BLUE MOUNTAINS NP – 12 February 2021
Haystack Ridge>Lower South Bowen> North Bowen exit.
You think you’ve hit the jackpot when you “dodge a bullet” as they say in Australia (you know, when you just avoid a near disaster). Imagine how happy I was at the end of this trip when I realised that I’d dodged three bloody bullets!
So, what was the first bullet? Well, back on the 29th January, I’d organised a trip down the lower part of South Bowen Creek. We’d be walking in on Marijuana ridge, walking downstream for about 4k and then walking out via the North Bowen exit. When we all met up it was raining so we decided to shorten the trip, going in via Marijuana canyon and out via the ridge (a third of the trip). Determining to go back and give it another go, this time I shortened the trip by going in via the next ridge down, Haystack Ridge, eliminating about a k of South Bowen Creek walking. Let me tell you, if we’d stuck to the original plan from 29th January, we’d still be in that canyon! As it was, the shortened route took us 8 hours!
Anna O-B, Marcia K, Penny S, John G, Bill R and Garry S joined me – these Friday walks are becoming popular.
Before starting, I gave everyone a “lecture” on being cautious and risk averse – after 5 fatalities bush walking/canyoning/liloing over the last 5 months, I’m a bit twitchy. We set off at around 9.30 after doing the car shuffle.
The fourth climb, in the past, was up a (roughly) 2m wall of rock and there was a convenient root that was at the 1m level, you still needed a hand-line to pull yourself up as there were no hand-holds. In the 6 years since I last did this canyon, the root has rotted away and the fixed hand-line has two foot loops to help you up, it’s now a much trickier climb. John didn’t like the look of the hand-line and so went up a 3m cleft to the right, there didn’t look like too many foot holds and he called down that it was very, very slippery. I decided against climbing that but Anna followed him up. I wasn’t watching but at the slippery part, she lost her footing and her hand slipped off the hand-hold (root), and she fell down about 2 – 3m landing on her front, thankfully with her face in a spot where there was sand and leaf litter. Luckily she was wearing her helmet.
It was a heart-stopping moment for us all right up until she said “I’m ok”. We then rigged an extra belay rope for her (and me), but she wouldn’t hear of that and went up the rigged hand-line (me with my heart in my mouth, I didn’t think she should be climbing after that fall). She got up ok, the belay rope was set and John and Bill helped me up! Needless to say I wont be doing North Bowen ever again, unless I take someone to rig up a top belay for me, that exit is way dodgy.
It was another 2 hours before we got back to the cars on Wynnes Lookout road, another reason why I may not do North Bowen in the future, bloody long walk out! Let’s face it, I’ve done North Bowen seven times now, do I really have to do it again? Nup!
So, the third bullet dodged – with Anna not showing any serious injury – it could have been much, much worse. Thanks team for springing into action after the fall!
So, great trip (apart from the bullet(s)), really lovely canyon sections and a part of Mt Wilson that most people don’t do … thank you everyone for coming on this adventure with me!
UPDATE: Anna took herself off to the hospital the next day, just in case. They took X-rays an pronounced her unscathed (apart from a sore neck and shoulder), but then on Monday the radiologist called back and said that she had a very minor fracture in her neck! Very scary. She’ll be wearing a neck brace for a while.