There’s not much to see. Says Tal. It’s just a hole in the ground
In one sense he is right, it is just a hole in the ground.
But the hole had significance in a couple of ways.
As drab as it is it happens to be one of the largest sandstone caves of it’s type in NSW, possibly Australia (1 report I read claims 10th biggest in the world). From what I’ve been able to make out from what I’ve read sandstone doesn’t tend to form these large subterranean cavities that often.
ii. 25 years ago, when we first started going out Mandy dragged me out on a wild goose chase trying to find this cave that was suppose to be near her grandfathers property. Way back before we got really into the adventurous outdoors we had a couple of goes at finding it and never did
So when Tal comes home after a weekend of camping with his mates and nonchalantly announces they found the cave I was 2 parts proud dad 1 part jealous.
You’ll have to take us there one day. Says I
Meh, shrugs he. There’s not much to see. It’s just a hole in the ground
Any way with a bit of bunged up ankle and a free afternoon I con him into taking us for a walk. He and his mates had traversed quiet a bit of private property on their journey. We try the approach from the other side.
It’s further around then we thought and hard to spot until you are on top of it but he navigates us in with nary a wrong turn.
Sometimes I like to just go for a look to see what’s around the next corner. Curiousity tugs at me to veer off the usual path. That tends to annoy Mandy, especially when we are off track and in dence scrub, but in doing so I’ve come across some great features, sometimes not too far off popular trails.
Anyhoo, armed with rumours, vague recolections and no real idea I wanted to go for a bit of a wander around near the Pogoda track between glowworm tunnels and the old coach rd and Geoff was keen to join me so off we went.
I’d picked out a couple of gullies on the satelite images that looks like they might be interesting. Gullies I’ve riden and walked past numourous times over the years but never ventured down.
It was a prefect Bluebird day with glorious sun shine yet not too hot an we made our way along the old rd before veering off into our first target.
Imediately we were greeted with relics from the fuel pipe line that pump feul refined from the shale works at Glen Davis, across to Newnes Juntion to be shipped out to who knows where.
Bridge for the pipe line made out of reclaimed rail tracks
Both Geoff and I were familiar with this piece of histroy but hadn’t ventured into the gully below it
So confident were the owners of the Newnes shale works in it’s longevity that when the built the Wolgan Valley railway to service it they used double headed rail track known as bullhead. More expensive up front but as it worn down you simply flipped it over
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We admire the dry stone wall supporting the road above as we scramble our way down into the gully.
For our efforts we are greeted with some nice curved rock walls and plentiful thick scrub before our way was blocked by a drop into a short but dark slot. I’d bought a short rope believing we wouldn’t encounter anything too big out here. I was wrong.
Foiled we scramble out and make our way back up a ridge to the road.
The next gully I had earmarked was even less traversable and thus we worked our way around to the start of the pogoda trail and then followed the base of clifflines around looking for things of interest.
A tactic that generally pays off one way or another.
We push on and just aroud the corner Geoff calls for morning tea. That rock up there will do. We scramble up and discover and long disused humpy
An old pallet bed made out of felled timber with some fence pailing nailed to it. most of the pailing long sine rotten
Remains of a wind break
When the railway was being built there was a thriving town nearby complete with a pub and post office. This seems a little too far away to be assciated with that but maybe someone wanted a bit of solitude away from the rowdiness of Greens camp.
With the things we were hoping to find seeming like a bit of a chimera we changed tack and scramble up on the cliff tops.
Before visiting an more well know humpy
And so back up the coach road. A pleasant day for just having a look
Not all who wander are lost. Well I am. I’m often lost as shit and loving every minute of it
So with a bunch of other commitments I didn’t get out canyoning at all in August. In fact the last real canyon trip I lead was almost 2 months ago so I was frothing to get out.
I was keen for a couple of the Pagoda canyons on the Plateau before the weather warmed up and when Madie said she had the weekend off I thought why not combine a few of the smaller ones to make it worth her drive.
I also thought she’d might be nutty enough to join me for our first wet canyon of Spring.
Can I bring a friend, asks she.
Yep says I. And so Wouter, would be joining us for his first canyoning experience.
Jen had a morning free opted in for the first canyon too.
After a long dry spell a week of steady drizzle was welcomed by all and certainly made the first two usually dry canyons a bit more special.
The first recorded group through here called it Acoustic Canyon due to a series of these chambers. But as there was another little canyon out in the Nayook system already called Acoustic this one is now normally just called Sunnyside, though the Jameison guide also lists it as Wombat.
Back to the car we say goodbye to Jen and make our way to the next one.
So do you guys want to slip over and check out the tops or make a dash for time and go and get wet in another canyon? Asks me
Why can’t we do both, replies Madie in her best el Paso impersonation.
Then it’s back up the ridge, into the car for a longish drive around to our next stop. I have to say I was a bit excited for this one. Madie was so excited she wetsuited up while we were driving. I’m not sure Wouter knew what to make of it all.
We made the car park at a bit after 3. Starting a canyon, a wet canyon so late on a cool, wet, early spring day would normally not be sensible. But this one is super short, we managed to go car to car in just over an hour which is nuts.
But it is nice as a side trip on the way home.
So are we going to abseil down beside a waterfall? Asks Wouter on the way in
After a long dry then a week of drizzle I wasn’t sure what to expect but as we short-cutted over the ridge we could here the falls roaring and as they came into veiw it looked just right.
It’s a cracker of a abseil
All in all another great day in the bush
Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Party Size. 4 for Sunnyside/acoustic. 3 for Zorro and Alcatraz
Timing: I think it was about 2hrs car to car for Sunnyside (with a bit extra walking along the firetrail due to trees down). a fraction under 2hr for Zorro and 1hr for Alcatraz with a bit of time driving between the lot
So I goit a little busy and hadn’t organised a canyon trip for the weekend. I had a permit to grab a load of wood from Newnes Forest and suggested to Mandy we do a little walk while up there.
This one is a short little canyon with lots of name. Back before social media it was a bit secretive and I think each group that “found” it gave it their own name. I referred to it as the Little Canyon. I’ve heard it called Tower Canyon, Mossy Bottom Canyon, Waratah Canyon…
It’s been rechristened Ethereal by Michael Keats and the bush explorers in the Gardens of Stones and Beyond books and seems to have gained popularity with bush walkers in recent years
Karen McLaughlin informs me her group called in D day canyon back in 1998.
I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t visited by Col Oloman and his crew when they first started exploring the Bungleboori canyons in the 60s but a lot of his trips went undocumented so it would be interesting to hear from anyone who visited it back in the day in the comments.
Anyhoo. That write up is longer than the canyon…..
With the weather turning cold it’s time to focus on dry trips. Depite popular opinion there are a number of dry(ish) canyons not to far from the usual summer trips that are worth a look. This one is a short day in the Wolgan.
The canyon itself isn’t that great in regards to length and depth of the constriction but it has a couple of standout features and great views.
We met at the servo bright and early and sorted car pools to drive down to the car park. Mick was joining us for the haul up through the cliff lines but then leaving as he had afternoon plans in the bigsmoke
Madie was running 5min late but, hey she had a 4hr drive to get here so no one blamed her. Oh, in a previous blog I stated she needed a constant supply of chips and chocolate. that was just a bit of fun after she brought a large pack of chips on the trip I didn’t mean it to sound like she was a snack scoffing fatty. She usually eats nothing but kale washed down with a cup of steam, or sumfink. I’m the fat guy on our trips.
The frost was lifting off the tops and down in the valley it was a glorious morning so we wasted little time in setting out up the hill.
Our path up is typically steep but relatively easy for the Wolgan.
Some Pretty section of creek and grand overhangs break up the climb
and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.
This is where Mick leaves us and heads back the way we came up. For the rest of us it’s a relatively easy stroll up through the scrub to intersect a faint trail along the ridge.
There is a pleasant bit along the ridge before we drop back down through the scrub to our first anchor point above a 30m abseil down through one of the highlights
Over the millenia water running down a sloping face have carved a deep groove into the rock befre hitting a band of iron stone that created a small pool halfway up the cliff line. Evenually this pool eroded deeper and deeper until it bored a hole staright through the cliff
From below the hole is stunningly circular
A short, dark cave section follows
Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up
On our trip last year we were greeted with a deep, very cold pool here that soaked every up to their necks. Today we didn’t even get our feet wet.
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And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock
At the bottom is usually a deep plunge pool that takes some manoeuvring to get across without falling in. Today it was nearly dry but I made them do the bridge anyway 🙂
The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan
We have lunch in the sun light on the halfway ledge and then there is one more long abseil before the quick march down the hill to the cars
A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world
Access: A nice walk along a gentle ridge. Tar to parking area
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward though the trail can be a little vague further out
Time: 30min out. 30min back
Date walked: 31-03-18
Jinki ridge is another spur off the Bells Line of road that gives nice views over the Grose Valley. A trail runs from the Bells Line of road out between Jinki and Dalpura creeks and the Pagodas out the end are reminiscent of the Lost city.
Getting there: From the weigh station at Bell follow the Bells line of road toward Sydney for approximately 4km and just after the concrete lane dividers end there is an old fire trail which goes right just as the road swings around to the left. Turn off into this fire trail and park at the locked gate (Obviously try not to obstruct the gate)
The fire trail goes South and then veers East to start and is easy to follow (note: there is another fire trail just back a bit at a more open park spot, but it goes West then swings North) . Jinki ridge offers great views over the upper Grose over towards Mt Victoria.
The fire trail eventually deteriorates to single track. It can be a little vague but just stay on the top of the ridge
Views change to your left side with some vantage points looking down the Grose. Towards the end of the ridge you get views over to Valhala Head and Thors Head from high pagodas. Be careful near the cliff edges as they are all over hung and brittle.
Also care is needed on the pagodas. The plate pagodas are fairly unique to our area and iron stone bands that make them so unique break off very easily. These awesome rock formations take thousands of years to form, the last thing we want is for them to be damage by a careless footstep.
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.
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
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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We spend some time soaking in the ambience and snapping photos before Yuri reminds us we have a ways to go yet.
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
And once on top we are greeted with magic views from a rarely visited vantage point
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.
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.
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….
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.
Thanks to Yuri for organising and leading the trip
The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.:- Nicholas Kristof
Built in the early 1900’s to cart goods and supplies (and people as an afterthought) into and out of the new shale mine in the Wolgan valley the Newnes rail line was a marvell. 31miles (~50km) long, including 2 curvng tunnels carved through the sandstone where the line descended through the clifflines at Penrose gully, it took just 18months from survey through wild terrain to having trains run.
The trains themselves were special Shay locomotives that had a unique vertical piston and gearing arrangement that was able to deliver steady power to all wheels via drive shafts thus they were able to negotiate the steep grades and tight bends required to get out of the valley.
The line was always a bit of a problem child though. Not only were mining conditions in the Wolgan far harsher then expected (the seam was easier to mine from the Capertee) but maintenance on the track was expensive. The little culvet bidges used to span the “Dry gullies” proved completely in adiquate for the “gully rakers” and flash floods produced by summer storms. By 1934 the line was closed. Much of the remaining track and infrastructure were pulled up and shipped over seas for the WW2 war efforts in Egypt and Turkey.
The line was left to deteriorate but the second tunnel, with water now running through it from tunnel creek became the home of glowworms which exist naturally in the canyons and caves throughout the plateau and are a larvae stage of a gnat.
Being able to see glowworms in the day in an easily accessable spot soon became a draw card tourists and much of the line above tunnel became an access road.
Anyhoo. I’ve visited the tunnels many times and I always enjoy it. Dad took us there as kids, I took my kids when they were little and we’ve done it many times with friends and family. Now days though my visits are usually part of either a longer mountian bike ride or as a side trip from near by canyons. Each time I go I try and snap a photo of the ferns looking out of the tunnel and invariably it the photo ends up either with the ferns too washed out in the bright sun or the tunnel too dark or both.
Then I had a bright idea and contrived a plan to slip up at night to see what I could capture.