Abseiling Around Devils Hole
Party: Gabby Faura (organiser); Geoff Fox; Anna O-B; Felix O-B; Roy Barlow; Tim Gwyther; Peter Chard; Louise Stuart; Craig Beifus; EvO
Photos: Gabby, Felix and Roy
Devils Hole is a «deep natural cleft … [that] gives access to Katoomba from the Megalong Valley. Originally an Aboriginal pathway, in the 1890s it was known as The Blackfellow’s Track and Ladders, as the ladders (tree trunks) formed a means of access over a huge boulder at the base of the clill. Explosives were later used to clear this obstacle. The Megalong miners [later] used this path during the 1890s and … [now] it is a popular bushwalking access route…«
Around Devils Hole are a number of popular abseiling trips. Without a doubt, the most popular is Boars Head which I have visited on numerous occasions. This time however, Geoff had invited Mum and I to join a trip (which only after the trip I found was organised by Gabby) to visit some of the lesser known pitches most of which I was fairly certain I hadn’t visited.
Mum and I drove to Roy’s place in Lithgow were we soon teed up with Tim and Peter who had driven out from Dubbo and Bathurst. Roy jumped into our car and we were soon heading up into the mountains and pulling up behind the others on Cliff Drive. There were some familiar faces I hadn’t seen for quite some time. After a quick get-together we set about getting our packs finalised; those with knowledge of the pitches working out what ropes we should take.
Our plan was to drop down Moss Pit and Skinny. I’d only recently heard about these, and for many of the others it was new too. We followed Geoff as he confidently led us down towards the cliff line crossing over the Whores Bed drainage (I was last here with Kristian) before we arrived at the top of Moss Pit.
We geared up, Tim leading the first pitch down a small moss covered crack lined with ferns. Carrying the traverse rope I followed closely behind on the other half of the rope, watching Geoff drop down after me.
I headed to the right locating the traverse ledge. It wasn’t quite as bad as I’d been picturing, meaning it’d be easier to set up the traverse. The views were amazing (even if it was a little hazier than normal). I’d missed this! Tim and Roy actually headed across first when the rope wasn’t even in place. Tim taking the end of the rope with him. I followed adding a hanger or two (Louise brought them) to the carrot bolts. It was soon ready to go and by the time I was all the way across the others had already set up the next pitch from a chain up high on the wall. This pitch is called Skinny. Apparently because of a skinny crack in the cliff face though you actually abseil down a continuous wall.
We then follow the track below the cliff to Devils Hole, climbing out only part way before taking a ledge out and crossing the well know chock stone to snack out on the ironstone ledges above the Africa Wall pitches. A couple of black cockatoos squawked in the trees, Louise trying to get photos before they flew off.
New anchors had been installed at the cliff edge, presumably to prevent any rub and wearing of the lip. But we used the standard anchors further back providing an easier start.
I paused several times on the way down. A convenient ledge about a third from the bottom providing an excellent spot to spend a few moments.
At the bottom, we headed left to drop down a relatively new pitch named ‘Out of Africa’ (as opposed to the standard route that drops down Kilimanjaro. It deposited us right into Devils hole.
We lost half the group here. Tim, Peter, Louise and Craig heading out whilst the rest of us returned to the chock stone to abseil from it back down again. It was a little dicey sliding down onto the chock stone, but helping each other down we were soon all down.
Mum, Roy and Ev climbed down to set the rope whilst the rest of us set up a sling around the horn of rock so people could abseil down if wanted.
It was a great pitch and I could hear the paparazzi’s shutters clicking below me as I dropped down into the cleft for a third time.
We headed back out bidding each other farewell before heading off. Roy walked home from Woolies accompanying me to the RTA to get a replacement license on his way.
Here is a summary of the pitches we did (mostly taken from Marilyn’s blog with some additions):
- Moss Pit – because of a beautiful wall of moss. Which is becoming less and less mossy and ferny over time.
- Skinny – because the huge ‘crack’ in the cliff line is ‘skinny’ compared to ‘fatty’ which is the next break in the cliff line … when looked at from across the valley.
- Africa Walls – because (when viewed from across the valley) the cliff-face looks like a giant map of Africa plus there’s a big slab (flake) of rock at the bottom.
- Kilimanjaro – following the Africa theme (which is really the second pitch of Africa Walls) … is an overhang and has a huge roof … and of course, Mt Kilimanjaro is known as the roof of Africa.
- Out of Africa – Africa theme continued. Geoff told me that this was a recent pitch installed by John Murray
The Africa theme of the pitches came about because the site/pitches reminded The Guys[??] of the Africa Flake pitch which was mentioned in the book Climb to the Lost World which they’d both read – it’s the story of some of the most famous British climbers ascending Mt Roraima (in South America), 1k high crag of sandstone.
Here is a summary of the pitch lengths put together by Gabby:
Moss Pitt: 21m of a tree
Skinnies: 51m off a chain
Africa Wall – 40 m off a chain (2 chains to choose from)
Kilimanjaro – 50m
Out of Africa – 20m?
Chockstone: 30m? (Roy’s 70 did it with rope to spare)
[…] We followed the ridge upwards, soon dropping down to cross the valley to the ridge we’d dropped in on. Both starving, we were happy to reach the familiar pagoda we lunched at on the way in. Again we rested atop it, enjoying the views as well as a sandwich and orange. Collecting the things we cached there we pressed on despite wanting to stay a while longer. It would be dark in a few hours. We need to at least make it to the firetrail.Occasionally noting the tread of our shoes in the dirt I led us back along the ridge tops. The strange hum I’d been able to hear all day must be the nearby mine, and another aeroplane flew over us. The new flight patterns must be in effect. A shame.Our route was more efficient, but it took a similar amount of time as we moved slower, but eventually we made it to the large flat area. The sun turning the skyline a bright pink-orange, the light streamed through the trees we knew we were close. By the time we made it to the FT daylight was quickly failing. Once we were close I pushed on at a faster pace finding the car where we’d left it. I pulled it out onto the road letting the engine warm. Mum quickly arrived.Mum drove us back to Lithgow and we picked up some food before heading home. We’d be abseiling at Katoomba tomorrow. […]
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[…] getting reacquainted with the Devils Hole area on a trip several days ago, I was back to Katoomba for some more abseiling classics. We actually combined trips with […]
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