20/02/2010 - report - photos - Danae Brook Canyon track notes

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

Having been canyoning for almost ten years, I was painfully aware that Danae Brook was one of the classics that had somehow eluded me. So when Bethany and Glover were back from Europe, and Bethany hadn't been to Kanangra before, it seemed like a great opportunity. Little did we know what we were in for...

I was already awake at 5:30am on the Saturday morning when my alarm went off. Rachel had just asked me what I thought the time was. 4? 4:30? I said hopefully. Maybe 5, maybe 5:29. The last turned out to be the most accurate!

By the time we had breakfast and piled into cars it was about 6:25am. Off we drove to the Walls, leaving Glover and Bethany's car and driving ours back to the start of the Mount Thurat Fire Trail. As we arrived, another car of canyoners had left their packs and were driving down to the Walls. Two of them had left large overnight packs with ropes and helmets sticking out. The last pack was a day pack with sleeping bag and bedroll strapped to the outside. We mused over what they could be doing, but couldn't come up with a logical answer. Not the logical place to start for Davies or Carra Beanga, too wet in Danae or Thurat Rift for a strapped on sleeping bag. Christys Creek?

We started walking at 6:45am. Kanangra Brook was flowing strongly as we crossed it on the fire trail, a slightly concerning sign. I had assumed that the torrential rains of the week before had mostly had time to run off, but judging from the creek, even Kalang would have a good flow. Kanangra Creek was also flowing well, but not as big as expected. After a bit of a workout up to the top of the hill, we saw no sign of a track, so headed off into the scrub. The scrub wasn't too bad until we got near to where we were planning on heading down into Danae Brook, when it rapidly got nasty and forced us to fight our way through for a while. As we got closer to the Brook, the trees opened up and was easy pleasant walking down to the top of the first waterfall. We arrived at 8:56am.

There was plenty of water going over the falls, but we suited and harnessed up and Rachel went down to check it out. The walkie talkies that had been a Christmas present from my brother came in quite handy as nothing could be heard over the roar of the falls. We all abseiled down to the bottom of the first falls, where the water flow did not look so intimidating, and so Rachel headed down into the slot. After a bit more discussion, we decided to pull the ropes and go for it.

The next abseil had an awkward start, helped by a missing bolt. It went behind the lower chockstone and being last I bridged myself between the walls in the pool below to pull the rope down. The others were already clearing debris from the Waterfall Abseil anchor. From the amount of debris at each anchor, it was clear that we were the first party through after the flooding of the week before. There were also a set of anchors a bit lower, but the flow of water made it unlikely we'd get to them. I elected to go first, looking over the lip and seeing two torrents of water pouring together near the bottom. I took a pounding in that section, but at least the abseil finished just behind the waterfall, allowing a brief moment of respite before making your way through the white curtain. A brief moment of panic ensued when Bethany caught her hair in her descender, but luckily she was able to pull it free. The rope seemed to have hair in it for the rest of the day!

Down at the next drop, we chose to avoid the Danae Direct abseil. There was a torrent of water flowing down the hole, and we couldn't see a thing down it. Instead our 63m rope just reached from the trees to the left. The next abseil, the Slippery Log abseil (minus slippery log) was a water chute looking like trouble. We managed to stay out of the water for the first half, but all took a beating, in different ways, near the bottom.

The remainder of the abseils were comparatively easy, and we stopped for lunch at about 2:20pm on the far side of the pool after the last major abseil. This was supposed to be in the sun, but the sun chose a poor moment to vanish behind the clouds, leaving us huddled in the cold spray from the falls. Piles of well rounded driftwood were evidence of the power of the water.

After lunch we set off about 2:50pm, scrambled down the knoll and did a short abseil into the boulder chute. Then it was the long slow descent down. Each of us took turns at the front until our chosen line ended in a larger or more slippery drop than we were prepared to scramble. There were a few spots where we almost pulled out the rope, but we managed to find a way around everything. Finally we reached the final abseil, off two pitons slung with an unpleasant looking death triangle. There was no quick way of fixing up the rigging. After some debate, I took the option of abseiling gently rather than replacing, given how late we now were. It was 5pm by the time we'd all finished the abseil.

Bethany by this point was feeling a bit ill, and so we moved slowly down the creek to the Kanangra junction. At one point, Rachel stood right next to a small snake without ever noticing it. It was 6:35pm when we arrived at the junction, and 6:55pm when we left, having fuelled up and filled up water for the climb.

The first part of the climb was good, steep but easy going, and we gained altitude quickly. As we climbed, the solid ground underfoot became less solid, legacy of the (un)controlled burn that the NPWS had carried out last January. There was no vegetation, and the scree slope was a case of two steps forward, one step back. We slogged on up and hit the cliffline just as the light was fading (8:15pm). Rachel had gone one way, while the rest of us headed up an easy pass onto the Kilpatrick Causeway. The walkie talkies came in handy again to reunite us!

Another rest and recovery stop, and then out with the torches for the walk back in the dark. My torch had cracked the night before as I tried to replace batteries, and as a result I had left the old ones in so as not to pull the whole torch to bits. Just what I needed now. I was quite concerned about the pass up on to the tops, and so was surprised when we were at the top without even noticing it. Funny how exposure can be so different in the dark.

On the tops it proved quite hard to find the Plateau Track. Numerous dead ends were found, and we were particularly wary about getting too close to the cliff edge. The most trouble we had seemed to be around the junction of the track to Maxwell Top, which we briefly started on. Eventually we found the right one and it was easy going back to the car. 10:06pm.

What a day!

Back at the campground we met up with Sarah and Jonathan, who had been with a party of 6 doing Kanangra Main. Three of them had climbed out at the bottom of the main abseils, leaving the other three to continue. The rest of their party was still not back either.

Turned out that their party ended up being benighted and wandering around the slopes near Murdering Gully until 3 in the morning. They finally made it out at about 8am, accompanied by the police!