Upper, Upper, um… Upper Wollangambe


Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking club trip lead by Kate.

*Slight detour* in March I am again taking part in the West Cycles Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Whether preforming bush rescue, emergency patient transfers, and all the rest no one has ever had to pay to use the helicopter due to public donations. If, like me, you believe this is an invaluable service or if you just enjoy reading my blog think about pitching in with a donation. Large or small every bit counts. follow this link for details 2018 West Cycles


So this year I set a bit of a goal to do a couple of the sections of the ‘Gambe I hadn’t done before, I  am super keen to do the section between the crater and Mt Wilson, so when I saw a trip to the Upper, Upper section on the program of UBMBC I signed up for the walk.

Turns out the walk would be to a section further up but that was OK it was on the list too.

So after a meet and greet we headed off along a suprisingly good track. I was kind of expecting to be zero tracking. No idea why I thought that, just one of the preconceved ideas you sometimes get completely wrong…

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Heading out toward pagoda country
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After a warmish walk in along the ridge we we looking forward to hitting the water

Water levels in the ‘Gambe are fairly low at the moment. This coupled with the hot conditions has lead to a bit of an algae bloom. And when I say “a bit” this section was full of algae. It was a bit of a shock being use to the usual crystal clear waters but it was ok just a bit harder to see where you were putting your feet in the shallow sections.

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Some pleasant canyon sections were interspaced with more open sections

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Typical stunning Wollangambe cliff lines

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Hawk Moth, possibly Coequosa australasiae?

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This section reminded me of a similar bit on October Creek
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Or Fortress canyon

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Interesting vertical slabs in a side creek put me in mind of shark gills
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Side creek
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More canyony bits

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John proving some boys dont grow up. click images to enlarge

After the monster yabbie we saw in Whungee last week this little nipper was a bit cute

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“Giant” Spiney Crayfish, Euastacus spinifer
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Final swim

Then it was onto the ridge where the wild flowers are still in bloom despite the hot dry spell



Group size: 12

Time: 8hrs car to car relaxed pace


The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper
Eden Phillpotts




Grand Canyon at Night


Ethan and me

*Slight detour* in March I am again taking part in the West Cycles Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Whether preforming bush rescue, emergency patient transfers, and all the rest no one has ever had to pay to use the helicopter due to public donations. If, like me, you believe this is an invaluable service or if you just enjoy reading my blog think about pitching in with a donation. Large or small every bit counts. follow this link for details 2018 West Cycles


I mentioned to the gang I wanted to do Grand at night this year. At some stage me and Ed discussed doing it the Australia day weekend but as he is a new dad I doubted he’d get the leave pass and so I promptly forgot about it.

Then I get a text, Are you doing the Grand Canyon trip tomorrow night? Ethan is keen

I had completely blanked it from my mind. Had no intention of doing it. I thought Ed must have known someone else doing it….

Now I’m keen thou.

A quick text to Mandy and Tal. Tal was a nope. Mandy was keen with a slightly earlier start. We’re in. Then Mandy had to pull out last minute.

Me and Ethan it is.

With dry lightning strikes causing havoc and starting bushfires in a lot of the canyoning belt I was keeping a close eye on both the weather and the Rural Fire Service updates, as well as NP closures but unlike the rest of the canyoning areas Blackheath got a bit of rain out of Thursday’s storm (10mm) and so it was damp and misty in the valley.


The soft afteroon/post-storm light was awesome

We dropped into the canyon around 6:30pm. Thinking by the time we phaff about with photos things would get dark about halfway through

The light was eerie and atmoshperic and awesome


Normally when I try this sort of canyon shot the sky and center is a blaze of washed out over exposure. The light today was something special, very little post editing done here
The wider bits were still fairly light




The small cascade near the start


Ethan negotiating one of the log jams


Ethan making his way down and the light continues to drop
It really is a stunning slot
Again this shot on a point and click camera would be horibly contrasty in normal light conditions. I could have lightened up the sides a bit but thought why bother, that’s how it looks when you are in there



Ethan contemplating stuff like if snake don’t have eyelids how do they sleep….


In this light it was hard to see with the lights off but even harder with them on as the mist got reflected back in your eyes like driving in fog with high beams


and the moody atmosphere kept getting better. I mean sun beams ar great and all but moonbeams are so chill



Giving the Gand Canyon a Claustral like feel


Um, we are at the last swim…. Depsite the photo phaffing we seem to have come through super quick. We breifly contemplated following the track back to the start and doing it all again but chose the better idea staying in the canyon, reversing it back to the start and coming down again in darkness. Excellent idea Smithers

Side creek near the end
back up we go



Darker it gets



It’s like 3 different canyons in the different light traveling different directions
The glowworms came out to play. they are hard to photo well but the little TG4 does OK
A selfie with some glowworms
Looking up through a gap in the canyon walls. What are stars and what are glowworms?



Serveral times we just turned every thing off and sat in silence under the glowworms. It’s a special experience
Leaf tailed gecko spoted by another group who were heading in as we headed out

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. Lao Tzu






Whungee Wheengee woohoo


Ed, Tal, Gaz, Jodie and me

*Slight detour* in March I am again taking part in the West Cycles Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Whether preforming bush rescue, emergency patient transfers, and all the rest no one has ever had to pay to use the helicopter due to public donations. If, like me, you believe this is an invaluable service or if you just enjoy reading my blog think about pitching in with a donation. Large or small every bit counts. follow this link for details 2018 West Cycles



I explained the naming of Whungee Wheengee on the write up of our previous visit there. It’s a great canyon with lots of different challenges, or “Activities” as Ed described them, things of interest and wow moments. It’s very technical in places and the water is much colder than that of the wider Wollangambe. It’s also reasonable sustained.

Anyway, on a hot day it was a great place to be.

Crossing the Wollangambe. Water levels have dropped at least 3″ since our New Years day trip 3 weeks ago

On the walk in we had caught up to a larger party at the climb down the tree roots, They were doing Whungee too and  graciously waved us throu. They caught us on the climb up the other side and again at the abseil point. but were happy for us to go in first.

Through the week a couple of groups had posted to Ozcanyons about a brown snake inbetween two of the abseils. I let our lot know to be careful and let the other group know as well, offering to point it out to them if we saw it.

We saw it, waited for a while but it was getting a bit cold and while we couldn’t think of a way to notify them we figured it had been really obvious so they’d have no trouble spotting it. We meet up again at the exit beach.

Did you guys see it? asks Ed

Yeah, laughs one of their guys, wasn’t quiet the size they made out.

Ah it was a good meter long, Says Gaz

Really? The one we saw was tiny… Holds up his hand 15cm apart.

Ok there are a few snakes in Whungee Wheengee at the moment.


Anyway on with the show

Abseiling down the cliffline into the creek I was molested by a dead tree… It grabbed me right on the arse…. Well it caught my shorts that I wear over the wet suit to protect it a bit. Um I’m kinda stuck.

There was a little fork in the top and it wasn’t letting me go. I was nearly ready to crack the prusiks out. Before I did I tried a final pull up with the top hand and reef on my leg. Rippppppp!

OK thats the 3rd set of shorts I’ve torn the arse out of in 3 canyons…. Bugger

Jodie dropping into the first “optional” bit of canyon

Optional? yep you can bypass this bit by staying on ledges above… No idea why you would though, unless it was in high water or you are in a big hurry.

Why you you bypass these cool little tunnels
Jodie squeezing down a hole
The first dark tunnel swim
Canyon formation
Gaz in a more open bit


Entering the next constriction


When the water levesl are up a bit you have to swim under water to pass this “Duck under”
The top section alternates between the dark tunnels and these grand passageways
Another duck under




Tal emerging from another tunnel swim



Another “Duck under”
Crap photo pf a leaf tailed gecko getting fat on the massive cave crickets. Gaz got some cool footage of it swimming in the video linked below.
Gaz and Ed coming out of the cave
Check out this grand old dame. The big yabbies are typically the females they carry their young and eggs, or berries as they are called, under their tail. I double checked this one had none before lifting her out of the water for some photos. It’s the biggest one I have seen in ages.
Eastern Water Dragon
Tal doing his ABCs.
And all is good
Canyon formation
Another tunnel section


Tal following Ed downthe canyon
The final hallway
After a few hours in the cold confines of Whunee Wheengee the more open Wollangambe feels almost bathy warm
And as always with the ‘Gambe there are options for water jumps
A room just for Ed.
And a final float down to the exit point.

Another great day out in the great outdoors with great people. Whungee throws a little bit of everything at you  and never has a dull moment. I’d have to put it in my top 5 favourate canyons

Group Size:5 all experienced

Time. 8hrs car to car

This edit is slightly longer then normal but Whungee is such an action packed canyon and gaz got so much good footage I thought it worth it.

Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, that they have managed to invent boredom.-  (Terry Practett)









Ranon Canyon


Kent, Anna, James, John, Tal and me

Last time I had done a trip through Ranon canyon Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas were Smooth and Mmmbop was unfortunitely still a thing. A drunken conversation between myself Della and Lerch on the wrong side of 2am saw us up a few hours later working off hangovers in the heat.

It was Lerch’s first big canyon I remember getting to the Junction with Claustral and him asking where the exit was. The look of dejection when I told him it was 2hrs down stream was almost as good as when we got to the top of the camels hump and I pointed out our destination up on Mt Tomah that looked to be separated by another deep chasm and I jokingly said we had come up the wrong ridge…..

Lerch is not a violent man but I think I saw murder in his eyes that day. Luckily he was too stuffed to chase me.

Anyhoo, I had some time off and Kent was out on another one of his multiple day canyon extravaganzas and he happened to be doing Ranon on a day that I could get to. Sweet.

The “normal” entrance to the Claustral system through the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls is spectatualr and all but I always preffered going in via Mistake Ravine and Ranon Canyon. Originally that was probably a snobby thing knowing it was far less visited but it does give you more bang for your buck with some very nice canyon above the junction that gives Claustral a real run for it’s money in terms of greenry. IMO it’s even more fernilicous and still has few signs of visitation.

Anyway there was so much beauty in this trip I think I’ll leave the words to a minimum and let the photos tell the story.

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Looking down Mistake Ravine towards the Ranon Brook Junction
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Tal on a slippry hand over hand into Mistake Ravine
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Like a lost world
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Sandstone, Sassafras and Coachwood
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Tal giving Anna some tips on foot placement


After the junction with Ranon it somehow gets even more ferntacualr
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John dropping into Ranon
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Fern ceilings are cool

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Kent all chilled out and relaxed

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Work life ballence or something

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Tal resetting after having negociated the deep pool mid abseil
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Anna on another 2 stage abseil with a deep pool between drops.
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Kent and James pulling ropes
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John dropping down towards the Claustral junction

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James in the slot at the Claustral junction
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Sun beams in Claustral
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Looking out of the Black Hole of Calcutta towards the Ranon Junction. You can make out Anna belaying Kent down the final abseil
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Claustral Canyon
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The Hulks Fist

OK so this location/pose is probably the most snapped shot in any canyon in the Blue Mtns, if not the southern hemisphere. Sure it’s almost getting cliche and is certainly the classic “Claustral photo” but who cares it is such an epic spot. I thought it became “the shot” after it was featured in National Geographic but a quick google informs me that was the next one down which Ed has captured from a slightly different angle for the 2017-18 Ozcanyons banner.

So who first took it? No idea but two of the best comes from Ed and Jake 


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Claustral canyon

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Claustral is such a great slot, deep and sustained. Unfortunitey in 1982 3 people lost thier lives when they got caught in this section in a  severe storm. Between the Black Hole and the Thunder Canyon junction there is little to no refuge in rising water. The Claustral system has a large catchment so it’s important to stay uptodate on weather forcasts and if it looks dicey or you are unsure… Well the canyon will stillbe there next week, next month, next year


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Enjoying a bit of sun light

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Looking up Thunder canyon
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Me and Tal go for a quick look up the bottom 100m or so of Thunder. The water is so much colder
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From the Thunder junction down there is a bit of boulder hopping before the canyon closes back in

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Tal in the tunnel swim. On my first trip though here it was silted up and was more a shallow wade. Deep and clear today
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In the tunnel swim
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The chock stones in the tunnel swim seem so far above you as you swim through but the cliffs above dwarf them

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A final swim to the exit spot
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And then it’s up and up and up
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Though the exit gully, Rainbow Ravine is very pretty itself
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Looking across to Mt Banks

in my report on our Claustral trip last year I explained how George Caley thought it would be an easy traverse from Mt Tomah across the “low saddle” to Mt Banks. Without knowledge f the deep canyons, only some of which we had just traversed, it’s easy to see why he had thought that.

Anyway anther great trip with great people, thanks again to Kent of organising.

Anna was pleased that on a canyon trip with 5 blokes no F bombs were dropped. Personally I think she blanked a few out.

Party Size: 6 all experienced

Time:8.5hrs car to car, relaxed pace

Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves-Friedrich Nietzsche


Wallangambe 2


Ed, Ethan, Caius, David, Shaz, Tom, Claire, Tillie, Skinny, Dyso and I

For the 3rd year in a row we’ve decided to spend new years day floating down a canyon rather than nursing a hang over (Why can’t we have both? Maybe we do)

Anyhoo this year Tal and Beth both ditched us but Shaz and her kids were back and Skinny and Emily joined us as well.

We opted for the section of the Wollangambe commonly reffered to as the Lower Tourist Section or Wollangambe 2. That’s a little misleading as there are many canyon sections (Including some of the best bits) up stream. It is also reffered to as the Greg section by some of the older bushwalking club stalwarts.

While I’ve done bits and pieces of this section as part of trips to the steeper, narrower, more canyony side canyons I’d never done this bit in it’s entirity on it’s own so I was keen to check it out.

We met at the Fire Shed at the crack of 9:30am. chuck all the gear and most of the people out and then drop cars down at the camp ground in the spirit of being lazy.

The walk in was uneventful, we set a handline on the exposed down climb that had made the news 2 nights before after a seriously under prepared group on a bucks party required rescuing when several members were too worn out/freaked out and couldn’t climb it…. Do your research and go prepaired people

Every one made it down without incident before I told them that story. I reteived the rope and made my way down.

Did I mention the spirit of being lazy? We get to the water and it looks so inviting. People pull out lilos and start huffing and huffing. Me on the other hand had had a brillant idea before leaving that morning. I’d pulled out the soldering iron and rigged a little high volume pump to plug into my MTB light battary.

I had worried it might ruin the serenity of other groups but no one was around and it had most of the lilos up in no time (After some manipulating the cheap pool beds Shaz had got the kids who valves were plastic welded shut). It was certainly less disturbing than listening to a bunch of people hyperventilate trying to blow air into the air beds.

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And then we were off

Despite a number of cars at the fire shed and at the camp ground we didn’t see a single group in this section of canyon.

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The kids were obviously hating it

I was pleasantly surprised with this bit of the river. There was some nice long pools through some reasonable canyon sections and there seemed to be a bit less boulder scrambling than in the more popular “Upper tourist Section/Wollangambe 1”

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Jumping oportunities were propably a bit rarer and harder to get to but that’s OK
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The boulder scrambles that were there were generally short and relatively easy, though this one required a precision jump or short hand over hand down a rope
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The cliffs might not be as high but it’s still very nice
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It was a crackng day
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And smaller jumps were available

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A narrower canyon section
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The locals were freindly enough
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The water was divine

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The side trip up the bottom end of Whungee Wheengee is well worth braving the colder water for.


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Claire wasn’t about to let a bit of cold water deter her from exploring
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I have no idea why they call this section the “green room”

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You can make your way a fair way up Whungee Wheenge but even the first hundred meters or so is worth a look. Walking up it is impressive but when you turn around to come back down the bottom chamber is something else again

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Back in the relative warmth of the Wollangambe we sun ourselves a bit then continue down.

By now we’re starting to get a bit peckish but the exit isn’t far down and that’s probably the best lunch beach near here so we keep on going.

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Along the way are some fun little chutes

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and a bit of portage up the sand dune to the last, and probably most difficult boulder scramble of the trip
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The kids handled it with just a little help
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And a final grand section down past the exit of Waterfall of Moss Canyon

It’s time for a late lunch as we let the floaties deflate, wetsuits dry and bodies warm up

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All ready for the haul out

Then it’s a steep climp up through the cliff lines and a longish walk up the ridge, all up gaining about 400m elevation, and back to the camp ground

Party Size: 11 mixed experience

Time: Didn’t really pay attention but I’m guesing around 7hrs relaxed pace





Surefire Canyon


Julie, Madie and me.

Despite doing the nearby Heart Attack canyon a couple of times for some reason I’d never done Surefire.

Meggsie always said it was his favourite canyon, mind you that was back in the days when you could drop a car on top of the exit ridge and then drive pretty much to the start.

Now there is about a 7km walk in and a 10km walk out.

This is one road closure that frustrates me a bit. I understand closing trails that were becoming rutted out messes but this is a flat ridge top trail with little chance of rutting out. The “End of the World” Lookout at the very end of the trail where Deans Creek Merges with Rocky Creek and they flow into the Wolgan is jaw droppingly awesome. Oh well if you want to see it now it’s a 12km walk each way along a flat dull fire trail so plenty of time to enjoy your wilderness experience i suppose.



When Julie asked if I wanted to do Surefire I thought it would be a great way to finish off a big year of canyoning and I jumped at the chance. We met Madie at the Zig Zag, pile gear into her ute and head off for a big day of adventure.

The walk out along the original fire trail is as straight forward as it gets. The 1970 mineral exploration trail that branches off that and leads out to the end of the ridge overlooking the canyon is very overgrown and the start is hard to spot unless you know where to look. We lost the trail a couple of times but the ridge is easy to follow and we’d regain the trail with out too much drama.

At the end of the trail we spend a bit of time looking for the borehole put in by Coalex to confirm mineral reserves in the 70’s. I had driven out here 20+years ago and the stand- pipe at the end of the road was obvious but for some reason we couldn’t find it today.

We did find what I believe is a surveyor’s “Lock Spit” Which would have marked the corner of gridlines on the old map

We scramble down to the cliff line and needed to traverse back and forward a bit to find a ramp that would get us all the way down to the creek. Once down it was a easy stroll down a nice gully until the creek dropped into the dark canyon below.

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Looks innocuous enough

We suit up, Madie and I opting to go wetsuits, Julie perhaps smarter in just a shark skin thermal top. It was a tad warm.

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Madie on the first abseil
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Julie happy to be in the canyon

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There are 3 or 4 abseils in close succession. Hey Craig get a photo of this. Calls Madie as she turns herself upside down.

I tried a new anti fog cleaner on my camera before I came. Unfortunately it seems to have caused some issues with the focus.

Despite the focusing issues the light in the canyon was superb. I can see why Meggsie liked it so much.

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Julie at the top of drop 3

There follows a short walk inter-spaced with some scrambles along a stunning section of canyon.

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I guess with the road being closed the long walk in and out has meant the canyon has retained an almost untouched feel to it


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And then we came to a section where stick jams create a false floor and there is an anchor set up on a large log wedged across the canyon walls.

Julie on the serene 4th abseil
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Julie on rope descending into the dark chamber
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Madie at the top of the 4th abseil

This chamber was dark enough that Madie chose to put her head torch on but just as she began her descent a shaft of light beamed down to illuminate her. It was kinda magical

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it had been almost pitch black when me and Julie descended
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Fluking the light

More glorious canyon continued

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Julie in a deep narrow section of canyon

We came to another drop we needed to abseil. Tom’s track notes say it may be able to be downclimbed but we found it very slippery and perhaps the log jammed in the drop had moved… either way we thought it best to rope up.

A short, cold swim through the narrowest bit of canyon followed, the only real swim of the trip.

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looking through to Julie on the other end of the swim
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Madie in the swim
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Madie emerging from the swim, head torch blazing

from here the canyon opens up slightly but is still high quality

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And green

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And awesome
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And grand
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And breath taking
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And stuff

We eventually reach the lunch cave and stop for a well earned bite to eat.

the usual exit is to head back up stream 300m and take and side creek up a gully, perform some dodgy acrobatics to climb out, then wander up through pleasant coachwood forest to regain the ridge top and old fire trail.

I know an easier exit, Julie informs us. 400m downstream is a short steep gully that gives easy access to the top then it’s a short distance up the ridge to the firetrail. We took it 8years ago, much easier.

OK, we make our way down with some boulder hopping and route finding then head up the chosen gully.

The gully wasn’t as quite as simple as promised… Looks like the 8 years since her last visit has filled it with deadfall. Clambering over, through and up it zapped a bit of energy.

Well for me and Julie it did. Madie seems to have an endless supply of energy and positivity  so long as there is regular supply of chips and chocolate. That’s pretty… This is fun….Wow, that’s cute….

We come to a  short, “interesting” climb up through a hole. I slip up with a little bit of grunting and groaning (It’s been a long time since I considered myself a rock climber) and then drop a rope for the ladies, because that’s the kind of gentleman I am, or sumfink.

Your truly hauling his arse up the dodgy climb in the gully that avoids the usual dodgy climb photo ©Madie Paige

Eventually we find ourselves on a wide ledge and Julie leads us back toward the canyon, rather than continuing up the gully.

There’s a old bushwalkers saying around these parts “The Nose always goes… Sometimes.”

We follow Julie back to around the corner to the nose of the ridge past a narrow, steep ramp that might be doable, to a wide ramp with easy walk up access to the top. Works everytime. Occasionally.

The view from the top, down Surefire gully to where it empties into Rocky Creek is top notch and we take a moment to grab a drink and soak in the views.


Now it’s just up this open ridge to the top of the knoll and the old fire trail is just over the other side. Julie explains.

Up we go in high spirits.

Except the knoll has a false summit, and then another, and another…. The higher we go the thicker the scrub gets. I’ve got scratches all over me, Julie is cut to bits, Madie is still smiling and having a great time….

We finally get to the top of the not so grassy knoll and give a sigh of relief at finding the old firetrail.

Now it’s just a 10km boring fire trail slog back to the car.

Let me know when you see the gate. Says Madie at some stage. Oh don’t worry I’ll be whoo-hooing says i

Sometime later, it may have been 1.5hrs it might have been 40 days and 40 nights I kinda lost track of time but eventually I let out a whoohoo.

Madie pushes past me. Race youes to the car. Call she as she breaks into a sprint.

Seriously too much energy… We “let” her win

all in all a big day and a great, if somewhat short, canyon. I’m sure in another week or so I’ll admit the walk in and out was worth it 🙂


Party Size: 3 all experienced

Time:9.5hrs car to car

Doing what you want is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.