North Bowen creek canyon lower section is kind of a plain name for a very nice canyon. In the late 90s, early 2000s a commercial group started marketing this as “The secret Gobsmacker” It wasn’t all that secret but Gobsmacker had a bit of a ring to it and I think it’s a good a name as any and pokes fun at the secret bit.
Anyhoo another canyon I’d visited a long time ago and really enjoyed so, again I was keen to get Tal down it. Way back then there was a secret to opening the “locked” gate and you could drive all the way to the start of the foot pad. Today we’d be doing a bit more walking but it’s mostly a pleasant stroll along a shady fire road.
I was a little shocked and disappointed at the condition of the entry track. Back when I first did it it was quite well known but minimum impact walking techniques meant there wasn’t really a track and you made your own way in.
Now the wide erosion scar runs straight down the fall line. With all the recent rain it was a slippery mudfest. luckily the canyon was just as nice as I remember
Party size: 5
This is a bit of a compilation of different canyons including the Gobsmacker
Not “The Grand canyon” but the Grand Canyon is a relatively easily accessible canyon near Blackheath. It’s real popular with guide companies and 1 I did a lot when I was guiding in the early 2000s. Enter via a well maintained tourist track 1 abseil into the slot and than a very nice, sustained canyon and exit back up the tourist track.
I was keen to show Tal down it and Ed suggested we combine it with the Juggler Canyon which none of us had done before. The Juggler is more an abseil trip down a steep creek with canyony bits and gave us a different way in and out.
After guiding it so often and then not doing it for 15 years I’d forgotten how grand the Grand canyon was. It really is a nice introductory canyon and can be reversed up negating the need to abseil if you so wish.
Party size: 6
Time: About 5hrs car to car with a bit of a wait for a commercial group at the abseil
Those following along at home may recall my recent misadventures, firstly not finding the Cracks of Doom and then not fitting through the Cracks of Doom well after a ” it should only take 1 hour” rail trail meeting went all morning we thought we’d at least get out for an afternoon walk and head back for another folly.
This time we took the abseiling gear and the plan was for a quick look at the Crack of Doom 1 then traverse the cliffline and abseil into the exit crack, Crack of Doom 2.
Plowing straight across the scrub was much better then traversing though it and we found the first crack no dramas.
Have a look down Tal, says I. You might fit. I use to…
Are you sure you that goes? Calls Tal from the depths where the slot becomes nothing but a crack. Um, yep use to.
These types of crack are fairly common in this area, forming along fault lines (for want of better, more correcter terminology) known as joints. These tend to run parallel and perpendicular to each other.
The way they were explained to me, and this may well be completely wrong, was they were formed as the landscape pushed up and the former sea bed raised up to create the Blue Mt range. As it did so the bulge basically caused the sandstone to fracture in the parallel lines which can be seen clearly in aerial photos and satellite imaging, google earth etc..
Anyhoo we make out way back up and follow the cliffline around, making our way a little bit back up hill away from the edge. Ignoring the more obvious start to Cathedral canyon for now we head to Crack of Doom 2. This was our exit slot all those years ago and coming up the end needed a tricky bit of climbing to get up over an over hanging chockstone. Thus the ropes and harnesses for a descent this time around.
We rap in and leave the rope in place as an aid to get out later. I comment to Mandy that the rocks looks like they have seen a bit of traffic. I’m no tracker but it tends to be obvious when others have passed this way. A bit of rock with the moss worn off at on obvious foot hold, that sort of thing.
This crack has a bit more width about it, a tad wider than shoulder width for most of it’s length, and it descends steadily down through the cliff line in a nice ramp. The bottom exit is well hidden, the crack basically runs parallel with the main cliff line and looking up the little alcove it starts in you would not see it if you didn’t know where to look.
The original plan was traverse back along the bottom of the cliff line for a look up the bottom of Crack of Doom 1 but not far around the scrub encroaches right up to the cliff edge. With limited time we opted to forego bashing through this and instead head the other way to the base of Cathedral canyon.
I was surprised to see a number of foot prints in the fine sand along the base of the cliffs. Others must have visited here fairly recently, I’m thinking yesterday as they were quite clear and the fine powdery sand wouldn’t hold a print that clear for too long.
Anyhoo Cathedral canyon is as awesome as I remember. The Bush Explorers refer to it as the Diamond Cavern and describe it with much reverence in their Gardens of Stone books and I can see why but back in the day my guide introduced me to it as Cathedral canyon and that’s the name I prefer as it does have a Cathedral feel to it.
The micro canyon is very short and gets thinner as it climbs up through the cliff line before your passage is blocked by a small overhang chock stone 2 or 3 meters up in the narrow walls. Belatedly I figure it would probably be a much easier climb out here. Alas I’d left my pack at the bottom of the abseil.
Anyhoo we have a bit of a look around before head back the way we came.
Party size: 3. All experienced
Time: I really didn’t take much notice but it wouldn’t have been much more than a couple of hours car to car with a few snack breaks and a lot of phaffing about with photos
With Julie being an active member of the forums back in the day and the administrator and driving force behind the Ozcanyons facebook group I was familiar with her name and adventures but had never met her in person.
When she put out a call to see if anyone was interested in a mid week canyon trip to a place I hadn’t been in 15 years and wanted to take Tal to at some stage I thought why not. It was school holidays and I could rustle a leave day so I sent her a message that we’d be keen.
Of course school holidays finished that week so Tal wouldn’t make it. Bummer. No worries plans had changed and it just so happened Julie was heading out to do the canyon I had failed to find on our scrub bash to no where.
That left me with a bit of a dilemma. I’d got the day off and was super keen but was reluctant to do it without the others. For some strange reason after I had lead them up the garden path, flipped out and aborted the trip they were all still keen to give it another go. We had unfinished business. In fact we had it scheduled the weekend before but illness, injury and other commitments got in the way.
On the other hand a recon mission with those who knew where they were going might not be a bad idea. It was Ed who had put this canyon on our agenda so I let him know the deal and he said go for it.
As the day approached the weather forecast got worse and I started to think this canyon was becoming my nemesis. Then the day before things brightened up and Julie said it was game on.
I pulled into the meeting place and instantly recognised Julie from her trip reports and photos. Also there were Lyn and Jim Cook and after a quick meet and greet we piled into Jim’s car and headed off for a typical south Wolgan canyoning adventure.
The weather was pretty much spot on for this type of trip. Warm enough to peel off the jumpers. Cool enough you didn’t bake on the haul up .
It’s always good heading out with more experienced people. You get to compare techniques and either confirm you are doing things ok or learn better, or just different ways, to do it. Julie and the Cooks put me at easy right away chatting about past adventures as we headed up the hill.
I would have to say I felt a lot better about my failed navigation as we had a bit of trouble finding the entry point, and my three guides had been here before. We started down the wrong gully before resorting to pulling out the GPS to get a grid reference and consulting the map. No big deal we just zigged when we should have zagged.
All these pagodas look the same. And indeed the next gully over did look rather similar.
Now in the right spot I realized just how close I was on my first attempt. My navigation hadn’t been the issue, just my interpretation. I was looking for an anchor point on the cliff line directly above, and I mean directly above, the actual anchor in the hidden gully….. Live and learn.
From here down the trip is really nice. It’s a fairly average canyon as far as constrictions but it makes up for it with some nice long abseils with some cool features and awesome exposure to make them memorable.
I’m even keener to get the others through here now.
Big thanks Julie for organising and letting me tag along
Don’t be deceived this isn’t The Dry canyon but it is a dry canyon and a nice spot to visit on a pleasant winters day.
We decided to traverse along the ridge above the canyon and then reverse up it which should allow us to take in some nice views over the Wolgan.
The walk out was pleasant. The sparse undergrowth making for easy walking and the moss covered rockscapes almost glowing in the soft day light.
We gain the ridge line fairly quickly then took our time strolling out to the end.
You’d be hard pressed to find a spot along the Wolgan cliff lines that didn’t have mind blowing views and the ridge offered a couple of awesome vantage spots before ending in a point of pure grandeur.
Below us the One and Only Emirates Wolgan Resort with Donkey Mountain towering over it. To the right, down the valley some truly awe inspiring cliff lines toped with a maze of platey pagodas.
After much phaffing about it was time to head back away from the cliff lines and try to find away down into the end (our start) of the canyon.
A few likely routes down were soon spotted but looked like they may need an absiel or two. We had the gear just in case but opted to look a little harder.
This gully was running the wrong way but I had a hunch that it might lead to ledge that would take us around the nose and into the exit portal.
Well it did that but not before a few balancey moves on not much at all and then a cool ledge crawl through a long cave.
It was an interesting ledge. The pagodaish cliff came down from above, and it was almost as if someone had sliced a wedge out of it. While we needed to push packs in front of us to squeeze under the overhang the ledge was a reasonable width for all but this one little bit.
I’m not enjoying this bit Craig!, says Mandy with just a tad of malice in her voice. Of course you are, says I. It’s a proper adventure. This is why you love me
the look she gave me when she noticed I had the camera on her wasn’t exactly loving…
And now I’m dreading the ledge would end in a no go drop. There was no way I was telling her we’d have to go back the way we came…..
As it was a broad ramp lead us down the the level we needed to be on. It also lead us past this stunning over hang
We follow the water course up towards a very narrow crack.
Is that a canyon or just a fold in the rock? Only one way to find out. We walk into a cave like opening and still we weren’t sure if we’d be faced with a blank wall around any corner.
Next came a series of tricky boulder scrambles that tested our reach, flexibility and climbing skills on the slick rock. At one stage I had to scramble back down and give Mandy a good old fashion put-your-foot-into-my-hands-and-step-up boost to get her up one particularly slippery ledge that was just too high for her to get up on her own.
Another I set a rope and then hauled her by the back of the shirt… All class us.
Once through the scrambles the canyon was very short but made up for it by just being stunning.
Any bush tucker experts out there know what these blue berries are? They only seem to ripen once they fall off the tree.
Access: An easy walk on a clear trail. Reasonably flat until the end of the ridge.Exposed cliff lines.
Navigation: Navigation is as straight forward as it gets
Map: Mt Wilson
Time: 1hr return
Jungaburra ridge offers an easy walk out to some impressive views towards where 5 different canyon/gully/creek systems empty into the Grose Valley.f
Getting there: From Bell head approximately 1.5km along the highway toward Richmond. Turn off the highway to the right just after the start of the passing lane onto a rough access trail, the start of which is next to a sign for a left bend “65km/hr” and just before the road goes up a small rise then swings left down past Holly Lodge.
If you have low ground clearance or don’t like a bit of rough road it is probably better to park on a verge just off the highway on the left and just walk the extra 300m up the fire trail.
Park at the end of the access trail and the walking trail head starts next to the power pole.
This is the access trail to the popular Bell Super Crag climbing area so is fairly well defined.
Follow the trail out to the end of the ridge. It’s fairly flat until a couple of small down hill bits towards the end.
The views from near the end of the ridge are pretty nice
The trail does continue down to the left but is gets very steep and exposed, Requiring a fixed line descent down the cliff line towards the bottom so not recommend unless you are a climber
Return the same way
Note 1: Taking care While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails. Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.
Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police for very little.
Note 2:First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. A basic first aid is highly recommended
Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for you first few outing is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.
The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.
Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.