Rediscovering back yard gems

2/8/20

Mandy And Me

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

Understatement!

Especially after we’ve had a bit of rain through the week.

Memories are Golden. Get out there and make some

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Empress and Grand

01/02/2020

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.

Stuffing ropes into pack or odd pre canyon rituals or sumfink.

Did I say it was hot? We quickly make our way down and enter the refreshing coolness of the canyon.

It felt so good to hit the water

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

It almost felt secluded
And then we ran into the bottleneck at the end

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

Tiger stripes. Foreground: “Normal” Bushfire damage, burnt understory with the random bursts of where it crowned into the canopy. Distance: The Blue Gum forest seems to have been spared the worst. Middle: Devistation where even pockets of rainforest have been reduced to ash. It will trake these areas far longer to recover

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

Marc gearing up next to glow-worms
Ethan dropping in

Once in we spend a fair bit of time just soaking in the ambience

Glow-worms and Night skies through the canyon walls

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 ūüôā

We though you guys we just enjoying the stillness

We have a bit of a laugh and continue on our way

Towards the end we start to come across the first evidence the fires encrouched the canyon. The smell of ash and burnt logs.
But even here the glow-worms survived

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

Time:

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

 

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Deep Pass

1/09/2019

Mandy and Meeeee

We thought we’d make the most of the pleasant first day of spring weather with a little jaunt down to Deep Pass AKA Gawaymbanha Ngurambenggu

Working your way up from the bottom this is the first pool you encounter.

Mandy at the base of the water fall. Its a great place to hang out on a hot summers day. WOuld the allure drag me in? I’ve been coming here since the 80s and that’s the least amount of water I’ve seen trickling over the falls. It doesn’t bode well for summer
The narrow bit. For as long as people can remember log have been tied across this narrow section to allow you to get across without getting wet.
It’s not exactly the prettiest and considering the water is only waist deep…

More rope to help stay dry. Where it crosses around the corner is the only spot where you have to get your feet wet
One the way back down I couldn’t help myself. Even in the height of summer I reckon the water at deep pass is some f the coldest I’ve swum in. Today was no different.

After a quick bite to eat in the warm sun at the camp ground we poke around some of our other hidden gems

There are various pieces of rock art around the site. A lot of it is genuine

There are little nooks and crannies and dry slots scattered around the cliffs
Split rock is pretty amazing. This narrow hall branches off at right angles from another hall that is only slightly less narrow
Mandy at the bottom of Split Rock

‚ÄúIf you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.‚ÄĚ 
‚Äē Terry Pratchett,

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Slavens Cave

01/10/2018

Mandy Tal and meeee

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.

  1. 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.

and

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.

Like he said it’s just a hole in the ground.

 

But that’s not the point

 

 

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Tal leading the way in. The big depression this hole lies at the base of suggests the cave was once much much bigger

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A little witchcraft is needed to find it

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Bad photo of a pit left over from an archaeological dig done in the 80s(?) Apparently nothing was found

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Mandy Exiting back out

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I like to wander

22-09-2018

Geoff and me

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.

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.

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Geoff above a sharp drop that was surprisingly deep.

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.

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Some moderate scrambling and not so moderate scrub bashing bought us to this stunning overhang. I’d be keen to see it in rain with the waterfall flowing

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The view from under the dripping waterfall

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

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.

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Looking back across pagoda tops to the rock way holding up the old coach rd

Before visiting an more well know humpy

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A rough home though probably more cosy than most had further along in Greens camp.

And so back up the coach road. A pleasant day for just having a look

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Donkey mountain viewed down through the gap where the trail line cut through the tunnel and hence into the Wolgan.

Not all who wander are lost. Well I am. I’m often lost as shit and loving every minute of it

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Pagoda Canyons in the rain

8-09-2018

Madie, Wouter, Meeee with a cameo from Jen

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.

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The rain made the ledges a little more slippery

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Wouter and Jen Tip-toeing along the tiny ledges

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The Acoustic chamber could be called the TARDIS chamber. It’s bigger from the inside

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.

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You can normally get through this one without getting your feet wet. Not today

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All the little side waterfalls were amazeballs. Madie doing a “Supermodel” pose, Jen wondering what sort of nutcases she has gotten herself mixed up with

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such soft light and textures in the mist

 

Back to the car we say goodbye to Jen and make our way to the next one.

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After the amount of water in the last “dry” canyon I was expecting a bit more in this one

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I normally don’t bother with a rope here but the walls were extra slippery so we played it safe

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I love this chamber

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And this passageway

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Not sure why we are trying to stay dry at this point

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Maybe it’s just the challenge

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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.

Right on!

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From the top you wouldn’t imagine that goreous, airy chamber is just down there

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

Um not exactly, says I

Now I’ve done this one at normal water levels. I’ve done it with Ed when the water was pounding. I’ve been there with Julie when the water was so big we decided to bypass the falls

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.

 

 

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To answer Wouter’s question, we wont be going down “beside” the falls.¬†¬©Madie

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He was more than up for it. ©Madie

 

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©Madie

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Yep

It’s a cracker of a abseil

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©Madie

 

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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

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Little Canyon

24-06-18

Mandy and meeeee

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…..

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The Towers ?

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Short but pretty

 

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super short

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super pretty

 

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The Mossy Bottom

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Views over the wolgan

19-05-2018

Madie, Autal, Catherine, Chris and meeeeee

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.

Anyhoo.

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

 

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©Madie

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Ignore me, I’m an idiot… ¬©Madie

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Autal reaching up for that last hand hold….

and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.

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Chris stretches out in the warm sunshine

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Nice spot of a morning tea break

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

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©Autal

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Me in my happy place ©Autal

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Autal filming Cat as she starts her descent into the unknown. ©Madie

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

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Abseiling down through that hole is an amzing experience and somewhat scarey as at first it looks and feels like you wont fit ©Madie


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Madie preparing to drop into the hole ©Autal

From below the hole is stunningly circular

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And once through there is still a long abseil to the gully below

A short, dark cave section follows

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Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up

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Autal at the start of the short canyon section ©Madie

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Autal dropping in ©Madie

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.

click to enbiggen

 

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Cat and Chris in the canyon ©Madie

And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock

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©Madie

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The light in this section is just magical but hard to capture with a little point and click camera

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 ūüôā

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Madie demonstraighting the technique

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Autal emerging from the hole

The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan

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Autal in a hidden slot int he wolgan cliff line

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Yours truly heading back out into the sunlight ©Madie

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Autal emerging from the upper cliff line

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Chris

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

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It doesn’t get much better than this on a warm Autumn day ¬©Autal Farkas

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Autal high above the Wolgan ©Madie

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A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world

 

Party Size: 5 all experienced

Time: 6hr car to car

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Jinki Ridge

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.

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Return: The way you came in

 

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