25 January 2005

Down Pours, Hail, Lightening, Floods...

The weather up here has been crazy. With more than 4 days of almost constant down pour, hail the size of golf balls, lightening to knock out my modem and desk top (but the laptop keeps cranking)... The MiniHaHa water fall is quite a sight. This is Sunshine crossing the creek at the beginning of the track down to the falls. I had to carry Mistisa over. The water fall was really something. We couldn't get anywhere near the base of it due to fast moving flood waters. The awesome power of it just left us sitting above, looking down on it in silence and awe. The really amazing thing is witnessing just how much water is caught in our tiny little catchment. Wentworth Falls would be incredible. Maybe we'll visit that one tomorrow.

22 January 2005

Dam Cliffs

A massive jump! Chris (on the left) and another young fella on the right take the gut wrenching leap from the main cliff at Dam Cliffs, while Sara gets to the top to take it all in.
Dam Cliffs is a lovely place out past Bell. Some great swimming with thrilling jumps, swings and bouldering. The face in this picture has a pretty hard line up under the little overhang then straight up. The hard move is at the top with a big reach up. Very balanced and freaky stuff.
There is also some lovely climbing to do just down from the dam itself. Its great on a hot day as its in the shade and the routes are short. I can tell I'll be going here quite a bit.

20 January 2005

Empress Canyon with Sunshine, Chris and Sara

Took Sunshine and her brother and sister down Empress Canyon today. Sara had never done a canyon before, and Chris never an abseil canyon, so I thought it would be good to start them on something memorable...

While the canyon went well (Empress is wonderful for jumps, slides and swims if you start from the top), the abseil went badly. Sunshine showed amazing confidence and launching off the 35 metre over hanging waterfall, but Sara freaked out and decided there was no way she was going to be able to do it - I agreed to walk her out. Brave little Chris started the abseil well but had a mishap with a prussic line I stupidly had him use for safety. If I hadn't have made Chris use that prussic he would have completed a great first abseil without trouble.

What happened was I had set him up with his own figure 8 to lower himself with, while I belayed him from the top for safety. This alone would have worked well enough, but I wanted to be double sure (over precautious), and had him use a prussic line over his figure 8 as well.

For those who don't know, the figure 8 is the friction device used to lower down. The prussic line is just a small bit of rope tied from the harness with a special knot to the main rope. If Chris had of accidentally let go of everything and fell, the knot would tighten on the main line and stop him falling. For those who do know, this is not necessary as I was belaying him from above. If he fell, I would of caught him on the rope I was lowering him with.

Anyway, as Chris approached the lip of the over hang he did everything well. He kept his feet apart while he lowered over the lip of the overhang. Unfortunately, as he stepped down below the overhang, he placed the knot of the prussic line straight onto the lip effectively engaging the safety knot and stopping his descent. He continued to abseil a little further and subsequently loaded the prussic line with all his weight. He was trapped in mid air, just below the lip of the overhang, by the prussic line.

Chris's alarm and panic at this was quite unnerving, so I tried to pull him up. However I did not have the strength or proper equipment to do this, and it seemed to be causing him more discomfort anyway. I had on the previous day shown both Chris and Sara how to use prussic lines and they both knew how to ascend rope with them. But Chris was understandably very afraid and uncomfortable hanging in his harness up a 35 meter waterfall. To his credit though, he managed to pull him self together and listen to me as I called reminders to him about what he had learned the day before. He grabbed for his second prussic line and tied it to the line to step up on with his foot.

While this did seem to bring back Chris' confidence for a brief moment, the foot line was unfortunately too long for his short legs to step high enough to take weight off the prussic line that was engaged above him. At any rate, the weight from his foot line was still pinning the knot on the edge of the overhang so he wouldn't have been able to release the prussic knot. He was well and truly trapped now, and very freaked out by it.

I decided to anchor the line that I was belaying him with and prussic down to him (As both lines were weighted I couldn't abseil - nor did I want to, I need the flexibility to move up and down the line quickly). It was only about 5 meters and not at all steep so I was comfortable. When I got to him I tried to talk him through the the prussic routine, but it was quickly clear that Chris was not only losing his head, but a lot of strength with it.

I had to find a way to lift him myself. The best I could manage in the short amount of time that Chris' state was permitting was to lower myself as close as I could to him and pull him by the arm. Before I did this I called down to sunshine to go for help.

On about the third attempt of my reaching down to him, Chris managed to grasp my arm with a firm monkey grip and I pulled him up enough for him to release the prussic and lower it below the lip. Chris was then able to resume an abseil position, untie his foot line and wait for me to go back to the top to give him slack on the belay and let him lower himself down.

Sunshine had not yet departed for help thankfully, so the alarm was not called. Although there was a small crowd gathered below, and I can't be sure if no one in that crowd had risen an alarm.

The relief was overwhelming and I took a while to recover back at the top. It would have been a whole nother story if Chris was too heavy for me to lift. I'm not sure what I would have done - probably have him prussic up the belay line would have been the only option... When I did finally recover, Sara and I retreated back up the canyon and to an exit track.

When we were finally reunited with Sunshine and Chris, Chris was quick to say that the trip was both the best and worst thing he had ever done in his life. He also said that he is looking forward to his next canyon and another abseil!!

What a relief that it all went without tragedy. One of those rare but sudden reminders how costly a mistake in this activity could be. Next time I will most certainly not use prussics as a safety feature! Good for going up, but not for going down.

17 January 2005

The First Service

I've booked the van in for a service with Custom Bugs and Buses on January 25th. I spoke to Mike and advised him that I'll want a few other things done as well. So none of us forget what those things are:

1. Full service, including oil, brakes, transmisson check, fuel line check, pipes and hoses, electrics.

2. Check fuel filter and tank as I had a fuel blockage when the tank went into reserve for the first time.

3. Replace coolant. I don't think the coolant is the right mix.

4. Check and advise on corroded exhaust system.

5. Discuss rear seat/bed design, quote and fit as agreed.

6. Discuss a 2nd 12 volt battery with house hold socket set up for perifials. Recommend a good VW experienced sparky for the job.

7. Quote on rear step and tow ball installation.

8. Quote on installation of 2 sliding windows in rear.

9. Advise on roof rack system.

10. Remove small amount of rust on rear door drains.

16 January 2005

Blue Mountains Accident Register

The Blue Mountains Accident Register contains a list of accidents and incidents that have occured in the outdoor and adventure environment in the Blue Mountains region of Australia.

The principal aim of this site is to provide accurate and timely information on accidents and near misses that occur in this region. It is felt that the circulation of this information has benefits for all users of the outdoor environment and has the potential to increase the awareness of outdoor users and adventurers as to the likely contributing factors and causes of accidents. We hope that this increased awareness leads, in turn, to people having fewer accidents.

14 January 2005

Sunset Climbs With Sunshine

After a great afternoon at the Dam Cliffs swimming, Sunshine and I went back to climb Hocus Pocus at sunset. And what a magic moment it was. Sunshine was a totally different climber. Calm, focused, graceful, zoned. It was an absolute pleasure just to be pearched on that beautiful cliff over looking the valley way below, quietly taking in the rope as Sunshine worked her way up. We stopped at the top to eat a bag of kettles and drink a bottle of cordial while a cresent moon crowned the horizon.
Sunset climbs with Sunshine on easy grades - the new thing for us.
Like Sunshine said, "we're in a movie!"

Camera should be back soon to show you what words can't describe.

11 January 2005

Sunshine's First Climb

Sunshine and I went out climbing for the first time together and it was great! We headed off for a sunset climb at Mount Piddington, which happens to be one of my first climbing areas.
Our first line was Chimney and Wall 36m Grade 8. I found this a bit technical for a grade 8. I consider a grade 8 a line that any first timer should be able to get on and finish no trouble. I'm no hard climber but I found this corner/chimney/crack pretty tricky in places. When I reached the first belay point I had concerns whether Sunshine would get up it! Sure enough, the corner - as all large, open corners do to first timers, dragged her into it, and into a difficult chimney position hard to get out of. Sunshine still managed to get up it though, but with a lot of effort. So we backed off at the first pitch. No anchors so I down climbed...
Thankfully Chimney and Wall wasn't enough to put Sunshine off climbing for ever, and she was willing to have a go at another one. This time we chose Hocus Pocus 49m grade 10. It's a fine fine line of slab and face climbing. No corners to be found, and enough exposure to make it feel like you're climbing something.
We only did the first pitch as the sun was setting (and what a lovely sunset it was) but we swore to come back and finish it.
Today, Sunshine has gone straight out to buy a climbing guide
The Blue Mountains Climbing - Third Edition. Martin Pircher and Simon Carter is a very very comprehensive guide listing almost all the climbs in the Blue Mountains, but at the expense of route descriptions for many of the climbs...


Joined Aussie Vee Dubbers today, using the forum to try and track down an original rear seat for the van. One major down point to the van has been the difficulty to find a part like a rear seat. I guess its because so few where bought back in 1992. Also, there is a distinct lack of good info on the Internet about the '92 Transporter 2.1L... :( still searching, Maybe this blog will become it!

Visit to Custom Bugs and Buses

Drove down to Penrith the other day to see Custom Bugs and Buses where I met Geoff holding the fought while Mike was away. Geoff's a top bloke, answering all my queries and just making me feel very good about choosing CBB to work on my car for me. We discussed options for fitting a back seat, and the trouble I'm having finding one to fit. Geoff pulled down an old T2 seat and it loks like we will be able to fit that. The only T3 seat I found wanted $1100 for it! Booked in for a service on January 25.

05 January 2005

How Safe is My VW?

According to the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority's Buyers Guide to Used Cars The VW Transporter is a much safer car than average to be in, but a very unsafe car to be hit by!

All About VW

The mighty Wikipedia has the most comprehensive information about the history of Volkswagen I have found. Its a great example of how great Wikipedia is as a free encyclopedia of so much info, developed by a community of people around the world for free. "VolksPedia" (The People's Encyclopedia).

Another good account is found at HistoMobile

My Wish List of VeeDub Books

Volkswagen Vanagon Official Factory Repair Manual: 1980-1991

Including Diesel, Syncro, and Camper. US$99.95

Get this one from Bentley Publishers, but I'm not sure if its the right one. This manual says it covers up to 1991, but my van is 1992. I really don't think there is a difference, but I'm contacting them to make sure. Bloody expensive manual, so it would want to be right.

Volkswagen in Australia - The Forgotten Story. $79.95

Over 250,000 VWs were assembled in Australia until 1976 and this very impressive new work, subtitled The Forgotten Story, takes a nostalgic look at the history of the local company and these cars, revisiting the days when the sound of an air-cooled flat-four engine was commonplace on our roads. Extensively illustrated throughout with all manner of period advertising, press clippings, factory & dealership photos, this labour-of-love fully deserves your attention.

Author: Davies, Rod

Published: 2004

Binding: Hardcover

No. Pages : 168

Dimensions: 28 x 30 cm

How to Convert Volkswagen Bus or Van to Camper Manual. $69.95

This book provides step by step instructions to enable you to convert your Volkswagen Van or Bus into a practical and stylish camper. It explains how to select thebest project vehicle for your needs, how to plan the layout and choose fittings and how to fit a high-top or an elevating roof, side windows, interior furniture, gas and water systems and electrical equipment. It covers al VW Transporter T3/T25 and T4 panel vans and people carriers from 1980 to 2003. it does not cover pick-up or crew cab models.

Author: Porter, Lindsay

Published: 2004

Binding: Softcover

No. Pages : 224

Dimensions: 21 x 27 cm

Illustrations: Over 820 colour

ALREADY BOUGHT THIS ONE - Not as good as I'd hoped, illustrations are poor and few, and the instuctions hard to follow :(

VW Transporter Workshop Manual 1982 on. $63.95

Author: Volkswagen

Published: 1996

Binding: Softcover

No. Pages : 176

Dimensions: 21 x 28 cm

All available at The PitStop Bookshop

03 January 2005

Empress Canyon with Robbie and Karin

Robbie stetching out just before the abseil of Empress Canyon, and Karin and Robbie swigging the Conservation Hut Cafe coffees on the Nature Walk access in.

Empress Canyon rates way up in my favourite Canyons list now. With the access via the Nature Walk from the Conservation Hut the canyon is longer and has some fun slides and a great 4 metre jump in. And after the abseil exit, rather than walking back to the Hut, we walked the National Pass Trail to Wentworth Falls. This exit walk really topped it off. Its so beautiful!

I wore my wetsuite out on this hot sunny day and it kept me cool through evaporation all the way. It wasn't till we got to Wentworth Falls that it bagan to dry out and heat up, but by then I was plunging into one of those lovely water holes on the halfway ledge of the falls.

Robbie and I swore to come back and climb one of the many lines we observed on the amazing cliffs around there.

01 January 2005

Valley of the Waters - National Pass Trail - Wentworth Falls

Mum and I walked the National Pass Trail today, and what a beauty! A very spectacular walk traversing a very big cliff line with views all over the Jamison Valley. Big cliffs and water falls all around us. A must do for any visitor to the Mountains. It's a 3 hour round trip starting from the Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls. If you time it right the sun will be shining on some very nice swimming holes in the Valley of the Waters (12 noon) is good for the Empress Falls.
Would really like to do the Empress Canyon again, but walk out along the National Pass Track. Heaps of big cliffs to marvel at, and many Black Cockatoos to see along the way.