After weeks if not months of bad weather we got a sunny mild Sunday that had us in high, if somewhat nervous spirits as we headed down the track at 9:30am to ‘the base jumpers 200m overhang’ at Pierces Pass (one ridge east of Rigby Hill).
My nerves had been calmed the night before by the photo of the large bollard to back up the rusty steel rod anchor, however this was immediately replaced when Pete was surprised and a little unsure when he heard that our rope was not 11mm – like the group we’d seen photos of or as used in single rope rescues – or even 10mm but only 9mm.
His experience and tendency for understatement resharpened my (shared) concerns about excessive speed and heat. But on we went rigging the anchor…
Before jumping on rope we had a quick practice run on a little pagoda to test the combination of new single rope with the rack descenders that most of us were using for the first time, while others tested single rope hydrobot rigs. All worked well and so it was over to the real thing!
I had dibs on going first, but thought we were a bit ahead of schedule so built up the tension by spending ‘a few moments’ rethinking everything – the anchor, the new rope, the different descender, life, the relative worth of a young man dying before a life fully lived vs an overweight journalist who just happened to have kids etc. before taking the deep breath and clipping myself in. An awkward little start followed that saw a T2 patented low start and my first glimpse of the 200m void that lay below.
Once over the edge the abseil was a solid 15 minutes of free hanging serenity; amazing views over the Gross valley and an eternity of empty space in every which direction.
Next down were T2 and Kosta (who at the last minute decided to use only 4 of his racks 6 bars and not bother with a prussik – resulting in a 5 minute reshuffle while hanging 195m above the ground that started with a one handed prussik attachment and at its peak involved all 3 prussiks). Whilst the others had their turn soaking up the views (T1 it seems particularly enjoyed the start).
We started back up the hill. After a brisk walk I was surprised to find Joshua hauling up the last of the rope with T2 who I had left behind on the walk out once we started on the up. T2 had taken a short cut through the scrub and demonstrably Joshua had done some more last minute piking (a second strike after his eleventh hour retreat the week before). This weeks effort earnt him the title of Brave Sir Joshua, of Monty Python lineage.
After Pete leaving us, some lunch at Blackheath and numerous renditions of ‘brave, brave, brave Sir Joshua’ we were at the top of Bridal Veil Falls at Govetts Leap by 3:30. Though slightly shorter this abseil features an equally stunning vista, with the bonus of water in 170m free fall not a metre away at the top and surrounding you by the bottom. After the morning’s poor form Joshua jumped the gun and went first.
Unfortunately we hadn’t learnt from Pete’s comment that the rope had dried out from its previous days wash by the time he came down last, so the top two-thirds of the falls drop was a little faster and hotter than expected. If done again it would be worth feeding the rope down through the water fall before shifting it in line with the tree anchor. Also unexpected was the twist in the rope that saw us all spiraling down, finding it (to various degrees) hard to avoid dizzy nausea.
With the novelty somewhat lower than the morning we managed to all get down and packed by 5:30. This featured my lapping of T2 (both to the top of the falls and then to the car) and him completing the abseil in 8 minutes flat.
And so we headed up to the Ivanhoe where a charming group of old timers were belting out some classics round the piano and some warm nibblies replaced the cool of the falls (and the beers). After the months of anticipation, the day of taking 200m of rope for a spin had truly been memorable!