Type 3 Adventure – never, ever to be repeated

KINGS TABLELAND – 30 November 2019
Two and a half years ago, I’d done the exit of a published canyon with no problems at all – in fact a return to the canyon in the summer months was on my wish list.  What a difference 2 1/2 years can make.  Needless to say, it’s off the wish list now.  Probably the first time Jeff’s ever seen me almost in tears and hanging onto rock for dear life!

John G, Anna O-B, Jeff B and I were supposed to go out to Yarramun Creek for 3 days canyoning.  But with the fires to the north, we didn’t think it was wise to go out into a remote area that would involve a day’s walk to get there and back.  True, the Gosper’s Mountain Fire was still up in the Newnes area, but we’d be out of mobile range and wouldn’t be able to track it, so John came up with a Plan B.  A car camp with two multi pitch exploratory creeks.

The plan for Saturday was to walk into a waterfall on our target creek.  After pouring over the topo map a few years ago, I’d asked both Jim C and Tom B about this creek, and neither of them (at the time) had done it, and I hadn’t heard of anyone else who’d done it – definitely a reason for us to give it a go.  We’d   follow the creek downstream to the cliffline, abseil the cliff, then follow the base of the cliff around to a known Pass (approximately 3k off track).  But then, around lunchtime, we looked at the map again and decided that their was another known pass (the one I’d done in 2016) that Anna, John and I had done which was only 1.5k so we opted for the shorter route.

The trip started out really well, easy walk down a fire trail and then we dropped down into the creek at the top of the waterfall marked on the map.

None of us were expecting the waterfall to be as big as it was.  Jeff sussing out appropriate anchors on this side of the cliff.

Whatever anchor they looked at meant that we would land in a large (deep) pool.  I wasn’t going to look over the edge, so had no idea what they were looking at.  We opted to skirt around the waterfall and use a tree on the other side.

Rope set up and Anna ready to abseil down.

Jeff on the abseil, it was a nice route down, you just had to watch out for the trees, and it was an easy pull down – about a 25m pitch.

The pool at the bottom, the light didn’t do it justice, it was very deep and surrounded by ferns.  There was water constantly dripping down, despite how dry it’s been so there must be aquafers up there somewhere.

We then walked downstream for about 1 1/2 ks, sometimes scrubby, sometimes easy.

Nice easy section.  It was getting hot and muggy by now so, occasionally, we’d walk through the pools to cool down, none of them very deep.

A few rocky sections.

We’re at the cliff-line now and made our way down the side, avoiding some large boulders in the creek.

We stopped here for a quick lunch and John sussed out what we’d use as an anchor.  You had to cross the creek to get to the good sized tree that we liked.

Anna skirted around close to the edge, I took a different route, nice and high and plenty of trees between me and the edge.

Anna soring out the rope.

Our second abseil, after walking through the scrub, a nice clean drop.

Jeff getting the twists out of the rope at the bottom of the drop, must have been about 15m the tree was way back from the edge.

John on the abseil.

John looking at where we’d land on the next pitch.

We used a nice river gum as our anchor.

Anna on rope and John at the bottom taking photos.

Jeff on the pitch, probably about 25m or so.

Drips at the bottom, the waterfall was flowing (sort of, what you’d expect during a sustained drought), would be spectacular after rain.

Overhang at the bottom of the waterfall, John pointing out some iron deposits which had leeched out of the rockface.

Looking back at the waterfall.

Nice grass veil.

Now that we’d decided to skirt around to the new exit pass, it was a matter of maintaining our height at the base of the cliff-line.  Right here it’s looking easy but there were a few moments when we were too high, and for my liking, too close to a 15 or 20m drop.

I was much happier when we dropped down to this nice ledge, about 500m of flat earth, you did have to watch out for rocks, holes and logs though, but such a relief after being on the side of the cliff!

Finally we were at the pass, took a while to get up to this level, lots of rock scrambling and leaf litter that meant you took one step forward and then slid down half way.

From here it got way scary for me.

I’ve looked back on my blog post for the this published canyon and its exit, the leader said in his pre trip briefing it was “quite challenging … involves a few hairy scrambles … some tricky abseils … challenging scramble to exit”, and then I wrote after the trip “obviously I’ve been doing this sort of thing for far too long as the ‘hairy ledges’ were fine and the exit pass (IMO) was pretty good, yes, rotten logs, but not the worst pass I’ve been up”

I didn’t like the exposure this time, and scrambling up the slope above, what you can’t see is a drop of about 10m below.  Then we got to a 50cm climb up and a traverse around a big rock.  That was it for me … “Jeff, I can’t do this”, I’ve never spoken those words before, and I’m sure he could see the fear and tears about to be shed!  The alternative was no better though, couldn’t go down (too slippery) and no idea if there was another route, so, Jeff took my pack around to a flat area, then came back and walked me through it.  I was holding on so tight and checking where my feet were at every step, have never been so glad to be past a rock in all my life – this pass has been promoted to Scariest Pass I’ve Ever Done!

Once I was past the crux, the rest was still challenging with the slippery leaf litter, but at least the exposure wasn’t so big and yes, I could fall but I’d slide down on leaf litter.

Finally we were up at the saddle and could take a well-earned rest, it was then only an hour’s walk through light scrub to the fire trail and then 2k to the parked cars.  We were back at the cars by 6.30pm – a solid 9 hour trip.

So, I’ve done this Creek now – loved the creek, hated the exit, really thought I could fall to almost certain death, never have to return, definitely a Type 3 adventure.

But, 48 hours later, I’m thinking MAYBE I could go back and do the published canyon again, and next time, have someone drop a rope from the top of the exposed bit and use some prussic loops to tie myself onto the rope, then if I did fall, wouldn’t go far, am always a lot happier when attached to a rope.

Thanks so much for leading the trip John and thanks to Jeff and John for carrying the two 60m ropes for the whole day.

So, what will we do on Sunday, Spring Creek? Should be an easy short day – famous last words!

NB:  taking Tom B’s approach I have intentionally not named this creek.

 

 

 

 

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