180+ meters abseils near Blackheath

Date:05/09/2015

Leader:Leo Garnac

Phone:0423658074

Description:I’m planing to do
2 long abseils on Saturday September 5th. The abseils should be Bridal
Veil Falls and the base jumper cliff near Pierce Pass. Both are more
than 180m and we should have superb views of the Gross Valley. If we
have enough time we may do a third one.

To join this trip, you must have a lot of experience abseiling and
prusiking. Also a good fitness is required to go back up by walk, even
more if you need to prusik up, or down ;).

If you need more details send me an email, no phone.

Participants for this trip will be limited to a small group.

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Party: Leo, Scott, Chris, Tim, Nathan and I
Pitches: Bridal Veil Falls (Govett’s Leap) + Pierces Pass – Wall’s Lookdown
Photos in Trip Report: Me, Leo, Scott and Tim

The club bought a new 200m spool. Before cutting it up Leo organised a Christening trip utilising nearly the full length of rope.

Bridal Veil Falls (Govett’s Leap)

We met at the Govetts Leap lookout. I caught the train into the mountains after work on the Friday so got there a bit earlier than the others and leaning on then railing took in the spectacular Grose spending a lot more time looking at the prominent waterfall than I would normally have done… once the others arrived we would be preparing to abseil it!

I got talking to some of the people at the lookout. We talked about the K2K walk and ended up moving to the Wild Dogs and a story about fishing on the Coxes whereby a couple of trout where caught… I thought it sounded similar to a story Alex had recently told me… I proceeded to ask about this and sure enough had bumped into Alex’s dad!

The rest of the party soon arrived and we headed over to the top of the waterfall. As we crossed the railing, I recalled a story from a walk long ago where I was told that someone had been blown off the falls holding an umbrella. I’m not sure if there is any truth to the tale.

We found a convenient trail near the edge of the cliff. It had clearly been used in the past as there was a worn foot-pad leading to it. We rigged the rope here backing the anchor up on some other trees further back which also distributed the load.

To control the lowering of the rope, we passed it through a couple of carabiners attached to our harness. We could then adjust our positions to change the friction and hence speed of the rope.

We had a number of different descenders used. There where a number of racks used, I used my Stop, and Leo used some kind of dual ATC system that I didn’t get a chance to look at.

We drew sticks to go first, and I managed to pull the short straw, winning the privilege to go down first. I lowered myself a little as I always do, but taking my safety off took more nerve than usual, but with butterflies fluttering in my stomach I unclipped and slowly lowered myself over the edge, ensuring the rope lay on the section of carpeted edge.

After a couple of meters the remainder of the pitch was free hanging. I stopped now and then taking in the new perspective of the Grose valley.
About half way down I began to get a bit of spray from the waterfall. The wet rope allowed for additional speed and to avoid getting drenched I completed the rest of the pitch a little quicker. Towards the bottom I had to add a break crab in otherwise I would have had no control (I failed to transmit this message up to the top…)

We had rigged two ropes (as I wanted to ascend the pitch as well), which had gotten a bit tangled at the bottom stopping me a couple of meters from the ground – the stretch in the rope was impressive!
Whilst sorting out the ropes, a change in wind direction meant I got pretty much drenched in a cold spray.
After some failed attempts at communication on the way down, I managed to get an off-rope call to the top via the walkie-talkie. I sat of to the side to watch Leo come down.

Once down, I headed over to the rope to begin my ascent. It wouldn’t take too long as I was wearing my caving harness set up for the Frog Ascending System.

Whilst ascending I met Chris and Scott coming down the other rope and got a couple of photos as we passed each other. (roughly 20mins per person to go down)

On the way up the waterfall shifted over in the wind meaning that for a time I was inside the waterfall! (Some of the photos above show the changing waterfall position).

The rope I was ascending was actually three which had been joined together. This gave me some practice at passing knots 🙂

As I climbed higher and higher, I wondered why no-one else had started descending. As I clambered over the edge, I found a slightly unhappy Tim and Nathan… apparently a park ranger had put a stop to the fun as it was illegal to abseil the falls.

We proceeded to dismantle the anchor and pull up the ropes (made easier with the use of a lead ascender).
By the time the others made it to us we had pretty much packed everything up.

Pierces Pass – Wall’s Lookdown

We next headed over to Pierces Pass to Walls Lookdown (I have also seen this spot called the base jumpers overhang). This pitch would be significantly longer than the first and also not have the water cooling the system meaning heat would be more of a concern.

There where two convenient boulders to use as anchors. Perhaps due to prior experience, or the easier access it felt like we got set up faster for this one.

The original plan was to go down in reverse order, but I managed to jump the queue as Scott had assisted me in leaving my car at the start of the Hat Hill walking track with the intention of crossing the Grose after the abseil (Brownes Path).

I managed to go down 3rd I think (It sounded like Scott was going to pass on the pitch to save time, but I’m not certain what ended up happening).

On the way down my descender got quite hot (the Rack’s extra contact points may make it better at expelling heat??) and I had to slow down to avoid melting the rope.

The abseil was generally overhaning and climber bolts could be seen on the rock face. There was one sharp bit of rock you had to steer clear of to avoid cutting the rope.
I swung into a small alcove with a slit dropping of inside – It would have been nice to get of rope and rest there for a while – but I would probably have lost the rope, not to mention I wanted to minimise the amount of walking in the dark!

After calling off-rope I headed down a small spur instead of going to the left as I had decided from my vantage point on the rope… I was greeted with a number of lawyer vines to reward my decision. One of these was probably the one that left a scratch on my eye lid.

Turning round, I managed to photograph someone (Chris?) abseiling down putting the cliff into perspective.

I soon retreated into a creek to escape the sharp vines. It was very pretty here and with the better footing and fear of getting scratch removed, I think I made better time.

I was soon crossing the Grose (@ around 5:40. 50mins after getting off rope). Light was fading. On top of the cliffs the others witnessed what must have been some spectacular glowing cliffs.

I was soon quite dark. And it became hard to work out if I was travelling in the right direction. I soon pulled out a light to help with my footing and adjusted my bearing more to the right so I wouldn’t miss the pass and could follow the cliffs along until I found it.

This worked brilliantly and I was soon on a small foot pad along the shale layer. I then bush-bashed upwards until I hit the Hat Hill walking track. I was happy this worked out so easily, from here I would have a track back to my car (which I reached at around 7:25).

I was talking to Alex after the trip. He also wasn’t aware that you weren’t allowed to abseil the waterfall. This conversation was started on OzCanyons.

Also see:
http://fatcanyoners.org/2011/05/02/enough-rope-200m-abseils/
http://ozultimate.com/canyoning/abseiling/20031107_hanging_rock_and_bridal_veil_falls/index.htm

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