Koombanda canyon: A long write up of a short canyon
Mandy, Tal and I
My original plans for the weekend had fallen through. A back up plan never got off the ground so come Friday morning when the boss asked what I was doing on the weekend I smiled and said “I have bugger all on. I might have one of those rare weekends where I don’t do anything at all.”
It sounded pretty good….
Who am I kidding not half an hour later I’m texting Mandy “You up for Yileen this weekend?” I’ll admit at this stage I’m 3/4 joking but Mandy texts back “Not sure I’m up for the big abseil. Sunday looks like its the pick of the days what other options have we got for a small trip” “What about Koombanda? and what about doing it Saturday, leaving Sunday for an even lazier swim somewhere.” The idea was planted.
We’d never done Koombanda Canyon before. I’d heard it was short but OK plus it’s an easy walk out up old abandoned colliery haul road.
Saturday dawns wet and drizzly. We had a nice 7:30 sleep in. We still hadn’t committed to the idea but, What do you reckon? says I over breakfast. Want to get the gear packed?
Why not, says she.
We let Tal sleep while we get stuff ready. Finally waking him up around 9:45. We tell Beth our plans and ask if she wants to come. I didn’t think she would as she does like abseiling that much. Declines does she
So it was about 10:30 before we even drive out of town. Talk about a lazy canyon trip. To be even lazier we take 2 cars to do a bit of a car shuffle and reduce the walking even further.
The weather was miserable. I’m thinking of pulling the pin, say Mandy as she climbs in the ute after dropping her car at the locked gate at the top of the Colliery. They predicted 1-5mil and I’m pretty sure that’s running down my forehead just from dashing between cars, says she
’tis a mere heavying of the mist, says I.
To keep an explorational type feel I’d only read the basics about the trip. Where to park, how much rope we needed. But I gave Tal a copy of Tom’s track notes. It says to contour around the hill. Says he. But it doesn’t say which side of the hill, left or right. We check the map, take a bearing and split the difference. Straight over the top
Despite the vigorous regrowth after the State Mine fire that had ripped through a couple of years ago it was fairly easy going, if damp. We dropped into a tributary and it only got scrubby towards the junction with the main creek. Even then it was more ferns then anything else
We soon reach Koombanda crk. It sounds like it has a bit of water flowing through it so we decide to put the wetsuits on. We had done a bit of humming and haing as to whether to bother taking wetties, especially after not using them in Pipeline last weekend but with the weather having a piss weak attempt at summer I’m glad we took them. The swims were short but the water was chilly.
We come to a spot where the water disappears down a drop and under a rock. Is there a tunnel through Tal, asks I. Not Sure, says he. From here I can’t see light coming through from the other side. Best have a better look, says I.
There was an easy path around but under looked like a bit of fun, we were in no hurry, the big arse cave crickets didn’t look that scary and, we might as well make use of the wetsuits
It was a tight squeeze in the middle but the water is crystal clear. It was a bit of fun
There followed a bit of crk walking. Did we come down the same tributary the note mention? Does it mater? The canyon eventually closed in and we scramble down a little chute to a beautiful, if somewhat cold, pool for our first deep swim.
A little more crk walking and we come to our first abseil. It looks like it would be easy enough to down climb to save getting the ropes out but instead I ask Tal if he’d like to try going first? Alright, says he.
Not sure if it was because he really wanted to or just he wanted to freak his mother out a little. He ropes up and down he goes. Fully pro.
I can’t remember the last time Mandy abseiled, it must be 17 years since she had done one in a canyon as I’m sure it was before Beth was born but she handled it like she hadn’t had a break at all. Only problem she had was scrambling out of the deep pool at the bottom onto a ledge in a tight squeeze.
A really gorgeous bit of canyon follows. Not overly deep or narrow but As the great R Smith once sang it was so wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty. (He may sang that more than once, who knows. Not I)
And just around the corner is our next drop. Once again it’s down a cool little hole dropping into the narrows below. The notes says 15m but I don’t think it’s that high. A 20m rope would be very close to reaching so long as the anchor is on a long sling.
Tal offers to go first again
The water here has a reddish brown tinge suggesting high levels of manganese and iron and stuff usually associated with mine disturbance but we are a fair was up stream of the coal seem so maybe its just tannins leaching to the water, there was a lot of vegetation in a couple of the pools up stream. One I may have compared to Yodas swamp on Dagobah. Down stream it seemed much clearer again.
Anyhoo, a couple of twists in the narrow section and we come to a final drop.
The notes say it’s an abseil, says Tal. But it looks like a down climb. They say that it might be able to be jumped. He looked hopeful. I think he wanted to jump
The drop is about 2.5-3m it looks like an easy scramble so I offer to slip down and check the depth. Swinging in under a chock stone I notice there is a hand line set up. Definitely wouldn’t bother setting up an abseil, even without the hand line its a relatively easy scramble. Water is deep and clear of hazards I point out where the rock ledge ends and Tal takes the leap.
From here the creek opens out a bit. A stunning waterfall comes in on the right then things degenerate to a choice of boulder hopping in the creek or picking our way over, through, around and under dead fall on the banks or sometime both together. One of the legacies of the intense fire that ripped across the ridge above, followed by some big gully rakers up rooting trees and washing branches and stuff down to jam up in the gullies. It’s not too bad but it does sap a bit of energy
It seems to take a fair bit of time to get from the waterfall down to our next point of interest. One of the more unique finishes to a canyon trip in the Bluies. You round a corner and suddenly the creek bed is concreted… After carefully working your way down the slipper concrete cascade and around another corner the walls of the canyon look more like a man made breakwall… and there is a bridge spanning them.
We have arrived at the old Grose Valley/Canyon colliery. Dad worked here as a truck and loader driver on the surface in the 70s and 80s and I still look back fondly on the pit Christmas parties that took place over at Glenroy, on the Junction of the River Lett and Coxes River, a bunch of kids high on sugar running through the bush and finding spots to swim, jump and rope swing into the rivers.
It’s an interesting industrial relic in a very beautiful setting, I remember dad bringing me down here when I was young but don’t remember much except getting to ride around in the loader for a bit. We took our time having a bite to eat and a look around.
The cliff lines are stunning and some artists have added a splash of colour to the drab concrete wall.
And then for the walk out… Up the old haulage road. It’s a gentle grade, the only difficult bit is a spot where the road disappears into a land slide but with a bit of care it is soon crossed.
There was a slight threat of summer heat at the bottom but not far up the rain set back in which made for a pleasant stroll back to the car.
Party Size: 3
Time: 4hrs 50min, car to car (with the second car saving us maybe 2km walking) Taking it easy with lots of faffing about with photos and stuff plus a relaxed lunch and look around the colliery site.