COLO WILDERNESS – Wounded Knee Canyon 12 December 2020
The goal of the day was to do this canyon in one day. Most people (including me) have done the canyon as an overnight trip. I’d suspected that it could be done in a day, if you started early and did it in the summer months when there were more daylight hours. And then a month before our trip, I found out that (bloody) Kent had already done it as a day trip! I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t the first to do so, but what the hell, it was still a great trip
Murray N (Muzza), led the trip and did all the navigation, Lou, Mik, Anna, Tim and Heather (who’ll go anywhere with me), came along for the ride. Three of us had done it before, everyone else were Wounded Knee Virgins.
The weather gods were looking down on us, perfect weather for this area (overcast and not hot), the creek is virtually dry, so we would have to carry all our water for the day, and if it had been hot, that might have been a problem. There was a bit of a mix up as we turned right off the old fire trail, both Anna and I felt we should be turning left, not right, but once Tim found the cairn and I was reassured that it was Crawfords Track, we were back on track (so to speak). Serves me right for not carrying my map and compass and paying more attention. Gave Muzza a heart stopping moment, both Anna and I sounded so sure of ourselves!
Making our way down through the cliff-line, this descent was particularly dangerous after the fires, all rocks were sitting in aerated soil and would move and fall easily, so each person had to descend only after the person before was out of the fall zone.
Heading down to a side creek, the regrowth is horrid (seems to be this way either side of Culoul Range, not sure why.
In the creek now, and a fair amount of bouldering before we got to the first abseil.
Louise on Abseil #1.
Mik on abseil #1.
More creek walking, and lots of flood debris after the fire and rain event in February 2020.
Our fearless leader Muzza on Abseil #2.
Louise on abseil #2.
Heather at the bottom of Abseil #2 (Photo: Tim)
Me on abseil #2 – I tried to get across onto where the water was only knee deep but didn’t succeed. (Photo: Tim)
Tim on abseil #3
Mik on abseil #3.
Mik on Abseil #4.
Abseil #4, One of the short abseils, only about 5 – 7m.
Muzza on abseil #4
Heather at the top of abseil #5, with 60m or rope in a rope bag – good use of the donkey’s tail Heather!
Mik on abseil #5, a truly lovely abseil.
Me on the abseil, thanks for the photo Tim!
Anna on Abseil #6, a very short abseil, Anna said she could down-climb it, but the rope was set anyway. The way it was set was particularly nasty, both Heather and I came to grief, we both hurt our knees on the overhang at the bottom – hence the THREE WOUNDED KNEES.
Because the route down was so dodgy (and we were both suffering from hits to the knee), we suggested it was re-routed another way. Mik after the re-routing, much nicer! abseil
Muzza said that the approach to this abseil was “iffy” because of the lose sand/rocks, so I thought I’d go a safer way than he did (I am attached to an anchor), but my contortions were amusing for everyone else (Photo: Louise)
Tim on abseil #7
Me on abseil #7 (Photo: Muzza)
Heather on abseil #7, this was probably a 30m abseil.
I have a new way of keeping track of how many abseils there are, this is Lou showing that we’re coming up to Abseil #8, and Mik trying to confuse me!
Muzza at the start of abseil #8, there is new bolt here which makes it an easier start and easier abseil. There’s also apparently another bolt probably about half way down, but we decided to get the full experience, we’d do this as the full 60m abseil, much more fun. The other bolt is useful to pull yourself around a deep pool on a ledge.
Lou on Abseil #8
Tim on abseil #8
I’m now on the ledge of Abseil #8, so I took the opportunity to take a photo of Muzza, Lou and Tim on the beach below.
Possibly Anna on the 8th abseil, on the ledge, and the tree at the top of the photo is where the abseil starts. You end up on a bit of flood debris, then cross the river (only knee deep).
Me on the final abseil (photo: Tim)
Mik on the ledge.
Everyone’s down now, we sat around watching a group of 3 behind us on the last abseil and then set off downstream to our exit. Anna and I chose to mainly stick to the bank (and the remnants of the track made by “saw boy”, but everyone else chose to run the gauntlet and hope not to get stuck in quick-sand.
Mik in the quicksand (Photo: Tim or Louise)
Walking down the Colo (Photo: Tim or Louise)
It’s hard to miss the exit, there ae bolts on this big rock as when the river level is high, apparently you’re supposed to put in a hand-line for safety – I’ve never seen it that high. (photo: Tim or Louise)
This is our exit, up beside the cliff face, two climbs, then a chimney, then another small scramble.
Anna on the second climb.
Lou on the second climb, and in the distance someone crossing over after the 1st climb.
Anna climbing up the chimney.
A scramble after the chimney.
Looking downstream at one part of the rock scramble up the creek.
Once through the boulder section that I remembered, there were then a lot of boulders to negotiate that I didn’t remember. However, when we got close to the top of the creek, I started to recognise the creek again and knew that the exit ramp I remembered was pretty close. And sure enough, looked down into the creek and there was the sandy creek-bed I remembered and the easy ramp, although the track out wasn’t as well defined as it was when I last did the trip in October 2016.
We stared at 7.30am and were back at the cars by 6.30pm on the dot! Mind you, we had a long lunch and then spent 1/2 an hour laying on the sandbank in the Colo waiting to see what the 3 guys behind us looked like (all the women in the group were hoping that they were hot!). And then we sat for another 1/2 hour at the exit enjoying the Colo before heading up the pass. So, we could have probably done it faster than 11 hours, but we were enjoying the trip, and it wasn’t a race! Thanks Muzza for leading the trip and navigating and thanks to the rest of the team for your support through the canyon and for carrying the ropes!
Banner: Anna on abseil Thumbnail: Mik with my numbering system – abseil #7
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