My rope had arrived, the local climbing shop (Desert Rock Sports) had let me use their hot knife, and I was finally ready for a more serious trip.
Unfortunately, I had no takers, so I was on my own. The guide said to expect a 8 to 12 hour day, so I got up at the crack of dawn and had breakfast in the dark.
I passed through the Red Rock gates just after 6am, so was one of the first people on the loop. I headed around, stopping briefly at one of the overlooks before continuing on to Rocky Gap Rd. Before turning in I caught a glimpse of the not so hidden falls: water was gushing out… concern about how cold it would be rose inside me. I had hoped beyond hope that it would be frozen like it was a week and a half ago. Oh well, it wasn’t supposed to be deep.
I parked at Willow Springs and continued on foot up the road that would have been too rough for the car, taking off layers as I climbed higher and higher. The sun light hitting the mountains rose with me providing spectacular views that gave me a good excuse for a quick breather.
There was supposed to be a track/trail up one of the ridges to my left. I did not really see one and dropped down into the dry creek bed before clambering up the other side and beginning the ascent that proved the most difficult part of the trip. It wasn’t too scrubby, though the ridge on the other side looked ‘greener’, the main difficulty was the scree that at times was two steps up and one back.
At times I had to try and avoid snow and even kicked in a few steps. Perhaps my Keens weren’t the best choice of footwear?
Before gaining the top there was a bit of unforeseen climbing/steep scrambling that was made a little precarious by snow and water, but soon I was at the top and, dropping my pack, had a bite to eat. The views were quite nice, the white snow contrasting with the yellow/red sandstone and the sun shining on me as I sat above the rising clouds in the valley below.
Soon I got up to press onward, trudging through some deep snow that mostly obscured the trail that I just picked up.
To avoid the snow my chosen route was somewhat circuitous, but eventually I gave up on jumping from rock to the next and plunged into snow that at times almost reached my knees. My socks were getting wet, but I was nearly at the top of the canyon – I’d put my Seatec neoprene socks on once I got there.
Even up here, at the top of the mountain range, the creek was flowing. So much more water than I had expected!
It wasn’t long before I spotted a sling/webbing at the top of a drop. It was a little awkward getting to it as there was a bank of snow along the side of the creek. But I was soon there and put my harness on before rigging the pitch. Looking down I hoped I could avoid the main flow of the waterfall – glad I had remembered my rain/spray jacket.
The neoprene socks worked wonders and my feet were quite toasty. My fingers were what suffered the most. The tossed rope had landed in the water and snow. I coiled it in stages, vainly trying to warm my fingers in between. They felt numb and swollen by the time had finished and I was glad to get moving. I prob wouldn’t been doing too much more photography with myself in it I though!
The creek wasn’t really a canyon, but it was still fun with lots of down climbs. I quickly worked out that walking in the snow was extremely slow and worst of all: freezing. The water proved to be surprisingly warm, so I walked, scrambled and climbed down through the water, occasionally having to tread warily out onto the snow. At one section I needed to climb down a snow bridge. To make sure I didn’t fall through I collapsed some snow above it compacting were I would be going before I weighted my foremost foot.
One waterfall featured step-like horizontal lines. At the bottom was a foam pool, at least as thick as anything I have seen in Australia. This one I couldn’t easily avoid, so I lowered myself into the waist deep pool. The foam was super sticky and it clung to me for quite a while before it was washed off.
After the longest (2nd) abseil/rappel, the creek soon began to steepen as well as deepen providing scenic views down what was beginning to look more like a canyon.
I soon reached a junction and dropped into what I think is the best section of the canyon. I started down climbing one waterfall before thinking better of it, and slung a rope around a small tree for a hand over hand. If it was warmer, the small waterfalls and cascades would have been a fun spot to spend a lot of time, but I guess by the time it warms up the flow will have reduced.
At the base of my third rappel/abseil I found a length of tape/webbing with a rusty maillon still attached. Maybe that explains some of the downclimbs that seemed a bit tricky? It had been hit by a rock, reminding me to check anchor integrity at each pitch.
The last part of the canyon was super fun, lots of scrambling and downclimbing beside beautiful flows and falls. The walls were probably highest here too!
At one of the last waterfalls I spotted some climbing routes. So I figured that there must be a way to bypass any latter drops, but to get to the base of the climbs proved a little tricky. I found a way on the opposite side of the stream and after dropping my feet over the edge, thought better of it and got up to drop my pack first. It landed on the springy bush I had aimed for, but the bush then launched it back into the air, and I watched in dismay as rolled down the rock slope and into the water below…
My gear wasn’t waterproofed, so with some haste I tackled the somewhat tricky climb, leaping down the last section to pull my pack from the water.
When the canyon opened up I could see the top of Hidden Falls – it looked like you could find a way down on the left, but how could I miss out on abseiling/rapping down the waterfall from which the canyon drew its name?
I rigged off a couple of hangers and dropped down beside the waterfall that had so much pressure behind it, it was shooting of the lip battling gravity for about a meter before it plunged downwards. There were a number of hikers at the bottom, some started at me curiously, but one lady took a liking to me and asked some others to take a photo of the both of us! She didn’t ask me if it was okay, but I thought it was funny and was happy to oblige.
When I got back to the car I was surprised how early it was. It had taken me little over 6 hours — almost two hours less than the minimum estimated time. I laid my gear out to dry, had some lunch, and contemplated squeezing in another short canyon.