Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Final Cut & Lost World

As luck would have it, I was able to complete two of Sydney’s better caches last week. These 2 caches, The Final Cut and the Lost World have been on my to-do list for many years.

On Thursday 27th Oct I teamed up with Big Matt and Farmer-Frentzen to tackle The Final Cut. This cache sits at the bottom of a 100m cliff at Diamond Bay, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Getting to the cache is the tricky part and on 2 previous occasions I’ve had to abort my attempt due to various factors. Today however, with the tides right and the weather on our side we headed towards GZ.

As we approached the waters edge the towering cliffs and roar of the waves certainly plays tricks on your mind. Then you lay eyes on the infamous ladder that must be scaled to continue your journey. Normally this wouldn’t bother too many but the ladder stops a few rungs short and the decaying safety lines do little to put your mind at rest. Big Matt was the first up the ladder, which suited us as he was our heaviest member. We were soon all up the ladder and traversing the narrow fisherman’s path towards GZ. This old trail has seen better days and in parts little remains to be seen.

Arriving at GZ we searched in earnest for the cache but for a while the prize alluded us, that was until a keen eye spied this strange container. After completing the log requirements we headed back along the fisherman’s path. The roar and crashing waves were a constant reminded of how fierce Mother Nature can be.
Negotiating the narrow ledge and rickety ladder seemed much easier on our return and we were soon at the base of the cliffs with only the gorge to climb out. Back on top we rejoiced in our feat with a few more photos of the surrounding cliffs.


On Friday 28th Oct I set off in search of the Lost World cache. This cache had been on my to-do list for some time now as it filled a hole on my well-rounded cacher matrix.

Camping at Martins Lookout overnight I set off early in the morning hoping to complete most of the walk before the heat of the day had time to impact on the area. Not far from the car I got my first glimpse of the task ahead, a 200m descent/ascent across a valley to a white cross that sits prominently on the neighbouring cliff. A well-defined walking trail leads you down into the steep valley where pockets of fog covered the way. Reaching the bottom, rock cairns and signposts ensure your path. Crossing Glenbrook Ck was a breath of fresh as the noise of birds and running water filled the air.

From the creek crossing it was straight up a steep spur, but once again a well-defined track was easily followed and at numerous spots I stopped to take photos of the morning sun filling the valley. While the vista was amazing a constant drone from the western highway was a reminder that civilisation wasn’t too far away.

Once on top I was soon arriving at Bunyan Lookout where some breathtaking views of the sun glistening city and my surrounding area were soaked up. With still a kilometre to go it was back into the bush and onwards to the Lost World. As you near the destination an old signpost ensures the route and minutes later I popped out at another lookout where the white memorial cross sits high above the valley floor. From here the cache was soon in hand. I took the opportunity to sit at the cliff edge while completing the log.

As much as I would have liked to remain at the vantage point I had to get back. My return route was a much more direct as I cut off a good kilometre of the walk by heading off track and down the nearby spur. Keeping an on the map I was soon re-joining the track close to the creek crossing. By now the sun had filled the valley and a warm uphill walk back to the car was ahead of me. Some 2½ hours after starting I was back at the car.

In the space of two days I had been rewarded with two of Sydney’s better caches. Thanks to my caching buddies and the cache owners.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bendigo Bonanza

As the name suggests, the Gangsters were off on another caching spree. However this time we wanted something different. The big cities had their appeal but so much had been said about the Bendigo/Ballarat area that we were keen to give this area a go.

A 4-day road trip was suggested and with that, planning commenced. Road trips certainly offer a continual change of scenery and a new destination each night which had its appeal. So on the 17th Aug after work, the Gangsters met at Sutton Forest for a gruelling road trip towards Bendigo. The weather had already taken a turn for the worse but that did little to dampen our enthusiasm as we headed down the Hume Hwy.

As the hours ticked by, the rain continued and so did the highway caches. Much of the drive was done with the wipers on full. As Thursday dawned, we driven beyond the rain but the evidence of its harshness was clear, many creeks and rivers had broken their banks resulting in localised flooding.

Our destination of Bendigo was reached and so the plethora of caches began. Our numbers quickly swelled as we made our way around the suburbs. The rain was never far away and at times it slowed our progress. As we moved into the afternoon we’d decided that the wet weather was conducive to camping and we sort the shelter of a cabin for the night. Food and grog were quickly consumed and weary bodies soon littered the cabin.

Friday greeted us with clear skies and a refreshed enthusiasm. We were soon on the road collecting the few remaining caches in Bendigo. From here we chose to head north towards Echuca and along the way we made many detours to pick up nearby caches. It was one of these detours that proved to rather eventful. As Jason crested a small rise on one particular dirt road, the recent rains had turned the already slick road into a skid pan. Our forward movement quickly became our sideways slide. Upon coming to a stop we realised that our extrication from this spot would be severely hampered due to a lack of traction. Help was sort from a nearby farm and any passing highway motorist. It was the later that proved successful and very nice guy pulled our car out of its bog.

On the road again and the caches kept coming. Echuca offered a great variety of tricky and well-constructed hides, but no sooner did we arrive and it was time to move on. Shepparton was to be our destination for the night, but there was still plenty of caching to be done before we’d reach there. Once again the soft option was chosen and we took the comfort of a cabin over the cold night air in a tent.

Saturday morning and after a good nights sleep we were on the road again. We were heading towards Wangaratta via various back roads, which looked spectacular, covered in flowering canola. Once in Wangaratta the caching density picked up and the finds flowed quickly. We opted to do two nearby mini power trails. These two runs resulted in 30+ finds in little over 2 hours and culminated in dinner and some exceptional backpackers.

After dinner we headed towards Rutherglen, stopping at a very comical cache which required us to walk a tightrope of planks suspended over water to the cache marooned on an island. Thankfully we all remained dry and were soon moving onto a winery series around Rutherglen which concluded with our first night in our tents.

The final day of our road trip was spent trucking up the Hume Hwy. Some short pit stops along the way resulted in a few more caches to the tally. After some 2500kms we returned home with an impressive 210 finds.

Thanks to my fellow Gangsters for a great road trip.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bonnum Pic - GC2XQF5

I will start by saying; this is what “The Rats” love about geocaching. The remote locations and hiking experiences we have had as a result of geocaching is what I love about this sport. So when Hoojar placed this remote cache at Bonnum Pic I was eager for another hike into the wilderness.

For those that don’t know, Bonnum Pic is just under 100km SW of Sydney in the Nattai National Park. It sits high above the Wollondilly River and offers amazing 360deg views with the Blue Mountains wilderness and Warragamba catchment to the north. The Pic is a narrow rocky ridgeline that protrudes out into the abyss. It’s a 16km round trip walk from the nearest parking spot.

On the 2nd Aug I left Wollongong ready for a hard days walk. The southern highlands had turned on a magnificent day, fog filled the valleys while a cool breeze filled the higher ridgelines. Leaving the Wombeyan Caves Rd I crossed a few acres of private property before parking at the National Park boundary. From this point there is very little signage identifying the route to Bonnum Pic. Numerous walkers over time have left a plethora of rock cairns which ensure you’re never too far off the beaten track.

The early stages of my walk hugged the nearby property and it was here that I seen the strangest sight of my walk. A ring-tailed possum had made the barb-wire fence its resting place for the day. Initially I though the possum was dead or stuck but he soon woke, checked me out before nodding back off to sleep.

Recent strong winds that had battered the region made my walk at times very difficult, large branches and fallen trees littered the ridgeline. My first glimpse of the Pic and the valley below certainly put the scale of this walk into perspective. 150m cliffs line the narrow ridge, which constantly reminding you of the perils around you. As you get closer to the Pic there are a few up and down climbs and a bit of boulder hopping. It is only when you are 130m from the end that the real rock scrambling starts. There is a short, very exposed climb down that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not being a good rock climber I opted for the safety line and was soon belaying myself down this tricky section.

Soon afterwards I had reached the end of the Pic and the vista from here was beautiful. Miles and miles of wilderness lay before me, it was magical. Having enjoyed the moment I set about retrieving the geocache and was glad to find a blank logbook.

My return route was back over the same country. The exposed climb seemed so much easier when climbing up and for every difficult boulder hopping route I faced there was always an easier path found upon inspection. Some 5½ hours after starting I had returned to the car, pleased with my walk and the FTF.

Thanks Hoojar for the cache.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A long day caching

When we first floated the idea of having a geocaching flashmob at 3am to coincide with the U.S equivalent we didn’t think that we’d couple it with a days caching in Canberra, but that what we did on the 5th June.

The WWFM VIII in Wollongong was held at Stuart Park at 3.00am where a good crowd gathered for a crazy breakfast theme-caching event. After our 15min of fame Steeba and I headed off on a 2 drive to Canberra for a days caching.

Arriving in Canberra at 6.00am we were greeted by zero deg. Temperatures and a very good frost, but let it be said “the weather never stops a good days caching”. A day of climbing hills was planned and we quickly set off up Mt Tuggeranong where we grabbed a handful of caches. We then weaved our around the southern suburbs collecting an array of puzzle, multi and traditional caches.

Late in the afternoon as the weather cooled and the breeze came up we headed up our 2nd big hill for the day. Mt Taylor is an impressive hill in the middle of Canberra, which offers sweeping views of the suburbs and another handful of caches.

By days end, we had accumulated 80 finds for our 12 hours caching in Canberra. As we headed for home a few more highway caches added icing to the cake for a great long days caching.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

5000 Finds

After 9 years of caching and accumulating thousands of finds, we finally racked up our 5000th find on the 27th Feb 2011.

As with all our milestone finds we have gone outside the box to undertake a unique cache that we would remember and this milestone was no exception. The “In Extremis” GC2HYPF series of caches placed by Hoojar was to be our goal. This series of caches has 11 caches placed in a 160km radius from Wollongong on various main roads that head out from Sydney. Each cache has a number contained within which once all numbers are collected can be used to find the coordinates to the final cache.

Over a period of approximately 3 months I slowly found all the caches in the series. Sometimes going to extreme lengths to obtain the find. On one occasion Steeba and I did a 500km round trip effectively for 2 finds. Some might say I’m crazy, but well worth it for the ultimate prize.

With all the preliminary caches found and GZ worked out, Steeba and myself set off to complete my 5000th find. The cache page had warned us of the dangers but had also highlighted the views that would be seen at GZ. As we approached GZ neither aspect was under estimated. The Illawarra’s 80m escarpment cliffs and spectacular views of the coastline awaited us.

After rigging the necessary ropes etc I abseiled down to the awaiting cache where I claimed my 5000th find. Jubilation and triumph run through my body as with all my milestone finds. Steeba had joined me at GZ where we both shared in this memorable cache. I left my usual milestone coin in the cache for all that venture after me to find.

It was then time to return to the top where once again we re-lived the joy of my 5000th find.

Thanks to Steeba for joining me on this adventure and thanks to Hoojar for providing a memorable 5000th find cache.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mirror Ball cache - GCX5TV

I had been eyeing off this cache ever since it’d been published way back in 2006. When a recent invite passed my way I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to tackle this cache as its certainly not one that I’d tackle by myself.

With a group of experienced abseilers gathered a date was locked in. The 22nd Jan would hopefully provide clear skies and a perfect opportunity. Sure enough, as the day dawned we couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions. Having spent the night over at Mt Wilson we made our way to Pierces Pass carpark for an early start.

By 8am we were heading off towards “Walls Lookout”. Just before the lookout a small track branches off while leads down into the gully and out onto the halfway ledge. Prior to turning off we took time out to check out the view from Walls Lookout. The views of the Grose Valley and its towering sandstone cliffs were spectacular but reminded us of the adventure that lye ahead. From our vantage point the halfway ledge looked rather narrow and at no point did we feel keen to continue.

Swallowing all emotions and fear we started don the side trail and out onto the halfway ledge. The vegetation obscured our view of the 110m cliff just metres to our right. In what only seemed like minutes we had reached the point where it was time to don our equipment. After some gear checks we proceeded out to the first abseil point. It was here that we were pleasantly surprised to be joined by some climbers who were out on the face for a day of climbing.

Having rigged our ropes, doubled checked our gear and knots it was time to descend our first abseil. Its at this point, regardless of how well you’re trained and how confident you are that you have to have a lot of faith in your gear cause there’s only a piece of rope which holds you from certain death. Overcoming these fears it was soon my turn and I was soon dangling off a rope 100+m above the valley floor.

No sooner had I started down the rock-face and I was touching down atop the Mirrorball pinnacle and half of my abseiling adventure was complete. From this vantage point you feel so dwarfed by your surroundings, but that is quickly forgotten as you take in the views and orra of this place.

Once we were all on the pinnacle our top rope was retrieved and a short search revealed the next set of coordinates, which were for GZ. We then set about rigging ropes to do it all again and thus reach the bottom. The next abseil is a little bit more difficult pitch and you quickly end up in a chimney/slot where you’re bounced from one wall to the other before touching down on terra firma.

By the time I’d reached the bottom, the goal of our expedition had been retrieved and it was a simple matter of me adding my name to the log. After basking in our achievements we re-hid the cache and set off to complete the next stage of our adventure – the walk out.

Various logs on this cache talk about heading down to the creek V’s staying up against the base of the cliff. We chose to head downwards and while we were confronted with some of the worst lawyer vine and abrasive vegetation I believe it was the right way. After a 30min hard slog we were in a nice cool creek enjoying some lunch. Setting off again it was a short trek to the spur where we picked up the Hungerfords track and a seemingly easier way out to the car.

5½ hours after setting off we made it back to the cars. Our adventure was complete. Its certainly a memorable, but not one for everybody. Thanks to my fellow cachers for allowing me to tag-along and thanks to Foundem, the cache owner.