Abseiling in extreme conditions

BLUE MOUNTAINS – 29 November 2020
After walking down to the top of the waterfall, and starting to set up the rope, I went back to a sheltered spot and I think the words I used were “These are the most extreme conditions you’ll ever experience when abseiling, you need to decide whether you’ll do it or not!”  Each person made their way down to check out the start and yep, all but one (not wearing a wetsuit and it was way cold!) decided they were in! 

Sorry, jumping ahead of myself!  So, backing up.  We were at Mount Wilson on Sunday morning, with the intention of doing Serendipity Canyon (which originally was put on for beginners but we ended up with just one – where are they all?).  Overnight the wind had come up and was really strong with incredible gusts (which rocked my car), I decided that it wasn’t smart to walk down the track and go through the canyon (in a fire affected area) with the risk of falling branches and trees (the amount of branches on the road as we drove away from Mount Wilson justified the decision).

So, what to do, I called up Marcia to see if it was as windy where she was at Blackheath and she said that, at her house, it was relatively calm, so I decided that we’d go over to her neck of the woods and do some “unfinished business” that I had, checking out the top section of a creek that I’d done back in March.  I figured that it was going to be a good introduction to off track walking for our beginner, Rob! And it was a strong group which could handle anything we found, although a bit larger than I usually like on an exploratory trip, David S, Heather (who’ll go anywhere with me), Penny (who’s adventurous spirit constantly amazes me), Marcia (my local knowledge expert), Rod, Jim, Alan C and, of course, our beginner Rob.

Marcia (who is very familiar with the area) and I agreed that we should make our way over to this pagoda and “just drop into the creek” from there as the upper section of the creek looked very scrubby. Our 1st abseil is (approximately) where the RH arrow is.

We found a convenient foot pad, but the vegetation was still scrubby and very scratchy (Heather looks like she’s thinking – “this isn’t much fun” or more likely “bloody photos”).

Rod heading down into the creek, following Marcia. Most of us chose to see if they were successful first (I wasn’t wearing long sleeves or pants and was getting very scratched up).

Good views from the pagoda, but very windy.

After a while David and Marcia returned to the rest of us with the news that there looked like “cliffs” of undetermined height all the way along this part of the creek, so we decided to go back to square one and drop in via the part of the creek that we’d crossed over (and discounted as “too scrubby”), so back to the track.

Once back in the creek it wasn’t as scrubby as we expected, and was actually quite pretty.

AND, we came across an echidna, down at the water having a drink. To protect themselves from predators they curl up with their snout and four little feet pulled in, they look like a little ball. We knew it was alive as you could see it breathing. Nice to see an echidna so close to civilisation. For those overseas, they’re also called a “spiny ant eater” because their fav food is the ants in termite mounds.

Moving along, another nice section of the creek.

Mostly it was flat walking with small step downs and a lot of it was on rocky slab, and quite slippery.

And then we were at the waterfall, at the end of our exploratory section. We weren’t sure how long the drop was, we set up an anchor and then David agreed to go first. Every once in a while, the waterfall turned into a reverse waterfall with the wind gusts sending water spray up (you can just see it near David’s thighs), it was more spectacular than this, but hard to capture it just at the right moment.

Our beginner Rob, who nailed this tricky start and overhang – made it look easy!

Heather going over, we’d watched everyone else and thought we’d avoid all their difficult starts. In hindsight, we should all have put our wetsuits on because the abseil was right in the stream of the waterfall (doh!)

With the anchor back about 3m from the edge, we could have abseiled the waterfall with just a 40m rope to the ledge where they others are standing (because we all stopped there), but having the two 40s, we were able to continue down the next drop, all up it was about 25 – 30m. You can see the water spraying out from the top waterfall.

See what I mean about we should have put our wetsuits on earlier! Heather belaying people own the slippery rock face.

Marcia on the abseil.

Rod on the abseil, the waterfall hitting the rocks right beside him. By now, we’re all wet and there was the occasional pool ahead, so we put on our wetsuits (well, most of us did, some decided to brave the cold).

This section of the creek was “known country” for me, it’s scrubby in places but has some interesting spots, some “slides” you can do like this one.

Nice section of undercut cliff.

Jim on our second abseil from a sling around some saplings.

Marcia on the abseil. Another tricky start and a notch that you could easily get the rope stuck in for the pull down.  I found a small log that I used to keep the rope out of the notch.  Mind you if we had gotten the rope stuck, I could easily have walked down (from the tourist track) to retrieve it.

Looking back at the waterfall we’d just abseiled, very nice section of canyon.

A slide down a log, I didn’t realise this but you could actually walk around this, which would have been nice it wasn’t an easy log to negotiate, particularly when it came close to the rock on the right.

We’re now at the end of the canyon, which is usually a lovely abseil down a waterfall.  It was at this point that I suggested that people might like to rethink their decision to abseil the waterfall. Because of the wind, gusting up from the valley below, the water was crashing back on us where we set up the anchor. And the wind made it freezing cold.  I suggested to Alan that he walk the rope down but he chose to throw it. I had visions of it being flung back on him, the wind was that strong.

Heather making her way down, it was nice to have the railing to hold onto as the wind would have knocked you over! You had to walk through horizontal spray and water, with each gust you were drenched, but once you were 2m down, it was calm and a lovely abseil.

The abseil, very slippery, the photos don’t do justice to the force of the wind and the amount of spray.

David on the abseil,  initially he wasn’t going to do the abseil, but then I think he had some FOMO.  You can see flecks of white in the photo, that’s spray from the waterfall, I hardly took any photos because there was so much water spraying on me that the lens was covered in water drops.

After the waterfall (and some of us did the abseil a couple of times), we headed back to find a sunny spot for lunch, and then did the uphill walk back to the cars (too many steps).  Marcia then kindly took us back to her house for coffee, thanks Marcia.

Thanks everyone for being so understanding about the change of plans and for being so enthusiastic about the new adventure.  Normally not a trip that we’d plan to do, but a good spur of the moment choice.  Great day!


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2 Responses to Abseiling in extreme conditions

  1. Roderick Smith says:

    I think you’ll find the third photo, the one of “David” heading down into the scrub is actually me. Otherwise an awesome write-up.

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