How not to drown in high-flow waterfalls

SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS – 16 – 17 & 23 January 2021
This started out as a simple weekend away abseiling Macquarie Pass and a new creek called The Cascades, but then it morphed into a SRT workshop on the Saturday and an opportunity to practice what we’ve taken on board on the Sunday.  I have to admit I wasn’t all that excited about SRT when I did the first workshop, but I’ve come to see the error of my ways!

So what is SRT, it’s Single Rope Technique, that is you set up the anchor so it’s releasable (so you can lower someone down), you abseil on one strand of the rope, and you can manage the length of the rope that’s being abseiled on (you only want the tip to touch the top of the water, so you abseil down and straight off the rope, saving time not having to fuss around taking your descender off the rope).  We’ve only really dipped out toes in the water of SRT, there’s much more to it, but at least we’ve started on our SRT journey.

We did a “refresher” in a nearby park (most of us had already done one workshop a few months ago), then we made our way up to the waterfall(s) and made sure that we were tying the knots correctly (Alex watching over us).

We were in teams of 2 or 3, Trish was the first one down in her team, it’s a little daunting when you first try SRT and this wasn’t the easiest slot to go down.

Shiva on the second waterfall. Most of the anchors are bolts, and some of them are placed so you abseil in the water flow, some are off to the side (for whatever reason). When you first start out, your brain tells you to stay out of the water flow!

Alissa on the 3rd (or maybe the 2nd) waterfall, as I said, most of us weren’t going down in the flow of the water.

Marty on the 2nd or 3rd abseil.

Marcia on the next abseil, this is a “guided” abseil, that is we abseil down on one rope, and we are attached by our safety (either a PSD or a cows tail) to another rope that has been anchored off down the bottom, we abseil down and because we’re on the tensioned rope, we skim right over the top of a big pool.

Alissa on the guided abseil. I think I would have rather abseiled the whole waterfall, was a cool abseil.

Trish on the next abseil, I lost count at this stage. You can see Marcia down at the next ledge (where the next anchor will be).

Alissa on the abseil.

Shiva on the abseil.

Alissa on the next abseil. By this time we’re down at a level where tourists go, so we had a lot of spectators.

Our final abseil, and this is where we HAD to get into the flow of the water.

I think Marty really enjoyed this abseil/waterfall.

So, we’ve done all the waterfalls at this venue, we thanked David and Alex and sent them on their way and went back to Kangaroo Valley.

Next morning, Shiva, Marty, Trish, Anna, Alan C and I made our way to Macquarie Pass.  We found the track that would take us up to the top waterfalls.  I had already done the waterfalls before so I waited for them at Clover Falls.  They were back pretty soon, so we set up the Clover Falls abseil, the first one for the day that I would do.

Shiva on the Clover Falls abseil. It was wet, but not as wet as it would have been if we’d abseiled straight down the middle, the anchor is set so you don’t go down the waterfall – not sure why.

We stuffed around a bit looking for anchors and trying to interpret the track notes, then gave up and went down to Rainbow Falls. We did this abseil, and then the next one down.

Marty on the abseil, and in the middle of the pic you can just see Alan setting up the next abseil.  Note at the bottom of the photo, you can see the white water, we discovered that there are bolts set up so you can do this particular abseil through the water, I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I’m still not sold on waterfalls!

Shiva at the bottom of the second waterfall (and swim).

Trish on the last waterfall that we’d do for the day.  I didn’t like this abseil, didn’t like being pounded on the head by the water (lol).

We finished the day at this waterfall (there are more further downstream) but we’d stuffed around enough by then.  Neither Shiva nor I were happy with Sunday, we didn’t feel as though we’d “nailed” anything and none of us were working as a “team”.

So, we decided to do a day trip back to Mac Pass (let me tell you that’s some day trip for me! but I stayed the night with David S, so it wasn’t as big a drive – big Thanks to you David.).  There’d be just the three of us (Marty, Shiva, me) and Murray N (an MSS leader who does a lot of big waterfalls but usually using DRT), we wanted to see how he felt about SRT.

So, we drove down at the crack of dawn and met Murray at the car park (which was already full!).  We had decided to position ourselves at Rainbow Falls and do that (and the next small one), over and over again until we were happy with our performance (and team work).  Those of you in the know, I can just hear you … “you went all that way and did only 2 of the 10+ waterfalls!”  I’m here to tell you that for us that was definitely a good decision, no stuffing around walking between waterfalls.

This was an awesome day, we abseiled right in the flow of the water and by the end of the day I was used to it, not scared any more!  We were in teams of 2 and each person got to do the rigging numerous times (and do it different ways), and each of us got to go down last and do the pull downs numerous times.  I was so focused on nailing this that I didn’t even take any photos – not good for the blog!

Big thanks to Shiva for organising the workshop day and the follow up practice day.  I’m hoping for rain now so that there’s a good flow of water the next time waterfalls are on the program.


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8 Responses to How not to drown in high-flow waterfalls

  1. Ryan Hansen says:

    Fantastic Marilyn! Which set-ups did you use? 😀

    • marilyn says:

      Munter, Munter/Mule, Biner block and Figure 8 block.
      Mainly we used Munter, no need for Mule with what we were doing and Munter is quick. We liked the Figure 8 block best of the two blocks.

  2. Jenny Hughes says:

    that sounds amazing! All the waterfalls looked so beautiful!
    Thank you so much for blogging this!

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, they were great, with the rain we’re having at the moment, there should be a good flow in the next few days – but it would be really cold!

  3. Betty McCleary says:

    Another great experience, beautiful waterfalls. No need to social distance,plenty of fresh air.

  4. Kathy Leslie says:

    I am binge watching your adventures right now. the first one I watched looked grueling. Since I am afraid of heights this one of the abseiling looks terrifying, but also very cool. The waterfalls are beautiful. I always appreciate the scenery!!! You do a great job with the photography. Looking forward to watching a few more on this blustery afternoon! Thanks for sharing!!

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