NEWNES PLATEAU – 20 November 2021
Is it possible that I’m the common factor in the Epic Trips of recent times? We were doing Breakfast Creek, there was no reason to expect that it would turn into an epic, I guess it was another case of the Swiss Cheese Model. The silver lining is that once again I proved that I could do a 12 hour day and still have some energy left over at the end of the day.
I’d done this canyon twice before, back in 2002 and 2005, so, as far as I was concerned this was my first time as I couldn’t remember anything about the other two trips. Kavita was leading what was the first of some training for her to become a leader. She’d done all the research and was well prepared. Rod S was along on the trip as her mentor, to watch over her and to make sure the experience was a positive one. We intentionally didn’t have any newbies on the trip.
We did notice whilst walking in Rocky Creek, that there were two trees that had been sawn off 1m from the ground. Who would have brought in a chain saw we thought. Well, mystery solved, the spot with the two sawn trees and the camp fire was actually the site where a NUCC/SUSS member had fractured her ankle on the Breakfast Creek trip that they did last Easter and had to be helivaced out of the creek. Always good to have a mystery solved.
Eventually we came to our Rocky Creek exit creek. It was fairly obvious and the walk up was easy going. At this point, despite our slow progress, I wasn’t overly concerned about our timing, I was a little nervous about the climb that I knew was coming up.
We were initially following the track of someone who’d been there recently (you could see their footprints), but after an obvious part, we lost their track and made our own way up. We were now really slow, but again, wasn’t a big deal.
Following the notes, we came to a small overhang. In my track notes it says the route after a split in the creek “near the top is blocked by an overhang, scramble left and up the rock face”. Whether these important words were in Kavita’s track notes, I’m not sure, BUT, we came to a small overhang and it looked like people had scrambled up to the left of it, so up we went. There was a cliff-line about 50m up the slope from us and I assumed that our climb was nearby. While waiting for Rod to make his way up to us, Kavita went in search of the rock-climb – she was gone a long time, maybe 30 – 40 minutes and came back saying there was nothing climbable up where she’d gone. I decided that we should go up to what I thought may have been the climb (which I could see from where we were), and we took about 20 minutes to all get up to it and check it out. It definitely wasn’t the right climb; if Rod had been feeling strong at this point, he probably would have climbed up the face of the rock and we would have got out there.
But, he was feeling a bit tired, so we made the decision to traverse around to the right of the cliff-face to see if the “right” climb was there. I went on ahead and spent another 20 – 30 minutes checking out the way forward and then called Kavita and Rod to come that way. At this point Rod took out his GPS to see exactly where we were … should have done this an hour ago (lol). Yep, we were about 200m from where we should have been, so we kept on following the cliff-line.
Eventually we came to an overhang which “blocked our way” and we were able to scramble (with difficulty due to the slippery rock) up to the left of the overhang and then a little further up we came to the climb.
Kavita scrambled up with her pack on and a rope that she could throw down to me. Whilst the slope of the climb wasn’t too bad looking at it from the bottom, it was steeper than it looked when you were on it. Plus there weren’t that many hand holds and the step-ups were higher than comfortable for me. But, I’m not a climber so it was a lot more daunting for me than the others. Nevertheless, we were all up the top by about 7.30pm.
We needed to find our way over to the Galah Mountain fire trail to get back to the car. Kavita had the map on her phone so she led the way. There’s supposed to be a bit of a footpad there but we didn’t find it until around 8.15pm. Once we found it we made good time. Once on the Galah Mountain fire trail, I headed off to the car, Kavita and Rod followed at their own pace. I was back at the car at 9pm on the dot!
So, what went wrong to turn a relatively easy canyon into an epic. The overgrown route in didn’t help, but probably added only 30 minutes onto our timing. Our way through the canyon was fine, we spent a lot of time explaining some things to Kavita, but as we were a small group that wouldn’t have added that much extra time onto the trip. The scrub in Rocky Creek and the fallen trees didn’t help, particularly as by now we were all quite tired we probably took 1 – 2 hours longer than we should have in Rocky Creek. The height of the water added more time because of the small climb that we needed to do. And then the biggest problem of all was the profusion of bloody overhangs in the exit creek. I could see three that fit the bill, but, the key word was “blocked”, that would have made all the difference because I wasn’t aware that our way should have been blocked. Then, it took a while to do the climb out and by this time we were all very tired and the walk out too was longer than expected in the dark.
However, for a training trip, Kavita couldn’t have asked for a better one. There’s nothing that you’ll learn more from than a trip that doesn’t go according to plan!
We had planned on doing something on Sunday, but it rained a lot overnight so we decided that we’d head home for some much needed rest. Thank you so much Kavita and Rod for putting the trip on. I really enjoyed the trip!