Serendipity Canyon 2nd Trip Thursday 12th October 2006
Michael & Karen Buchegger, Mick O'Neill
This was the start of a long-awaited two day expedition for Michael, Karen and I. The purpose was to develop Michael's and Karen's skills in leading canyons, so we chose two short canyons to give us plenty of time to try things and to discuss ideas.
Today it was Michael's turn to lead us through Serendipity. He is a relatively inexperienced canyoner but has always amazed me with his skills in observation, attention to detail and his ability to learn quickly. These attributes combined with an uncompromising approach to safety will help him to become an excellent canyon leader once he gains experience.
We left Mt Wilson fire station at about 9.40am on a record hot October day for Sydney. The temperature was to reach 37 deg in the western suburbs later that day. We were glad to be off the ridge and in the side creek at the first abseil at about 10.20am. Michael confidently set up with a 28m rope and Karen went down first on single rope. Michael dismantled the Italian Hitch set up, fed the remaining rope through the sling and descended on double rope. I stayed behind to observe and then followed on double rope. This first abseil is about 13m and is done in two stages. it is important to start by abseiling directly under the line of the rope and then to lift the rope over the nose of the protruding rock at the top when you complete the first couple of metres and start working your way to the left (facing the rock) for the next section. Otherwise you could damage your rope. Watch out for the sharp stick at the bottom too.
We carried the rope in hand a short distance to the next abseil where the side creek drops into Serendipity. There are two options here. One is down a slippery, sloping gully but is an easy abseil, and the other is from a tree up on the right with a bit of an overhung start. We took the higher option this time. it was quite easy as well. I didn't measure this one but it is probably about 12m.
After entering Serendipity there is about 30 minutes of pleasant creek walking until the third abseil at the beginning of the constricted section. We met another group of four here, so we suited up and had a snack while we waited. We could hear the groans and screams as each person hit the freezing cold water. We measured the water temperature at 6 degrees! THe start was a bit awkward but we all managed without much trouble.
The fourth abseil soon follows. This short 6m abseil has a tricky start as you have to squeeze between a boulder and the rock wall at the start and the rock at your feet on one side slopes steeply inwards to a crack above an overhang.
The fifth and final abseil drops into deep water, so the last person on double rope has to disconnect whilst treading water, or simply float on your back if you have flotation in your pack. Michael set the rope so that Karen would just drop off the end as she hit the water and this worked well. (Some members get special treatment!) Michael followed on double rope and suggested that when I reach the bottom, I should let one end go through the descender and hold the other as I swam, pulling the rope down as I go. I argued that it would create too much drag and I would be in the cold water too long. As it turned out, I tried it and he was right. It worked very well with no noticeable drag. Pretty smart for someone who turned up for a trip with two left volleys!
We were glad to see the sun at the Wollangambie and shared lunch with the water dragons at the junction of Serendipity and the Wollangambie at about 2.20pm. From the junction it was a pleasant wade upstream for a couple of hundred metres to the first sharp bend to the left where the exit track can be found. From here it was a pretty hot walk out in temperatures around the mid-30's. We were back at the fire station at about 3.20pm.
It was a very pleasant, trouble-free trip and I'm sure Michael will remember his first canyon as leader. Well done. Tomorrow it was to be Karen's first, leading Juggler.