid-Level traverse – looked way too scary. Louise had been wanting to do Traverse of the Gods for a while now and had done as much research as she could, which involved looking at photos by David N, Tom B and Rachel G, other than that, we had no trip notes.
NOTE: some of these photos will be out of order, so if you’re going to do this walk, don’t rely on my photos to chart your progress (lol).
We followed the fire trail out to the lookout – and had a leisurely morning tea looking at the non-existent great views. The whole valley was filled with low cloud.
Perhaps here is where I should remind you all of my uncharacteristic fear of exposure lately. After looking and the photos of the Traverse of the Gods, I had emailed David N and asked him what the exposure level was – “not much exposure at all” was the answer, so I thought, that doesn’t sound that bad, and I really should challenge myself … I was “guardedly” enthusiastic. Having the low cloud really made the trip way easier for me than it would have been. You just couldn’t see that you were up 200m+ on the side of a mountain. What we didn’t realise until we got there was that David N hadn’t done the same exit as Tom & Rachel! But more about that later.
We had no trouble making our way up to the correct level, but then ran into trouble. There were two “ledges” one above the other, and both led into the gully. Louise looked at the top one first, a small ledge that you’d have to crawl on with a drop of about 10 – 15m below, none of us liked the look of that. So then we explored the next one down, this involved a walk on a very, very narrow ledge, with not much vegetation to hold on to. Louise went forward to see what happened after you went around the ledge.
This is a snipped from a photo of Tom’s, and it sure looks like the ledge that Louise went along, but then she couldn’t see the way forward, and the mist was so thick that we couldn’t see whether the other side of the gully had a track on it – it didn’t look like it to me but with the mist my depth perception was way off. The drop below had to be 10 – 12m (ok maybe not that high – but certainly you could fall to almost certain death).
By now too it had rained a little and all the vegetation and rocks were wet too.
To the left is a snippet of Tom’s photo and the ledge certainly doesn’t look like it’s 10 – 12m off the ground, which is what we were looking at.
I didn’t want to traverse the ledge with the small saplings, and then have to go back again (it would be nerve wracking enough to do it once, couldn’t face doing it twice) so Mickey D and I didn’t even attempt it. There was much umming and ahhing and eventually we decided that without a sure way forward, it just wasn’t worth the risk and uncertainty. We were also bemoaning the fact that Cool Tim (with his excellent rock climbing skills and nerves of steel) wasn’t with us, he would have gone ahead and sussed out the whole thing with no issues – and I think we’re all braver with Cool Tim on a trip.
We re-read David N’s notes and he doesn’t seem to have done the ledge above that Tom and Rachel are on. It would appear that he exited along some convenient slabs of rock, just after where the log book overhang was, so we decided to go back and try that exit. However, with the fog/mist and clouds, we couldn’t pick anything above 10m, so determined that the best, safest option was to retrace our steps, it was also 3pm (we’d stuffed around a lot), and we really didn’t have time to do any more pass recces.
It took us about an hour to retrace our steps (we really must have stuffed around a lot on the outward bound route!) and then it was a fire-trail bash back to the cars.
So, we almost did the Traverse of the Gods … would we go back and give it another go? Louise and Mickey D aren’t fussed. Would I? I’ve never liked unfinished business, but really, if that little ledge has to be negotiated and there is a really big drop below it, I really don’t think I need to go back (lol).
Thanks so much for the excellent fitness walk Louise & Mickey D, was a great day out in the bush – and Tim, you were with us in spirit.