With the bonus of the long weekend WAE founder Henry Brydon went looking for a mini adventure break and found much more. The unexpected and dramatic events that followed made him take a long, hard look at how he approaches his adventures…and had him promptly investing in a PLB.
We caught the train from Sydney central to Blackheath, the penultimate train station on the Blue Mountains line. For the price of a coffee and only two hours on the train it was ticking our objectives; cheap, accessible by public transport, somewhere new.
Wanting a bit of comfort we opted for the Sports Bunkhouse, run by a lovely couple whose tagline, “Start your adventures here”, aptly captured the essence of the weekend. A private double room and shared kitchen for such a cheap price makes getaways too tempting!
Arriving Saturday afternoon we headed straight down to Govetts Leap, a view that rivals its overcrowded sister of Katoomba. With dusk approaching we scampered up the fern lined track of Popes Glen back to Blackheath.
The two hour jaunt gave us a taste for our main hike the next day and excuse have a drink at the Gardeners Inn, an establishment that had a fair helping of quirky locals.
Loving online reviews, Andy had booked a table at the Piedmont Inn which served a great duck ragu and pulled pork pizza, with a BYO license! Sorry, did I forget to mention our other trip objective of fine food and wine? I’d justified it as needing to fuel the tank for the following day’s 22km hike with an added 600m ascent and descent.
I was considering this a fair jaunt until back at the hostel we met BlueDog an ex AFL player who considers a 45 km morning run a training session to his ultra marathon running.
Inspired by shared stories of adventures we went to bed eager to get into the belly of the canyon the next day.
The morning greeted us with rain, so like true Brits we donned our jackets and made a seemingly inconsequential decision to walk the circular route in the opposite direction to the one suggested. This is because people often miss the turning at Junction Rock.
We decided to take this risk because it meant we could walk under the canopy of the trees in the morning, hoping the sun would put his hat on in the afternoon.
The steep descent from Govetts Leap lookout down Rodriguez Pass mirrored the falls. We journeyed under newly made waterfalls cascading down the steep sided rock face and walked along paths that had turned to streams. Not before almost missing the turn at Junction Rock we changed rivers and walked up towards Greaves Creek. The sun was now shining and the ground was starting to steam. Making good time, Andy keeps a fast pace, we stopped for lunch gaining a vantage or our ascent out of the valley.
Beauchamp Falls And A Nasty Surprise
With fuel in our bellies we began to make good ground following the edge of the river upstream. It was an hour up into the steep sided Beauchamp Falls that our walk changed into more than we bargained for.
As we traversed an opening in the forest caused by a previous landslide we were met by a man running towards us. As his three children stood meters behind he explained that friend was badly injured and we needed to get help as there was no signal. A quick exchange of the vital information and Andy was making off up the mountainside. I was greeted by a fortunately still alive but seriously injured man.
Having fallen from 50m he had suffered head and facial injuries, an open fracture to his arm and suspected other breaks to his ribs and legs.
The next two hours were a blur of adrenaline and basic survival. Thankfully it was only a short while before an ex paramedic Tom and friend Mel were on the scene. Having passed Andy making a pace up the mountain, the sight of their arrival was incredible. From then on it was a mixture of solid team work, problem solving and grit whilst we kept Nathan stable.
Seeing Andy coming back down the mountain covered in sweat with the paramedics behind was indescribable. We then watched on in relief as a helicopter skilfully hovered in the narrow valley as they winched Nathan up on a stretcher.
Once the helicopter and paramedics left Andy, Tom, Mel and I made our way back along our originally planned route towards Blackheath. As the sun set over the spectacular valley I knew that day was something I’d never forget, not because of the accident but because of the bravery, kindness and acts of selflessness I’d witnessed.
An unspoken bond had been made with people who relish the outdoors and all that comes with it. The outdoors is a wonderful playground which I revel in.
I have shared our adventure not to scaremonger but to encourage others (myself included) that if we decide to play in nature’s playground to make sure we are as prepared as we can be.
I’ll be getting my own first aid kit and am already looking into getting an SEND (Satelitte Emergency Navigation Device) or signal use tool which shares your location, regardless of mobile signal.
Secondly I urge you all to delve deeper into the Blue Mountains and to take a trip up to Blackheath and explore its beauty.
Stay safe, have more fun…