Trip Report: Waterfall of Moss - Sun 18th April 04
Our group of 6 (5 experienced + 1 newbie) departed the Cathedral of Ferns campground at 9:15am with perfect weather. One other group was doing Serendipity, and we talked with them for a while about climbing which they had done the day before. We took three 40m ropes plus a handline.
Following the well defined Wollangambie
#2 exit track We arrived at the Gambie at 10:15. The water looked and felt cold,
but we decided to brave the 20m swim with just our thermals. We barely made
it over alive, the water was freezing!
The handline (2 of them) had been left in place on the waterfall climb on the other side, and we climbed up fairly easily without protection. Those who are not confident should be belayed from the top, this is a big drop and a fall could be very nasty. The climb up to the top of the ridge was relatively easy but steep. From the top it was only a few hundred meters of easy walking to the very obvious start of the canyon just before 11am.
You imediately jump into the creek
and scramble down a few slipery bits and imediately hit the first abseil. A
15m drop from a tree on the left. The abseil is fairly easy, with a nice safe
overhang at the bottom. This is one of the easiest abseils in the canyon. The
side canyon at this point is fairly wide and open, and a short walk leads you
to the second drop.
You could probably go straight down the waterfall into a pool, but you'd almost certainly get wet. We decided to take the normal option of traversing left onto a large ledge and abseiled fairly easily 15m from a tree into a small slot. There is only enough room down here for a few people, and the next tree anchor is just a meter upstream. We rigged the third abseil right away to get everyone through. This third asbeil is in a two stages and looks fairly long, but our 40m rope just reached down both sections. The first part is a very tricky overhang (one of many for the day) over a chockstone into a big cavern underneath. Then it takes you through a hole with another tricky short overhang, which is best done by staying to the right.
The final 4th abseil of the side canyon is just a few meters downstream of here on a tree to the right. This 4th abseil consists
of a tricky start with a slipery slope and then a small slipery overhang. You have to be careful to keep the rope in a large groove, especially for the last person down, otherwise you could get a stuck rope. This drop brings you into the main canyon which is very nice.
A short walk downstream, the only major creek walking in the canyon, leads you to the 5th abseil and the start of the lower section.
The 5th drop (10m) consists of a very awkward abseil which starts from a tree on the right side and takes you around a boulder and then to an overhang. We all tried different methods of getting down this drop without incident, but it was very awkward any way you did it. One of the more difficult abseils in the canyon.
It was at this point that the sun decided to penetrate the depths of the caynon, so we took the opportunity to have some lunch in the sun.
The 6th asbeil is just after this from a tree a long way upstream of the drop. We had to use both 40m ropes joined here. This abseil was another tricky start, and the last person down has to ensure that the knot is over the edge, otherwise it will slip into a gap on the right side and get well and truly stuck.
The 7th abseil is I think by far the most spectacular of the canyon, and was the highlight for me. It is 12m down a very narrow slot from a chockstone. The walls are so narrow that you can touch both sides all the way down. There is a big overhang at the top, so you get to leap out and back under between the narrow walls. If the water was high you'd probably get wet from the waterfall here.
The final asbeil, the famous "Waterfall of Moss" is 8m, but the anchor is 10m back from the edge. Our 40m just made it. This is a delightful abseil which takes you back into the Wollangambie. We got here just before 2pm.
We put the wetsuits and thermals on and swam the 100m pool downstream, with another 100m or so of wading and walking. If you keep to the right hand wall after the big swim you can avoid the second pool. It took all of about 10 minutes to reach the Gambie #2 exit track again. With the thermals and 3/4 wetsuit I didn't find the swim back all that cold. I've certainly been a lot colder in the middle of summer.
Back to the cars by 3:15pm to find the Cathedral of Fern campground filled with picnicers. There was some event on apparently.
Half way through the canyon we found that my good 40m rope had been cut through, with the inner core exposed :(
This rope had lasted 4 seasons without so much as a scuff mark. Not sure which drop actually casued this (3rd or 4th I think), but all those overhangs with tricky starts are not good on ropes as they go over edges. If you are going to bust a rope it will most likely be in this canyon! Make sure you are very careful with jumping overhangs, and it pays to quickly inspect the rope after each major drop like that.
I'm glad we bought the three 40m ropes. We would have been slowed down a lot with a party of 6 if we only had two. Also, we would have had to abseil on the cut rope for the dual rope abseil. Or else use the cut rope to extend the sling so we could use our last 40m rope to complete the abseils. Don't do this canyon without at least one backup rope.
Somewhat surprisingly, most of the abseils only had one 19mm tape sling around the anchor. So it looks like someone has been through recently and replaced them all. If you aren't comfortable using just one used 19mm sling for an anchor then you'd better take a lot of your own tape. In fact, I'd recommend taking a lot of spare tape for this canyon anyway.
All up, a very enjoyable day, a very nice canyon, fairly short at 6 hours, quite challenging with many tricky abseils, but very hard on your ropes. This is probably the most technically challenging abseil canyon I have done to date, and it deserves it's 5 rating. Our canyoning beginner did well, but this really isn't a canyon for abseiling beginners. Experienced abseilers only. It deserves its 5 rating in Jamieson.
WFOM should be near the top of any "abseil canyon" list, and I think it makes a great "late season" canyon. I'll be going back at the beginning or end of next season.
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