Posted by: EPIC | February 12, 2016

Bungling Bunglers

In the gathering dark on the 6th of October this year, my climbing partner and I scrambled onto the summit of Belougery Spire. On our last visit to the summit of Belougery, by a different route, about 10 years previously, we had used two ropes, which meant we only needed to make one abseil on the descent. This time we only took one rope, as we knew that an additional abseil anchor point had been added to the descent route, meaning we could descend the vertical part of the descent in 2 shorter abseils. We had set off from camp before sunrise to climb a climb called ‘Out and Beyond’. At over 300 metres high, it is one of Australia’s longest rock climbs. After signing the visitors book and taking in the amazing view of the Warrumbungles National Park and surrounding countryside from the summit, we switched on our head torches and located the fixed abseil chains that marked the top of the descent route.
I abseiled first and the picture I took at the bottom of the first abseil shows us all smiles as my partner arrived, ready to pull our rope down, find its middle-marker, thread it through the abseil chain and throw the two even ends over the edge in preparation for doing the final abseil. After that we could scramble our way down and back to the ridge where we had earlier left a water bottle, en-route to our camp and a hot meal, a comfy bed and a well-earned sleep. I have been climbing, caving and canyoning for over 40 years. I have done probably well over 1000 abseils and never had a serious incident. It was late, we were tired and quite thirsty, I was a bit euphoric, and we had done this abseiling thing sooo many times before. We had fallen into the trap that catches out so many mountaineers after they achieve their primary objective and then set auto-pilot for the comparatively easy exercise of descending down the mountain, dreaming along the way of the food, warmth, comfort and safety that awaits them at camp. Unknown to us, complacency had crept into our decision making. Lack of attention to detail. Disregard, or lack of regard for stock standard routines that cause minimal inconvenience, but ensure safety. Like tying knots in both ends of the rope before tossing them over the edge. Like locating both ends of the rope and then coiling it from those ends, ensuring that the last coil picks up the mid-point of the rope. Like tying a Stein knot (or similar) in the ropes at the top, so that each end is secured independently for the first abseiler and only one end needs to reach the ground to ensure safety. Like double checking each other’s actions. Like all the things that hindsight screams at me every time I go back over what went wrong, any one of which would have averted a very near fatal fall.
The reality was that the rope lengths weren’t equal. We had failed to accurately locate the dark smudges that mark the middle of the rope and hadn’t tied knots in the ends, which would have jammed in my abseil device and prevented my fall. I hadn’t ever needed knots in my previous 1000 abseils, so had foolishly discounted the possibility of making my first mistake on this particular night. As a consequence, I didn’t keep an eagle-eye on whether I had 2 lengths of rope below me coming into my abseil device so when I got 10 or 15 metres down the cliff, without any warning, I found myself free-falling backwards into the night. My partner suddenly saw and heard the loose end of the rope screaming through the ring of the abseil chain and made a futile but courageous effort to grab it and stop me falling. She received rope burns to her hands for her efforts. In a flash, myself, the rope, and the light-hearted, relatively care-free atmosphere of our big day out disappeared into the darkness. In her words: “I assumed it was a fatal fall as there was no response from him, just a gurgling laboured breathing. This stopped after five min. After another 10 min the sound of rustling came from below, followed by moaning.” I slowly regained my senses and the enormous weight of a dead climbing companion and good friend had been lifted off my partner’s shoulders. After an hour we engaged in a typical concussion conversation where the same questions are repeated endlessly (or at least 20 times in my case). My conversation went along the lines of the following: “Where am I?, What happened? Who are you? I thought we were kayaking!? (my partner tells me I actually said this) Is the car at the top or the bottom? After a while, I regained my senses and diagnosed that I had probably broken 4-6 ribs, but apart from that, I wasn’t tooo bad.P1030124Some time during the night I decided that it was up to me to get back to camp and raise the alarm, as my partner was now stuck on top of the spire, with no rope, no water and (I thought) no way down. My recollection is that I collected the rope, (carefully checking that I had the half-way mark this time), set up an abseil and abseiled further down the cliff. After getting the pain and my breathing under control, I did this again, until I could see from the silhouette of the ridgeline in the dark above me and decided that I shouldn’t go any lower. (My memory is that I went a considerable distance and that it took hours, but apparently I only moved about 15 metres! That is an indication of how badly smashed up I was, both physically and mentally) So I laid out the rope underneath me to provide insulation and comfort and lay down to rest until first light, when I would be able to see where the actual descent track went. I had resolved that I would crawl a few kilometres on my hands and knees if necessary, to raise the alarm. Every couple hours throughout the night my partner would yell down to me and I would yell back. Her last yell just after first light woke me up, so I’d obviously been able to get to sleep for a while at least. She then devised a brilliant and rather daring method of clipping together all the small pieces of climbing protection and slings which she had collected as she climbed the last pitch the previous day into a long daisy chain. She had, in her own words: “enough gear to link it all together, anchoring it from the abseil ring to create a ‘daisy chain’ that would get me to a small tree growing from a crack below. I made it to the tree, secured the Daisy chain of gear. Then went back up to the abseil point above to release the top of the chain. By doing this it would now become the bottom of a chain secured to the tree. Monkeying down the makeshift Daisy chain got me to the bottom of the abseil. I got to my mate and we decided to try and move him to the prominent pinnacle at Belougery, allowing easier emergency access and a cool gully for him to rest in in the meantime. It took an hour or more to get there through scrambling and setting up guiding ropes for him but we made it. Stashed water from the previous day was a saviour! I raced over to the hut and raised the alarm. Within 3 hours he was being choppered out. Parks, emergency chopper crew and volunteers were fantastic!”IMG_6355The various pains I could feel in different parts of my body had now convinced me that I was too badly smashed up to walk out by myself. I now know that I basically shattered my T4 vertebrae and accompanying ligaments so I might have rendered myself a paraplegic if I had tried to walk out and fallen again in a way that impacted on that part of my spine.


Maggots keeping Andrew’s ear clean.

I was hopeful that I had just broken a few ribs but in reality I had broken three ribs, my sternum and coccyx, three fractured vertebrae and my helmet had chopped a bit off my ear. My helmet now has a big split in it, so presumably I can thank it for saving my life, before cursing it for chopping off part of my ear. Despite my best efforts, the local flies found my injured ear to be irresistible and the medical staff at John Hunter Hospital convinced me that their children (which were up and wriggling (and nibbling) within 24 hours) were doing more good than harm. So I put up with the maggots until the operation to sew my ear back together in a couple days’ time.

The first people to arrive on the scene (at around 11:15am) were local rangers who had hotfooted it up the track. It was great to see them. At around 12:30 the first rescue helicopter (from Tamworth) appeared overhead, but apparently cost issues had inspired the State Government to take away its winch facilities in 2013, so it had no chance of getting me out of there. It did, however manage to drop off a couple of very welcome paramedics, who looked after and stayed with me until the Newcastle based chopper (which thankfully still has its winch operational) was able to reach me (around 1:44pm). I’ve done numerous remote area first aid courses myself and helped in a few wilderness rescues, and I was very impressed by the competence and professionalism of all the crew who helped in my rescue. They’re a credit to their respective services and largely unsung Australian heroes IMHO. I’m humbled and immensely grateful for their selflessness and generosity of spirit. I’ve since become aware of the huge number of people who turned out to help me. Most of whom I never met. I don’t have the resources to thank them financially and odds are, I won’t meet most of them again in order to personally thank them. I’m thinking that my thanks is going to express itself by becoming more involved with my local rescue organisations and to bring myself up to more advanced level first aid qualifications. This will make me more useful and able to help others, including usually fiercely self-reliant people who, like me, never really imagined that one day they would suddenly be in need of the assistance of strangers, as they lay broken and in pain or in a pool of their own blood. At the foot of a cliff or some other lonely bush setting, trying to avoid the attentions of the flies and ants who are only too willing to keep them company. Strangers whose selfless compassion should give us all heart and reason to take pride in being Australian. Not in some vacuous jingoistic way, but proud of the fact that so many people in our society demonstrate in the most practical and selfless ways, that empathy, compassion and a sense of community solidarity is alive and well. This is evidenced not only in the actions of the volunteers and professionals involved, but also in the generosity of those who contribute financially to the rescue and emergency services. Services that they are statistically unlikely to ever benefit from in a personal sense, as victims in need of the expertise and generosity of strangers.

To fellow climbers, my advice is: NEVER, EVER, let familiarity with climbing and abseiling procedures breed complacency and lack of attention to detail. Everything can go horribly wrong in a split second and even if the victim isn’t you, it would be horrible to have to live with the knowledge that your flippant or ‘chillaxed, untroubled coolness’ caused the death or permanent disability of your climbing partner. Even though you have to trust your partners to a large extent, where possible double check what they’re doing, being especially vigilant over the things that will result in catastrophic failure if they’re done wrong. I’ve since spoken to very experienced climbers who don’t always tie knots in the ends of their abseil ropes. But they have other procedures to ensure that they have identified the midpoints of their rope. After this accident, I’m pretty sure I will be tying either stein knots or knots in the end of the rope from now on. It would also be a good idea to practice prussiking on two strands of rope, which is what you’ll probably have to do if you ever do find your abseil device clogged up with a knot while you’re dangling in mid-air. It’s not easy, but very doable, and with all these things, it’s a lot easier if you’ve practiced it in the gym (with a back-up safety rope) before having to do it in the dark, on your own (out of sight, or hearing from your companions) while you’re tired and emotional after a big day out.


Article and photos by Andrew Collins


Posted by: EPIC | July 20, 2012

Remote Area First Aid Course

Club trips just got a whole lot safer, with 18 members having finished a Remote Area First Aid course over the weekend. Partly subsidised by the club, the course spanned over three days and covered the regular ‘apply first aid certification’ as well as remote area first aid – keep an eye out for these back-country first aiders on your next trip!

Posted by: EPIC | May 17, 2012

Belmore Falls clean-up

The Belmore Falls clean up on the w/e of 28–29 April was an unusual trip and worth a few lines to let you know.

Belmore Falls is an 80m waterfall succeeded by several other waterfalls in the Morton National Park a bit beyond Fitzroy Falls.

ANUMC obtained permission to abseil the waterfall. As part of community spirit we undertook to clean rubbish in the area. Rubbish that could be reasonably carried in a day pack. Larger size rubbish would require more effort including a haul system. This was a trip similar to Bungonia Lookdown clean up and Fitzroy Falls clean up that I participated with under the umbrella of Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad.

Belmore Falls was literally pumping away with a thundering sound as it poured over the edge. The noise, volume, spray and windstream were thrilling to see after so many years of drought. The waterfall itself was relatively clean and a few cans, plastic bottles and other small things were picked up. This was in contrast with Fitzroy Falls and Bungonia where many sacks of rubbish were hauled up by the top crew. Items that were left in place to be picked up at a future trip were a lawnmower, a dishwasher and a green wheelie bin. These are now an excuse to return next canyoning season and undertake a thorough clean up instead of an investigative clean-up. The wind spray draught at the bottom was tremendous and we quickly chilled towards hypothermia even with wetsuits.

The walk out was very easy. The old abandoned walk down track was found and thus made it very easy to return to the top and admire the views along the way.

Do think about participating next time and help the community whilst having fun in a different canyoning experience. We could even schedule it early in the season to practice rope skills as well as reminder of hauling systems before wandering to New Zealand glaciers.

Keep active

— Nic Bendeli 🙂

Posted by: EPIC | April 3, 2012

Coast Weekend 2012

A longstanding annual tradition was continued with the combined ANUMC / ANU Sailing Club trip to Honeymoon Bay held over the 31 March–1 April weekend.

Around 50 members of the two clubs were busy all weekend (including its extra hour thanks to daylight savings) with sea kayaking, kayak rolling, kayak surfing, climbing, bush walking, sailing, being pulled around in a donut behind the power boat, surfing, playing frisbee, cramming for uni exams and cooking gourmet delights.

A big thank you to all for making it a great weekend and particularly the drivers, trailer towers, trip leaders and instructors!

Posted by: EPIC | March 23, 2012

2012 Market Day Epic edition

2012 Epic Market Day coverThe PDF version of the 2012 Market Day Epic has been uploaded to the ANUMC website.

It contains mostly ‘administrative’ information regarding the club’s activities, benefits, signing up etc. so there are no trip reports or other editorial content in this edition.

However it is a useful introduction to the club for potential members, as well as new (and not-so-new) members too.

Posted by: EPIC | November 2, 2011

AGM 2011

The ANUMC had its Annual General Meeting last Thursday. As always, the event began with some drinks and munchies while club members old and new exchanged memories from the previous year and plans for adventures to come. The success of the ANUMC in 2011 was highlighted by Lauren in the Presidents Report: This year trip leaders organized 195 different outings in 11 disciplines (including the invention of the new adventure activity, “Coasteering!”). No wonder the ANUMC was voted “Club of the Year” by the ANU Sports and Recreation Association last year! With participation up in 2011, hopefully we can keep the momentum going through 2012!

Of course, the success of 2011 could not have been possible without the commitment of the Executive committee and many members who go above and beyond their responsibilities to the club. To publically acknowledge these indispensible club members, the Exec presents several awards during the AGM. This year, the award winners were as follows:
Ice Axe award for Outstanding Contribution to the club- Dave Boland
Trip Leader of the Year- Paul King
Up and coming Trip Leader- Phil Lengel
Beginner of the Year- Mel Millard
Contribution to Skills Development- Jansosch Hoffman
Outstanding Service to the Club- David and Finnian Lattimore
Congratulations to all of the award winners and thanks for your dedication to the ANUMC!

Of course, the AGM was also about thinking back to the more humorous adventures from the past year, and a number of mishaps from 2011 inspired several less prestigious, but no less entertaining awards from a variety of club trips. The award winners were:

Official club photographer award (for always being handy with a camera): Tom Bush
Club representation award for displaying the ANUMC’s various talents in competitive events: Jasmine Rickards (Women’s 6s Scott 24 hour mountain bike race)
Sarah Buckerfield (Australian University Games orienteering; national 24 hour rogaining comp)
‘Macgyver Award’ for innovative and creative problem solving skills in the bush: Andrew Collins
Bandaid Award for most spectacular recovery from injury: Jia-Urnn Lee
Swamp Monster Award for Aquatic Misadventure: David Powell
Back Country Cuisine Award for raising the standard of bush tucker: Mika Kontiainen and Emma Lewin
Culinary Disaster Award for lowering the standard of bush tucker: Tim Crockford
Finger in Every Pie Award for leading and participating in the most different club activities: Rob Hayes
Human Chainsaw Award (or the who not to share a tent with Award): Rob Hayes
Le Francais contribution to geographical discombobulation – contributions to navigational excellence: Julien Bernu, Lauren Bartsch, Ali Livernois
Scheufele Award for the longest unnecessary fall (including the Twisted Krab Award and the Bent Peg Award for super human contortionism): Gab Scheufele
The ANUMC is not a dating club Award: Various club couples formed in 2011 and earlier
Kitchen Sink Award 1 for bringing the bare minimum: Lars Andersson
Kitchen Sink Award 2 for bringing everything but the kitchen Sink (including her Mothers wrench set): Ali Livernois

Club members present at the AGM also helped select this year’s winners of the photo contest. There were four categories with a number of entries in all of them. Although competition was stiff this year, there can be only one winner in each!

The award for Best Landscape photo goes to Nic Bendeli for his photo “Moonset on Sunrise” at Mt Kilimanjaro.

The award for Best Action Shot goes to Kerstin Jungkunz for her photo “Stephan on “Lemington” at Arapiles”

Stephan on "Lemington" at Arapiles

The award for Best Flora and Fauna Shot goes to Anthony Mann for his photo “Butterfly on a daisy”

And the award for Best Personality goes to Jasmine Rickards for her photo “Gab”

Congratulations to all winners and happy trails for the rest of the year and 2012!
Posted by Sandra Binning

Posted by: EPIC | September 12, 2011

Snow sports weekend 2011

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The ANUMC winter olympics of snow sports occured on the shores of the mighty Guthega creek in glorious sunshine. Activities included ski touring to mount Perisher and the trig point, snigloo building, catching ski poles in the raging rapids, photography, chocolate dessert cookoff, and ski yoga (often unintended). Thanks to Richard for organising!

Post by Jasmine Rickards

Posted by: EPIC | September 5, 2011

ANUMC Mid Winter Feast 2011

by Clare Paynter

In the pursuit of good food, good snow and good company, a party of 16 set of for Gooandra Hut and the annual ANUMC Mid Winter Feast on the last weekend on July. After driving through Namadgi National Park and along the Snowy Mountains Highway for three hours, we left the cars about 15km north of Kiandra and continued on foot, snow shoes and (somewhat optimistically given the patchy snow cover) skis for the Gooandra homestead. The old miners hut adjacent to the homestead was built in the 1860s and consequently, remains the oldest standing structure in Kosciusko National Park.  

Mika’s photos from a trip two weeks earlier detailed incredible snow cover. Alas, with the warm clear weather, we were welcomed with clear blue skies and a somewhat diminished snow cover. This allowed for easy walking and an opportunity to utilise the snow shoes and skis in brief intervals. About a kilometre from the cars, we intercepted the Eucumbene River. In previous years, it was necessary to wade through its freezing, lead-filled waters. However, the relatively new bridge made for less adventure, but a slightly warmer passage to the other side. Once across the Eucumbene, our party of 16 decided to split – one group would follow the 5km fire trail to the hut; the other, led by Mika (who could have walked with his eyes closed along the track, he’d done it so many times) decided to head over to the right, onto the other side of the ridge and come at the homestead from behind. Having never taken any route to Gooandra Homestead, I decided to follow Mika, knowing that I could do a round trip and follow the track back to the cars.

Any passage into Gooandra Homestead would be a beautiful one. Plenty of snow cover on the higher ranges, incredible snow gums, and the image that encapsulates the Snowys: brumbies running wild (and in plentiful numbers). Along the way, we encountered a snow bridge across a small watercourse that at least one person managed to fall through (captured on camera) and the beastly vegetation of the area, watercourses covered over by vegetation and the challenge of not falling through to the icy water below.

Finally, the hut! Having never been to a hut before, I’m not sure if I realised just how good this one was – the epitome of the Australian bush legend. Three decent sized rooms, including one with a magnificent fireplace. The snow had largely melted from around the hut, with small patches on the tufty grass upon which we were to camp. Following the erection of tents, afternoon activities began: skiing for a few, firewood collection and chopping and the drying of socks by the fireplace. Somehow the afternoon managed to pass in a second! That wasn’t a problem at all, it meant dinner time and really, the feast was everyone’s reason for being there.

Rarely have I had such an amazing meal at home yet alone in a hut in the Snowy Mountains. Emma’s salt and pepper squid, cooked on the fire began the feast, accompanied by a series of delicious dips, some potato pancakes, herb bread, Frankfurt sausages and salad. For the numerous main courses, we were treated to pasta with a mussel sauce, Thai green chicken curry, a series of spinach and cheese pastries, chicken kebabs, a coconut curry and homemade pea and ham soup. And stopping at that point wasn’t likely, dessert was still to come! And a delicious one at that: chocolate polenta cake, a Dutch Christmas cake and lemon delicious pudding. All of this was washed down by an interesting concoction from Mika (some sort of mulled wine), and of course, the obligatory vino.

After attempting to eat our body weight in food, we all vied for a spot around the crackling fire. Bliss. To overcome the chance of any awkward conversation, the “Can I ask you a personal question?” book was brought out and cheerful conversation ensued. For future note, it serves to meet Mika’s gaze – if you attempt to avoid it, he picks on you more!

Sunday brought with it an incredibly long and relaxing sleep in, having only an hour to walk back to the vehicles. Woken by the rain, it seemed the little snow wouldn’t last much longer. Having only to clean up the homestead, restock the firewood and write in the log book (enlightening and enthusiastic debate on the brumby problem), we set off for the cars late morning. Sarah and Dave found opportunities to further practice their ski technique and I managed to fall through the snow into a creek below – it wasn’t very far, but it highlighted the challenges of walking on snow! Once at the Eucumbene, Sarah (because she’s Tasmanian), Ben (who knows what reason) and Harry (because he was dared to), stripped off and took a dip in the snow melt. The rest of us agreed it was sufficiently cold with all of our layers on, without stripping them off and immersing ourselves in icy water. There followed a brief walk back to the vehicles where warmth and clean clothes awaited.

This marked the end of an incredible weekend in the Snowys, with great food and lovely company. Many thanks to Mika for his leadership and incredible knowledge of the area. Until next year!

Posted by: EPIC | September 5, 2011

The dance for the snow gods

Last weekend the ANUMCers headed out in search of the snow which has been diminishing at an alarming rate over recent weeks. They managed to find some, and some were inspired to dance for more! See our facebook for the vision captured by Jasmine Rickards.

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See more of Jasmine’s photos

See more of Tom’s photos



Posted by: EPIC | July 30, 2011

Snowshoeing at Rainbow Lake

Saturday July 23 saw a group (Mika, Ben P, Fergus, Rhys, Robyn and Alana) heading up to Rainbow Lake and beyond on snowshoes. The day was stunning – sunny and still – and the snow cover was great.Highlights were definietly walking across the frozen surface of the lake, photographing some awesome ice features and careering down the slopes on a ‘snow slider’ borrowed from one of Mika’s sons. Many thanks to Mika for leading another great trip!

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Post by Alana Wilkes. Photos from Alana Wilkes and Mika Kontiainen
To see more pictures by Alana visit:
To see more pictures by Mika visit:

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