Edwin, Tallis and me.
So the plan was to do Whungee Wheengee with Edwin and Tallis, and to be honest I was really looking forward to it but after a wet week a big storm hit the ‘Go Friday afternoon and water was running out of the ground behind my place, which I hadn’t seen before. Severe storm warning were issue for Saturday afternoon so we decided to err of the side of caution and change plans.
I wasn’t overly concerned with getting through Whungee itself but was worried if a big storm hit as we were exiting down the Wollengambe it might get a little too exciting.
With that in mind we thought one of the Wolgan Valley canyons may be a better option with smaller catchments and shorter trips and settled on one none of us had done before, Pipeline Canyon. News of a dead roo stinking out Whungee Wheengee helped ease the decision.
Of course late Friday night listening to the sound of rain on the roof I came across Monika’s report of her group getting hit with a flash flood and spending a night tethered to a log high in Pipeline as the furious water churned below them back in 2011. Hmmmm…
Weather looked up somewhat in the morning, with the steady rain now sunshine and the storm not due in ’til later in the afternoon so off we went.
The Wolgan Valley is one of my most favourest places in the hole wide world and we got to the camp ground around 9am. Another plus for Pipeline, got to sleep in a bit.
The good thing about canyoning in the Wolgan is you do the big uphill first, the counter to that is the big uphill is big and as we ascended the pipeline trail I kept thinking ‘Steep bit is at the top. Steep bit is at the top. this isn’t even steep yet…’
It’s very humid and I’m soaked with sweat before we’re even halfway up. At least the sweat washes the last of the effects of the stinging nettles off my legs (There is lots of nettle down on the flat this side of the river down stream of the camp ground but it’s not too bad. More of a slight annoyance nettle really)
I’d have to say I’m in awe of the guys who built the pipeline from Glendavis shale works over to the train line in Newnes. It must have been back breaking work for a venture that didn’t last that long. I seem to recall more pipes and structures in situ last time. Looks like most have been removed which is a bit surprising since it has some heritage value.
I believe some people do (Or use to, there is some issues with private land on the GlenDavis side stopping people now) walk the pipeline track from Newnes to Glendavis and back just for the fun of it…
It does have great views at the top though.
It was about as I got to this vantage point when I was sure I could hear other people. Then a shirtless bloke popped up from behind the next pagoda and popped straight back down again and everything went quiet. I say shirtless but I only saw from chest up. We decided not to go right out to the point.
Last time I was up this way it was to do the Amazing Wallaby tunnel/StarLight/Newnes canyon early on in our first canyoning craze. I’ve done Star Light many times since but always reversing up from the bottom rather than the round trip.
I still remember walking along the saddle in between Newnes and Glendavis looking for a shed, or the relic some sort of pumping station. The notes said head off right at the shed. We were standing around the map and I was sure we were at the spot we needed to turn off but no shed was in site. Then it dawned on us “Water shed” was the spot where if rain fell< this side the water would run into the Capertee. or this side >And it would run into the Wolgan.
Anyhoo we get to a place where an obvious trail heads off to the right. This leads to a tributary that bypasses the upper section of Pipeline. The upper section is suppose to be a dry walk through and apparently most people skip it but we were unanimous. Be damned if we’re walking up that hill for half a canyon and leave a whole section we’d not visit.
We continue to the watershed (It’s not like a garden shed, silly) and head out along the Starlight trail. We think we see an obvious scramble down the hill heading in vaguely the right direction and follow it down. We find our slot but were too far down stream.
We take a bearing and decide to skirt along the edge of the hill instead of returning the way we come down. It starts nice. There is always an easier pass through the scrub, says Edwin. Or words to that effect. Silly Edwin. Almost straight after he utters those words it gets scrubbier and scrubbier.
We can see the ridge not far above and head up to intercept the main trail again. If the turn off to Pipeline is obvious we missed it but are confident we are heading in the right direction to get into the headwaters of our canyon. We slip down a gully. Edwin makes friends with a little black snack.
When I say little it was a good meter long and solidly built. By the time I get there we can only see his tail.
The gully was getting really scrubby. I was sure we weren’t the only ones to come this way as some sections looked to have had feet over it, sure that may have been wombat feet. Then Edwin spies an old abseil glove on the ground. Right in front of an 7m drop that’s not in the guide and has no obvious belay points.
Meh. If its the wrong slot we’re just going to do Devils Pinch canyon. Says I. But we are 100% confident we’re in the right vicinity and so skirt around the cliff edge to the right and find a smaller drop that could just be done with a hand over hand on my 10m cord.
The walls close in. I’ve seen this view before. Mighty coachwood trees stretching skyward in the narrow canyon. It’s Pipeline I’ve seen photos of this section on Dave’s site.
Still no idea where the usual entry point for this section is but we made it.
This first section of canyon is stunning. It really is.
That soon opened up and into a more open forested gorge.
It was easy going and we were wondering why anyone would bother missing the top section… then the gorge began to close and there was a section of picking through lots of fallen deadwood and boulder hopping. It was slow going and energy sapping at times.
We hadn’t really stopped to eat. We were mindful that with our scrub bashing we’d taken more time to get to the start then originally planned. Above I could see some dark clouds rolling in. When Edwin commented on it I knew I wasn’t the only one keeping an eye on the sky through the gaps in the canyon walls. But so far there looked to be plenty of spots to seek higher ground or scramble out if needed.
By the time we reached the lower constriction the dark clouds had seemed to cleared without so much as a drop. Some tricky down climbs into water so clear it looked far shallower than it was had us all soaking wet but the water temp was very pleasant and we chose to leave the wet suits in the bags. Of course this meant we lugged around wet wetsuits all day for no reason what so ever.
Another quick check of the skies and a look around for accessible high ledges and we headed in.
The lower section is lush and green. It’s deep in places but at this time of the day plenty of sun light managed to find its way into the canyon floor.
There are several abseils. All of them have tricky starts, overhung, slippery, wrong angles or down a log with the belay tape below your feet… That full length wetsuit in my bag would make this hurt less as my knee slides down it, Thinks I and says Tal, The kid’s a mind reader even if he doesn’t say much.
But it was a good challenge and very pretty but we pushed through fairly quickly still mindful of the predicted “Severe” storms.
We had decided to take my 50m rope which was plenty long enough. My theory being to save Edwin from carrying his 60m on his dodgy ankle. In hindsight Ed’s 60m 9mm dry rope would have been far lighter and less bulky than my 50m 11m standard rope. Live and learn.
We could see the canyon open out just ahead but not before a final abseil or two.
We find ourselves nestled under the upper cliff line of the Wolgan. It was a good spot for lunch and I’m kind of famished by now.
We tuck in taking a few more photos of the break in the cliff line we had descended. The light made it difficult to get anything good with the iphone so you’ll have to check out the vid for a reasonable look at it.
The path out was much more defined than anything we saw on the way in, confirming most people come in on the side creek. We’re still a long way above the Wolgan. The Valley here is narrow the opposing clifflines don’t seem much more the 3 or 4 hungy metres away.
Our path takes us on a precarious route across the “Halfway ledge” between the upper and lower cliff line. At times it a nice easy path. Other times it seemed little more than a slightly less vertical, slightly less solid break in one continuous cliff face but pretty soon we are back at the pipeline track just below it’s final steep push up toward the top. It was about this time we first heard the ominous rumble of sky farts. Out just in the nick of time it would appear.
We scamper down the pipeline trail, reveling the the joy of heading down instead of up at the end of a canyon trip.
Just before the base of the pipeline trail the sky opened. A gentle shower at first but along with the thunder it soon got heavier. I stop for some photos and Tal and Ed power on. It’s not cold and the rain is actual very refreshing. It was a very pleasant if damp walk back along the river trail to the car and I’m enjoying being tail end charlie.
Pipeline in a gorgeous canyon. Well worth a look. Driving out we can see 3 distinct storm fronts chasing each over over the plateau to the north. They don’t seem to have dumped the fury on the plateau. The storm we did get was nowhere near as “severe” as predicted but I’m happy enough to have played it safe
Party Size: 3
Time: 6hr car to car with a lot of faffing about to find the start.