Party: Tim Vollmer, Joshua Hill, Bjorn Sturmberg, Kosta Seiler – photos
We couldn’t have asked for better weather, with a crisp blue winter sky bathing the mountains in sun as we set off. The plan was a couple spectacular abseiling routes overlooking the Jamison Valley, where a total of 12 drops of up to 45 metres lead down to the rainforest below.
Despite some delays due to trackworks we were off by about 9.30am and with a small experienced group we raced down Malaita Point. As we went we looked across a small gully to Malaita Wall, our afternoon trip, watching a second group making their way down.
The south-facing walls remained in shade all day, but that meant the cliffs opposite on Narrow Neck and Solitary were basked in a golden glow.
Once down it was on to the tourist track, past the Scenic Railway and up Furber Steps. Given the great time we’d made I suggested we scramble up onto Orphan Rock, a spectacular pillar of sandstone that a century ago was more famous than The Three Sisters. Having only been there once, when I was about 14, my memory was a little hazy, and we set off the track a little low. Despite this, we soon pushed through the undergrowth and found a handy little track.
Orphan Rock was closed to tourists decades ago and the wooden stairs have rotted somewhat, although surprisingly they appeared in better condition than I remember them on my previous ascent over a decade ago.
Bjorn, whose faith in science borders on the religious, was less than impressed that the old gate was placed there thanks to a geological report that suggested the rock could crumble into the valley at any time. It’s not hard to see why that was suggested, with the large slab overhung on most sides, completely hollowed out in the middle and cut almost in two by a large crack.
Despite this we pushed up, checkout out the views and settled in for a quick morning tea while the tourists in the cable car waved.
Rather than head back to the track we had a ferret around, discovering an area with ropes, safety lines and dozens of bolts on small drops. It had all the signs of some sort of tourist adventure sport / corporate team building area.
Still moving on, we stumbled upon the opening for the Scenic Railway tunnel; a small, deep slot that echoed with squeals of delight as the carriage rolled past.
Up again and we were upon the ill-fated roller-coaster which was once planned to be the fastest in the country – zooming over the cliff edges – except for the fact that the pesky carriages kept flying off in testing.
Clambering upon the tracks we made it under the path of the Sceniscender, which could just about be touched as it dropped over our heads. Realising the driver had probably radioed about the four idiots he’d just spotted, we moved on, heading back to the cars and into Leura for hamburgers.
Sitting on the grass, having loud inappropriate conversations, we appalled the visiting bourgeoisie before heading back for the second set of abseils.
Malaita Wall is even more spectacular, with the first heart-in-mouth drop down a sheer face looking a lot worse than its 45 metres thanks to the small landing pad which the cliff continues beyond on each side.
It was another quick trip, with pitch after pitch starting within metres of the last finish ensuring we were back in the valley in no time (except for the rope jam on the final, unnecessary drop which took three people to pull loose).
Joshua, true to Fat Canyoners Club protocol, refused to walk back up the stairs for a second time, instead heading for the Sceniscender so we decided to race him, jogging (then walking in my case) in a battle of man over machine.
Joshua managed to elbow a tourist out of the way to get the last spot on in the cable car, making it to the top just minutes before Bjorn and Kosta. I happily brought up the rear five minutes later using the excuse that I had stopped to take photos.
Back into town for a beer to toast another good trip and we were on the road heading home before sunset.