01/02/2015 - report - photos - Geronimo Canyon track notes
Participants: Tom Brennan, Ed Squires, Josette Squires, Nicole Mealing, Paddy Aicken, Darryl Sullings, Jenny Stephens, Grant Carter
On the way up the mountains I had a text message from Nicole and Paddy saying that they'd been camped at Euroka Clearing and the gate to the park was still locked. Problem! Luckily the gate opened for them at 7:30am, and they were only going to be about 20 minutes late. They knew the way to the pagoda at the junction of the normal entry to the Wollangambe and the track to Geronimo, so I suggested the rest of us would start and they could meet us there.
The rendezvous went uneventfully, and we set off down the track to the upper section of the 'Gambe. With the bush all burnt out, there were great views of the cliffs across the Wollangambe from the edges, which you don't normally get to see. The track to the 'Gambe is fairly clear now, having been worn back in by the various trips that us it as an entry and exit track.
At the shallow crossing we headed across the 'Gambe and up the easy pass opposite and on to the ridge. Post the fires, the track on the north side is still very vague. The going was fairly easy since the ridge is open, and we veered off just before a large pagoda and made our way down via a couple of scrambles into the creek, just above Geronimo Canyon.
After morning tea we headed down to the first drop, a nice start with just a small overhang to get things going. The second abseil caused us some delays, as the current anchor is a piece of dynamic rope around the whole of the large boulder that blocks the canyon at that point. The rope was worn through to the core in one place, with limited slack. We managed to lift the loop up a bit on the boulder, and isolate the damaged section. This meant that the line of the anchor was a bit away from the start of the abseil, which made for a controlled slide to begin the drop, and I had to retrieve the rope each time for the next person with a long sling.
That overcome, we headed downstream to the "Geronimo" abseil, which we refrained from jumping. You can touch the bottom in places, so you would need to get your jump right!
Then then is a nice section of canyon before it opens out for the final abseil. Paddy spotted a small snake, probably a Mustard-Bellied Snake (Drysdalia rhodogaster), curled up on a sand bank along the way. On previous trips I have either gone straight down the falls, or along a ledge for some way to a large tree. This time we took a different line, a tree just a short way along the ledge, and Nicole led off.
It was getting on towards 2pm by this stage, and we stopped for lunch on the sandbanks at the 'Gambe, though in the deep gorge, some had more luck staying in the sunshine than others!
After lunch, we headed downstream, through the impressive gorge and one nice section of canyon. There was lots of muddy silt coating the rocks and on top of the sand in the river, presumably a legacy of the fires. It was 3 o'clock by the time we got back to the exit, and I was unsure if people would be keen to go around again for Horseshoe Canyon. Particularly as I noted it would probably be a 7pm finish or later.
However, everyone was fairly positive, so off we set up the pass again, somewhat quicker than the first time, with many people still wearing wetsuits, or part thereof! I used the GPS to decide where to leave the ridge, but after scouting along the cliffline for a short way, we couldn't find a way down, so in the interests of time set up a short abseil.
Once in the creek, there was a bit of slippery scrambling to reach the impressive first abseil. A clap of thunder gave us some pause for thought, but the sky overhead was still blue! I was a bit unsure if the 20m ropes would reach, and had to dangle out over the edge (on a safety line!) to see them just reach a pool at the bottom.
This brings you into a short but impressive section of canyon, and almost at the top of the second abseil, a beautiful but slippery 15m waterfall that tested everyone's abseiling skills. That drop ends in a deep pool, requiring a floating disconnect, and no easy option for a belay.
The canyon opens out shortly after, and we made our way up the 'Gambe to the exit. If I had bothered to check the map, it would have been quicker and easier to have gone downstream instead, but I had it in my mind that it was much of a muchness which way to go.
It was 6:30pm as left the Wollangambe and headed up the hill, the sky quickly becoming grey as the weather started to close in. Grant's knee gave out on him a short way up, and we stopped for some painkillers, and to offload some of his gear to Nicole. He was in some pain, particularly on the steeper bits, so it was a slowish climb up to Mt Wilson. The rain set in on us about half way up, though it was fairly light until we were almost at the cars, and the heavens opened up.
An excellent day in the bush.