North West Trip Day Three Part Three – Weano and Hancock Gorge

We arrived at Junction Pool within a couple of minutes of leaving the bottom of Weano Falls. This pool gets it’s name from being the pool at the junction point where three gorges meet being Hancock, Weano and Red. The tube we had been carrying throughout the day so far Pete told us we would use to cross over the pool as the temperature of the water is too cold at this time of year to be swum (he did still give us the opportunity to swim it if we so desired). Pete told us that what we were going to do is create a rope ferry system with the tube where we would pull each person across via the rope. Brendan was asked to be the rope man on the side we were currently on and after attaching it to the tube Pete jumped into the tube and paddled across to the other side (about 50 metres away). After he was safe on the other side Brendan pulled the tube back and we started to cross one by one to the bottom of the Chute at the mouth of Hancock Gorge. I was the first one to head across this time and was glad I didn’t take Pete up on the offer to swim to the far side with the water temperature being icy cold (seriously as cold as melted ice water in the bottom of eskies). After I had gotten across to the other side and Pete helped me out (the rocks being very slippery) we sent the tube back and Melissa got in. Pete asked me to be the puller of the tube on the near side so he could take some video footage of the others coming across the pool. After both Melissa and Brendan were across safely we took another short break where we had another cup of tea before commencing our ascent up what is known as the Chute.

The Chute is basically a long narrow waterfall that runs from Regan’s Pool down to Junction Pool, it is located at the end of Hancock Gorge. As the name suggests it is a very narrow passage of fast running water and rises fairly steeply (40 metres over a 20 – 30 metre distance). Similar to all the other water bodies we had encountered on the trip the rocks around the Chute were very slippery and we were instructed to take great care and help each other as we climbed, this was our free climb on the tour with no safety rope attached to us at all. When we were about three quarters of the way up the Chute Pete indicated for us to take a moment and sit down to have a look at where we had climbed. Looking back down it was amazing to see that we had already climbed up a significant way, it was also possible to see why this area was called “The Centre of the Earth” with the twisted rock formations, narrow passages and fast flowing water conjuring up images of the Jules Verne Classic “A Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. This truly was Karijini at its best, the beauty of the park can be experienced by all but to truly see her beauty you need to be willing to work hard for it and go to the extra efforts similar to what we had been doing throughout the course of the day. After tis 5 minute break we continued to climb up to Regan’s Pool where we would be doing a 10 metre climb up a vertical rock face followed by a cow-tail across ledges to exit the restricted parts of the gorges and rejoin Hancock Gorge at Kermit’s Pool.

We had to climb u a bit further before the gorge started to open out the area before Regan’s Pool, unfortunately named after the death of a rescuer who lost his life in a flash flood whilst trying to save a tourist who was stuck in the gorge. The location of Regan’s Pool is where they found his body. As we approached the cliff face were about to climb we saw many tourists in the unrestricted section leaning out over the edge and going past the warning signs saying to not enter the level six areas. Pete was yelling at them telling them to go back into the unrestricted section. We had it explained to us earlier in the day about the perils and dangers that Karijini presents in its gorges. After the death of Jimmy Regan it became obvious that there needed to be a grading system for walks and some level restricted as to rescue people from these gorges proves a huge risk to the rescuers (both deaths and injuries to rescuers have occurred). Unfortunately many people still ignore these signs, as a result volunteers need to put their safety on the line for strangers. On a side point, there are huge fines involved for people caught in the restricted gorges without permission from the D.E.C.

Pete needed to setup all the rigging both for the rock climb and the cow-tailing, as he did this (which took about 20 minutes) he encouraged us to go and take a look at Regan’s Pool and try and have a climb around the edge of it. The site of Regan’s Pool is a stunning circular pool with a small waterfall running into it from Kermit’s Pool and the upper regions of Hancock Gorge about 15 metres above. The stillness and clarity of the water was an incredible pale blue which look so perfect that we really didn’t want to disturb these tranquil, almost seemingly spiritual waters. Around the edge of Regan’s Pool was a small cliff face which we felt it would be possible to climb all the way, including through the waterfall, around. One by one we started off attempting to do this with Brendan leading the way followed by Melissa and myself coming up third. The climb started rather easily until about half way round when approaching the waterfall where the rocks became very slippery, after almost slipping a number of times, Brendan succumbed to gravity and fell into the pool which was icy cold, I soon followed in falling in and didn’t even get as far around as he did. Melis, on the other hand, found the way through. Watching her get up and underneath the waterfall (the gap got very tight and narrow) was an impressive effort. After she had completed the entire route she did go into the pool for a swim, it would have been a shame for all of us to go into the restricted areas and not swim in at least one of these pristine and exclusive locations.

Pete had finished the rigging for the rock climb and cow-tail out of the gorge and called us over to be breifed on exactly what was going to happen. He asked me to be the safety officer as it is the role I filled earlier in the day when we did our rock climb before abseiling down Weano Falls. We settled on the order of Brendan climbing first, followed be Melis with myself coming up last due to being the safety officer. After waiting a few minutes for Pete to climb back up and get in position we followed the procedures Pete had laid out and had Brendan prepared to climb up the 15 metre wall. He completed this in about five minutes and as he started on the cow-tail into the unrestricted parts of Hancock Gorge we prepared Melissa for her climb. Melissa got up the cliff face and onto the ledge above very quickly, she really was the best climber of the day). Once she was at the top Pete lowered the rope for me to attach myself and climb up. Going last of three of us (plus Pete before that) I had the most difficult due to the rock face and all the hand / foot holes being wet from the previous to climbers. Although I did start to lose my grip a couple of times I did managed to get to the ledge on the cliff above. From here Pete told us to cow-tail out of the restricted area of Hancock Gorge and wait for him whilst he took down all the rigging we were using for the climb and the cow-tail. I took my time on the cow-tail out stopping to look back down towards the Centre of the Earth from where we had journeyed up. The beauty of Karijini was breath taking and whilst I was appreciative of what I had experienced over the course of the day I was also a little disappointed that our journey was beginning to draw to a close.

To be continued…

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