After being devastated by fires, ravaged by flood and generally off limits with COVID restriction Russ and Libby looked like they were finally going to get hitched… Wait, that’s a different story, I mean the Kanangra-Boyd NP was quietly re-openned to remote activities on Christmas eve 2020. That meant access to the Kanangra canyons was back on. Woot Woot!
‘Cept the weather was miserable and water levels kept most sensible parties away.
But water levels began to recede and reports started coming in that well equipt groups with white water experience and skill had successfully begun negotiating a couple of the more popular ones or, at least, parts there of.
We needed to get the gang back together for sumfink big before Russ had to take a break to keep himself pretty for the nuptials or sumfink and photos from Kanangra Main to the emergency exit below pitch 3 looked ace. So plans started to be planned in our very unplanned, half planned, let’s solidify the plan as we go kinda planning routine.
The Kanangra area tends to hold it’s water levels longer than the typical Blue Mountain canyons but a week of sunny weather had things easing off a bit and a bunch of different options were optioned up before we finally opted a full run of K-Main via the Slot option.
Last time I attempted a trip through the Slot things did not quiet go to plan and eerily as we traversed across the top of the usual entry there was another group were setting off down the main wall again.
We slip past the main entrance and gear up above the slot. There is a buzz of excitement as I set the rope and one by one the others make their way down
Myself and Sterlo were the last to arrive at the start of pitch 2 and relieve Leo off anchor duties so that he can head down to lead the money pitch
The roar of the falls and the spray at the start of pitch 3 was intense.
Leo heads off grinning as I reach the anchor.
Flynn, You’re up next. Says Madie
Who made her the boss?
Tingles. Nervous excitement. Stoopid grin. I rope up and head on down.
But not what I was expecting. P3 crosses through the falls but as it has tumbled down the 100m above the water has bounced of the walls and spread out, dissipating the full force into a wide mist. And lots of wind.
Hitting the pool below I was surprised it wasn’t a torrent of flow. I make my way through the mist to once again relieve Leo at the anchor. He continues down the next drop where the other group are just setting their next anchor
I man the anchor and enjoy the spray and wind as the others make their way first to me and on to Leo
From here down we are on the standard route though the extra water makes it seem anything but standard
We soon leap frog the other group and continue our way down
So the usual exit is to continue down 45mon or so to the Kalang (Kanangra Creek and Kanangra brook) junction and then up murdering gully or manslaughter ridge. We thought we might try another option
We make good time and eat the elevation but are nervous we will get cliffed out. The map wasn’t exactly inspiring. About half way up I spot a vegetated gully coming in to the side. I reckon that will go. Says I
We have a bit of a pow wow and Russ checks the map.
I think he could be right says, Russ. The side gully looks more promising on the contours than the main gully
Should we take Flynny’s gull or stay in the main one.
Whoa there! If the gully goes it can be Flynny’s gully. If it doesn’t it’s Russ’s gully. Say I
We head up the side gully.
It’s steep and loose. Think manslaughter ridge but looser with no room to traverse. Crawl up 2 steps. Slide back one. Shower your mates below with pebbles, rocks and the occasional boulder. Grab a spikey shrub or cutty grass, hope for the best
Sometime later we reach the base of the top cliff and begin to traverse around hoping that it will peter out.
Peter, peter. Pumkin eater.
But soon it appears our way is going to be barred by cliff dropping back into the gully below.
The nose always goes, sometimes.
Leo finds a weakness in the nose above us and manages to get up to drop a rope back down. Gibbo heads up. Followed by Madie.
Hey there’s a gully around the corner you can walk up… Sterlo is up top. Me and Russ opt to follow him up
Flynny’s gully is renamed Craigs Crying Crack. I mean I only cried once, but whatever. It goes but it has some hair on it. it ain’t fun and we’re not sure if it saved us any time
How ’bout dem views thou
party size: 6
Time: 8hr car to car with along lunch
Remember your comfort zone is a very dangerous place to be
I’m in. Dad has photos of it from Jeep trips in the late 60s early 70s, though they knew it as the Wolgan Earth Pillar, a name they got from the Luchetti’s who had the farm down Valley. They got it off Carne’s map from his early 1900s mineral survey where he recorded it in his journal as “Earth Pillar, the Pinnacle, Wolgan Valley”. Anyway it’s been on my list of things to visit for a long time.
Of course Madie was in too.
Hey, do you want to go in from the top and check out a few canyons while we are down that way?
Some times I wonder what it would be like to have friends who hear out my hair brained ideas and say things like, That sounds ridiculous, Flynny. No way we should to that….
But noooooo. Despite several epic scrub bashes my friends keep saying things like, hell yeah lets do it.
Lucky, otherwise this blog would be rather boring.
Besides no one is going to be telling there grandkids about the epic weekend they had playing golf, right?
Well unless they win a major or sumfink.
We were planning to walk out to a base camp Friday night. 3pm and it’s pissing down. None of us want to start walking in the rain but the rain parts, the radar is clear and it looks like it’s going to be a perfect night for a stroll.
Leo and Madie swing past my place to drop off Pippa the Wonderdog.
Should we take 2 cars?
There’s only 3 of us….
Maybe we should have taken 2
Driving up on dusk and the sky to the north looks like something out of an Armageddon movie.
Rolling storm clouds and blasts of lightning heading right to where we are going. That wasn’t on the radar!
We get to an intersection. Swing right. says I. Left has a 4wd creek crossing.
When was the last time you looked? Says Leo. I got a 2wd through there last year.
While I thought they had done a bit of work to the crossing I hadn’t tried going that way since getting rid of my old FJ45 Cruiser.
We go left, much to Madie’s trepidation.
The creek crossing is up but it’s much easier than the deep rocky drop off of years gone past. We get through easy enough. Except the hill up the other side is a soft rutted mess. 1 quick go at getting up and the ute sinks to the diffs. Lucky it is very wet and Leo is able to reverse out with help of the steep terrain.
We are going back the other way! Madie puts her foot down. And I’m driving from here!!!
We take the by-pass. But halfway down a sharp log hidden on the inside of a corner rips the side wall out of her rear tyre. Pssssssssssssssss.
We get out to change the wheel. Armageddon skies open and the rain belts down. There is an issue with the jack handle which also doubles as a thingie to wind the spare tyre down. Nothing that a quick adjustment with a shifter or screwdriver to open up the slots wont fix.
Where’s your tool box.
I don’t have one….
Apparently Madie cops one of my infamous eye rolls . My kids take the piss out of me about them all the time but surprisingly this is the first one thrown Madie’s way.
Anyway, a bit of dicking around with a small multitool and a blood sacrifice and Leo has the handle working.
Tyre changed we rock into the car park and decide it’s way too late to start our walk so we set camp for the night .
Before you read on; Part of the joy of visiting lessor known canyon areas is not knowing what you’ll find. Sometimes its a disappointing creek bash and sometimes you get a good one. If you ever plan on exploring this area do yourself a favour and leave the rest of this post until after you come back.
We are up before the sun and after a quick breakfast we are on the trail a little after 5.30am.
After being closed to vehicle traffic 20 years ago this trail devolved into a nightmare scrub bash, like the type of scrub even I avoid, and that’s saying something. Post fires it’s easy walking and we pick our way along the ridge line the old road use to follow for about 8km before spearing off into untracked territory.
We reach our chosen base camp around 8.30am, dump the camp gear and head off for our first canyon in good spirits.
To be honest we weren’t expecting great things from canyons out this way but this one had a nice start
After a bit the canyon opens up somewhat and then begins to drop steeply. We abseil the first drop and then I scramble down the next few to see it it’s likely to drop into a lower section. It’s pretty but the walls are getting wider and more impenetrable so we make the call to ascend back up the line and try to force a pass to the ridge and drop into another creek.
At about the same point we decided to scramble out of the last canyon we had a quick bit to eat. Despite covering a lot of ground so far we are still full of enthusiasm and even talk about trekking down to Dick Rock today. We must have been delusional
Heading down to our 3rd canyon of the day and we drop into a tributary thinking it will be an easy pass down
We spent longer in this one than we thought we would, definitely longer than the previous two so squeezing in Dick Rock today was out the window. Time to beat a pass up to the tops again
We get out of the canyon and through most of the cliffs easily except for one little bit that Leo scrambled up with a couple of little boosts from me at the bottom and balls the size of a medium sized car at the top.
He dropped a rope for me and Madie to ascend. I go up to to the ledge and haul Leo’s bag then drop the rope back to Madie. She begins to ascend as I go up the ramp and begin to chimney up the last bit.
Rock! Rock! Rock! Fugg!
I’ve knocked a large rock loose and it tumbles down the chute. Luckily it misses the rope and gains enough momentum to sail out into space. Madie was 5m up the rope with nowhere to hide. The adrenaline rush was real.
But we are up and encounter our first unburnt ridge of the trip. Thick, scratchy, cutting scrub. It was a relief to finally get to a burnt bit.
It’s getting late. We have a couple of deep saddles to get past on the way to camp but Madie navigates us there easily. I have to say I was well and truly slowing down.
Night descends but we are back to the ridge we walked down on our way to the first canyon.
Then Madie lets out a whoop at the sight of the reflective stripes on my Overboard dry bag I had hung up in a tree above camp.
35km and 3 canyons in 14hrs.
We roll out the sleep mats, have a quick diner, a few laughs and then we’re in bed engulfed with satisfaction and a glorious star filled night
A slightly more sedate wake up time, a casual breakfast and we are off a bit after 8.
I’m feeling a little dehydrated from yesterday so I’m determined to drink more today. The plan is to descend a canyon, punch down to Dick Rock and then up another canyon. We knew of a couple of easy passes up ridge lines but it’s going to be a hot day so ascending up a canyon that is supposedly reversible is more appealing
But first we work our way down through the cliff lines once more. This time we manage to scramble right down into the creek
It’s pretty but never really canyons up
It’s hot in the valley we have lunch then take a higher route back which avoids some of the the scrub and short cuts the corner and we work our way up to our intended creek.
Where this morning’s “Canyon” was a pretty creek walk this wasn’t even that. The heat is oppressive and despite drinking a shit load I’m starting to struggle.
But we boulder hop and scrub bash our way high enough up to starting thinking of forcing a pass to the tops.
Thoughts of squeezing in another short canyon are out the window.
By the time we reach camp it’s around 5pm and I’m suffering camps. I’ve drank about 8l of water already today but haven’t pissed since breakfast.
We pack camp, I mix some extra electrolytes into my hydrapac bladder and we start up the hill.
I’m really struggling and a few times have to call for a rest. Much to my equal parts chagrin and relief halfway up the ridge Madie and Leo split my gear between them leaving me with minimal weight. I’m still slow but finally we reach the ridge with the old trail. We still have 8km to go but it’s going to be easier walking.
I’m making OK pace now but my stomach is dehydrated and refusing to take much in. I’m taking small sips out of my hydrapack trying to get through. The cramps are bad, the slightest miss step and something locks up. I get service on the phone and text Mandy to let her know we’re going to be late. My finger camps bad. That’s a new sensation for me.
About 4km along the fire trail we stop for a rest. I try and take a slightly bigger drink. 3 steps later I spew that up. We march on.
I tune out and walk on.
200m to go calls Madie, you can do it Flynny.
All that’s between us and the car is Natural bridge. I stumble my way down. I normally wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the climb up the other side. I stop for a rest. I spew again. There is nothing in my stomach. My whole abdominals cramp and lock tight.
If that’s what period cramps feels like , girls you get even more respect from me.
Finally we get to the car.
68km walking for the weekend, mostly off track, 3 nice canyons, two disappointing creeks, and one big a tick on the bucket list.
Home at last, I spill out of the car and spew again.
He’s alive, Madie tells Mandy, but he’s got a bit of heat stroke. You may want to get him checked
A quick shower and I think I’m good for bed but Mandy suggests a trip to hospital to get checked out.
At hospital they whack me on the scales, I’m 10kg lighter than I was Friday!
They take some blood and put me on a drip. 3 bags in they send Mandy home and book me in for the night.
6 litres of fluid later, do you think you can pee now? we need to see it before we can let you out.
I feel I want to but it’s not coming out.
Well, we can always put a catheter in.
Apparently that threat works every time.
They release me lunch time Monday.
It’s the adversity as much as the victories that makes the lasting memories.
I’ve said in the past I don’t like repeating a canyon too many times a season as it takes the sense of exploration away from it for me.
Well 2020 has changed a lot of things. With bush fires and COVID and park closures I think I’ve done Empress Falls more this year than I have since my short stint as a guide in the 90s but I’ve been reminded that as much as the conditions on the day it’s people you go in with make each and every experience unique
So when I get a text saying, We’re heading to Empress, Wanna come.
I think why the hell not
Rolling into the car park late. I hastily gear up, hug some old friends, meet some new friends and off we go.
Some hadn’t done Empress before so there is that buzz of new excitement that I find infectious
It helps when they are all just a little bit nuts
Signing the log book we note Lib and Justine are not far in front of us
We meet Libby and Justine at the bottom of the final abseil and make our way back to the car park all smiles and banter
Whadda ya doing this arv? Wanna Canyon after work? Says Madie
This is becoming a habit. I kinda like it.
Should we invite others? say I
Yeah, I miss people
A flurry of last minute invites were sent out. Sadly no one was available for an early Tuesday afternoon adventure with zero notice. Go figure
Madie and Leo arrive at the car park and after I field some work calls it’s about 4pm as we make a dash down into the canyon.
We were traveling lightish and fastish (For me) and my camera is playing up so not many photos were taken.
Some giggles, banter and poking fun later we are through the canyon and me and Mads start up the hill while Leo pulls the rope on the last abseil. He still well and truly beats us to the climb and ascends up ready to belay us
Up I go and start up the next bit while he belays Madie up.
I get almost to where it starts flattening out when he jogs past, Come on Flynny.
I have a bit of a jog. Legs are cramping. I walk for a bit. Looking back Madie is jogging and gaining on me fast. Leo is heading up the last little hill to the car park. I try to jog again. Stubborn or determined or sumfink
Back at the cars we laugh as we change into dry clothes.
Hey, Russ and Libby are going to do Juggler!
We should join them…
We drive around to meet them and then head off into Juggler at a slightly more relaxed pace.
And we reach the end and walk out in the darkening twilight
Party size: Butterbox, 3 Juggler, 5
Time: Is irrelevant when you are hanging out with awesome friends or Butterbox 1hr 45 Juggler 1hr 35
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving: Terry Pratchett
I’ve been meaning to check this waterfall out for a while now. There’s been a couple of rainy days over recent years where me and Mandy thought about heading up for a look but each time we opted for something different.
Then on Saturday afternoon we found ourselves with nothing to do and decided to go check them out.
I had a rough grid reference but was pretty confident on the nav would be a simple matter of following the lay of the land and so didn’t bother taking a map or compass. Bush fires have denuded the landscape of the scrub the guards and hides it’s secrets. How hard could it be?
We hit the cliff line above the main creek but we are slightly downstream of the falls. A side gully forms a little canyonette and looked offer a way down.
Halfway down it tumbled over a 10m drop… I hadn’t brought ropes. We back track and slip over the ridge, where we catch our first glimps of the falls, and peer down into the next gully
The Falls are pumping nicely after a week of drizzly rain. From out limited view it looked like there might be a canyonette above them. That’s par for the course in this area, a short pagoda style canyons leading to interesting waterfall abseil.
Anyhoo my interest is pipped. I slip down this gully to check if it goes. The ledge the other gully drops over is a steep slippery ramp here. I’m confident I’ll get to the bottom of the falls.
A clap of thunder shakes the hills.
Many moons ago me, Mandy and our old mate Della were caught in a monsterous hail storm exiting coachwood canyon. Lightning crashed down on the ridge top all about us and we were smashed with hail. Mandy has hated being outside in storms ever since.
I retreat up the hill and we make our way back to the car.
I suggest to the awesome canyon fam that it would be worth checking out someday and the gully I scoped would make a good exit. Russ says he is keen.
Come morning. I had a bunch of stuff I needed to get done yet somehow it all got done much quicker than expected. Then it dawned on me, today is someday!
I message Russ to see if he had plans for the afternoon. He didn’t. He did now.
Again I didn’t have a map or compass but felt I had a good feel for the terrain.
Heading off into the not so dense scrub I picked a line along the ridge I was sure ran between the exit gully I scoped yesterday and that creek containing the falls. I was half expecting a little canyonette and maybe a small cliffline to negotiate. We found neither and before we knew it we were standing in a pretty gully on top of the falls.
There were a few options for anchors so we picked the one that offered the best chance of putting us through the waterfall. Now to see if the ropes would reach.
I proceed down to the large ledge. Unfortunately this anchor puts me beside the impact zone… For a bit. The further down I go the wetter I get.
Landing on the ledge there are several options to rebelay but they all look a bit boring with questionable pull-downs. I signal up to Russ to payout more rope
I bridge across a small slot then drop into the full brunt of the fall for the final 12m. It’s a fun abseil.
Exhilerated and refreshed we slip up the exit gully and back to the car. It was still super early so we topped it off with a quick dash through Alcatraz.
Party size: 2
Time: East Creek 1hr 20 Alcatraz 1hr 15
If there were no obstacles in the way to disrupt and divert their flow waterfalls would never be so pretty which just goes to show with the right attitude obstacles don’t break you, they make you
Laurence, Kylie, Heni, Peter, Richard, Kent and meeeeeee
A while ago Laurie asked me if I’d ever been down Wolgan Falls. He’d been trying to find away into the top and bottom for years but had not long taken up abseiling.
I hadn’t. A few of us discussed running a trip. Then life happened.
Laurie and others pioneered a route in and out. And began to run the trip regularly. I usually got an invite but it was mostly midweek trips and I never made it, until today.
As I head up to meet Kylie, she messaged saying she was running 10min late because there was a Koala crossing the road.
Best excuse EVER!
I was a little worried about the meet up as the others were coming in from the other side of the plateau.
In the end we all arrived at the car park at pretty much the same time and head off into the untracked wilds of the upper Wolgan river.
And all too soon it’s over. As we were preparing to hike out Richard tripped on a rock and pulled his calf muscle. A quick bit of bandaging and a make shift walking stick and he soldiered his way up the steep exit track
Group size: 7
Time: 4hrs very relaxed pace
Back at the cars it was still reasonably early so me and Kylie decide to do a quick dash through Alcatraz on the way back to her car
All in all another excellent day in the great outdoors with great outdoors people
Someone, somewhere thinks you are awesome. Hopefully you do too
Many years ago I helped carry a girl with a broken leg out of a little known canyon in the Newnes state forest. For the life of me I can’t remember how I got involved in that but I remember asking her party what the canyon was like.
The pools were really pretty, says they. But not worth the scrub bash
Certainly the scrub hiking back up the hill was not pleasant that day.
Figuring that may not be such an issue just now I thought I’d go for a look and the above named legends decided to join me.
Beforehand I asked my mate/guru, Bob if he knew the creek, he mentioned there was an old 4wd track right down into the creek and he use to take his kids down there to teach them to abseil and go yabbying in a pool in an erosion cave but he hadn’t followed the creek further down.
Now I may or may not have misinterpreted the track notes I made from the aforementioned party’s description and so we may have taken far more rope than we needed. Where I wrote Second abseil 50m down creek. I should have wrote 50m further down creek to 2nd abseil… Carrying 100m worth of ropes where the longest abseil was less then 10m may have been overkill…
Despite some dire weather predictions it was a glorious spring day, mostly, and after Dick and Libby met at my place we swung over to pick up Izy at the crack of d̶a̶w̶n̶, I mean 11am
I chose not to take the 4wd track that goes all the way into the creek as one on the opposite ridge should give us a sorter walk out while still getting us within a few hundred meters of the start of the canyon.
It also gave us great views
So far it’s a pleasant, canyonish creek. Unfortunately it’s about now my camera battery died and I realised I left my spares at home. Everyone else had left their stuff at the car as it was going to be a short one….. Thus we’ve no photos of the best bit, 3 abseils in a very short but very pretty canyonette.
The fires had taken out any decent anchor trees so the fiddle stick came in handy on the first two. 1 off a big log over hanging the drop and the other off a rock wedged low down for a short abseil to a ledge and then a jump into a stunning pool
The third drop proved a bit harder to find an anchor. I was searching in the creek for a suitable rock or some where to wedge a log when Libby says What about that!
She is pointing to a stone pillar in a small overhang up on a ledge just down stream of the waterfall.
We slip up to check it out. Some delicate traversing along the narrow ledge gives me access to the pillar that is in an alcove above a wider ,dirter end section of the ledge, It is about 30cm in diameter and looks and feels nice and solid. I give it a test and drop on in then dig out phone to grab a few final photos.
A final bit of canyon like creek
And then it’s up the hill, across a narrow saddle and back to the car
So it’s still early and we decide to leave the wetsuits on and drive across to drop into Alcatraz
all the alcatraz photos are copywrite to Izy
Timings: First one 2hrs car to car
Alcatraz: ~1.5hrs car to car
You can’t please everyone, unless you’re an avocado: Maddy G