26/01/2009 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Andrew Glover, Bethany Hoye

It was a bit of deja vu as we had met Bethany and Glover at Leura for Fortress Canyon just the previous Sunday.

We drove out along the Mt Hay Road to the clearing and sorted gear for the trip. One 60m climbing rope, one 34m static, a bunch of cams and slings.

We set off down the fire trail, and when it ran out, down the hill. The scrub had come back a lot in the six years since I had last been there. We emerged at the top of a large drop. Traversing into the creek, we slung (slinged?) a tree and I tossed the 60m rope. I got to check out the drop, an easy freefall. I could see one of the tails hanging off the ground, but the other was on the ground. Since I had coiled them the same length in theory, I figured that with rope stretch it would reach, and abseiled down. No problems but a slippery landing.

As we walked down to the next pitch, Glover remembered that he had left the bolt plates behind. Oh well, nothing we can do now. We wandered down to the point above the creek, threw the rope around another tree, and dropped into the creek. There were some large plates of rock balanced precariously on the cliff on the way down, and Glover decided to tumble one of them rather than leave it for Bethany and Rachel to step on. It crashed down with a great noise as I removed myself as far as possible from the drop zone.

At the bottom Bethany hands Glover stuff to put in dry bag. Glover: "I don't have a dry bag"

Bethany: "But I left it out for you to put in your pack"

"But you packed my pack"

"No, I left on the ground for you to put in your pack. I went off to go to the toilet and when I came back it wasn't on the ground anymore"

"I went off to the toilet and when I came back you'd packed my pack"

Repeat last two sentences several times in different tones. Eventual conclusion: no dry bag, and therefore no thermals, and no torch. Everything went into a large garbage bag with the exception of Glover's climbing shoes, which were deemed "important" and put into Rachel's dry bag. The garbage bag ended up getting a hole and everything was soaked by lunchtime!

The creek was extremely slippery going. Presumably past pollution encouraged the algae growth. It was heartening to see plenty of yabbies, so maybe the water quality is improving. We worked our way down a few interesting scrambles to reach the start of the canyon proper. The abseil was a good one, scrambling into a pothole to abseil out through the keyhole. The canyon was good, better than I remembered. Similar to Grand Canyon in appearance, though much more challenging. There were numerous short drops to scramble, made all the more difficult by the slippery rock. Potholes abounded, some deep enough that you wouldn't want to fall in. We reached the final jump-in and swam across the pool and out to the sunlight where the valley opens up by about 2pm.

I remembered a fair bit about the climbs - the short first pitch between rock and tree, the bolts on the second pitch leading to a dirt bank, and the long traverse on the third pitch. I didn't remember the tricky bits to get above the traverse or how high up the belay was. Glover led all of the pitches and got to find this exciting stuff for himself! The rest of us at least had a rope above us, though that was of limited benefit on the traverse. We were at the top by about 5:30pm, late, but still plenty of time to get out.

At the bottom of Alpheus Canyon we swam across the pool, much to Glover's displeasure, and reached a waterfall. The options were the log on the right that I remembered we had climbed last time, or to try and find a new route up to the left. My memory of the log was of something smaller and less dodgy, but since Glover had done the hard work to get us up, I figured it was my turn to get us out. The top of the log was leaning against the wall, looking for all the world as if it would break and the log would shift. I had bits of gear hauled up (cams) and thrown up (slings) and got a good cam in just before the move up the wall and out. It took the others a while to get up, as I hadn't really left enough slings down low.

Once we were up I checked out the gully above. Not straightforward. With the help of a few (small) trees I got up and out and let down another rope. It was getting dark, and it started to rain. We decided that we would not bother trying to get through the final cliffline, and instead traverse under the cliffs upstream, repeating the route we took out in the dark six years before. It took us a couple of hours of walking in the dark but we made it back to the cars by 10pm. A long but very good day.