Hancock Gorge and Dales Gorge Karijini National Park

Conquering Kermits Pool and Circular Pool in one day

This ended up being a challenging day both physically and mentally for both David and I. We innocently set off on a day that begun by dropping by an outlook  and viewing the vast magnificent surroundings. David on arthritic and other drugs that upset his balance and a fused ankle with a contorted deformed foot did not really provide the ideal agility and stability needed to climb and navigate difficult rocks and ladders. He deliberately kept behind me so I couldn’t see his struggles. This probably helped me focus on “surviving” ( one careful step at a time) and keeping up with the group, however did little to alleviate my concern that either of us could drop off and fall to certain death along the way.

While this should have been a photographers dream with a continuous snap opportunity, I was so shit scared and having panic attacks that this day resulted in just a few photos between both David and I. We both needed both hands and feet concentrating on navigating down steep ladders, rocky steps and then wet slippery rocks.

Hancock Gorge

We set off from the car park in Hancock Gorge and loaded up with water and put on runners. I was carrying a bag with a few bottles of water, and David had a little waterproof day pack with a small towel and our phones.

We walked to track and started our way down the gorge. Once down a few steep steps and the first ladder it was apparent that this was a little more difficult than Hamerleys gorge the previous day. The steep descent is still a bit of a blur.

We eventually came across a gap that was a bit narrower and full of water. To get through was going to involve wading/swimming through the water. While we were going through the water on the base of the gorge, there were people opting for climbing along the ledges of the walls of the gorge a few meters up. Crazy I say.

While we were going through the water on the base of the gorge, there were people opting for climbing along the ledges of the walls of the gorge a few meters up.
While we were going through the water on the base of the gorge, there were people opting for climbing along the ledges of the walls of the gorge a few meters up.

There were rocks under water that you could not see and in parts the water was up to my chest. We reached a flat more open “beachy” part that looked like a nice place to stop and take a photo. David got our phones out and we took a couple of shots. This is the only time photos were on my mind this day and my first real panic attack.

david

The Spider Walk

Wayne and Nadine had been leading the way and kept a little ahead of us ( they have climbed gorges before and more confident at navigating the rocks). Wayne had come back to us at this little ” beach” area to let us know that the next bit would require walking like a spider to get through. I said that I was happy to stay put and wait however both Wayne and David encouraged me to give it a go. I had a look and freaked out at what I was going to have to do. The problem is that once you go into a situation like this there is no turning back. So I reluctantly moved forward.

I did it. I slowly edged my way through like a spider and eventually came to a drop down onto wet rocks to get to the Kermits Pool. I gracefully stepped down and slipped on the rocks on my bum to the amusement of people sitting up on the rock ledge nearby. They assured me that a lot of people slip in this spot. Sure enough David was next.

Hancock Gorge – Kermit’s Pool

We took off our shoes and left the on the the ledge and went for a dip in the pool. The pool was shadowed in darkness and while stunning to look at not really very big. Looking upwards through the ancient rocky ledges of the walls of the gorge you could see the bright blue sky.  There were about 20 other people spread around the ledges some sitting up high ready to do a jump in the water and some sitting on the edge of the pool.

Not long after sliding carefully into Kermits Pool I stubbed my already sore foot on an underwater slab of rock and got out the other end to sit on the side and enjoy the surroundings. Unfortunately the fear that I had just experienced getting to this point and the stubbing of my toe, and the thought of getting back up the scary parts of the gorge made me irrationally want to burst in tears (and be transported by helicopter to safe dry land in one piece). I looked deep into David’ s eyes. He knew that I was upset and about to burst into tears but somehow he made me feel ok, and I managed to sort of get it together.

Stuck on a ledge in Kermits Pool ( not me!)

We dried off a bit and put our shoes back on ready for the journey back. As I sat tying up my shoe laces I was oblivious to a bit of commotion a couple of metres above me. An elderly man was stuck a shelf on the ledgy wall unable to go backwards or forwards. He had some how managed to crawl there but could not move without falling. Luckily in this sort of place there are many experienced climbers with ” rubbery shoes” on that seem to grip to rocks. A group of people ended up coaching and helping the man and he managed to get down safely.  It was only about 10 minutes earlier that we witnessed a teenage girl up a few metres above Kermits pool stuck on the ledgy wall screaming. She was frozen with fear. She also was helped down by family, friends and strangers.

Back the way we came

Shoes on and ready to go back up the gorge from Kermits Pool. First challenge was a massive rock that was about up to my waist that I had to get up. Nothing to hang on to and David was behind me. This is the spot where I had another panic attack. I tried to get my right leg up but could not and I could see Wayne coming back towards us. I said to him “how are we going to get up here” and he grabbed by arm and yanked me up and with a scrambled motion of my arms and legs I made it. I didn’t have to worry about David as he is much taller and apparently he got up this bit without too much trouble.

Going back up was a bit of a blur however seemed a bit easier overall. We did the spider walk again, waded through deep water and then climbed back up the rocks and ladders to the safety of the carpark.

We drove back to our campsite at Karrajini and had a bit of a rest before heading off to visit another gorge.

rest-karaini2
A well earned rest back at the campsite

Circular Pool in Dales Gorge

Standing at the top and looking down to Circular pool we had a choice of two routes downwards. We decided to pick the shorter way down rather than the long way down. ( we found out later that the longer route would have been easier as there were hand rails and proper steps and generally a lot safer)

looking-down-into-circular-pool
Long way down for a swim!

There were steep uneven rock steps going down with nothing to hang on to and long steep ladders down ledgy walls of rock layers. Again this was me in survival mode and concentrating on getting down safely. Once on the floor of the gorge we made our way along large slabs towards Circular pool.  Some of these rocky slabs were high, narrow, slippery. It was necessary at some steep rocks to sit down and then slide/jump down. There were places where a bit of a jump was involved often onto another slippery rock, that was wet with footprints from the other visitors to the area. They were beautifully arranged and my thoughts were that a smaller arrangement of these rock slabs  would look great a backyard garden.

circular-pool-gorge-bottom circular-pool-base

We were almost to Circular pool when David slipped on a rock and landed heavily on his bum and back. His small backpack provided a bit of padding and he was able to walk.  (You would not want to get stuck in this place! You are in the middle of no-where with no modern day communication options. ) We got ready for a swim and made our way into the water. The rocks were very slippery but once in the water was refreshingly cool. There were lot of people sitting around on rocks, on ledges and in the water swimming.

After the swim in Circular pool it was time to head back up the gorge. Walking along the base of the gorge up and down some pretty steep slabby rocks, then up some steep ladders. I remember one of the ladders required climbing up at the end of it without anything to hang on to and very little landing space on the rock above. Most of the steep ascent I ended up on all fours close to the ground, climbing up and up and up. This felt safer to me than standing up and didn’t require any balancing.

I remember popping my head over the top of the gorge when I finally reached the top and seeing Wayne and Nadine standing there waiting for us. I jumped up with happiness with my arms up in the air and yelled out ” I made it!” We walked back to the car, jumped in and made our way back to the campsite at Karrajine. It was now late in the day and the sun was setting. It was a beautiful drive back after a day full of the most amazing experiences!

 

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