Just a quick note about the guy who died in the accident near Mt Galah.
Apparently the well equipt party of 2 had been down Twister late sunday afternoon. They navigated the canyon OK but missed the exit track. Realising they were not heading the right way and it was getting late they decided to climb out onto the ridge to gain their bearing. Although the spot they chose to climb out looked relatively easy 2 holds broke loose near the top and the climber plumeted 15-20m to his death.
This is the second incident requiring a rescue bid in recent weeks in this relatively easy canyon area due to parties having trouble finding the exit track. With the ever growing popularity of the area perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to place some sort of signage marking the way out. While this may alarm the purists I'm not suggesting the way in be marked. But signs at the Twister exit point and at the bottom of the hill may help to prevent futher tragedies.
Thankyou to Craig or Mandy for this information. Personally I would not like to see any signs in this area (for the same reason that I don't like signs in Wollangambe Canyon or bolts and fixed ropes in canyons) I feel if people want signs - then they should be prepared to stay in the city where there are already plenty to cater for their needs. Canyon areas are wild places - and should not be desecrated in this way.
The enclosed questionnaire will take approximately 15 minutes of your time to complete and will provide invaluable feedback on this important subject. Please note that although I will be making aggregate results of the survey available to the NPWS, individual responses will remain completely confidential.
I have placed a pdf version (adobe acrobat) of the survey here for those who want to print it out and post it (post free) to Nigel. To email your responses - use the html version - and copy and paste the survey into the body of an email (and delete choices etc which do not apply as you complete the survey). The survey has Nigel's email and postal addresses at the end.
Although I do happen to be a member of Wild Dogs Bushwalking Club, the link is purely coincidental and my trip had nothing to do with the club. I was in Rocky Creek with two female friends to undertake biophysical research into canyon ecosytems as part of a university Ph.D degree. The accident occurred around midday of Wednesday 27th in the "washing machine" and, although I am a very experienced canyoner, was solely the result of my error of judgement in what turned out to be too strong water conditions. The result was a broken ankle. My two female companions did reverse out, but as we had entered RC via Twister, they had had not actually done the walk - in track. Shouted instructions by myself were not helped by needing to be heard over the waterfall noise. One girl was found by the helicopter at the same time as myself on Thursday evening, and the other was picked up by a ground party following a phone conversation between myself and NPWS Blackheath staff early Friday morning. Both girls were tired but uninjured.
Thankyou Nigel for this correction and amplification to my earlier report.
You ... may be interested in some history relating to Hartley's Mistake canyon which pre-dates the visits you have recorded.
I was involved in a Macquarie University Mountaineering Society trip towards the end of 1972. We climbed up to the plateau directly up the spur across side of the river behind the Newnes pub as it was then located and followed the ridge line heading towards the Constance Gorge saddle. However, part way along decided it would be interesting to drop into one of the creeks to see if there was a worth while canyon, this as it turned out being what I believe is now Hartley's Mistake canyon. We abseiled the first drop from a tree to the right - this is not being really necessary as we discovered when looking for the best way to retreat that by enlarged a hole behind the chockstone forming the (dry at the time) waterfall that we could climb up or down this way. There was a major drop into what appeared to be deep water and a long pool just past this point and there we decided to retreat as we were not adequately equipped. We returned to Newnes by abseiling into Zobel's Gully. We would almost certainly have left no obvious traces of our visit and saw no traces of previous visitors to the canyon.
Included in the party were Barbara Cameron-Smith (whom I caught up with at a MMS reunion last weekend and was able to confirm details), Greg Retallack, myself and others whose names I forget.
I just had a look at your page about canyoning security: very good to have included some pictures of flash floods. Most people do not realize or grasp the meaning of a flash flood in a canyon, even better is to include one from the same spot with normal water levels. I do have another small suggestion to make. You advise a double fishermans knot or a double 8 to tie two ropes together. A double fishermans knot is not ideal for an abseiling situation for two reasons: it is very hard to get it loose afterwards, but more important, this is a knot that catches very easily on anything uneven when sliding over a rock (while trying to recuperate the rope from below). A double figure of 8 knot always turns itself away from the rock when sliding over it and can be trusted fully, even with ropes from different diameters. Make sure that the loose ends measure at least 20 cms after tightening each strand and "pulling the knot open".
Best regards and merry canyoning,
Koen Viaene (Belgium)
there was a flash flood in Bell ck sat arvo. We did Geronimo sun morn (in flood) and met a group which had been benighted and injured in Bell the day before. The gambe had been up about 1 metre.
On Saturday 13-3 we were doing an "easy day" in DuFaurs/Bell/Wollangambe Creeks with an group that included a few beginners so they could get a feel for it. To make life more exciting there had been a massive thunderstorm on Friday night so when we landed at DuFaurs Ck the water looked to be about 12" deeper than usual, muddy brown and fast flowing. It was also colder than what seems normal (I lost my temperature logger so can't confirm this). We plunged on and went up Bell Ck from the bottom under sunny skies although there had been a few ominous rumblings (around 11.30am). I guess we had gone about 250m past the first left and right hand bends, when the rumbling became very loud and looking up, the sky had gone dark-grey black. As you can surmise we turned around and moved very quickly back to DuFaurs and made it just as the rain started.
At the junction there was another group who had not been in the system before, and they asked us the quickest way out (noting the weather), since they were intending to reverse Dufaurs back to "Joes Canyon", but then followed us downstream when I said it was probably quicker and you were going with the current.
(Now the real point of this E-Mail)
Halfway between this point and the Wollangambe junction is a pile up of boulders with the "little" water chute. As we approached I could see a group of people sitting about. Due to the high water and rain we were moving slower than usual over the rocks and I suppose it took us around 10 minutes to get there. We found a group of around 10 people (boys and girls) between the ages of ~9 and 16 with an older guy (19-20) in a wet suit. They had only had an inner tube each (which were down the waterfall!!), tee shirts and shorts, no food, first aid gear or other equipment what so ever (except a phone and non-water proof matches). The looks on their faces were a mixture of terror, impending hypothermia and total confusion, simply because they could not figure out how to get down the chute. They were sitting doing absolutely nothing with the rain coming down.
Initially we tried to bypass them along the walls, but I guess responsibility took over and some of our team scrambled down the chute to see how tricky it was. I went down to the guy in the wet suite who was their leader (a church youth group) and basically said what the hell are you doing, you have to get out of here now before the water rises and these kids freeze to death!! He looked stunned (probably the rubber ducky tied onto my helmet didn't help) and said "I was here on Wednesday and it wasn't like this". My reply was to the effect didn't he know about the weather last night and today's forecast on afternnon storms? You can guess the answer with included look of disbelief.
We riggged a hand line which seemed to snap their leader into action and then proceeded to herd them down the water chute holding the handline, with two of our stronger guys helping them off at the bottom. They moved on. The other group behind us caught up and came down the line as well and we travelled with them from that point on (None of our team had any problems, even the begginners so I don't think it was too hard). I thought, well the youth group should be alright, but I was wrong.
About 100m above the junction of the Wollangambe they were huddled under an overhang on the bank rubbing down a boy who was shivering badly, had cramps and was lapsing into hypothermia. The others were shaking hard enough to lose teeth. We stopped again and I tried to hurry them along since the rain looked like increasing and we gave them a thermal blanket and a lilo. Most of our team and the other group moved on since they were starting to feel the cold, but we left three of our group (including an occupational level first aider) and moved to the junction where we left out gear. I told the beginners in our group and the others to continue on since the exit was only 250m away. I returned with two other guys to the youth group and bascialy took over. The boy was put into the leaders wet suit and loaded onto the lilo. My group took him down stream and I guided the others down to the exit. I think they reached it with a mixture of relief and excitement at the adventure!! (@#$% yeah right!!). The boy had recovered enough to walk without problems.
At this point the rain really started belting down and I could see the Wollangambe rising up my legs so without any further ceremony we pushed them in the direction of the track out and said that way. We decided it was just too cold and wet to change so we walked out in our wetsuits. I think you can guess what happened next. We passed them about halfway during a break in the rain, but not long after the rain really started with hail and lightning crashing in the trees around us. The temperature dropped as well and the wind came up. We hurried. About 2/3 of the way up we found three guys (fully kitted for the conditions) standing under a rock ledge and we had a brief chat then bolted. I could hear the youth group in the distance.
At the top we met the guys who had been hiding under the rock and they said the youth group had joined them. Their casualty was deteriorating again and these guys basically harried them out to keep walking and try to keep warm since they could make the top in about 20-30 minutes or so. This they did and they were a sorry looking lot indeed (luckily the rain had stopped sometime before). I questioned some of them and they said they would never do canyoning again. Their leader looked very chastised indeed and I say lucky not to end up being in deep shit.
I don't think too many comments are needed here about this saga, but I wonder if these people really understood the implications of what they were doing. Since there didn't seem to be anybody behind us and we had started late, I wouldn't have been surprised if they had suffered fatal casualties either through hypothermia or drowning because no-one would have been there to save their skins.
PS1 I lost a Hastings Tinytag Temperature Data Logger in Dufaurs Ck between Joes Canyon and the first major swim section downstream. It is a yellow plastic waterproof box about the size of a cigarette packet with three LEDs and three pin conector on one end. It broke free of the line I had it on and sank in the muddy water. (Which was only chest deep, but 30 minutes of searching turned up nothing).
There is a $50 reward to anyone who finds it and returns it (ph 02-9849-0525).
I was down at Wollangambe River (1 Feb 99) doing the popular lilo section and found that some vandals had painted with bright blue paint their initials on numerous rocks over the length of the canyon.
Tried to rub them off with a small rock but the paint was too tough! Suggest that someone take a metal scrapper or something down to help scrape the mess off.
Next time you do wollangambe take the shifter there are two bolts on the exit climb... Both have fixed hangers and are in dubious locations... One is bolted to a boulder that looks loose and the glue seems to be very soft! They are on the harder climb to the left of the roots.... Collected some rubbish on weekend, it seems when a li lo goes flat you just leave it floating in canyon!!! some people just dont care.
A little rescue in Claustral just before Christmas.
Went off to do a canyon off Newnes Road between Christmas and New Year and had car troubles.
Net effect. 1 pm at Lithgow. Not enough time to do what is wanted. Ah... GO DO CLAUSTRAL. Funny, I was the only person in party who had done it before.
Anyway we got there at about quarter to two which is kind of late, especially with some (fit) beginners.
A rotund guy (Andrew) heads off as we are getting ready at car. I ask him about his experience and suggest that most parties take a bit over seven hours making it dark by the time he got back.
He thought he might be a bit faster than that so he headed off. He said "I have a headtorch".
We met him where the track meets the creek. He was putting on his (brand new) wetsuit. I pointed out it was a long walk to water.
Anyway, when we got to the first wade we stopped to put on our wetsuits and he caught up with us. He put on the abseil gear.
We got to the abseils which we did on his ropes. I figured at the time that (1) we were ahead of him so he would either have to wait for us or go with us, and (2) I could set things up a fair bit faster. He was carrying two ropes, a 9mm 50m job and a 11mm 16m piece. Both statics. Both new.
We alternated the ropes.
Discovered that he coiled them an old fashioned way putting a twist in each coil. Net effect was a few extra tangles. He also insisted on lowering his pack down all the abseils.
I was getting distinctly nevous and suggested to party that we should wait and make sure that he was alright.
So we went rather slowly to junction with Thunder. Got there at 5.10 pm.
We woofed down a cold, quick and very late lunch. Offered him some. I suggested that I might carry a rope from his pack... he misheard me and thought I was offering him the chance to learn the John Hempton approved rope coiling technique.
He pulled out a stove and started making a brew. We suggested that this was inappropriate as we were racing against darkness. That he should get a move on.
He insisted that we do not wait for him.
So we went on. Besides we could hear the voices of a party behind us. (The party behind never caught us so they must have come out with torches.)
We wandered on and eventually got out in the (very) last strands of daylight.
Andrew. He came out later, got benighted. Lost around the Camels Hump. Called the police on a mobile phone and search and rescue came out to find him.
What can you do? What are your responsibilities?
Some people here went to wollangambie.A girl fell over before lilo's got inflated and displayed sypmtoms of a broken rib.So guess what they did? They called a helicopter............and everybody went home without doing the canyon.