01/07/2018 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Jon Bell, Alex Allchin, Stanley Wong, Scott Lee
Some 11 years ago I was on a Bush Club trip, part of a series called the Passes of Narrow Neck. We abseiled down something described as Rockpile Pass, and then ascended Redledge Pass. Shortly after posting photos and a trip report online, i was contacted by Graeme Holbeach, who pointed out that we hadn't actually done Rockpile Pass, and he gave some details as to the history and where the actual pass could be found.
A year or so later I ventured out with Geoff Fox to have a look for the pass. After bashing thick scrub on the ridge above Corral Swamp, we hit a rock climbers' track which led us directly to the top part of Rock Pile Pass, and the actual rock pile of the name. This brought us on to a long shale ledge, which extended in both directions.
Following the ledge to the north brought us to the top of the abseil we had done previously, demonstrating that the ledge was accessible in other ways.
In the other direction the ledge eventually ended. I used a rope to descend a few metres to a lower ledge, and followed it around into a corner. There had been considerable rain, so the ground was wet and slippery, and I couldn't see an obvious way down further. We retreated, leaving it for more benign conditions.
Fast forward to today, and I had put it on the Short Notice Program, threatening "plenty of scrubby off track walking" and that "we may or may not succeed".
Leaving the locked gate, we followed the fire trail to Corral Swamp, and picked up the climbers track to the Farside area. The main track now leads to a steep wall rigged with ropes and bolts, but I hoped to find the rock pile, so we backtracked and located a minor track. Not spotting any way down, we ended up on the cliff tops further north, in sight of another gully that I had been up before and knew would lead on to to the ledge.
With no sign of the rock pile, I mistakenly decided to head for this other gully, which was only about 50m away through thick Narrow Neck scrub. However, getting to it was another story, that involved going about 5 rounds with over head high Narrow Neck scrub. At least it justified giving the walk a terrain grade of 3!
Somewhat chastened, we eventually emerged from the scrub into the gully, and found a route to the bottom. Not far along the ledge we were able to locate the rock pile, and see where we had missed finding it.
Time was getting on, so we moved around into the sun and had morning tea on the ledge. It was fairly easy walking to the end of the ledge, where I had been previously. Someone had put a rope down the drop that I had handlined down 10 years earlier. Rachel and I descended this, and then searched around for the next bit of the pass, which was just around the corner, and had another handline going down it.
Rachel headed down this, as the rest of the party descended the first drop. From what I had read online, there were only two scrambling sections, so this looked to be it for the pass. As most of the party had descended, I heard a worrying loud yell and thud from around the corner where Alex and Jon still were. I called out to see if everyone was OK, but started getting concerned when I got no answer. I quickly returned around the corner, where Jon was recovering on the narrow ledge. He had weighted the rope, which had abrubtly sheared through, and was lucky that a small tree had taken the brunt of his fall. He had some bruising and his ankle had taken a knock, but decided that he was OK to continue.
Alex removed both ropes, which were of questionable origin, and packed them out.
Below the pass, we crossed a steep landslip, and headed up to the main cliffline, which offered reasonable going. Some way along we came to a narrow loose shale ledge above a large drop, which we crossed with some trepidation. Unfortunately our ledge which had shown such promise, petered out a little further along, and we were forced to retrace our steps back across the sloping shale ledge, and indeed, almost all the way back to the pass!
This forced us to descend with some difficulty down to a lower level, and we slowly bashed our way around the foot of a small cliffline. After a break for lunch, we continued along into Mitchells Creek, which was faster going, and soon located the spiked coachwood tree. Alex had a go at creating his own pass by attempting a log climb, but was unsuccessful. The spiked tree is an awkward climb near the top, but everyone managed without us needing to set a handline.
Then we were in the scrubby banks of Mitchells Creek, which involved slow wading through chest deep ferns and cutting grass. At this point, it probably would have been best to cross to the other side and try and head for the Boganville climbing area, where we would likely have found a track of sorts. However, we bashed slowly along the creek until Alex took matters into his own hands and found a pass up through small clifflines. A bit more scrub and we were back at the fire trail.
It was a pleasant walk back to the locked gate in the gorgeous light of the late afternoon, and we arrived just on sunset. An interesting day in the bush.