Karajini pt 3

I must make a point of writing up the story of 'Hand Rail Pool'. Every gorge has its own stream which was responsible for carving it out of the landscape. Some canyons are quite wide, the result of millions of years of erosion. But others appear to be still in their infancy, either that or the rock the water passes through is a lot harder and has not been eaten away. One such ravine is 'Hand Rail Pool'. To get into it, one has to trek down a very steep and arduous slope. By the time we reached the river at the bottom we were all shattered, and could have done with a good rest. However time was pressing on, the air temperature down there was once again extremely oppressive, and the craving to have a cooling swim overcame our tiredness. Following the water flow, it very soon became noticeable that the canyon walls were claustrophobically closing in on us. Within a couple of minutes of picking our way over the hazardous boulder strewn route, we came across what appeared to be pretty much the end of the line, since all that was left of the path was a crack just big enough to squeeze through if you weren't carrying a back pack. As we stood there weighing up our options, a couple of bold climbers appeared out of the darkness. They told us that if we leave our gear here and persevere onwards, the end result is worth all the effort of getting there. What they didn't tell us about was the drop at the other end of the crevice. (I'll get to that in a minute) So heeding their advice we abandoned most of our equipment, plus our shoes, turned ourselves sideways and squeezed ourselves through the narrowing gap in the rock. It felt like we were more potholing than exploring a gorge. Suddenly, eureka. The whole scene opened out into a huge amphitheatre of solid rock with a shimmering pool of water stretching out into the distance. Shafts of blinding sunlight scythed through from way above, bathing the area with a golden glow. Now comes the snag. To get down into this grand arena a steel hand rail had been affixed into the rock so that you could lower yourself down into the pool. BUT...normally the water was considerably deeper, allowing the individual to simply lower themselves slowly in and swim around to the edge. Due to the complete lack of rains in Western Australia the previous winter, the water level was so low that the rail ended half way down leaving a 2 metre drop. The only way to get into the pool was to precariously scramble down a long knotted rope tied up alongside the rail. This is all very well, but one has to remember that somehow we had to get back up later. Putting that to the back of our mind, we spent a wonderful hour just relaxing either in or around the crystal clear water, repeatedly trading the extreme air temperature for a cooling swim after they convinced me of this area being a crocodile free environment. I was so shattered after our climb that I actually fell asleep for a short time whilst propped up against a boulder, only waking up when I luckily heard footsteps going past me. The rotten devils were only trying to sneak off and leave me there fast asleep, hoping for me to wake up completely alone. No chance!!! With friends like that, who needs enemies? It was at that point we realised the challenging problem in front of us. My friend has a bad back, now considerably aggravated by the long painful climb down. We now had to work out a way of manhandling her back up the rope. The son in law, being the fittest of us all scrambled up first followed closely by the daughter. The granite wall was like ice, polished by the relentless flow of water over aeons of time. With no meaningful grip from your feet, it takes quite an effort to physically haul yourself up twice your own height. Somehow we managed to unceremoniously half drag, half shove my partnner up the sheer wall with the aid of my hands supporting her backside. Then it was my turn, but everyone forgot about me. Within seconds I was swinging about on the rope like Tarzan on drugs. Completely losing my grip and my pride, much to my embarrassment it was left to her daughter to haul me up single handed. How humiliating...I do tend to forget I'm becoming an old fart now, and no longer have the strength in my arms that I once had in my sidecar racing days. By the time we had climbed back up to the surface, we were all completely shot. Just as well we left this gorge till last, for the state we were in there was no way we could have entertained climbing down into another.

Copyright © 2002, David Tooley. All rights reserved.