Abseiling Around Katoomba

Time to get back into it and catch up with friends on some Katoomba Classics…


Day 1 (Tue 9th): Malaita Wall and Boars Head
Day 2 (Wed 10th): Whores Bed, Devils Hole Chockstone and Malaita Point
Day 3 (Thur 11th): Jugglers Canyon
Day 4 (Fri 12th): Grand Canyon

Day 1 (Tue 9th): Malaita Wall and Boars Head

Party: (7) Mum, Dad, Lukas and I; Luke, Roy, Ruth (just Boars Head)

After 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 Roy… I was planning to ease Luke in with a easier trip for his first one, but we ended up throwing him into the deep end with Malaita Wall…
Mum, Dad and I car pooled with Roy up to K-town. Lukas was already waiting in his car by the train station and Luke soon arrived. I met Luke in the middle of a glacier in Alaska approaching from different sides, and then a couple more times in Canada. It was nice to finally catch up and do a trip in our home countries.

Parking near Senic World, I realised that I’d forgotten to bring a harness for Luke. Dang it. I was going to use a tape harness, but Mum’s friend was on the next street and was planning to join us on our afternoon foray, so after ringing Lukas(?) quickly headed off to borrow a kit.

Soon we were on our way. I was glad I wasn’t the only one a little vague on the approach, it’d been ages since I was here and I hadn’t read any track notes. We found the way without a hitch and were soon at the top of the wall (Dad found some old beer bottles, and we passed an abandoned homeless camp). It was an intimidating abseil for your first one (not including those at school). Normally I wouldn’t take someone here that hadn’t abseiled much, but I’d been on trips with Luke and felt he could handle it.
Roy set up the pitch and I gave Luke the basics, drumming the abseiling ABCs into his head like they’d been drilled into me when learning in the CWBW club. With the two strands isolated, I abseiled down next to him giving pointers as we slowly descended.

Photo: Roy

Unfortunately for most of us, there was a pretty thick fog so you couldn’t see out into the valley. For Luke, maybe this was a good thing? He improved quickly as we dropped down the cliff.

Photo: Roy

We soon reached the bottom, quickly joining the popular walking track that soon joined the Scenic Railway tourist area.
The train was not running due to COVID… it seemed like the best time to take the access ladder out… I think Lukas suggested it, but Roy didn’t have to be asked twice; up he went. The rest of us followed like sheep. I was a little concerned by all the security cameras we passed…
When we neared the top, we cut through the bush surprised to find what looked like a mine shaft or ventilation shaft.

Heading over to Ruth’s place we ate lunch and with an extra member to our party, soon headed over to Boars Head. This is probably my favourite abseil trip around Katoomba. Its the slot, or crack in the rock that makes it.
Mum led the way, and Roy soon followed, some communication problems making the atmosphere a little tense for a moment (The rope wasn’t long enough to combine the two pitches. Roy(?) climbed back up(?) to rig an intermediate pitch).
Ruth and Luke preferred to have a safety line, so after Lukas began dropping down, I headed back to rig a traverse line.

Ruth dropping down through the slot

Soon were at the base of the cliff and took the track around to the Devils Hole pass, passing the Whores Bed waterfall as well as Skinny.
I cached some things at the bottom because, after thanking the others for a fun day, we headed back down to camp the night. We ended up camping in Waterfall Cave. We could see lights across from us; maybe climbers camping in Lower Psyn?

Day 2 (Wed 10th): Whores Bed, Devils Hole Chockstone and Malaita Point

Party (3): Mel, Luke and I

It was a bit of a surprise when Mel signed up for this trip. He was my vice principal for a time at Lithgow High School. I’d always liked how he handled things, understanding my need to climb things at school – I still remember him telling me about how he liked to climb coconut trees!

Anyway, Luke and I headed up and met him at the top of the pass. We discussed what routes we wanted to do. Because of the fog, we decided to visit Whores Bed (a spoonerism of Boars Head, but apparently originally called Lost World) and then have the option to abseil the chockstone. It had been a while since I’d visited this route. The last time was with Kristian around Christmas time (we wore, or at least I did, a Santa suit). However, the drop-in was easy to find as I’d passed it a several days earlier when visiting Moss Pit/Skinny.

As soon as we dropped down into the short constriction I felt right at home. Why do I have an affinity for slot canyons?

Second pitch off some logs
Last Pitch

We were soon at the base of the cliffs and headed part way out to take the ledge that leads to the chockstone. I showed the others where Africa Walls was located and then we clambered out onto the chockstone. Luke wasn’t feeling secure and decided to bail. Not a problem. We rigged the pitch as a fixed abseil and after I followed Mel down the rope, he raced back up to drop the rope down.

Me descending from the chockstone. Photo: Mel

Reaching the road, we drove out to Scenic World to have lunch at one of the picnic tables. Our hunger sated, we walked over to the first pitch of Malaita Point. Unfortunately the fog hadn’t cleared as hoped, but we decided to go for it anyway.
All the pitches were much smaller than I remembered, but we had a great time and it actually cleared up for a time giving us some specky views out over the Jamison.

Luke with Mt Solitary in the background
Photo: Mel
Photo: Mel

Taking the familiar route out, it seemed that we were below the clouds. As we ascended visibility again reduced to squat.

Mel with Katoomba Falls in the background

Another succesful day out.

Mel dropped Luke and I off in Medlow. We were thinking about walking down into the Grand Canyon to camp, but it seemed a little far, so in the end we camped in a small cave near Mark’s Tomb.

Day 3 (Thur 11th): Jugglers Canyon

Party (3): Lukas, Summers and I

In the morning Luke decided to bail on Jugglers. Enough abseiling I guess. I couldn’t blame him. They were some fairly full days for the first time out and about (he also had bloodied his hand up on Malaita Wall).

Luke took the next train, and I soon met up with Summers and my bro. We drove out to the start of Jugglers, Summer taking his Corrola much further than I would have been comfortable… but he pulled it off.

The entrance creek was pretty burnt, but as we descended further and the canyon began to form around us the fire was forgotten.

I couldn’t remember the canyon well at all. I remembered the traverse around the pool and the final abseil. But things came back to me as I re-experienced the canyon. We all climbed down the optional first pitch, and I took the cavers way down the next, whilst the others abseiled.

The first abseil I did. For me, the most memorable pitch.
Photo: Nick Summers
Summers had a lot of fun swinging around on this pitch, literally bouncing off the walls! (Lukas in this photo)
Lunch at the top of Beauchamp falls. Photo: Nick Summers

After lunch at the top of the falls, we headed back through the canyon, passing others out for a walk before taking the Pilcher Track back up to the car.

They dropped me off at Michael’s place in Blackheath. Thanks for another fun day!

Day 4 (Fri 12th): Grand Canyon

Party (3): Michael, Owen and I

Owen met us the next day. I hadn’t seen Michael for over 4 years, and even more for Owen. We walked the Grand Canyon Loop, the trip going quickly as we chatted.

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