When I was a kid a lot of amazing adventures started or finished at 166 Bells Street. We are 13 or 14 popping wheelies on our BMXes, or hanging out high up in the climbing tree, or digging tunnels in the river bank or making home made fireworks out of stuff you could still buy or find when we were kids or sumfink.
Let’s go yabbying.
We grab some string, stuff some form of meet into our pockets, race off on our bikes and head up to some long forgotten little dams in a long forgotten gully right at the edge of town. It all sounds very Huckleberry Finnish. But it’s nothing so grand, just a day in the life of me and my mate Smiddy some time in the 80s. Nothing overly memorable except we didn’t catch any yabbies and on the way back while bridging through what I’d now call a canyonette (but back then was just a nice bit of narrow creek) Pat slipped in. We are wearing jeans and jumpers, it was an icy winters day (the yabbies had been smartly tucked up in their nests) and it was cold ride home for Smiddy.
Anyhoo, fast forward mumblemumble years. (Would you believe 10? No? How about 20? Ok it’s closer to 30, and by closer I mean over 30) Mandy is keen for a small walk and thinks Ida falls might be the go.
Pulling up in the little car park it’s packed (well 4 or 5 cars but enough to ruin the uncrowded feel I like.)
Hey there’s another gully we use to frequent and from memory it’s kind pretty too… says I
Especially after we’ve had a bit of rain through the week.
A quick run through Empress with Russ and Libby then a slow trip into the Grand at night with Russ, Mark, Ethan, Jamie, Marc and Ariadna.
I can’t believe it’s February and this is my first canyon trip for the year.
Mark invited us out on a night trip through The Grand Canyon so to make a bit of an afternoon of it Myself, Libby and Russ decided to hit the only other canyon in the Bluies that is officially open, Empress, beforehand.
It was a stinking hot day and I get a message, “Car park is full. Russ parked like a dick so we could save you a space. k.”
They straighten up and I pull in next to Russ and do the meet and greet.
Did I say it was hot? We quickly make our way down and enter the refreshing coolness of the canyon.
No surprises we weren’t the only ones to have this idea today… We’d passed a couple gearing up at the entrance and come across a group at the little jump just after the matrix jump.
Want to go through? They offer
If you don’t mind, say I. But we’re not in a hurry.
Oh come through we are just practising.
They’d set the drop up as an abseil with a very awkward start.
We jump on past
We climb up on to the ledge to wait our turn. Only to learn later earlier in the day some dirty grub decided that was where they really needed to drop a turd. Lucky some guides saw it take place. Chastised old mate and cleaned things up
A group just in front said they waited inline for an hour…. It’s a 20min canyon…. Luckily the crowd had thinned a bit and about 20min later we set up on the left and dropped on down.
Luckily it had cooled down slightly for the walkout but we were still hot by the top. So After chatting with a few people we head to the servo for a frozen coke. Except their frozen Beverages machine wasn’t frozen…
Here we say bye to the Libster and head around to Evans Lookout to check out the views over the Grose
Anyhoo, We are soon met by Mark and Jamie, followed by Ethan and then Marc and Ariadna and spend some time chatting and waiting for darkness before doing a car shuffle back to the entrance track and heading on in
Once again we aren’t the only ones and there is a couple dropping in as we reach the abseil point. We Phaff about to give them time to have the canyon in peace
Once in we spend a fair bit of time just soaking in the ambience
Making our way down there is a constant feeling of awe as we stop often and for long periods just to sit in the darkness and admire the glow
I fall behind a little taking photos. When I catch up they have stopped in one of the more spectacular chambers. Mark, Ethan and Jamie sit quietly talking on one side of the canyon. I set up some photos then sit talking to the Spaniards on a ledge on the other side.
I have no idea how long we stayed there, certainly longer than I normally like to sit still, but I figure its such a beautiful night and atmospheric situation that everyone is just blissing out
Some time later I hear. Do you think we should go back and look for them?
Russ turns on his light. Oh there you are. We thought you were still back there taking photos.
The two groups were about 4m apart from each other 🙂
We though you guys we just enjoying the stillness
We have a bit of a laugh and continue on our way
And then we continue down to do the loop out to Evans lookout. I haven’t been out this way for nearly 20years. The impacts of the fires are more noticeable beyond the canyon proper. What was more disappoint was a wall completely covered in new graffiti, If scrawling your name can be call graffiti. I don’t get it.
Anyhoo. We slog back up to the lookout and stare out into the darkness. The stars are out. An orange glow to the south east reminds us the fires have finished with us yet.
Back at the cars we say good bye to the others and wait for Libby to come back to pick up Russ. She brings beer and Cherry the dog. I like Libby.
Another two emerge from the track followed shortly thereafter by 2 more we say hi but in the darkness don’t take much notice. Towards the end of the beer Russ looks up and says, Is that Kylie?
The same friend of theirs we’d been chatting too at the end of Empress.
It had been a great evening with truly awesome people but its time to go home.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: We are all worms, but I do believe some of us are glow-worms
Empress: A bit over 2hrs with a long wait for the abseil
Grand: About 4 hours with lots of just sitting in the dark.
When evening closes nature’s eye, the glowworm lights her little spark, to captivate her favourite fly and tempt the rover in the dark: James Mongomery
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