23/02/2003 - report - Why Don't We Do It In The Road? Canyon track notes
Participants: Tom Brennan, Jonathan Potts, Lisa McGinnigle
Finally I was feeling a bit less nervous.
It was the first canyon I had done where I was the most experienced canyoner, so I was keen for it to be uneventful. But as the rain came pouring down walking down the creek to the main canyon section I knew it wasn't going to be that simple. WDWDIITR (aka Serendipity) is normally a placid creek, but had suddenly grown teeth and developed mini rapids and siphons.
The sight of eight other people already standing at the top of the drop gave me some comfort. If there was trouble to be had we weren't going to be in it by ourselves.
Lisa, Jonathan and I had already postponed the planned trip from Friday to Sunday, since the forecast for Friday was for "moderate to heavy falls". On Sunday it was just to be drizzle, clearing to a cloudy humid day.
Perhaps I should have known better. After our customary stop at the North Richmond bakery, I assumed the rain would ease up as we got into the mountains. Wrong! It not only persisted, but seemed to get heavier.
By the time we reached Mt Wilson it was pretty much, well, pissing down. Jonathan and I both changed into our wetsuits in the car, an interesting exercise in flexibility. There was no point in walking in in shorts and t-shirt as they were going to be soaked in no time.
It didn't take too long to find our way into the canyon. I had done it a year ago so was reasonably familiar with the turn offs. As we scrambled down the last bit to the first couple of abseils we could hear people ahead of us in the canyon. It was quite relieving to think that we weren't the only silly ones out on a day like today.
The first couple of drops we completed fairly quickly, and we headed down the main creek. There was a lot of water in the creek proper, and every hundred metres or so there would be another waterfall pouring in from the walls on one side or another. I kept an eye out for escape routes out of the creek, in case we decided to abort once we got to the canyon. There seemed to be plenty.
As we reached the start of the canyon, it looked like Pitt St! A commercial group of four were just finishing the tricky first abseil, and a private group of eight were just starting. With our group of three, and shortly, another group of five turning up behind us, we had twenty people in a short stretch of canyon. It was hard to believe that so many people could be out on such an awful day. It just goes to show what months of closures will do to people!
I talked to the guy running the abseils for the group of eight - who I found out afterwards was Ian Knapp, well known contributor to the OzCanyons mailing list. He mentioned that there was a quick exit upstream, which I took good note of. It sounded a lot easier than trying to negotiate 400m of the Wollangambe.
After talking to the group behind us, we agreed that they would put their rope down next and we would head off first, and then rig up the next abseil.
With water pouring down there was a definite incentive to avoid getting under the waterfall. Jonathan and I managed to stay to the right but Lisa had a bit of a wet ride after getting pulled to the left.
Once in the canyon, the water was flowing pretty swiftly. I took some caution moving from pool to pool as the current in each of the mini falls was strong - I didn't know if it would be strong enough to pull me under but made every effort to avoid finding out. The group of eight in front of us had just about finished the next 4m abseil when we arrived. There was one guy left at the top, and a girl down the bottom, although she was struggling to get off the rope with her figure-8 descender. After talking to the guy we found out most of them had jumped, and in the interest of getting out more quickly decided to do the same. Jonathan went back to tell the group behind us of the change in plans. The jump was reasonably narrow but not too bad.
After a short walk to the last abseil, the group were setting up the rope. Ian indicated that it could also be jumped, although it's a little hairy. It's a fairly small pool with not a lot of room for error. Too far and you hit the wall, not far enough and you don't clear the rock, and jumping from the left (which looks easier) is apparently dangerous. Despite this we all managed it fairly easily, although Jonathan just about overshot.
Another narrow section with a few more pools and then we were climbing out and around the final ledge above the Wollangambe. We bumped into the commercial group which had been at the front, just setting up for lunch. The guide indicated that you could scramble along hairy ledges to get to the exit point, but we decided to wade up the Wollangambe. The normally shallow pool was chest deep and swiftly flowing, and it was hard work wading upstream. A little more water and it would have been almost impossible.
From there the path out was easy. After a short climb there is a spectacular view from a ledge, back down along the Wollangambe. It would be a great spot to lunch on a nicer day. The track joins up eventually with the entrance track, and then the usual slog back to the car.
And the rain continued to fall the entire way back...so much for forecasts!