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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mt Hay (Butterbox) Canyon

I had wanted to do Butterbox for ages, but needed someone more competent to lead the climbing exit, which is required to make it a manageable day trip on my own. So when a trip was advertised through SUBW I leapt at the chance. We met at the end of the Mt Hay firetrail at 7.30 on Sunday morning. The car thermometer read 6C and with a stiff breeze blowing it looked like it was going to be a cold day. In fact, the wind soon dropped and I regretted bringing my warmest - and hence heaviest - wetsuit. Looking East from the carpark you can see the towers of Sydney 80km away, but looking northwest, here is the early morning view over Rocky Points Creek and Butterbox canyon.
By 8.00 we were heading downhill, across the swamp and down small cliffline into the creek. There are several small abseils and scrambles in the creek, and we saved time by bypassing some drops and hand-over-handing others.
By 9.45 we had changed into wetsuits and arrived at the abseil down to the main drop.  Here is our intrepid leader Leo at the main drop, rigging the abseil to the chockstone...
...and arriving at the chockstone.
We managed to get all four of us on the chockstone, before rerigging the rope and abseiling down the waterfall behind the chockstone. Ted was first down, after exploring the cave from which the waterfall emerges:
This is a great abseil. It drops straight into a big pothole, with the waterfall pouring into it like a giant version of a fountain. Glenn and I both ended up on the pothole and had to scramble over the lip to get moving again.
After a while, the abseiler emerges from under the chockstone, before turning a corner and disappearing again.
Glenn heading down the hole...
and emerging into the light:
Leo had planned to move the rope before leaving the chockstone, but a test pull-down revealed that the rope ran freely behind it, so he was able to enjoy the waterfall, and soon appeared around the corner into the pool at the bottom.
By 10.45 we were beyond the main drop and heading down the lower, more open portion of the canyon. We dealt with a tricky clin=mbdown where the fixed rope was much too short and Leo heroically made a step with his shoulder back, later discovering the rest of the rope in the bottom of the pool, enjoyed our first waterjump of the day, and realised too late that the abseil into this pretty pool can be bypassed on the left to a short jump.
All too soon we were at the final abseil and out through the canyon mouth.
Crossing the creek, we found the rough but clear track leading to the usual climbing exit. When the track started to head up I was completely overheating in my big wetsuit, so we stopped to change back into normal clothes. The track then turns onto a narrow ledge, where it is necessary to crawl because of the overhang, and emerges at the one point that requires some actual climbing. Leo was up in a jiffy, using the four bolts and hangers that have been installed to aid the climb.
Then we hauled up the packs and the others followed. This is Ted climbing:
And joining Leo on the belay ledge to admire the magnificent views of the Grose Valley.
We were all up by 1.20 and since the views were so great, we decided to stop for lunch. With no wind it was a lovely spot to hang out - the sun even came out for a few minutes.
A final scramble up a steep gully brought us to a magnificent lookout from where we could see back down into the canyon from which we had come:
Here we are planning future trips, as you tend to do at this stage of a walk. This one was a definite winner - great trip leadership from Leo, an ideal party size of four, which is really all you want for this canyon, and remarkably good weather for the official last day of autumn. We were back at the cars by 2.30, so 6.5 hours overall.
Been there, done that...

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