Another trip of Epic proportions

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 started on the Galah Mountain fire trail at 9am (or thereabouts), very easy walking.

After a k, we turned off onto the Rocky Creek exit track which would take us most of the way to Breakfast Creek.

The track was quite indistinct in places and we took a few small detours.

Kavita checking the map.

We eventually arrived at the creek and virtually walked right to the anchor (well done Kavita), there was only one sling and it looked a little worse for wear, so we added a second one.

Kavita going down first – the pitch is only 10m.

Rod on the pitch, there’s a nasty area with mud and roots and then an overhang, not the nicest abseil around.

Right next to the abseil was this lovely patch of native violets.

From the abseil it was then a few hundred metres downstream through some scrubby parts.

A nice section of the creek.

Lots of fallen logs/trees – a result of the 2019 bushfire through the area.

The next abseil, this was probably only 15m, and the edge that you abseiled over had a lot of loose rocks so you had to be careful that you didn’t move the rope around too much.  Apparently you can avoid this abseil and scramble down the waterfall to Rod’s left, but we thought it looked too wet and slippery to be completed without incident.

At the bottom of that abseil is a nice section of creek with a lot of overhanging rock.

And a nice big amphitheater.

Looking back.

The way ahead is looking good.

Before this section of canyon I’d been thinking that the creek wasn’t all that nice, I should have read the trip notes which said that eventually you got to a good section of canyon.

This is the main abseil, about 27m pitch from the anchor at the top. I wondered whether or not I should put on my wetsuit, but didn’t bother.  It was ok until just below Rod, then you were right in the water flow and it was freezing with the water pounding on your head, didn’t enjoy the shower at all.

Rod just after going through the waterfall, the rest of the abseil was easy.

The next abseil, I quickly changed into a dry thermal before this abseil as I was soaking wet.

Looking down the canyon.

By now we’re all thinking the canyon is pretty nice, this little slot was cool to walk down.  It was followed by a pothole that was quite deep, fortunately there was a log you could climb up onto.

More canyon section.

This was a tricky, slippery log jam to get through.

Rod getting off the next small abseil.

Another abseil.

Followed by another one!

Kavita got quite wet at the bottom. By this time I’d changed into the jacket of my (new) wetsuit and I was feeling toasty warm.

Looking back up the creek as Kavita and Rod stowed the rope away. Apparently there was a small snake on the log where they were, I missed it entirely!  We’re now at the end of the canyon itself and a small climb across a deep hole followed.

Once past the small climb, there was an overhang to negotiate, Kavita and I crawled through it but Rod made it look especially difficult by going through the slot on his back. If you fell off here, there was quite a big drop (a couple of metres but enough to do serious damage to you).

It was a simple scramble down to Rocky Creek where we stopped for lunch, then started walking upstream to our exit. There was a lot of scrub on either side, Kavita took to the creek in this section to avoid the fallen logs.

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.

Nice section of Rocky Creek. By this time we had slowed down considerably. The track notes say walk upstream for about an hour, we took far longer than this, possibly 2+ hours – the scrub was very thick in places.

This climb up a waterfall was difficult too, lots of water so you couldn’t see where to put your feet and there was an inconvenient log in the way. Kavita managed with her pack on, but I had to take mine off and hand it to her.

Then there was a hole that you had to climb through, and the way that the hole was orientated, it wasn’t easy to get through.

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.

Kavita where we all regrouped. I think she’s just happy that she’s up the top of the climb and we still had some daylight.

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!


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14 Responses to Another trip of Epic proportions

  1. Roderick Smith says:

    You’re kind not to mention that, possibly, the biggest problem was my lack of fitness.

    • marilyn says:

      Ah well Rod, if it wasn’t you that was slow, it would have been me! We would have been fine though if we hadn’t stuffed up the exit!

  2. Trish Morrow says:

    Yeh we had trouble with the exit too. Poor notes and assumptions on our part. And it’s quite long up rocky Creek and we had lower flow. I remember that climb in the creek as a bit grunty.

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, it’s those bloody assumptions that do you in. And the notes saying 1 hour up the creek doesn’t take into account relative ages either and high flow of water. Yep grunty climb with all that water, a little more and I would really have struggled.

  3. Kavita Joshi says:

    What a wonderful way you wove the story…I really enjoyed it reliving it from my comfortable couch Marilyn. It was a fun trip to remember forever.

  4. James Crockett says:

    Yes it’s also amazing what 16 years can do. Was probably easy in 2006 but now it’s an epic because we were all younger and a lot fitter back then.

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, what a difference 20 years makes! I have to say though, picking up the 30m rope at 6.00pm and carrying out for the rest of the trip was satisfying! Prob would have been more satisfying though if it had been a 60m rope!

  5. Lindsay Barrett says:

    Sure that you were in Breakfast Creek? I seem to remember that there were less abseils than your photos show; & that you can reach the junction with Rocky Creek without getting wet (apart from feet/legs).
    Take a look at the notes for “Closet Canyon” (comes after Breakfast Creek in the canyon book) – looks like you didn’t do what you thought you did after all.
    Anyway, glad that you survived another day!

    • marilyn says:

      Hi Lindsay, we were definitely in Breakfast Creek, no doubt about it. Sometimes we did an abseil that could have been walked around so that’s why there looked to be more.
      And I too am pleased I survived another day!

  6. Cathi H-H says:

    Definitely Breakfast Ck – I just found my photos of the 1999 trip we took and that spot where you show Rod coming down the main abseil – I have a photo of the rock wall with the green moss on it – that hasn’t changed.

  7. Kathy Leslie says:

    Always enjoy your crazy epic adventures from the comfort of my easy chair!!!
    Enjoying a quiet Thanksgiving Day here. Extended family, including an adorable wild one year old and dog, coming this weekend for some epic craziness of a different sort!!!

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