Basking in the Glow of Worms

25-01-16

Tal, Ed, Ethan, Jodie, Gaz and me

It’s just before 9 as we pull into the Rocky Creek car park and we have the place to ourselves. That might sound unusual but it’s in the PM and our head torches cast eerie shadows through the mist.

Ethan and Ed soon join us. The refracted moonlight gives a strange illumination. We lament the lack of stars but soon we’ll be greeted by constellations of another kind.

We turn off onto the steep track that descends into the head waters Twister. Thick vegetation creates a tunnel effect and the bright spot of the head lights focuses your attention. Without the peripheral distractions of grand landscapes the walk in seems even shorter than normal.

There is nervous chatter as we change into wetsuits. It had been a long time since I’d canyoned at night. The Wollangambe trip at night use to be a favourite of ours. The looks you got from the masses as they were getting back to the car park just as you were leaving… Youse are too late. You’ll never get there before dark! That’s the point we’d grin. Dolphin torches at the ready…

Anyhoo for most of the others it was a first. Me too, I’d never done this trip at night. Wetsuits on. The cloud cover had trapped the warmth of the day, there were a few comments of how hot it was in the suits. Hold that thought.

In we go… Marvelous. Nerves turn to adrenaline.

Heightened awareness.

Man Twister if fun!

The water is Twister and Rocky crk seems warmer than normal at the moment. As warm as I’ve ever felt it. OK not bathy and you wouldn’t just float there of hours in your speedos but it not take your breath away bracing either.

Concentrating in finding foot placements in the dark I had to remind myself to stop and look around. Not far in I spot that familiar green glow. The first of the glow worms. A few dim spots nestled into cracks in the wall

Jodie had never seen glowworms before. Lights off. let your eyes adjust Wow its like Christmas lights, says she. I Love Christmas lights.

Every chamber it was tempting to turn the torches off and just soak in the glow but I knew it was only going to get better

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Twister felt like it was over in no time and we continued down towards Rocky Crk.

More and more Glowworms adorned the steep walls that overhang the access trail. Soon enough we reach the start of the canyon. In the still night the roar of the waterfall seemed amplified 10fold.

This was the first canyon I’d ever done. I still remember the feeling of awestruck wonder I felt first looking down that drop into the narrow chasm. It sparked my love of canyoning. Countless trips later that feeling returns every time of reach this point.

In we go.

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I was hoping to get some stars in the background. But still… Wow

The glowworms in Twister were nice. The ones along the entrance track were magical. Once in the jaws of Rocky they are on another level again.

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Even the snotty webs coating the walls reflected the light of the head torches, making the whole canyon seem to glow.

Unfortunately just as we get to the Washing Machine Jodie jars her ankle on a submerged ledge. She and Garry decide to start heading back up while the rest of us continue down to the starts of the tunnel swim. Not knowing how bad the injury is we opt to finish the trip there and head on back up.

Brown Eels, glowworms and yabbies greet us in a passage. We try not to disturb them too much

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Ghosts in the machine.
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The Tunnel swim
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Light trails and glowing walls

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I couldn’t get my little tripod set up here so it was hard to capture just how awesome this cave section was. With torches off there were enough glowworm to be able to see.

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Beautiful by day stunning by night
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Light trails under shifting glowworms
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Time to exit

Party Size: 6. Mostly experienced

Time:~4hr car to car with a slow ascent due to injury

There was a bit of history repeating tonight. Just before I started canyoning my little brother and his mates did a few night trips to Rocky Creek. 1 I remember as one of the girls in the group broke her ankle before they had reached the canyon. While we were able to walk of injured out (Some tough determination and a lot of grimacing) they were not so fortunate and spent the night carrying her back up to the car park…

Disclaimer: While canyoning at night poses pretty much the same risks as doing it in the daylight the consequences of things going wrong is much greater. Without the beams of sunlight to warm you between darker swim sections Hypothermia is a heightened danger. Limited peripheral vision may mask hazards that would otherwise be easily identify.

Navigation can also be much harder. You should be very familiar the canyon and it’s entry/exit tracks before attempting it.Even on this trip with clear trails the guys missed a turn started back up towards twister on the way out.

It’s also worth noting the creatures out and about at this time of day are creatures of darkness. They don’t want thousands of lumins shone on them and massive groups disturbing their peace. We kept our beam set on low and trod as lightly as possible. As you always should in these pristine environments.

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Unfortunately my GoPro was playing up and freezing. It missed most of the action in twister

Clarence Dams 11-01-17

With all the people who visit the Railway dams on Dargan crk at Clarence now days I wonder how many have ventured up into the backwater. It had been ages since I’ve done it.

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As well as leaps of faith the main wall is also great for deep water soloing

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There are lots of climbable lines on the wall, however most involve a blank section 3/4 the way up that require a long stretch or balancey moves on tiny climps while trying to smear with bare feet.

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If you have a bit of reach the green route is by far the easiest. For someone around the 180cm mark it’s only about a grade 16. Where the higher climber’s elbow is in the pic is a sneaky under cling. By stepping down and to the left  you can then come back up right, use your right hand to pull you into the wall with the under cling, this allows you to push up off your right foot while stretching your left hand straight up. A seemingly small hold just within reach is in fact a very nice jug. The black line is the hardest I have managed to do, way back when I was climbing lots. It involves a cool move to get over the shelf and a big dyno further up where the wall gets blank. I only managed it once. the Blue and purple traverse lines would be around 17. The red and Yellow lines were always a bit beyond me.

Canyoning Footwear. Teva Traildozer3 long term test

So I’ve been a long time fan of Teva adventure sandals  for canyoning and it’s been about 8months since I updated my old set to a set of Trail Dozer 3s and in that time they’ve done around 25 canyon trips, a dozen or more bushwalks and they have also seen a little day to day wear so it’s time for a long term review.

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Price.

The Trail dozer models go for around $115. I think I got mine on special for around $75. Dearer than Volleys, cheaper than some of the canyon specific shoes out there

Looks.

I’ve never really cared to much about looks. I’ve always been a function over fashion type of guy. I guess they are not much to look at but they aren’t butt ugly either. The greyish green certainly bucks the trend of bright gnarish colour schemes some other brands seem t think outdoors types prefer.

Fit.

My old trail dozers were a US10, Euro 43 and fit me like a glove (for my feet) so I ordered the same. The new ones were noticeably smaller. They were fine barefoot but combined with my favourite canyoning woolen socks (hole proof heros) they were a little snug around the toes. Not painfully so but noticeable.

Grip

Originally the Teva guys strapped a bit of car tyre  to their feet to help stop them falling out of their kayaks or something. Things progressed from there.

I always thought they were as grippy, if not more so, as the Volleys. The new models were no different. In the 25 or so canyon trips I did in them I slipped maybe 3 times, more due to lack of attention then shoe tread.

Sand

I think this is what I liked most about the old Tevas. Sure you’d get a bit of sand under your foot at times but the just the act of wading forward flushed it out. I was a little concerned the new, more enclosed design of the Trail Dozer 3 or 4 models might trap the sand in there a bit more. This wasn’t an issue. They flushed themselves out just like the old models. I can’t remember ever needing to take them off mid canyon to rid them of sand.

Swimming

They really are the best shoe I’ve swam in. It’s almost like you are barefoot. Feels pretty natural.

Velcro strap

I’ve read a few comments on other shoe reviews of people being very wary of velcro in canyon environments. I can honestly say in 20 years of using Tevas outdoors I’ve never had the velcro fail. Infact on my last pair the leather loop holding the plastic lug the straps went through wore out while the velcro was still holding strong

Wear

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After fair bit of walking the soles are showing a bit of wear but there is plenty of treat left in them.

The uppers have worn a bit but they’ve seen a fair bit of thick scrub. The spungy uppersole showed a bit of wear early on, especially around the heal but haven’t seemed to deteriorated since.

There are a couple of spots were the stitching has copped a flogging and they are looking a bit scruffy, especially the outside just behind the toe box

 

Comfort.

If you had have asked me 6months ago I would have rated the comfort pretty high. Then I strained both Achilles at basketball. Clambering up steep hills in any shoe at the moment is a little uncomfortable for me. In the canyon they didn’t bother me but on a steep descent and, oddly worse, on a long flat walk out the heal strap and slightly small size has given me a bit of curry and certainly done me no favours.

I’d  still rate the Tevas highly and if it wasn’t for the achillies issues I’m sure I’d stick with them. As it is to get the pressure off the tendon I’ve decided to retire them early and try out a canyon specific boot and have purchased a set of Bestard canyon guides.

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Clambering down Clatterteeth Canyon, AKA Du Faurs crk

01/01/2017

Beth, Tal, Ed, Ethan, Cauis, Jim, Andrew and Logan. Oh and me.

So last year we spent a great New Years Day Wallowing down the Wollangambe and we thought we’d make a bit of a tradition out of it but mix it up a little by Clambering down Clatterteeth.

Du Faurs crk Canyon, AKA Clatterteeth is kind of like a slightly more adventurous version of the more popular Wollangambe “Tourist sections”. The canyon sections in this one are narrower and darker and altogether more “canyony” but there is also more walking, scrambling and scrub negotiating in between the canyony bits.

I’d done this one before with Mandy and Scott way back at the start of first canyoning craze. Back then I think we swam the pools rather than take lilos. Flotation is not so good on the bits in between but for a largish slow moving party out for a relaxing day lilos or similar are great for the long dark pools.

Anyhoo. The last time I’d done it we went by the 10m scramble down the rock from a rope around a gum tree. This time I wanted to try the entrance though October crk as I had heard there are a couple of nice canyon sections the other entrance by-passes

That sure is true and there are also some really nice bits in October crk itself which I wasn’t expecting so that was a bonus.

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Ed jumping into October crk
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After a bit of scrub work October creek starts to canyon up
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Then it gets very nice indeed

And so we didn’t make the same mistake we made in Bells crk when asked if we should blow the lilos up yet, we did.

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Before long we are into some nice long, narrow canyon sections, though Beth is concerned the donut may not fit
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It’s nice

The canyon sections are not that sustained and are inter-spaced with a bit of boulder hopping, creek walking and just enough scrub to have you fearing for your lilo at times.

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The canyon bits are pretty sublime though

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Somebody got new moon boots

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There are some very high quality bits of canyon scattered through this trip

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There are a few places where it is possible to scramble up and jump in but just a tip, when jumping out to clear a submerged obstacle don’t jump too far out, Tal gave us all a bit of a scare with this one.

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The creek is also teaming with wild life. Lots of yabbies, big and small on this trip also lots of Water Dragons (Intellagama lesueurii lesueurii). I very kindly rescued a weirdly green coloured christmas beetle out of the water and put it on the rock when this little fella scuttled out of nowhere and gobbled him up. Um the Water dragon, not Tallis (or the yabby)

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We took the exit up Joes Canyon. There is another nice long lilo section below this before the Junction with Bells crk but for a lazy new years day Joes makes a nice easy exit. When we did Bells crk and exited up here Joes was fairly dry. This time around it had a bit of flow in it. Gave it a very pleasant, if cold atmosphere.

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Party Size: 9.  3 experienced Some intermediate and some beginners

Time: 8hrs car to car moving pretty steadily but taking it easy

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A Wombeyan Womble

Mares Forest Creek Canyon

28/12/2016

Mandy Tal and I

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Mares Forest Creek cuts through a delightful little canyon upstream of the Tinted cave at Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve.

It’s different to anything in the Bluies as the rock is limestone with a marble bed. The water has that tinted green you get from minerals leaching out of the limestone so it looks like something you would see in Spain or somewhere. Whats more it’s a 30-40min walk in on a clear, sign posted tourist track.

Its a prefect little canyon for first timers and experienced heads alike.

Anyhoo. Mares Forests Crk Canyon has been on our to-do list for ages. Then it appeared in the “Wild Swimming Australia” guide book and featured on Australian Geographic’s websites as one of the top 10 swimming holes in Australia and we said, we really should do that this year.

But for some reason we never got around to organising it. Then Tom Brennan posted some awe-inspiring photos and I says We should so do that this week. and Mandy says I haven’t got anything booked for Wednesday. It’s on.

Wild Swimming Australia advises to get good light you should be in the canyon before noon so we shake Tal out of bed at sparrows fart. You can sleep in the car, says Mandy.

How far is it? says Tal. ‘Bout 2hrs. Ok then.

Just past the Abercrombie  crossing Tal peels open an eye. You never said it was half way to Canberra. Mummbles he

We waist no time in parkign the car and slipping up over the hill and down the other side, making a detour into the Tinted cave (Open to all park visitors for free)

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This rock might be a bit slippery once we get wet I remark as we climb back out of the cave and head down the stairs to the creek.

I needn’t have worried. Once in the creek the rock was surprisingly grippy. Far more so than the moss and slime covered sandstone we are accustomed to.

The trip is a simple one. Just follow the creek up stream for about 1.5km to the waterfall then reverse back down.

We inflate lilos, don wetsuits and off we go

 

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In hindsight we could have done without both. On a hot day the wetties were, um, hot and the water was pleasant enough to do with out them and while there were a couple of long deep pools unless you are a poor swimmer the lilos were more effort over the scrambling sections then they were worth.

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It’s a very nice little canyon and the sculptured limestone walls are something else.

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Tal and Mandy floating up the canyon13.jpg

A few long pools and some rock scrambling interspaced with creek walking brings you to a blissful pool fed by a small waterfall. There is a rope hanging down beside the falls you can use to haul yourself up to slide back down or climb right up for a small jump. There is only a narrow bit deep enough to jump into with big submerged rocks either side but the green tinged water is clear as clear so it’s easy to see the obstacles and spot your landing zone

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The pool at the top of the canyon section is like a cross between Hyde Park in Hartley and a mini Jump Rock in Macquarrie pass
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Craig takes a leap
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Like father like son, Tal follows suit

 

We splash about here for a bit before retracing our journey back down through the canyon.

You can hike in and start the trip from the top but it’s such a short and pretty canyon going up and coming back down so you see it twice makes more sense to me.

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How’s the serenity

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Click on an image to enlarge

 

And all too soon we arrive back at the bottom of the stairs where a young family as made the trek across for a cool dip. How awesome is this place?

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Party Size: 3 all experienced

Time: About 3.5 hours car to car with a lot of photo phaffing and splashing about

Video was done with a hand held go pro so it’s a tad shakey

 

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http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/1407743716

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The Emu Cave

AKA Cave Hotel.

Ok so we know George Calley came this way on his failed attempt to cross the mountain via ridge tops in 1804 and it’s hard to imagine he would not have used the rock outcrop above the Cave as a vantage point as it gives a great view over the land he was trying to traverse. How he missed signs of use, I’m not sure but the history of the Blue mts crossing may have been very different had he found the cave and realised this was a aboriginal track way…

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Emu tracks engraved across the western wall
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Grinding grooves on the outcrop
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Sharpening groove

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OK so legend has it that T Shearwood set up a bootleg camp and distillery here.

However, there was a T Shearwood who managed a lodging house near by and it’s been suggested this was his piss take on those travelers too stingy to pay the toll on the highway or to pony up for a bed for the night on the Bells Line.

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The River Caves

19-11-2016

Tim, Sarah, Mia, Poppy, Tal and me

River Caves canyon was originally called the Water Tunnel by the people who first described it, Rus and Alan May and John Norris (Who built the now burnt down hut in deep pass clearing under and occupational permit back in the 40s or 50s) Apparently they didn’t like it being called River Caves but that is the name that has since stuck.

Anyhoo my original plans had fallen through so a quick text Friday night to see if anyone wanted a lazy stroll down to the River Caves got a couple of takers.

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For some reason it always put me in mind of the entrance to somewhere a pirate would bury his treasure
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No words needed
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Dance like no one is watching

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E.Spinifer, the Giant Spiny Crayfish. No where near the size of the ones at Mt Wilson last weekend but this is my favourite colour morph. They come in a range of greens and reds and blues and blacks and can weight up to 1kg. The old tales goes if the creek flows generally east they are red and if it flows generally west they are blue

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Part size: 6 2 experienced 4 beginners

Time. Couple of hours car to car

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Dalpura Ridge

Access: A nice walk up along a gentle ridge. Tar to parking area

Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward though the trail can be easy to miss in one spot

Map: Mt Wilson

Time: 30min out to the end. 30min back

Date walked: 28-10-16 Mandy Tal, and myself

Dalpura ridge is a spur off the Bells Line of road that gives nice views over the Grose Valley, south towards Blackheath and Mt Vic. A trail runs from the Bells Line of road out between Dalpura and Birrabang creeks which are popular with canyoneers so the trail is fairly well trodden

 

Getting there: From the weigh station at Bell follow the Bells line of road toward Sydney for approximately 5km and park on the side of the road. There is a wide clearing on the side here (An over taking lane starts on the west bound lane opposite the car park area). Look for the start of the trail on top of the embankment on the opposite side of the highway. This was marked with a small rock cairne at the time of writing.

The trail is an old fire trail and is easy to follow until it goes over the high spot. Just past here and just before the fire trail peters out a walking track veers off, slightly left to stay on the east side of the ridge. If you miss this and get to the end off the old fire trail walk left 10-20m and you should pick up the walking trail.

Follow it out for views over the Grose Valley from high pagodas. Becarefull near the cliff edges as they are all over hung and brittle.

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Return: The way you came in

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Sublime

20-08-16

Edwin Mandy and I

 

When me and Mandy visited a dryish canyon the other week I was sure there was a very narrow section down stream. We wandered down the now-there’s-water-now there’s-not creek a bit but when the cliffs opened up and the scrub closed in we figured I’d been mistaken and headed back out.

On getting home and cross checking photos from other pages we saw we had indeed missed some of the best bits but were a little bewildered where those best bits were.

Dave Noble made a cryptic comment on one of the photos… (I can’t believe we missed the entry passage before. Obviously we were overcome with the wonder of the place)

Anyhoo, armed with this extra clue we were keen to head back with  Ed so he could take some decent photos. I can’t wait to see them once he has edited them up. In the mean time here are mine from our second trip.

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Mandy in an optional squeeze through

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Mandy wading in the canyon
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Mandy in the canyon

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Canyon Formation

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Ed in the canyon

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One of the favourite  canyon photos I have taken so far

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Party size 3.

Timing a few hours lots of photo faffing

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