Maybe I need a better wetsuit!

GLOUCESTER TOPS – 27-28 December 2022
I’d heard there was a private trip happening at Kanangra.  Even though I’d been there a few weeks ago, at the time, I was so focused on not getting hypothermia in the 3°C weather, that I didn’t fully enjoy the experience.  I would have welcomed a repeat trip in warm weather lol.  Sadly, an invitation didn’t come my way, so I joined a trip to Gloucester Tops with BWOC. It’s been a long time between BWOC trips, but this trip may have me back in the fold!  Great company, excellent canyoning and trips that I wouldn’t think of leading myself.

Trish and I headed up on the 26th, it’s an easy drive up, I think the last time I was there was about 15 years ago.  The campsite is lovely and there’s a lot to do in the area.  I’d had the full 2 day trip on the Gloucester River on my wish list for quite a while but eventually took it off, assuming that I’d never get there.  Laurie and Chris had planned a short day, with three abseils in the River.  The following day we’d do Emperor Falls.  I was really looking forward to being a passenger on the trip!

After what seemed like a 1 hour’s drive to the Tops, we had a short walk down to the river where we suited up. Apart from Laurie, Chris, Trish and myself I met some newer BWOC members, Tim (and Edith who didn’t join us), Craig, Derrick, Jared and Larissa (pretty sure I got those names all right, I struggled with the names all weekend!

The first challenge, a jump, the water doesn’t look all that appealing.

I’m pretty sure everyone did the jump. I watched for a while, took some photos and then decided that I should do the jump – just to prove to myself that I could!

Larissa made it look really easy (and fun).

Trish looks like she’s trying to walk past the white water. I was next, water was bloody freezing. This would be the start of a very cold day! A thermal under my wetsuit didn’t help, the only time I was almost warm was after I put my rain shell on and sat in the sun.

A short walk downstream through a boulder field.

Followed by a swim through a short gorge (water’s not getting any warmer).

And then we’re at our first abseil, probably around 20m into a pool of water. We were giving SRT a go, whilst I’m used to it, the others weren’t so it was good practice.

Larissa, you wouldn’t think she was nervous would you?

A shot of the waterfall from downstream.

The next abseil, pretty easy, but you land beside the water on a ledge and then have to swim over to the shore.

The 2nd abseil was followed by a short walk on the bank beside a gorge.

Then we were at the climb. I’d heard about the climb, words like “it’s only 2m” and “there’s no exposure”.  It might have only been 2m but it was awful!

Everyone standing around after Laurie free climbed (using a handline that’s in place). He then checked out the handline to make sure the anchor was secure and then proceeded to top belay those that needed some assistance – that would be ME!

Me going up the climb. The handline had to be 20ml thick and very dry and rough, like using the bark of a branch to pull yourself up. By the time I got to the top (after all the swearing), my hands were red-raw, I should have worn my gloves! (photo:  Craig)

After my hands stopped shaking, I was able to take a photo of someone else coming up. Trish asked me if I’d do this part of the river again taking the climb into account, took me a while to think about it, and probably yes, but next time I’d wear gloves and be prepared for the pendulum-ing of the rope! And maybe prussic up!

There was then a dodgy traverse (Laurie wanted to put up a safety rope) but we didn’t know that and just walked across it. A tree had fallen recently and some of the safe spots on the traverse were missing. Nevertheless, we all made it across.

The final abseil for the day. There are three routes you could take on this abseil (1) down the guts of the waterfall with water pummeling your head; (2) down to the chockstone (you’ll see it in one of the photos – the downside of this is you have to be careful to actually land on the chockstone; and (3) a simple abseil down a lovely section of rock. All abseils finished in the pool. Photo shows Chris getting on rope.

It’s a really lovely abseil, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, my gloves weren’t my usual ones (all worn out), and the rope was a bit warm in my hand. Nevertheless, I’d willingly do it again.

Sitting in the sun waiting for everyone to get down. A couple of the guys went back up the top and re-rigged the rope to do the chock-stone abseil.

Another abseil shot going down to the chock-stone.

Craig standing on the chock-stone taking some photos.

I spent a lot of the time down the bottom sharing a spot in the sun with a small green tree frog, poor thing, looked like his back leg had been injured.

I’d been shivering ever since the jump in right at the beginning.  The yellow spray jacket helped a little and sitting in the sun watching everyone abseil warmed me up a little, but I really do think the Shark Skin wetsuit that I have isn’t “cutting it”.  I might have to invest in something better – or give up wet canyons!

The walk out was great, a 200m climb up a spur to the ridge and then a walk along a knife edge for 100m and then lovely ridge. This is a view over to the spot where we started in the morning.

Part of the walk back to the cars on the tourist track. It wasn’t a long day, we’d finished by around 2.30pm. We had planned a walk in the Antarctic Beech Forest, but we were all pretty stuffed and it was getting to beer-o’clock.

Lots of sitting around for the rest of the afternoon, gathering a bit of firewood and then a lovely fire after dinner, life doesn’t get much better than that.

Next morning. we were a much smaller group, only 7 of us and we were doing Emperor Falls. It’s probably one of the easiest walks in that I’ve done – we were in the headwaters of the creek after only an hour of walking.

At the first pitch, Laurie giving us the “toolbox talk” regarding what we could expect. The first two abseils were the best, but there wasn’t much room at the bottom of the first, so we had 2-way radios to communicate with between the top of pitch 1 and pitch 2, we’d use whistles between pitch 2 and pitch 3.  After Laurie told us that we wouldn’t get wet and not to bother with wetsuits, out came his spray jacket – so Laurie, we MIGHT get wet?

The start of pitch 1. I couldn’t take a pic of pitch 2 because you changed straight from the Pitch 1 rope to the Pitch 2 rope and there was no-one to take a photo of!

Pitch 2, probably about 20m down a buttress that has water flowing over it. A really nice abseil.

Trish at the bottom of the abseil.

And looking very happy!

Derrick at the top of Pitch 3 which goes down into a big pile of fallen trees.

Pitch 3, was a bit tricky in some spots, everyone did it differently.

Tim on Pitch 3.

Great shot of Trish.

The weather was really good, and because we weren’t in a high-flow creek, it wasn’t as cold as it was the day before. Big rock buttress across the river.

Part of the fallen trees where we landed.

We had a quick lunch then headed upstream for about 75m and then crossed the river at a convenient boulder field. Then we simply went up the gully that we had exited via the day before.

We were up the top after 30 minutes of climbing and another 30 minutes later we were in the area where we had started. It had been a 5 or 6 hour day, not long but we’d been moving fairly efficiently.

Two great days of canyoning in an area that I’d often dreamt about doing but didn’t think I’d have the opportunity.

Thanks, Trish, for chauffeuring me to the campsite, and a bigger thanks to Laurie and Chris for putting this trip on the BWOC calendar.  Looking forward to doing more with the group and maybe joining in some of the awesome trips Laurie has planned for the future.



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4 Responses to Maybe I need a better wetsuit!

  1. Laurence Alderton says:

    Fantastic trip report Marilyn, Chris and I loved having you and your wealth of experience and knowledge along with us and we’re looking forward to more trips in the future 🙂

  2. Roy Cotton says:

    I have been to Gloucester Tops a wonderful place. Looks like you had a great time and as usual excellent photos.

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