Participants: Michael Larkin (ISS), Lachlan Bailey, Oxana Repina (SUSS), Corey Hanrahan
Michael’s version: “We went. You guys are soft so we went home.”
Lachlan’s version: “We went. Corey, Oxana and I are soft. Michael had fun with his Hydrobot. We went home.”
Oxana’s version: “We went. Corey and Lachlan were soft. Michael sweared lots at his tangled rope. Oxana got concerned by both. We went home.”
Michael’s defense: “Michael comes from a family of shearers/farmers. What happened was tame swearing.”
Corey’s version is a little longer…
Lachlan, Oxana and I had camped at Mount Fairy overnight after a caving trip the previous day. We met with Michael at Bungonia for our canyon attempt. Being the middle of winter, we were well aware that a wet canyon such as Bungonia Main would be very cold.
During the walk in, Lachlan and Michael were discussing wetsuits. The confusing part is that they convinced themselves that springsuits (like the one Lachlan brought for the trip) would be more than warm enough, and Michael’s full wetsuit would be too hot for the trip. While it’s true that Michael is always warmer than the rest of us in canyons, I thought these conclusions were bold.
After walking down the gully to the creek and following downstream, it wasn’t long before our first swimming section. We changed into all the warm layers we had (which for most of us was thermals underneath wetsuits). Despite these layers, the water was probably the coldest I had ever been in!
The first drop was meant to be about 35m. To be on the safe side, we tied our two 70m ropes together. Unfortunately the ropes tangled, and Michael spent a long time trying hard to untangle them at the top of the pitch. After a while, Michael changed tactics and threw (the still very tangled) rope down the pitch, hoping that it would untangle itself.
Michael was first to descend, and about half- way down he stopped. After spending a while half-way down the pitch and shouting some things we couldn’t quite hear up the pitch, he indicated that he was re-ascending the rope. Thankfully, Lachlan had rigged a stone knot at the top, making the ascent straightforward. Apparently, the rope had not magically untangled itself, and untangling it halfway down the pitch was no more successful than untangling at the top of the pitch.
At this point, both Lachlan and I were too cold to continue through the canyon, and Oxana had become concerned at Michael’s failure to descend the first abseil. It was therefore decided to call the trip off, and return back to the car.
There were a few learnings from this canyon. Firstly, canyon water in winter is cold (surprise!), so thicker wetsuits and/or spray jackets, as well as continuous movement are needed to stay warm. Secondly, the best rope management technique is to avoid tangling the rope in the first place. But if the rope IS tangled, then it is always easier and safer to untangle the rope before descent- not after! SPELEOGRAFFITI Vol.26, No.1 2020