Weather for Canyoners

WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST AND IT IS QUITE POSSIBLY BORING!

 Disclaimer: Make your own decisions when you’re deciding whether to head out on a trip. There are so many more factors than just these to consider!

Sydney has been wet recently. I mean really wet. I mean crazy thunderstorms dumping 30-90mm of rain in an hour wet. With all of this weather the facebook group OzCanyons has been buzzing with discussions about whether it is safe to canyon and what canyons are best. While I can’t help with that info – as a few people like Tom mentioned it really is a decision for the group to make based on experience – I thought I would share a few thoughts on weather resources to help make decisions about whether or not to head out. Like all meteorological discussions remember that ‘the forecast is always correct, just a day or month out’ so take everything with a grain of salt and remember there is no substitute for knowledge or experience.

In summary my process for making a decisions would be the dot points below – the rest of the post will explain some of the resources I use in consideration.

  • Check the forecast –if it is crazy I’ll call it.
  • Check the radar – because I like the image and it is useful (but only at the last minute I guess)
  • Check recent weather data – work out what has been happening recently in the area I am going to – if there has been a lot of rain or storms recently I’ll make a call.
  • Check individual rain gauge data – because the popular weather stations aren’t always close by.
  • Check the forecast maps and forecasts again with the background knowledge of what conditions are likely to be at the moment.
  • If I still haven’t made a decision – check with an expert (like the OzCanyons Crew)

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Davies Canyon

Davies Canyon is located deep in the Kanangra Boyd National Park a few hours west of Sydney. Hard to access, hard to do, and exceedingly hard to walk out of it isn’t a canyon to be undertaken lightly. It is easily the hardest canyon any of us had ever done.

Setting out at 7am Dom, Josh and I walked out along the Thurat Tops Plateau and followed the ridge out to the turn off described in the OzUltimate guide. Walking along the ridges was fairly easy but as soon as we started our descent into Sally Camp Creek the steep shale slope made going hard, and the chance of falling and damaging an ankle feel ever present. As it had rain a lot in the past week we knew the water levels were going to be fairly high, but hearing the river from a few hundred meters above the valley floor gave us some reason to be concerned.

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As it turned out the water level was only an inch or two above the normal water line (based on moss and Creek algae guesses) and we decided to head on down through the canyon. The canyon is hard, I might have mentioned that already but was we passed through we encountered the most exposed canyon abseil I’ve ever done suspended from a narrow arete to the side of a massive waterfall and another shorter abseil were the anchor sling was set inside a small torrent of water!

Abseil 1. Photo by Dom

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2015 – variable with a hint of nuts

What a year… I mean really… What a year!

There hasn’t been anything that has happened this year that I really expected, or planned to happen when I was thinking about what 2015 was going to hold in store. It has been a year of epic changes in life and circumstances. They’ve been almost entirely self instigated, and generally speaking I didn’t really consider the consequences of the decisions and actions I have made in advance which may in hindsight have been a mistake but that is what happens sometimes I guess.

Looking briefly ahead it seems as though 2016 may have to be a more responsible and considered year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be lots of adventures and good times so I think I will be able to manage this. I certainly hope I will be able to.

So onto the potted summary of 2015…

To make it easier I have added a favourite photo (not the best but my favourite) from each month, and have linked each photo to a blog post I didn’t dislike.

January to March

I pretended to have a normal life, with a job, a house, a girlfriend and very occasionally a social life.

I went for some rides, a few short walks, snorkeled and did quite a few canyons. Oh and I went to Fiji!

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January – a very wet walk on Middle Head

Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.

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March – Fiji and cyclones

 April to May

I stopped pretending to have a normal life, planned to go on an adventure and spent a fair bit of time in Western Australia. Continue reading

Covering Ground

Well it has been a busy week or two. Since I last posted I have covered about 2000km of south eastern Australia, visited some amazing friends (at least 12 different catch ups I think) and seen some of the most iconic places of the area. As I have been so busy and tired photos haven’t been a priority but here are a few anyway.

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Wilsons Prom Circuit

On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early excited about what my week had in store. Starting with a long drive from Alexandra I was heading south to Wilsons Promontory and the southern most point of mainland Australia.

My early start unsurprisingly started late with four or five coffees as Terry kept refilling my glass, and then rain, wind a fog made for an interesting drive down to my starting point at Tidal River. What google said would take 3.5hrs ended up taking 5.5hrs due to meal breaks, stops to admire the mist filled Blue Gum forests, and slow Saturday drivers.
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Arrive at the information centre at 2:30pm I was a little concerned about whether I’d have time to do the walk I wanted that day, but 15 minutes chatting to the ranger set me up with an achievable route for a 5 day walk, confirmation of expected walk times and off I set. Continue reading

Gudgenby Saddle Bushbash

On Monday I set off for a little adventure from my cousin’s place in Canberra. For the past couple of weeks I have been madly running around catching up with people and playing with my nieces and nephews so a night in the bush was in order to restore a little energy and sanity.

Starting from the Yankee Hat car park in Namadgi National Park I headed out along the Old Boboyan Rd up to the Naas Vally. The valley is an stunning sub alpine area about 1100m above sea level. Formerly grazed it has wide open spaces that are packed full of roos intersperced with beautiful gum trees and nursery swamps.

I managed to find a clearing free of overhanging droppers about 1km from my intended destination for the day and set up camp. I was using my new alpine hammock for the first time and I can’t say how glad I was to be able to hang it up between trees over the relatively rough ground. It tool a while to get the hammock set right but once it was stable and in the right place I had a great nights sleep watching both sunset and sunrise from my bed!

Tuesday was a shorter but much harder day as I bush bashed my way up to Gudgenby Saddle and along the ridge back towards the car. The scrub up to the saddle and along the ridge was mostly okay, but some sections were dense and required pushing through with my hands in front of my face. Fun times.

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West Head Wander

On Sunday Mikey and I went for a little wander out on West Head which, only an hour or so by car from the Sydney CBD actually feels so remote and wild I could have happily stayed out there for days. The national park stretches out along a peninsula and surrounded by the waters the Brisbane Waters and overlooking Barrenjoey light house.

Neither of us had ever been there, as it would be a long ride and there is basically no sensible public transport option for a day trip. So we really were surprised to find an amazing national park with tonnes of walking to be done and lots and lots of wildlife. In a 9km walk we found two echidnas, wallabies and a pod of dolphins! Needless to say I will be heading out there again.

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The last leg…

So after 4 months on the road it seems that it is now less than four weeks until I go home. I am really not sure how it has passed so quickly -especially given how long some stretches of the trip have seemed. Still it will soon be time to pack up the bike and confront whatever life throws at me when I get back to Sydney and the dreaded “next”.

For the past few days I have been massively bludging in Basel at my friends house which they have super generously let me stay in, so I have been considering two things:
– the rest of my ride to Vienna; and
– how I will feel getting back

The rest of the ride is probably going to be very weather dependent as I had planned on going straight to St Morit by train but there is a cold front coming through this weekend so being up high doesn’t seem like a good plan. So now I am going to revert to Plan A and head east until it looks like there will be a break in the weather and then head to St Moritz and the River Inn.

As far as what I’ll think about getting home that is a completely unknown quantity. For the past month I have been at a point where I knew I could accept going home, but going to the alps challenged that view substantially! I am itching to get riding again so despite my legs still feeling shite after descending too much mountain I am going to get going tomorrow. What I will do when I get home and the solution to everything isn’t just “ride” or “ride later” I am not really sure. That said there are a lot of day rides and weekend tours to be done so perhaps I will maintain some level of activity this time….

I am also a little concerned about post ride depression, of which a similar condition is pretty well documented for hikers (discussed well here). When I cycled around Tasmania for a month I decided to quit my job in Sydney and move to Brisbane and then Alice Springs which possibly wasn’t the expected outcome of a holiday. This time I have already quit a job, moved out of a house and ended a relationship so I am not sure I am creative enough to make other big changes but it does mean getting back to Sydney (or my parents place) with a clean slate and no plan. Some things not to think about right now!

So anyway after a little rant that hasn’t really gone anywhere expect to give an idea of a state of mind it is now onwards for another three and a bit weeks of riding to get to Vienna! There will be mountains, rivers, fields, sunshine, rain and probably snow – so that is enough to think about for now.

Thanks for checking in!

Swiss Alps (Part 2)

(Note: This is a continuation from day 1, not that you’ll notice any continuity)

Day two woke with rustles and shouts from the hut next door about missing breakfast! After a super chilled night in the hut with a group of exchange students playing “the verevolf game” and drinking beers 7:30am really didn’t seem reasonable for a last call for breakfast, but it did mean we could all be up and have eaten before the sun rose about the Jungfrau. In the end there was even enough time for three coffees to find off the cold!

I am without word as to how cool the sunrise was, but to compensate here are some of the 60 photos I took!

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After sunrise I packed and departed for what would turn out to be an epically long day. I am yet to check my gps but I am pretty certain that over 24km I did about 600vm ascent and 2000vm descent which was ludicrously hard on my legs compared to the ascent.

Anyway from the hut it was down into the clouds for an hour or two before the sun burnt them away. My route took me down to the Sous river and then back up to a track below the Soushorn and Chometboden on the way to Murren.

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From here it was properly down, way more than my legs could handle with a 17kg pack as cycling really doesn’t help with down hill fitness! Eventually after lots of breaks and futile stretching I made it Stechelberg and I was in the famous Jungfrau valley full of paragliders and base jumpers as well as more spectacular views.

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I camped here overnight and discovered that using my tent without the inner in high condensation conditions is a recipe for being dripped on all night, but thank god for water resistant fabrics on sleeping bags! Pulling the sleeping back out in the morning all of the water immediately turned to ice so i guess it had been cold….

The highlight of my very short day 3 would have to be watching four base jumpers do there thing and then walking past them five minutes later to hear them discussing how they needed to do their tax. Turns out any crazy adventure can become vaguely  normal doesn’t it!

Swiss Alps (Day 1)

Ah the mountains. I thought I liked mountains based on my very limited experience from Tasmania, Scotland and Iceland; but after a few days in the Swiss Alps I think I have fallen in love with them.

From my base here in Basel my hosts Toby and Lucienne gave me a travel pack in which I stuffed a whole lot of gear into and so off I set with no real clue. Luckily my hosts had told me to head towards Interlaken, and the visitors centre had a topo map for sale with a few basic comments like “those are the mountains” and “the clouds are up to 1800”. So I was on my way!

My initial route was thoroughly unthought out as I took the “which path is closest to me” option and found myself climbing what I thought was a steep hill at the town. Now at this stage I was still below the cloud level but I could see the dense fog like clouds not far above my head. After a brief stroll the hills started in earnest. My lack of planning meant that I had found myself on a track that would take me from the lake at 570m towards a lake at 2000m. To add to the fun the map was at a scale of 1:60000 which I am not particularly good with so as I climbed and the route got steeper and steeper, and I climbed into the clouds, I began to realise this might not be a leisurely stroll I was getting into.

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Up and up I sweated my way through the clouds which were thick and wet such that I could often only see 50m and at one point through a large grass area was a little concerning when my track disappeared. However finding the track again and ditching my shirt because it was just too hot I kept climbing and slowly the clouds started to break and the promise of blue skies became a real prospect.

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Eventually I broke through into the sunshine and was rewarded with bright clear skies as I found myself above the tree line.

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Realising my route was to take me across a scree slope on the cold northern side of the mountain I decided to push on and cross the route in case the path iced up at all overnight (the forecast was for -2). The views crossing this path were spectacular, and the reward on getting to the other end was my first view of the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Swiss Alps proper.

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Having crossed the shale slopes also meant I had the option of staying in the Lobhornhutte west of Sulwald.

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