How could I have stuffed up so badly?

BLUE MOUNTAINS NP – 20 June 2020
Thankfully I hadn’t but for a while there I thought I had! In actual fact, if Andrew hadn’t veered right instead of left, this trip wouldn’t have even been blog-worthy, so, thank you Andrew!  So, the backstory … an MSS member, Lynton G, a keen canyoner for many years, had asked me about a trip I did last year, David Crevasse he’d only ever done it as a long daytrip continuing into the Grose Valley and battling the lawyer vine.

I said I’d take Lynton through David Crevasse and show him the easier exit where you could prussic out on a fixed rope, so I’m off to ensure that the rope hadn’t melted in the fires.

First job was to make sure we had access, so I called up National Parks to ensure that the road to Mount Banks picnic area that had been closed after the fire was now open, and also to find out if David Crevasse was also open (Mt Hay and Yileen were still closed).  That was a big mistake … the ranger informed me that whilst David Crevasse was open (as was the road), National Parks was requesting that, during COVID-19, people refrain from canyoning (so emergency services wouldn’t have to content with injuries etc).  Bugger, rule follower that I am, I was going to struggle with doing the abseil trip later on, when we’re specifically asked not to.  Mind you, the only reference to this is on the COVID-19 website page, and let’s face it, how many canyoners would even know that they’re not supposed to be canyoning – bugger-all!

However, they did say it was ok for me to do a bushwalk in to make sure that the fixed rope hadn’t been compromised.  There are two ropes, one which you use as a handline to get up a 1m awkward climb, and the other which is used to get up a 7m-ish cliff-face – which I’m told rock climbers would have no trouble with – all you have to do is have a rock climber with you to set the rope.  Had these ropes been burned in the fires?  I wouldn’t want to do the canyon and then find I had no way of prussicing up without that rope in place.

So, I put a “canyon care” trip on the MSS calendar, Andrew B, Marty B and Shiva N joined me, nice small group, very competent and efficient!

It’s a 7k walk to the exit point along fire trail.  Really easy walking and we made good time.

At the lookout into the Grose Valley (l-r Shiva, Marty and Andrew) all social distancing!

I identified the saddle where we had to walk down.  The whole area had been torched in the fires and was like a moon-scape.  No evidence whatsoever of the footpad that I’d used to exit in April 2019.  We headed down the gully, avoiding all the burned out trees/saplings and making sure that we didn’t send loose rocks careening down the gully onto each other.  Nothing’s looking familiar!

There are some self evident truths in bushwalking, you rarely have a problem when you walk down a creek, or up a spur, so in a way I was reassured, but then, did I take the right gully? Was there another one that we’d missed? It just seemed to be taking far too long.

Then Andrew yelled out, “I’ve got a tape anchor here, but it’s really burned out and the drop is greater than the 7m we’d been told about”.  I made my way down and (a) the anchor wasn’t one that I’d used in the past and (b) the approach to the anchor was very dodgy, not something that I’d forget – and I definitely didn’t remember it.

By this time it’s around 11am, so we sat down on this tiny ledge, had morning tea and rechecked my notes and the photos I’d been given.  I’d driven 2.5 hours from the Central Coast to check out this rope, I certainly didn’t want to give up and come back another day.  We definitely weren’t in the right place.  How could I have stuffed up so badly?  Were we in David Crevasse itself?  Couldn’t possibly be as the upper part of David Crevasse (the abseil trip) is very flat – we hadn’t come across any terrain like that.  I was well and truly stumped as I sat there looking out at the void.

Andrew did suggest that there might be another route about 10m back, and as we contemplated that, I looked across at a small cliff and could vaguely make out the rope.  Indeed, there were two routes within about 10m of each other, and we’d taken the wrong one.

Before leaving the ledge, we took out the old slings (there were two), some parts had been burned and they were very old, I’m guessing that they were burned in the Grose Valley fire prior to this one.  And it would appear that this was another abseil route that people had taken, although not a popular one, as there was only the one abseil in it before it joined up with David Crevasse (proper).

Andrew and Marty managed to get over to where we should be by taking a quite exposed (for me) route, Shiva and I backtracked 10m and got down to the spot that I remembered with no effort and not that much exposure.

The ledge was familiar once I got there.

Andrew had examined the rope and it, along with the tube tape anchor were in good condition, no sign of fire damage at all, which was a bit surprising as a couple of twigs nearby did seem to have been scorched.

Andrew and Marty (shown on rope) both abseiled down to the bottom of the pitch and then went around to check that the handline on the small 1m climb hadn’t been compromised (it was fine).  They then prussiced up and we started on the slog back up hill.

By the time we got to the lookout the cloud cover had lifted and it was a better view.

I zoomed in for a closer look at the devastation after the fire.  Amazingly, Blue Gum forest was untouched, but the track up to Lockleys Pylon had been smashed, virtually bare ground.

We had started walking at 9am and were back at the vehicles by 4pm, pretty good going, and a good fitness walk (which I needed), I did have trouble keeping up with Marty and Andrew though.

So, the exit is set up, all that remains now is to set a date with Lynton to go do the trip, once canyoning’s no longer frowned upon.

Thank you so much Marty, Andrew and Shiva for carrying ropes for me, keeping me company on the walk, and for signing up for the trip!


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4 Responses to How could I have stuffed up so badly?

  1. Beth says:

    Great outcome M! Thanks for doing it for us.

  2. Jenny Hughes says:

    does not sound like you stuff up at all. It would have been very difficult to follow a track that is not there, and every thing looks so different after a fire. Sounds like you made it a great adventure that included the whole team’s imput. Sounds more like a great leader to me!

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