I’m baaaack!

GLOUCESTER TOPS – 7-9 April 2023
Yes, I’ve not posted for quite some time, too many other distractions.  But now that all those other distractions are out of the way, Easter was fast approaching and I felt the need to get out and do something new and adventurous.  But, what to do?

A couple of weeks ago, Jim C floated the idea to go to the Barrington’s for Easter and do some creeks there, but he was easily persuaded to change the venue to Gloucester.  He hadn’t done the multi pitch creeks that I suggested, so it was a s no-brainer.  Add to that the incentive that Brad & Sue M had offered 5 start accommodation in their house at Gloucester and we were all sold.  Trish M, and Cheryl W would be joining us.

It’s been a long time between trips, so initially I was really keen, but closer to the date, my enthusiasm started to wain – but I figured, what the heck, if I start not going on trips, next thing you know I’d be sitting home playing bridge every weekend (not that there’s anything wrong with that LOL).

We drove up on Friday morning and headed up to Gloucester Tops to do Emperor Falls.  Trish and I had done The falls back in January and we figured we’d be able to find it (famous last words), Trish’s memory was better than mind, I’d be still walking down the creek if it had been up to me!  There are three abseils down the falls, an easy walk in and out.

Crossing Gloucester River – the water’s quite a bit higher than back in January, by now Cheryl is wondering what she’s gotten herself into! (Photo Jim)

I was confident about finding our way across the river and around the spur. The walking was very easy.

We crossed the Emperor creek and Trish persuaded me to climb up a little and then head down on the side of the bank (for a couple of hundred metres), and eventually I found the anchor.  We sent Trish over first (our crash test dummy for the day!).  Once we got to the anchor, it all came back to me!

Sadly, along with the light rain, the mist/cloud had rolled in and you couldn’t see anything!

Me on Pitch 1, it’s about 20m – notice the mist in the background. (Photo:  Brad)

You can’t see him but this is Brad on the first abseil. When you get to the bottom, there’s not much standing room, so Jim and Trish had set up the anchor for Pitch 2 and headed down.

Brad (with the rope from pitch 1 that we’d pulled down) about to head down Pitch 2 – a little over 50m.

Cheryl on Pitch 2.

Cheryl at the bottom of Pitch #2 (Photo:  Jim)

Me on Pitch 2 … this would have been an awesome abseil except for the fact that for some reason, the 2 x 60m ropes were twisting around each other, I tried to get those below to untwist them, but they couldn’t hear me and my hand signals weren’t working. After each m of abseil I’d have to untwist the rope so I could get further down – really annoying! (photo:  Brad)

And then came the pull-down – and what a horrible pull down it was. Either the rope had a twist in it, or the friction on the rock was too much, took at least 1/2 an hour to pull the rope down – Trish remembered that it was a problem last time too!

Looking down at Brad who’s at the bottom of pitch #3 (photo:  Jim).

The final abseil (pitch #3), you can barely see Trish on the ledge, the others are at the bottom making their way through the maze of fallen trees!

A closer look at the maze (you could easily slip on the logs and brake an ankle).

Once we’d maneuvered our way through the branches we had to make our way to the side of the creek and climb up to the next level.  Trish and I had difficulty finding the cross over point (which would take us to the exit route), mainly because the water was so high, we couldn’t recognise any features.  Eventually though, we made a decision and “went for it”.

Crossing the creek, trying not to slip and not end up in waist deep water. I slipped right at the end of the cross over and now have a massive bruise on my butt. (Photo:  Jim)

Photo of Emperor Falls from the lookout above our exit route – seems bigger from this angle! (Photo: Jim).

The walk out was relatively painless, once we found our way out of the creek, it was straight forward and we were back at the cars by around 5.30pm. We then started the process of de-leeching – most of us had one (if not more) leeches on us despite covering our feet in Vicks Vapor Rub (my deterrent of choice). All in all a great day out.

We drove down to Gloucester to Brad & Sue’s lovely house and enjoyed a bbq dinner (courtesy of Jim) and lazed in Sue’s spa – luxury.  As a bonus, two BWOC members, Christine & Nick, were staying the night at Brad & Sue’s too, so it was great to catch up with them.

I’d like to say we were up bright and early but sadly, we got away later than planned, which meant that we got back to Brad’s later than we would have liked too.  Nevertheless, we piled into the cars and followed Brad up to Copeland Tops Conservation Area.  A short walk down a fire train and we were at the first pitch of what is apparently a 13 pitch abseil down the creek!  I have to say, I couldn’t keep track of the abseils and missed photographing some of them, but am pretty sure there were 13 of them! The main challenge was avoiding the Stinging Trees!

Brad led us unerringly to the first pitch, through some lovely rainforest, though constantly on the lookout for stinging trees (even the leaves that fall to the ground can sting!).

Whilst Brad had done this trip before, there were no notes, so it was pretty much an exploratory trip for all of us.  Consequently, when we’d rigged some ropes, we discovered that the rope wasn’t long enough, so we had to re-rig, very time consuming.  Abseil 1 – Trish was our crash-test dummy for the whole day bravely going first on almost every abseil, loaded down with a rope in her pack ready to rig the next pitch!

Abseil #1 was a nice simple walk down a small waterfall, not much water at this point, that would change!

I’ll probably get the order wrong but I thing Jim is on Abseil #2

This might be Abseil #3

And Trish braving this mass of rainforest plants and lawyer vine on Abseil #4

She really is going through a forest.

Possibly abseil #5 which had a nasty start and was a wall of vines.  Because we were unsure of the length of this pitch, Trish went down single rope, and then we re-rigged the pitch as the rope was 40m and the pitch was only 20m.

I decided to do a side-on slippery slide down the vines, too hard to find good foot placement, was a fun ride!

Me on one of the nicer abseils, not sure which one it was.

Cheryl on Abseil #6

Trish on Abseil #6 with the others down at the bottom.

Abseil #7

Not sure which abseil this was but it was one of the “nicer” ones and by now the weather had changed slightly.

Some nice creek walking, and we’re under the rainforest canopy so the vegetation is much friendlier.

And the creek bed is much easier to walk in.

The last abseil, #13 … I missed photographing quite a few, we were trying to be efficient with our movement through the canyon.

The dreaded Stinging Tree. There are nasty spikes all over the leaves and they leave you with painful stinging sensation, Some of the trees were 50m high with leaves all over the ground, you’d think you were safe and then you’d touch one of the fallen leaves – ouch!

A log covered in fungus, it could be Ghost fungus, but I’ve never seen it with stripes before.

Brad on the walk out surrounded by Stinging Trees.

After the last abseil, there was 200m or so of walking down the creek to the exit point which was quite easy to pin point.  Then it was 200m in scrub and stinging trees to a good track back up to where we’d parked the cars.  The walk out was long, but very easy and we were back at the cars by 5.30.

We tried to leap frog the abseils (someone always going ahead to rig the next abseil and the pull down rope being moved to the front of the group).  With 4 ropes between the five of us, theoretically this should have worked well, but with the uncertainty of the length of the pitches, often we wouldn’t have the right length of rope for the job.  However, by abseil 9, we were in a bit of a grove and we were much more efficient and moved more quickly through the creek.  It just goes to show how important team work is and we were really working as a team by the end.

We headed down to Brad & Sue’s after de-leeching and Sue’d cooked us a fabulous spag bol dinner, so nice not to have to organise dinner after a long day.

Whilst we’d planned to do the upper Gloucester River abseils on Sunday, I decided that it was too cold to do four swims in the deep pools, and the water was higher than the last time and with only the 3 of us (Trish and Brad had other plans), it was too iffy.

So, Jim, Cheryl and I headed off on Sunday morning for me to show them the delights of some of the Catherine Hill bay abseils.

Even just with the two creeks, it turned out to be a GREAT weekend, with a combination of unpleasant experiences … rain, and mist (no views), leeches galore, stinging trees (these are terrible), stinging nettles, very slippery rocks, high water, wetter waterfalls than expected, and more lawyer vine than you could poke a stick at.  At one point, on the first day with the rain starting I contemplated turning around and going back to the car!

Thanks so much to Jim for suggesting an Easter Trip in the first place, and thanks to Trish, Brad and Cheryl for joining us.  And last but not least, BIG thanks to Sue and Brad for their hospitality.

So, what’s coming up next?  A Road Trip to the Nullabour for some caving, yaaaa!

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4 Responses to I’m baaaack!

  1. James Crockett says:

    Yes certainly was a fun Easter break.I am in the middle of writing up the trip reports. Hope they will be interesting reports.

  2. Roy Cotton says:

    Thank you, M, welcome back I always look forward to your blogs as usual interesting descriptions and excellent photos. Keep up the good work.

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