Fiddle Stick in the wilderness part 3

Continues from Part 2

The next canyon does not appear in any guide and I haven’t seen it marked on any map I’ve come across but unlike the two previous canyons that none of us had done Ryan had visited this one, stumbling across it on a trip a few years ago.

It will be more aquatic than the last 2, says he….

Anyhoo, it turned out to be a great little canyon

The hypo kids give the fiddle sticks a slit and polish and in we go again
I love this shit
Another fabulously narrow slot
Mmmmmm if this water was lava we’d all be burnt to a crisp no avoiding the swims in this one but the water is warmer than typically found in the blue mt canyons and the swims are relatively short
Stu heading down into and another splendid section
The Mad One in a dark section
The our last abseil for the day…. Or is it

So our intel and Ryan’s memory said there were four drops in the canyon, and this is true, but just down the creek we come to a substantial cliff line which looks borderline to big for our rope.

The general consensive from those who have explored this particular slice of the wilderness before is there no large drops of any significance.

This one looks significant

Well that’s a bit of a buggar.

Anyhoo

We join two ropes and anchor the top one just above the knot on a munter hitch. I get on the bottom rope and head over the edge but due to over hanging ledges I can’t see if the ropes on the ground. The plan is once I get a visual, if it is not touching the ground Ryan will lower me on the munter.

As it was when I finally get a look the rope is close enough to the ground to make it down safe.

It’s getting late and we are a long way down the main creek from our camp site so we discuss options of trying to break a pass up through the cliffline while we still have light or trudge a few kilometres up the main creek to a pass Phil has used previously and climb that in the dark.

We opt for the former, Madie has a pass marked on her map we think we can link up with.

Unfortunately we get on to a ledge too early that doesn’t go and are forced to abseil off as light fades where the decision is made to retreat to the main creek and take Phils pass out.

It’s longer and more complicated than I expect but we eventually get to the top and onto the fire trail. We have a couple of kilometres to get back to camp.

The others are staying an extra night, a wise choice, myself and Russ break camp and trek a further several kilometres back to the cars for the long drive back to civilisation

All in all a great experience

Group Size: 6

Time: Car to Camp. 1 and a bit hours. Camp to camp 14 hours. All up just shy of 25 hours and 36km in the wilderness

So what did I think of the Fiddle Stick?

Well… It’s a lot slower than throw and go and has none of the advantages of lowerable anchor systems. There is also a lot more to be mindful of when setting up so will need constant practice but for wilderness canyons where the aim is not to leave anything behind, including slings, rope burns on trees or grooves in rock, it makes a lot of sense.

Another handy tool in the quiver, but as I said one you’d want to practice a bit to stay familiar with it’s use.

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Fiddle Sticking in the Wilderness

11/05/2019

Soggy Bottom, Balls Deep, All in, Just a Bobble, Dragged a Toe and Ah Stuff it I’m in, AKA meeee

It’s 9pm, it’s the middle of May and I’m following Madie down a fire trail on another wild adventure.

The snow clouds that swirled around all day had hampered the drive out with constant rain and a smattering of sleet yet as we pull into the car park to meet the others they miraculously clear and we have a crisp stary night for our walk out to where we will camp above the canyons.

We’re not the only obsessive compulsive canyoning weirdos this time around, joining us are Rus, Ryan, Stu and Phil.

Madie had been recently converted to fiddle stick ghosting/Leave-no-trace techniques and I’m keen to check it out but first we pitch tents and enjoy a night of banter around the camp fire.

We’re up before sun rise and set off at first light amid one of the most spectacular pretty dawns I have witnessed.

After a few kilometres walk further along the fire trail we spear off into the bush looking for our first canyon. There are no track notes for the canyons out this way and the un-tracked terrain makes the whole area something special.

After a bit of navigation deliberation, something that would become somewhat of a theme for this trip, we find the entry point of our first canyon and after some tips from Madie, Ryan and Stu on the finer points of fiddle sticks we drop in
A game of “The water is lava” ensued. Pleather pants for canyoning is a thing now.

Another notch for our Bow or sumfink
Fiddle sticking is all well a good but for true leave no trace techniques some of us down climbed this one, but the bottom has a bit awkward and Phil was not comfortable so Madie set a rope for him and followed him down
Tolkien use to write about places like this, we all thought it was fantasy

And then the canyon opens out and we make our way down to the main creek aiming for a pass up to our next canyon

Continued

Tiger Snakes but no Honey Badgers

21/04/2019

The Mad One, The Saint, The Cool/Cute One, The Blond One, The Kiwi, The Climber Dude, The Mistery and Meeeeeeeee….. The Grumpy One

Our plan was to do 3 dry canyons up on the Plateau but with me and the Mad One both being a little indecisive, or as we like to say “spontaneous”, things are apt to change at the last minute and as the day was so good we decided to swap out the 3rd one with something more moist.

It was glorious April day and we find ourselves veering off track and working our way down to Crooked Crevice. Another one the Jamieson guide confused the name of and thus most people know it as Penrose Gully (Another slot nearby but not nearly as interesting).

Weirdly I’d never visited Crooked Crevice before. No idea why not but I’m excited to be doing something new to me and we follow Madie into the abyss. Which is generally where you end up if you follow Madie.

Anyhoo….

Stu bridging the fabulously narrow canyon

Madie squeezing pass the crew ©Stu

Kylie where the abseil opens out a little

Russ stemming high above the narrow depths of the canyon ©Madie

Aleasha optiing to stay high rather than attempt the squeeze down low

And then, sporting some freshly exfoliated skin we head back up the hill..

Hey did anyone mark where we dropped the bags on their GPS?

Yep?

Cool, do you want to check if we getting close?

Um I left my GPS with the bags…

We find the bags and head off towards the second canyon of the day

Tiger Snake is a great little Canyon in two parts separated by a short creek walk
©Madie

Russ about to head down and join the gang

There are a couple of ways into the bottom section, despite this one bypassing nearly half the canyon it’s my fav and you can always scramble back up stream to check out the rest
It’s a bit of a bland canyon really…..

And then it was back up the hill where the decision was made to skip the 3rd drish canyon and go drop into something wet.

Did you pack a wetsuit. We wont need wetsuits…. Seriously, Warm Autumn at the end of a hot summer. Canyon water is as warm as it ever gets. ©Madie
Matt on rope Madie on belay
How many people do you think we could fit up here?
4 was a squeeze but…
6. The answer was 6

And thus ended our great day on the plateau.

Hey do you want to do another little short one that may or may not be a canyon?

We sure do.

And thus we set off down the maze of fire trails where I take a wrong turn and it gets dark and Madie says I’m a shit navigator… To be fair I usually only get lost while still in the car….

And thus ended our great day on the Plateau…

Time: Time is meaningless when you are having this much fun.

We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing, I am a person who does things… And I never know what I am going to do next. Stephen Fry

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Shhhh, Don’t mention the names

06-04-2019

With a bunch of bike and family commitments throughout March it’s had been nearly 4 weeks since I managed to get a canyon in. Or is that get in a canyon?

Anyhoo, I was tonguing to get out and I had missed some good trips with some good people so when the mad one said she wanted to do a canyon out in the Northern Wollemi on a weekend I finally had free I begged a leave pass and we started to plan.

Invitations were sent and a few people were keen but in the end most were unable to make it.

Briefly we discussed doing it as a day trip but decided that if we camped at the increasingly popular Dunns Swamp we’d have time to squeeze in another little canyon while we were out there.

Let’s go down one and up the other.

Doesn’t the guide say the other has some abseils?

Pffft, It says 1 abseil or a down climb, how hard could it be.

I first visited Dunns Swamp back around 1992 for wild party, now it’s all families and quiet time, lights out at 10pm and stuff. Camp sites were filling up fast and continued to do so well into the night,

I can see why Shrek liked his swamp. What’s that? You want a trip report based on Shrek quotes? Challenge accepted

We set up camp. This is gonna be fun. We can stay up late, swappin’ manly stories and in the morning, I’m making WAFFLES!

In the morning no waffles were made but we make our way out to the forestry gate. For which I have the combination as it’s part of the bicentennial trail, ‘cept they have changed the locks. This would mean a 10km fire trail slog.


Who are you trying to keep out? Just tell me that, Shrek. Who? ©Madie

Luckily we bought bikes to eat up the first bit of fire trail. Now we are getting somewhere!

Before people get their knickers in a knot about mountain biking in a Wilderness area the trail is part of the Bicentennial National trail on which cycling is approved
https://www.bicentennialnationaltrail.com.au/discover-the-bnt/ section 10

Sometime later we ditch the bikes and do the last bit on foot. I’d driven across this fire trail in dads jeep in about 86, it’s a stunning bit of the world.

We had next to zero info on the first canyon but it looked like we needed to get through some complicated clifflines to reach it. In the end with some less than attentive navigation it was fairly simplez, we just walked around until we found it


I just know, before this is over, I’m gonna need a whole lot of serious therapy. Look at my eye twitchin
©Madie
You can’t tell me you’re afraid of heights!

I wasn’t expecting much of a canyon but it had some really nice bits.
Go over there and see if you can find some stairs.

I wish I had a step right here, I could step here and here and here and step all over it. ©Madie

Layers. Onions have layers! ©Madie



What’s that? It’s hideous?
Well, that’s not very nice! It’s just a d̶o̶n̶k̶e̶y̶ …. I mean broad tailed gecko. I called him Clingey McClingcling

Oh man. I can’t feel my toes.

Parfait’s gotta be the tastiest thing on the whole damn planet
Squeezey squeezes was a theme for the day. Just through here the first canyon opened up ©Madie

Then it was down to the main creek for lunch in the dappled sunlight. Now to reverse the next one. Some of you may die, but its a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

We follow the creek up. It may have been easier to head up the nose for a bit. @Madie


Don’t die… And if you see any long tunnels, stay away from the light.

Man, you gotta warn somebody before you crack one like that. ©Madie
Got my stoke on. That’ll do, Donkey. That’ll do ©Madie
This one reminded me of Starlight a bit




Look at that. Who’d wanna live in a place like that?


this isn’t right. You’re meant to charge in, sword drawn, banner flying

Wait a minute, I know what’s going on. You’re afraid of the dark.

And then we are at the top looking back down and it’s time to head home


Please. I don’t wanna go back there. You don’t know what it’s like to be considered a freak… Well, maybe you do, but that’s why we gotta stick together. You gotta let me stay!
Female and male golden Orb weavers with plenty of tucker to keep them going, I never realised they spun yellow silk until Madie pointed it out

Party Size: 2

Time: 7hr (and 2 minutes) car to car being fairly quick on the fire trail with few stops but lots of faffing in the canyons themselves

I’m not allowed the mention the canyons by name for fear of the canyon illuminati kid-napping me and beating me senseless. 1 source of info said we wouldn’t need wetsuits but I’m glad we took them as the second canyon was fairly cold and sustained. Good thing we didn’t wait until mid(dle of) winter to do it.

All in all it was another good day in the bush in a beautiful part of the world. After some late summer rain it sure was green up there on the hills

Collect experiences not things

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Arethusa again

9-03-2019

David-Stephen, Jess, Ev, Madie, David, Tim and meeee

The only way to back up a fairly late night in Rocky would be a reasonably early start for another canyon

And so, blearied eyes and muddle-headed I find myself driving up to join Madie and Ev waiting for the others for a quick trip through Arethusa canyon.

I was suffering sleep deprivation and the trip is a bit of a blur so I’ll let the photos tell the things

Standard way in
More exciting way in
It really is a stunning bit of canyon

Butterbox gets all the glory for being an adventurous canyon with climbing exit but for me Arethusa is hands down a better all round canyon and the climb out excellent.

Ev asked if she could lead and we happily let her. Wow she handled the climbs like a bomb and set belays like seasoned pro. So cool to watch

Madie on the other hand…..

Sure my climbing style sucked the big fat one too but people were kind enough not to capture that in too many photos..

And with international women’s day just gone what better way to celebrate

Party Size: 7

Time: 7hrs car to car

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly without fear for newer experiences: Elenor Roosevelt

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Upper Wollangambe

23/24-02-19

This section of the ‘Gambe is harder to get to than the more common “tourist sections” but is renown for having some of the best canyon bits on the river.

In hindsight that’s a bit like saying Wang Dam has the best bits of beach in Lithgow….

Or sumfink

Anyhoo, it’s a bit of the ‘Gambe I hadn’t visited before and I had wanted to do it for a while. I knew Madie was keen to check it out too so we semi organised a crew and then half made plans.

Then the weather turned to shite and we ummed and ahhed about going. Even an hour before we were due to head off the rain came in and we discussed doing something else. Then the sky cleared and we thought “Fugg it!” and off we went

I’d planned to do the car shuffle to the end of the Dumbano/Wollangambe fire trail as it should be a shorter walk and I’m not overly familiar with the maze of trails in from Bell.

In high spirits we skipped out to the end of the fire trail and had no difficulty finding a pass down through the cliff.

From there it all turned a bit shit.

My intel said there would be a track.

Reality said there was scrub.

Now I’m not adverse to a bit of a scrub-bash but this scrub was heinous. Razor grass and dead fall and despondency.

Out of the scrubby side-creek and into the scrubby Gambe our efforts to stay dry before the camp were in vain

An hour later we’d barely gone 600m and light was fading. I wasn’t 100% sure where the famed camp cave was so we made the decision to bunk down in the next viable overhang to shelter from the predicted overnight moisture.

Finding a small but sheltered and some what cozy overhang we opted to make camp rather than push on in the dark

We snacked on Madie’s infamous butter chicken and settled in for a reasonably comfortable if slightly cramped and sleepless night.

Of course the actual camp cave with large, flat sandy floor was just 100m or so down stream…

Morning comes and we pack up for a not so early start. Our advice was it was going to be a long/hard day. After yesterdays experience in the scrub we decided to avoid the banks and stay in the river as much as possible.

This was faster. Mostly. But full of energy sapping sand with pockets of quicksand ready to swallow your leg without warning.

The three images above summarise the tip for me. Stunning cliff lines, dead fall galore and complex boulder scrambling. Oh and sand. Lots of sand….

Did I mention stunning cliff lines?
There were fun bits in between the slogs
thou I think Gabby would be smiling no matter what
The canyon sections, when they came were spectacular. Just very short compared to the effort to get to them

Even thou the canyon is impressive here I’d class the trip more a creek walking than canyoning trip

Eventually we make it to a part of the ‘Gambe we are all familiar with.

Reaching the exit point is usually a bitter-sweet moment as you are glad to have finally made it but know the adventure is nearly over. This was no different. We were exhausted (We’ll maybe not Madie, she seems to gain engery the longer she goes) but smiling. It was a hard trip, even tougher than I had expected, but as always the company and laughter made it great.

Now just the 1hr uphill stroll to the car.

Your comfort zone is a very dangerous place to be

Times: 

Mt Wilson fire-shed to Dumbano fire trail locked gate: 30min (drive)

Locked gate to camp: 1.5hrs

Camp to Exit: 7hr

Exit to Fire Shed: 1hr

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Empress Falls the Weird Way

16-02-19

Joel, Amber, Jen, Madie, Matthew, Gabby, Andrew, Sonya, Mark, Bernie and meee. Oh, and Geoff as the devil taking photos at the bottom

One day Joel (the sweet, innocent, shy fella he is) had an idea to do something wild.

Let’s have a dress up canyon party, says he.

And so we had to ask ourselves. What would Ginger Jesus do?

Um, He just suggested a dress up canyon…. Well der, dress up canyon party it is

The theme went from Anti-Valentine to Porn to Slotty to hot and wet to anything goes and eventually a mixed bag of fun loving freaks turned up to, um , have fun and, ah, be freaky in one of the most popular canyons in the Mountains.

If only someone had taken a camera…..

Note: there were more cameras than people

Jack Sparrow and some rock chick he picked up on the way in, AKA Madie and Matt
Cat Woman and Lucifer

We gathered out the front of the Conservation hut for some snaps

Just your standard Saturday morning canyon crew ©Geoff


I’m only doing 1 canyon today, says Gabby. Like hell, retorts Madie. We’re doing all the canyons and we are doing them all today! Come on

Lucky Joel was there to settle them down

Like a bizarre Piped Piper Joel leads the sexy people away
Not your standard Empress Falls attire. It was almost disappointing that we only ran into 1 other group, and that was at the end of the canyon.

With all the fun of the costumes at times I had to remind myself we were in a very pretty canyon
We’re not in Kanas any more Toto

Did I mention the canyon was pretty?


Cattitude

Cap’n Jack

School Girl Jen, Schooling

They’re fighting again

Wait. No they’re not

By the time we were all down the abseil there was a large ensemble of tourists/walkers cheering, jeering and leering at us. Well I say “us” but it was mostly at Joel.

and the looks we got as we hiked back up the tourist track for a bite to eat at the hut were priceless.

Party Size: 11 but we split into 11 groups of 1 because, like, who’d want to associate with those other weirdos.

Time: Time has no meaning when you are having that much fun


If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be: Maya Angelou

 

https://vimeo.com/317642115

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*March 2019 I am once again participating in the Wests Cycle Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter. If you enjoy my blog or just want to help this great cause think about making a small donation

Serendipitous moments

25-01-2019

Madie, Gabbie and meeeeee

Anyone up to squeezing in a Friday night canyon trip prior to the long weekend?

Ahhhhh, Hell yes.

And so I find myself once again following these two down a fire trail looking for adventure

We drop into the top section on dusk

it was a glorious evening

We reach the canyon proper just as the light is starting to fade and we decide to suit up and wait for full darkness. The night was warm, we lay in the creek talking about past experiences and future goals.

But then it’s time to drop in and join the glowworms

And just soak in the ambience
They always remind me of an Ani Difranco song. Tonight more so than usual

And then true to it’s name Serendipity strikes this shot was a complete fluke I had no idea Gabbie was in the shot and Madie had no idea I was shooting when she turned her red light on.

We spent so long in the canyon standing still, moving a bit, lights out, sit down, lay here,look up… we start to get cold even with the wetsuits and so we drag ourselves away and scramble out.

Just around the corner a warm breeze drifts up to kiss the canyon wall and we spend time drying off under moonlight looking for shooting stars. The banter has died down but eventually back up the hill we must go

Party Size: 3 all experienced

Time: 5.5hrs with lots of time just standing/sitting/laying taking it all in

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Bridge canyon

AKA Steep Creek

Beauties and the Beast in the Bungleboori boondocks

12/01/2019

Me, Madie and Gabby

I’ve never given Steep Creek much thought but Kent talked up Bridge canyon as a great trip. Took me a bit to realise they were the same thing.

Anyhoo another trip out to this part of the world was high on my wish list for this year and me and Madie had started talking about doing it even before we had finished last weekends trip in Twilight Canyon.

I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to fit it in but then my weekend freed up and Mandy granted me a leave pass…

You want to do it this weekend? It was like Wednesday morning.

Hell yes!

Some last minute invites were sent out. We weren’t sure we’d get any takers with so late notice but Gabby jumped at the chance.

Some off the cuff planning was done.

The rest of the week saw afternoon storms roll through including a big one Friday that just seemed to keep coming. It made me a little nervous about the camp but the worse Fridays storm got the better the revised weather forecast for Saturday became. In the end the weather and water levels were near on perfect

Keen as beans for an awesome weekend in nature

It’s amazing how quick a long walk in can go with good company, a bit of banter and high expectations of what you are going to find. With just a small hickup in navigation that was easily corrected we arrived at the bag drop where we decided to stash the camp gear before spending the rest of the day exploring Bridge and Bjelkes Mind Canyons.

We make our way down to the start of the canyon don our wetsuits and scramble down.

The chamber that waits below is spectacular.

Up there with Dalpura for one of the prettiest starts to a canyon
©Madie

©Gabby
Madie enjoying the cool water

But then it opens out and it’s a long creek walk, scrambling over boulders with a few interesting abseils

It was pretty but not canyoning Wow

Madie in the “Steep creek”

It seemed like we we getting very close to the junction with the Bungleboori and I was starting to wonder what Kent saw in this trip and then the creek dropped into this

©Gabby
And things took a turn towards amazing

Madie checking to see if a tunnel like cave might go and provide me with an easier way down ©Gabby
Darlene dubbed this photo The Dragons Eye
The girls in the Dragons Eye tunnel

Abseiling. Are we doing it right
Do you reckon Gabby is enjoying herself? ©Madie

Orgasmic
Madie under the pump
Gabby into the hole

And then it opens out and we have one more abseil before we reach the bungleboori. We spend a bit of time backing up the anchor which was a large rotten tree that felt like crumbling paper.

We find a sunny rock in the bungleboori for a bit of lunch. I think we need to go down stream a bit but the going is difficult and Madie finds a way to scramble out onto the bank, stumbling across a faint exit track by chance.

We follow it up through the first cliff line and then make our way around for the second canyon of the day

Continued on  Bjelkes Mind

*March 2019 I am once again participating in the Wests Cycle Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter. If you enjoy my blog or just want to help this great cause think about making a small donation