Party: Mum, Dad, Me, Gumbshoe, Bugs, Kristian, Allie, Denis
Written in alternating sentences by myself and Kristian
We met up for a civilised start at 0800 and set of down the Mt Bell Entrance Track in good spirits. After a quick stocktake on first aid kits, PLBs and ropes we made our way to the track head and quickly made our way down to Claustral Brook. Following the water we scrambled across the boulders occasionally jumping across water in order to keep our feet dry. In what felt like very short order we were at the first hand over hand where getting wet is unavoidable so we all added wetsuits on top of our thermals and, singing random Christmasy lyrics, continued on our way.
After seeing Santa chimney down the canyon, we approached the first pitch and organised ourselves into a rough abseil order so we could have all three pitches rigged at once. This worked well and all 8 of us were through the Black Hole by around 1100. We were all feeling pretty warm at this point and set of along the gorge (??) at a relaxed pace, enjoying the awe inspiring atmosphere.
Thanks to Denis for this fantastic shot!
Before long we had knocked each other off logs and into cold pools often enough that we loved the sunshine that we found when we reached the junction with Thunder and sat down on the beach for some snacks… which escalated to lunch. It is important to note how important it is to look up when you are balancing on a log! Allie shared some delicious fruit mince pies made by her Mum. At this point we split into two equal groups, one off to do a gloworm detour and the other to continue to the exit point just past Rainbow Ravine. Two hand-over-hands, a few tricky scrambles and Bugs practising some cave-squeezing highlighted the very supportive atmosphere of the group that went straight to the exit. The other half including a shredded Santa reached to exit with an extra rope and found some Alley snacks going around again.
We where soon scrambling out of the canyon via several short climbs and some nice canyon sections. After a couple more breaks we where up on Camels Hump (name for single hump? not Dromadary) and plodding along the track back into the upper claustral brook.
Except for Santa we were all dreading the single swim before the exit track. as such we didn’t think too much about turning up the side creek without having to had to swim. It seemed too nice to question if this was maybe not the right exit creek. We followed the track up the creek, but after reaching a waterfall that wasn’t recognisable we concluded we had missed the spot where the track leaves the creek, we pushed up the the rain-forested side and then started contouring around, eventually we arrived at the decision to make our own way out, as at this point the track would be on the other side of the valley… it was pretty easy going really the only real menace being the Lawyer Vines. We could soon hear the traffic from the Bells Line of Road. We soon popped out on the road and a sign for Mt Tomah meant that my guess at how close would be to the cars was way off! We had exited via Dismal Dingle – this was something that Kristian had earlier voiced.
Lots of rubbish collected on the way out…
And so lives on the Christmas canyoning tradition. A great day to do Claustral as we didn’t see a soul – except for all the cars on the road. Many of these gave us friendly Christmas beeps!
The End 🙂