BLUE MOUNTAINS NP – 14 December 2019
With the weekend’s canyoning trip to Mt Wilson a no-go due to the park being closed, we decided on a full day … SRT practice in the morning, Dargan’s Creek in the afternoon and a night trip through Grand Canyon. Perhaps that was a little ambitious, it turned into a 15 hour day – we did have a couple of hours off for lunch and dinner breaks, but a BIG day nevertheless.
The weather was great, not too much smoke around and not too hot, everyone arrived on time at 9.30am. Marcia, Heather, Penny and I started off the day at Mt York climbing area and set up ropes to practice SRT. By 12.00 we’d all had enough, and I’d exhausted myself by getting stuck on my first pitch and Heather had to “rescue” me, will I ever master SRT – I’m determined if nothing else.
Marcia left us for a couple of hours but Rod and Jon joined us to do Dargan’s Creek – a small canyon that I last did 12 years ago, I seem to recall liking the canyon but not liking the exit route! Marcia had given us directions of a better way in, but we missed the track and ended up “enjoying” more scrub than necessary.
At this point Heather informed me that I was the only one grizzling – and that we wouldn’t be having any fun if it was a grizzle-free trip.
Fortunately Penny reminded me that she wasn’t a strong swimmer, so for the next swim, I “towed her” to where she could wade.
Once up the top, we quickly made our way back to the vehicles and headed into Blackheath for dinner. We saw smoke that was quite close, but assumed it was from the Bilpin backburning, it wasn’t until we got to the Blackheath Pub that we discovered that backburning at Mt Wilson had gone pear-shaped and the fire was out of control and heading for the houses at Mt Wilson and Mt Tomah.
We met up with Marcia at Grand Canyon at 7.30pm, we were miles away from the fire so were in a “safe” area. We started at Neates Glen on the tourist track. Neither Heather or I enjoyed the 1,000+ steps down the tourist track. By the time we got to the abseil, it was full-on dark.
Jon set up my 30m rope (for a 12m abseil) – using it doubled. When Jon got to the edge, he couldn’t tell how far off the ground the rope was. Bummer, maybe with the chains, it was a longer abseil now. Anyway, emergency averted, we set up the rope as a single and Jon went down first, then we re-rigged the rope double and sure enough it JUST reached!
If it hadn’t reached the bottom, I would have sent everyone down on the single rope and then met them at the end.
Eventually we arrived at the 30m swim and I again did the Congo line with Penny – I wondered why we weren’t moving until Rod informed her that she was paddling the wrong way (lol). It was at the swim that we met up with a group of 16 people from (maybe) India. They didn’t look like they were too experienced, most of them didn’t have wetsuits and their clothes were in garbage bags, being ferried across the 30m in a (small) inflatable raft! They sounded like they were having fun though but who would have thought there’d be a group of 16 doing Grand at night!
We arrived at the exit point at 10.30 and started the long slog (all uphill) to get back to the cars, arriving there at 12.30. The walk out was punishing – all those steps down we had to climb back up! Heather and I stayed the night in our cars at Evan’s Lookout, everyone else drove home.
We were surrounded by smoke when we woke the next morning. Now that the fires are burning at Mt Wilson and The Bells Line of Road, today’s canyons will probably be the last canyons we do for a while. The Gospers Mountain fire which started on 31st October (when some of us went to Coorangooba for a week’s canyoning) has now burned 572,000ha of bushland and doesn’t look as thought it will be put out any day soon.
Thanks everyone for joining me on Saturday – have always wanted to do Grand at Night!