21/03/2009 - report - photos - Kanangra Main Canyon track notes
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Caoimhin Ardren
Trip report by Rachel.
After spending the week hoping Caoimhin was going to bail at the last minute so I could stay home and study (I cringe just reading that!) I was surprisingly looking forward to the trip when I got home from work on Friday evening. Supposedly Caoimhin was meeting us at 7pm - given the last time I'd headed up to Kanangra with him we'd left Sydney at 10pm I had no expectation of getting away on time. So when he rocked up at 6:30pm I was somewhat surprised! We were away at 7pm on the dot; we had a quick stop for Thai in Blaxland then onwards to Kanangra. A stop to change drivers at the Jenolan Caves turn off brought the invigorating smell of the country. I should have savoured it more as it was the last we were to get of it in the weekend. Arriving at Boyd River campsite about 11pm the only smell was of bushfires. Tents were quickly erected and then sleep.
We were slightly later than expected getting up just before 7am and making it to the Walls car park at 8am. Caoimhin and I knew the route out so with minimal pfaffing (particularly since Tom discovered his camera batteries were on the low side) we were at the top of the first abseil at 9am.
When Caoimhin and I had last been here we'd bailed due to thunderstorms the previous night. The flow today looked manageable even if the views weren't great due to the smoky haze from the hazard reduction burns. The first two abseils went well and we were soon pulling the rope when I looked up and saw the end dangling above our heads with not one but two loops in it. It was out of reach and had the potential to knot and cause all sorts of problems. Caoimhin quickly bridged up between the pinnacle and wall to try and reach it. He managed to knock the kinks out fairly quickly and we could all breathe a bit more easily. We joked that at least now there would be something interesting to put in the trip report!
The third abseil was uneventful and we were pleased to escape the thousands of ants which inhabited the earlier belay ledges. Things continued routinely. Tom would abseil first, I'd go next, then Caoimhin descend last after setting the ropes for an easy pull down and we'd be done. At the 'big jump' I abseiled down under the chock stone using the existing rigging. Tom and Caoimhin did the jump.
The next anchors were pretty easy to spot - bright green - and also another set of anchors not far down on the right. We discussed why you would have anchors on the right and decided previous parties must have just stuffed up and chucked some bolts in. Perhaps we should have checked our notes! Caoimhin and Tom looked over the edge and Caoimhin said we'd be able to make it in one drop. As per our now well established routine Tom set off first. Time ticked by, Caoimhin was getting restless so he down climbed a few metres to see what was going on. Communication was tricky but with some shouting he established that Tom was ok. Shortly after that the rope was free and I was on my way.
I was somewhat surprised to see where Tom had ended up - on the other side of the abseil on a big ledge. After some gesturing to Caoimhin to say there was plenty of spare rope and he'd be able to pull it through I set off. It was fairly unpleasant traversing through the waterfall but eventually I made it across to Tom. Caoimhin and I had agreed that I would yell out 'cooee' when I was ready for him to adjust the ropes. Things were complicated when Tom informed me he had originally abseiled down further but was short a few metres so had prussiked back up to where we now were. He was unsure whether we could get across to the anchor point on the ledge without the rope (as it was extremely slippery) so he did not want any of the rope pulled. Some confusing hand signals to Caoimhin followed. In the meantime Tom had managed to get across without the rope - but he still didn't want it adjusted. Not for the first time in the day we thought how beneficial Caoimhin's walkie talkies would have been. Caoimhin was soon down and we carefully scrambled across the slippery ledge. That's when the fun started.
The rope wouldn't pull. Tom and Caoimhin spent the next 20 minutes trying various things to get it to move with zero success. Somehow Tom drew the short straw and was soon traversing back under the waterfall to prusik back up. Unfortunately while trying to pull the ropes they had ended up separated by a few metres at the top, which was going to cause some problems prusiking. Tom spent a few minutes trying to get them back together unsuccessfully so just started up. Slow steady progress was made but the ropes were still separated so we were all pretty happy when Tom managed to flick them back together about two-thirds of the way up. The leeches had found me on the slippery ledge so I spent my time avoiding them while waiting. We had agreed that Tom would re-rig from the second lower anchor on the right. Our views on the point of that anchor had now somewhat changed! It seemed like an eternity passed before the ropes re-appeared on the right side of the falls and Tom started descending. All up we'd spent 2.5 hours on this abseil.
While we'd been waiting Caoimhin had tried rigging the other 29m rope to get off the ledge. It was a couple of metres short so once Tom was back down we rigged the abseil - off one piton which we used as back up - and wrapped the slings around a rock bollard as the primary anchor. It was now after 3pm and we hadn't eaten lunch. Since there were only a couple more abseils left we decided to push on. The next abseil was a cracker down the middle of the waterfall. We were a bit surprised when we reached the top of the next waterfall and the only anchor was a sling off a tree fern. It didn't take long to realise that this was not a compulsory abseil and we made our way around the side of it. The final abseil was the easiest of the day, and then it was just a matter of scrambling down the final ledge.
We decided to continue to Murdering Gully before having lunch so at the rather late hour of 5:30pm we tucked into our first decent food since breakfast. The fires were still burning strongly and air was thick with smoke. We made it to the top of Murdering Gully without event just as it was getting dark - perfect timing! Tom insisted we head out to the lookout despite the increasing darkness - we were rewarded with views of the fires which had formed a circular front that was slowly creeping towards us. We didn't even want to think about ascending Murdering Gully after a fire had burnt out the vegetation. Finally we headed back to the car and camp.