Pagoda canyons

29-10-2017

Gaz, Jodie, Marchelle, Andrew and I

Some people like chasing the big epic canyons, and don’t get me wrong I enjoy the long, sustained canyons as much as anyone but I get just as much joy out of the shorter ones too. They all have their own uniqueness, beauty and share of challenges.

I suspose being surrounded by canyon country I don’t need to justify the long drive up from the cities so am happy exploring the smaller stuff too.

Today was one of those days where we’d combine a couple of the smaller pagoda canyons. The first one dry(ish) the seond one wetter.

I’ve done both before but I’ll have to admit I had completely blanked out the amount of tea tree needed to push through on our way up the ridge on the first one….. Shorts may not have been the best bet…

 

Anyhoo. We all meet up at the car park and head off.

Wild flowers were out in colour

And after a hot climb through some scrub we arrived at our first slot.

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Like a violent crumble bar without the chocolate

 

We wasted no time dropping in

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Gaz likes to wedge himself in and film people from above
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Our next obstacle was this very narrow cleft.

 

Last time we bridged out and then abseiled in at a slightly wider bit. The flaring nature of the slot meant the abseiler invariably swung in and cheese grated themselves.  I knew it was possible to walk the ledges high above the canyon floor. Tiny ledges, wet feet. It makes for an interesting traverse.

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Gaz bridging out on a section where the ledges all but disappear so the others could use him as a stepping stone if needed
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Marchelle clinging to the rock face while the others watch on in trepidation.

We all make it. Somehow.

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Gaz in the next section
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And it’s just one more abseil and the canyon opens out

Last time I did this canyon we followed the creek down a bit and then around for a short dirty abseil off a lower cliff line. But I had soem beta that a better option was on offer so we follow the clifflines around past some stunning views

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Then scrub bash a bit before dropping in to a lost world near a trouist destination

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A stunning 25m freefall abseil greeted us.

Knowing how popular this spot is with tourist I was very careful dropping the ropes over, a carefull lower rather than a toss. Not a soul to be seen thou. It amused me a bit that on the way out we pass a steady stream of people heading in very all five of us abseiled down with only us as spectators ūüėČ

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We even had the place to ourselves for a selfie

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It wasn’t just the tourists who on the exit track some of the locals were out too.

Anyhoo, after a spot of lunch it was back to the car and bike for a bit of a drive to our next destination.

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I really do enjoy this one
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It’s one abseil. but it’s a cracker of an abseil

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Into the inescapable chamber.
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Or sumfink

 

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oh there is a way out

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All in all an enjoyable day in the bush visiting two short but beautiful pagoda canyons

Party size: 5 all experienced

time: I have no concept of time….

 

 

Life is too short and the world too amazing to be bored

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Learning to Fly

So after seeing some of the awesome videos that folk like David Noble and Garry Hayes capture with their drones I had my eye on one. A good deal come up on a refurbished DJI Phantom 3 standard so i though why not

This is our first attempt and footage from it, still learning how to fly. All shot in 1 afternoon around the outskirts of Lithgow

The plan is to capture some of our favourite spots over the coming months and add to the video

For now a sneak peak

 

 

I hope you know you own a map to your own freedom: Bliss and Eso

 

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Pipeline Canyon

21-10-2017

Tim, Allan, Sheila, Marchelle, Ev, John, Peter and me

I jumped in on this trip last minute but, as always, Tim runs well organised and welcoming trips.

A lot of rain on Friday and a drizzlely morning had the Wolgan river up a little but the fog lifted and the sun broke through on our way up the pipeline track.

The views from the to were as stunning as always but we wasted no time in continuing on.

The short cut in is new to me. It misses the top section of canyon but takes you in via a small side canyon that meets Pipeline canyon just after the lower section closes in.

We arrive at our first abseil point. Do we put wetsuits on here? someone asks

You can if you want, says Tim. But we can do without

Will we know the spot to put them on down further?

Sure, just before you experience a sudden drop in temperature and an increase in wetness…

Tim should have taken his own advice, He and Al went through sans wetsuits. There was some cold bits…

 

Anyhoo

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First abseil drops us at the pretty little pool in the side creek

I go forward and set the rope for the next drop which is done two stages. I descend the first then realise the rope isn’t lone enough for the second so I can up for the second rope to be tied on before continuing down

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Al on rope
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Now, I chose to go left and abseil beside the waterfall. Al gets to the over hang and has no choice but straight down and not only gets wet but gets a slap in the face from the moss and slime growing down the centre of the falls. Good times
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a different angle of Ev on the same drop

The spare ropes are thrown down and while the others make their way down I head down to set the next abseil.

I encounter a small drop just before the junction with the main canyon. It would be possible to down climb on tree roots but it’s slippery so I set the rope and drop in.

While waiting I decide it would be a good place to put my wetty on.

I do that. More waiting. Fire off some photos. more waiting. Hmm

I hear voices from what sounds like above, sounds like someone is setting a rope. Shit maybe the rest of the group stayed out of the creek and are abseiling in to the main canyon from above. Not a problem except Tim likes to use single rope techniques in his group so my rope has a stopper knot at the top. I start thinking I’m going to have to climb back up to undo it…

The other thing Tim likes to use is walkytalkies. Two way communication in these situations is awesome. Crisis avoided, they are still making their way down the creek.

I still hear voices, not just in my head either.

Ducking around the corner I see another group coming in from the upper section.

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The rest of the gang get to the junction

The two groups arrive at the junction pretty much at the same time. How’s that for a slightly out of the way canyon early in the wet season?

Anyhoo they are a smaller group so we let them play through and then follow them down.

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Pipeline canyon just down stream of the junction with the side creek

Pipeline canyon is a value for money experience. Lots of smallish abseils, some with tricky starts in a very pretty creek.

Waterlevels are up a little after the rain on Friday but not that noticably

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Looking back up the canyon to Al on one of the longer drops
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Ev making her way down the canyon
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The infamous log abseil. I’m starting to think every canyoner should wear something blue, just for the photographers.

 

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John making his way through the canyon
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Pipeline Canyon formation
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Al as the canyon opens out a little

We catch back up to the other group at the top of the largest abseil and enjoy a bit of sunlight as we wait.

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There are a couple of options for this one, we choose true right for an easier rope pull

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the next drop is just a few meters down stream.

You can stay dry be traversing a ledge on the left. Calls Tim

I drop down and begin heading left and promptly fall in. It’s a little brisk.

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Multiple abseils happening at once
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Al had opted not to put his wet suit on. No option here but to get wet.
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This one is trickier than it looks and you swing back in under the waterfall, ensuring a good soaking before a deep swim with tricky climb out

We scramble out into the sun shine. 1 Abseil to go.

Al decides to take the spare rope and rig up the next one.

I wait for the other but after a short stay in the sun am not too keen on swimming back across to belay.

Sheila arrives.

Do you really want a belay?

Yes please.

Ohhh. OK….

I swim back across and climb up and wedge myself in above the water. It’s still cold..

I’m sure there was a bit of posing for photos as the rest of the crew come on down. Marchelle has a couple of ropes in her pack and as she swings under the water fall the extra weight has her go briefly upside down, giving her a bit of extra time in the cold embrace of the falls as she swings back and forth a few times.

Then every one is down and I pull and coil the rope, then have to jump in after it as my cold hand drop it into the pool…

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The top of the last drop is one of the more awkward abseil starts. It looks like it should be straight forward but all the angles are wrong or something. Marchelle going over the edge
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I could say I was going for an arty shot of Tim negotiating the start with the gang watching from below but…. lens fogged up
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Not a bad spot for lunch

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Last time with Ed and Tal I think we strayed onto the lower track, which is fine just a little exposed in places and misses this fine ledge
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And these amazballz cliffline features

All in all another greet day out in the bush with a greet bunch of people

Party size 8: all experienced

Time: 6hr 15min at a very relaxed pace.

I can’t go away with you on a rock climbing weekend. What if something’s on TV and it’s never shown again: Smudge- Outdoor type

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Newnes Canyon, AKA Starlight, AKA the Amazing Wallaby Tunnel

07-10-2017

Ed, TJ, Sav, Tina, Rob, Autal and me

Most people do Newnes ( or Starlight) Canyon as a round trip, climbing up the pipeline trail, working their way around the ridges and abseiling in. And don’t get me wrong that’s a great way of doing it but there is a lot to be said about doing it as an up and back from the bottom.

The canyon is off limits over winter as it is an important hybernation cave for bentwing bats and disturbing them during their sleepy time invariable leads to a percentage of them dying as there is no food around food them to replenish the energy it takes to come out of hybernation.

Anyhoo, I had planned to do this earlier in the year on the last weekend before the closure except in the week leading up NPs put out a notice that they were hazard reduction burning and all the canyons in the area were closed…….

Fast forward to the other end of hybernation season and we were good to go.

The plan was to ride down the maintenance trail from the locked gate, stash the bikes then make up way up to the cliffline and into the canyon.

I’ve done it this way several times and have always been able to get all the way up to the bottom of the abseil point (the top of the canyon) no dramas. However, last summer people were reporting deep swims in the tunnel and while that is normal after heavy rain the fact that the water hung around post rain had me thinking maybe something in the floor or blockage had changed.

Not tha I was too worried about long swims after the dry winter we’ve had but the thought of a deep wade through stagnant, bat shit filled water wasn’t that inviting. I needn’t have worried as the tunnel was as dry as a nun’s nasty.

But I get ahead of myself

While bikes arn’t necessary they do turn an hour long fire trail walk either way into the 20min ride and the ride down was uneventful, almost. Tina had a small off at the bottom of a loose down hill on a sandy corner and hurt her elbow. As a mad trail runner that didn’t bother her. a sore elbow would not stop her from running so no worries. We hide the bikes in the thick scrub and head across the river which is about as low as I’ve ever seen it.

 

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A bridge over the wolgan

Up the hill we went taking a bit more of a meandering route than I usually take which made the climb up fairly simple, then we took in the views down the Wolgan from the base of the upper cliff  before working our way around into the canyon.

 

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Looking down the magnificant Wolgan Valley

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Entering into the lower canyon is like entering another world. The micro climate is completely different to the scrub out on the exposed hill side

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This is magical, Flynny, says Sav as we make our way up through ferns, coachwoods and vines so big that at first you think you are stepping over a fallen tree, only to realise its a living vine.

I smile to myself, this is just the appetiser and I think that is the reason I like doing the reverse trip of Newnes Canyon. The starlight section is so awesome that when you come through it from the top you are in such awe of the top section that you kind of over look how spectacular this bottom section is.

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There are a few scrambling sections but everytime you would otherwise be blocked tree roots and vines have grown into the perfect pass up.

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And then, just as you are thinking the walls are petering out and the canyon is about to open out the upper cliffs encroach and suddenly the canyon closes in

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A lovely narrow section of canyon follows and again people remark how awesome it is. But again I know it gets better
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Autal in the long section of deep, narrow canyon
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Tina with head torch on as the walls get higher and the canyon gets darker
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The canyon breifly opens out and what was dry, bare and sandy suddenly becomes damp, lush and green
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Tina in the green section

And then we reach the Amazing Wallaby tunnel, better known as the Starlight section, high up the walls close in so much, become so twisted, and are jammed with chock stones that it forms a high narrow tunnel.

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Autal and Rob entering the tunnel

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I feel on previous trips the glowworms were far more abundant, maybe that has to do with the dry winter, maybe it’s just the time of year as I think it’s around mating season for the flies, maybe it’s just modern headlights are so bright now you don’t notice the worms unless you tuen them off and give your eyes a few minutes to adjust, or maybe the bats had a wormy feast when they awoke

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After 300m or so of tight twisting tunnel the roof opens back up and just around the corner is the waterfall that is the normal absiel in point.

I have known people to absiel in here but be blocked by deep water in the tunnel so they had to prusik back out and abseil in further down. I also know of at least 1 group who pulled their ropes without checking the tunnel was passable and were forced to spend a couple of days huddled here waiting for rescue…. When absieling in the first person need check all the way through the tunnel before getting others to absiel or pulling ropes.

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And after taking time to enjoy just being there we leave Ed and TJ to get about photo phaffing with their good cameras and the rest of us make our way back down

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Autal in a narrow squeeze admiring the bats far above
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Autal in the green section

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We have a bit of lunch and then explore up a side canyon called Upside Down canyon.

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Bottom section of Upside Down Canyon.

The bottom section of Upside Down involves some tricky climbs up through small holes. I made the first look far harder than it was mainly as I forgot had the go pro on a chest mount and had to do some contortioning so as not to scracth the crap out of it.

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Rob squeezing up through one of the holes. It’s about 7foot straight down, if you squint you can make out Tina down below him
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Ron in Upside Down canyon
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Our path was blocked by this small waterfall

I remeber the water fall from previous visits and¬† started brisging up, the walls were a tad slippery, I had no doubt we could get everyone up, what I did doubt thou was getting people back down safely without ropes… I’m sure there use to be a log or something here to make the down climb simpler.

Anyhoo despite knowing the top section has some pretty bit I decide it’s not worth the risk today so we turned tail and headed back down.

Ed and TJ are still phaffing so we sit back and just take in the surrounds

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Honey comb walls. we sat and watched the bird dart in an out of pockets and holes
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Supurb Lyrebird on the wing
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Then it was time to head on out
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I’d noticed this massive vine knotted around the base of the tree on the way up and was hope to catch it in the right light on the way back down. The light did not disappoint. Another advantage of doing the canyon as an up and back the changing light can be magical

 

 

 

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And before long we are back at the Wolgan river

The ride back up the valley is a bit more difficult than the ride down but for a mountain biker it’s still better than trudging along a fire trail.

Party size: 7 mixed canyoning experience levels but all experienced outdoors

Timing: 6hr 20 with lots of photo phaffing and chilling out

 

People talk about their comfort zone as though it’s a place they want to stay don’t they realise your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be

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South Wolgan cliff lines

30-09-17

Tagging along with members of the Bush Club and Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking Club, lead by Yuri.

On a recent trip to Windows Canyon I pointed out some features to Yuri that I’d visited with my usual crew after taking a wrong turn looking for a pass up through the cliffline. Knowing Yuri had extensively explored many of the cliff lines in the upper Wolgan I was surprised he had not ventured along this particular section.

With his curiousity pipped he began to plan a walk to explore the area further.

On our illfated scrub bash to nowhere we had explored the cliff line from the north but a look on sixmaps suggested there maybe some other interesting features in the upper cliff line to the south and after some discussion we decided it would be good to see if we could traverse the ledge from the usual pass up used for Windows or exiting Crooked Crevice.

We’d then take my pass up to the tops and see if we could find a way down from further along that did not involve absieling.

While I’ve been telling Geoff I would sign up to the UBMBW club, and even printing out the membership form a couple of times, I’d yet to sign up and had never been on a club walk before so signed on as a guest as Yuri gave the breifing and outlined our goals.

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We take the usual pass up to the base of the upper cliffline. There was some debate over which ledge we needed to be on but the higher up we went the more obvious it was

Not 50m around from the slots normally taken to access the tops was this stunning cave. We had a quick morning tea break while checking it out and snapping photos.

This already has made the walk worthwhile, says Yuri

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Yuri in the cave
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The small slot above the cave hinted a nice abseil would be possible as a side trip to other things in the area
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Looking out of the cave

Making our way around the base of the upper cliff we pass many potential passes and slots that begged further exploration, however we were mindful of time as we still had no idea if we would find a way off the tops or would have to retrace our steps.

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Yuri leading us along the base of the cliff
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Another narrow slot. It looked like it would be possible to chimney up  and explore deeper
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It was slow going at times as we pushed through scrub and worked our way up, down and around the sometimes broken cliffline
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And then we came to the mirco canyon I had called Kenobi on our first visit there looking for something else (ie This is not the pass you are looking for…)¬†
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It’s a pretty spectacular, if somewhat short canyon in an unexpected location

We spend some time soaking in the ambience and snapping photos before Yuri reminds us we have a ways to go yet.

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Right next to Kenobi is the pass up I’d pioneered with Ed, Gaz, Jodie and Ethan and this is the pass up we took today. It’s involves a short but easy climb/scramble which I slipped up and dropped a rope down to assist the others. From there its a scramble up rocks with the views behind improving with each meter of altitude

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And once on top we are greeted with magic views from a rarely visited vantage point

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Yuri on a pagoda high above the Wolgan with Donkey Mountain in the center distance
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Cameras at the ready. Geoff considers Donkey Mountain his spiriual home and a new prespective on it was welcomed
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Yuri pointing out the Halfway ledge on the opposite side of the valley he had pushed through yesterday
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Another shot of Donkey Mountain

Our next goal was to  see if it it would be possible to bypass the first abseil in another canyon known to members of the group and then follow the base of the upper cliff further around to hopefully walk off the plateau further north.

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Ok it felt a bit weird to be here without ropes, we usually absiel down through that hole in the cliff up there

We suggested this would be a nice spot for lunch as there is normally a small pool at the base of the cliff but with the extended dry conditions not only was the water fall dry but the pool at the base was completely dry as well.

It was later in the day than we had planned and over lunch we decide to split the group in two and send a party of quicker members forward, the idea being if the descent was not possible and we had to backtrack the others could do so with out descending all the way to where the path might be blocked.

As I was the only other member carrying a map Yuri nominated me to lead the forward group and we consulted maps to agree on how far around we would traverse before trying a descent.

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This projection in the cliff put me in mind of a downhill helmet. I haven’t riden my DH bike for 2 years, I think the cliff is telling me something.

We had agreed to to hug the base of the cliff but at a junction we had a choice of following a ledge along or drop down to the next level. Not knowing if the ledge would go and knowing we would evenually need to go down I decided to drop down. It turns out it was double overhang and Yuri assures us the upper level was a highlight of the trip….

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Looking back along the upper ledge we had bypassed
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This slot is extremely narrow at the top, too narrow for me but a sling up there suggests someone has gone through it.  Anyhoo the base marked the spot we had agree to attempt a descent

Following a dry water course we were able to scramble down through the lower clifflines though there was the constant possibility we’d encounter the one last cliff which had no way off and we’d have to back track all the way back up.

At one stage is looked like we were on half a trail that seemed more than an wallaby track. I mentioned my suspicion that we weren’t the first to come this way just as John calls out. Did you see the tape? says he. holding up a faded pink tape that had once marked someones way up.

Confident now we were down we left the creek as it become wet and very thick with vegetation. The nose always goes, sometimes. is the catch call of serious bushwalkers in these part so we got out of the scrub and followed a series of spurs all the way back to the river.

A toot on the whistle signalled to those behind that we were down. 30min later they were to.

All in all a good day out just having a look.

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Descending from the top of those cliffs without ropes was steep and scrubby but easier than expected.

Thanks to Yuri for organising and leading the trip

The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.:- Nicholas Kristof

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