It’s kind of become a tradition that we do something for Russ’ birffdee.
Come to Bungonia, they said. It will be fun, they said.
Only coordinating every one this year was difficult so it got spread out over a coupe of days with Russ and Lib being the constant and the rest of us joining for a day.
Anywoo, I’m in for the Saturday shenanigans and rock on down Friday night just in time for a good old fashion curry cook up.
The camp ground at Bungonia is amazballz. If you are into that sort of thing
At some point during the night someone asked, so what are we doing tomorrow?
I don’t mind says Russ
It’s your birthday, you choose says us
Awwwww I don’t like decisioning, says Russ. But I’m not keen to put a wet wetsuit back on tomorrow. How about Long Gully,
Now I’ve never really given Long Gully much consideration because nobody really raves about it. But they are all worth doing once and anything is good in the right company. so we get some sleep, rise not so early and break camp at the crack of 8am. Or there abouts.
I have no idea if I have the order of the abseils photos right but you get the idea.
and before you know it we are on the banks of the Shoalhaven basking in the glorious sun shine.
A lounge about, some lunch and more laughs and then it’s back up the hill.
All in all Long Gully might not be the best canyon but its a reasonable abseil trip, worth doing at least once especially in the company of some of the best adventure buddies going
Dirt Girl, Bad-arse Barbie, Shreevy, Dare Devil, Monners, The Wizard, Sketchy Maddog and meeee
Bad-arse Barbie mentioned she needed a bit of support to get back on the horse after last weekend’s incident so in a funny sort of round about way me and the Mad One pretty much invited ourselves, and later The Wizard, on to the trip she was doing with Dirt Girl. Belatedly we worked out it was originally suppose to be a girls trip….
It had been awhile since I’d seen some of this crew and it was the first time meeting Sheervy and Monners in real life so we do a meet and greet and I notice every one had the packs out ready to go.
Um, we still need to drive down a bit to the car park…..
At the carpark we wake some campers with our not so quiet banter and then make our way along the trail
Last couple of times I’ve followed the trail down a bit far east and had to traverse back through scrub. This time I make more or less a bee line down the ridge. Through the scrub
Sketchy Maddog starts to “question” my navigation. It’s just down there. Says I. pointing to a big tree down the ridge
I think it’s over there. Says she. You’re shit navigator. It’s over that way
I’m pretty sure it’s just there. Say I
Oh shit, I can see the sling on the tree. Says she pointing to the very same tree I pointed to earlier.
1 point: Flynny
We gain the creek and boulder hop down to the start of the canyon and one of the coolest abseils in the Blue Mountains.
Even in this dry spell it didn’t disappoint
Click to enbiggen
Click to make large
Click for the sake of clicking
We’ve gotten through the canyon fairly quick without ever feeling like we were rushing. So we have an early lunch and chill out in the sun
The traditional exit was to continue down, then traverse the Carne Wall, then get benighted. then cry a bit, then swear you’d never ever, ever do it again.
A climbing exit now makes Arethusa one of the most funnest, adventurous little canyons in the mountains. Not to mention how pretty it is.
But you need to have reasonable climbing skills
And as luck would have it a cool breeze greets us for the walk out
Party size: 8 all experienced
Time: 6.5hr car to car
I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.Alice Roosevelt Longworth
The Clegganator, The Wonder Woman and the Flynnstien aka Meeeeeee
Unpublished canyons are like a box of chocolates.
I know at the end I’ll be left with half a dozen little cheery ripes that I wont eat…. Wait. No, that’s not right. Unpublished canyons aren’t like a box of chocolates at all….
This is one I’ve had in mind to check out for a couple of years now but I wasn’t expecting it to be high quality and with other stuff to visit I never got around to having a look.
Then Phil said he wanted to check it out so I thought why not. I still had low expectations but as they say in the classics you never know if you never go.
Rounding out our nice little party was Jen, who I hadn’t caught up with for a while so was good to be on a trip together again
A little frost made for a chilly morning but it wasn’t long before we were stripping off layers and stuffing jackets into packs.
There were two branches to the possible canyon and we wanted to check out both. The first branch didn’t show much hope and when we came to a abseil point we decided to slip over the ridge to check the other branch first.
So we get to the junction of the other branch hoping to reverse up it only to be blocked by a dry waterfall. A bit of traversing and we begin to scramble up the nose in between the two branches. Phil decided the scramble is not for him.
We get up above the fall only to find another immediately above it. I continue up the nose in what is the closest to proper rock climb I’ve done in a few years and manage to get above the next fall.
There isn’t much of a slot above this so I rig the rope and abseil back down to Jen and then we both abseil down to rejoin Phil
When looking at the satellite image my suspicion was the best bit of canyon would be below the junction and while the stuff in the north branch was tip top below the junction was a nice, if short slot.
Ummm I think we are going to get wet, say I looking down into a deepish looking pool far to wide to play water is lava over.
I stuff my shirt into my overboardau dry bag and drop on in while the others put wetsuits on.
The first drop lands in a pool waist deep. With some guidance Jen manages to stop on a ledge and carefully stem around to the shallower bit. Phil is not so lucky and plunges in
There’s another 2 stage drop straight away with the stages separated by a 5m diameter pool. In I go…
Then it was down to find a bit of sunshine and some lunch.
There’s a little grotto like canyon up here I want to show the others. It’s short but pretty in it’s own right and while it’s not very adventurous what makes it worth a visit is the old timber chute that once ramped it’s way up through it’s narrow confines
So the theory is it was built to slide logs down to the valley for pit props or fuel for coke ovens or for building poppett heads and bridges and stuff. Problem is there is no evidence up above it of any cut timber. Not a single sawn stump can be seen. It’s a mystery Dad says back in his day the decking was still there in places and the timbers ran long ways suggesting something was slid down or up it. I’m starting to wonder if it was used to cart stuff out of Newnes and across to Glen Davis as the refinery was moved?
Seek experiences not things. Live large and light up the darkness with a laugh
Party size: 3
Time: 7.5hr car to car relaxed pace with a bit of back and forth exploration
The next canyon does not appear in any guide and I haven’t seen it marked on any map I’ve come across but unlike the two previous canyons that none of us had done Ryan had visited this one, stumbling across it on a trip a few years ago.
It will be more aquatic than the last 2, says he….
Anyhoo, it turned out to be a great little canyon
So our intel and Ryan’s memory said there were four drops in the canyon, and this is true, but just down the creek we come to a substantial cliff line which looks borderline to big for our rope.
The general consensus from those who have explored this particular slice of the wilderness before is there are no large drops of any significance.
This one looks significant
Well that’s a bit of a buggar.
We join two ropes and anchor the top one just above the knot on a munter hitch. I get on the bottom rope and head over the edge but due to over hanging ledges I can’t see if the ropes on the ground. The plan is once I get a visual, if it is not touching the ground Ryan will lower me on the munter.
As it was when I finally get a look the rope is close enough to the ground to make it down safe.
It’s getting late and we are a long way down the main creek from our camp site so we discuss options of trying to break a pass up through the cliffline while we still have light or trudge a few kilometres up the main creek to a pass Phil has used previously and climb that in the dark.
We opt for the former, Madie has a pass marked on her map we think we can link up with.
Unfortunately we get on to a ledge too early that doesn’t go and are forced to abseil off as light fades where the decision is made to retreat to the main creek and take Phils pass out.
It’s longer and more complicated than I expect but we eventually get to the top and onto the fire trail. We have a couple of kilometres to get back to camp.
The others are staying an extra night, a wise choice, myself and Russ break camp and trek a further several kilometres back to the cars for the long drive back to civilisation
All in all a great experience
Group Size: 6
Time: Car to Camp. 1 and a bit hours. Camp to camp 14 hours. All up just shy of 25 hours and 36km in the wilderness
So what did I think of the Fiddle Stick?
Well… It’s a lot slower than throw and go and has none of the advantages of lowerable anchor systems. There is also a lot more to be mindful of when setting up so will need constant practice but for wilderness canyons where the aim is not to leave anything behind, including slings, rope burns on trees or grooves in rock, it makes a lot of sense.
Another handy tool in the quiver, but as I said one you’d want to practice a bit to stay familiar with it’s use.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself: Alan Alda
I’ve said before the Kanangra style canyons of abseiling beside waterfalls for the sake of abseiling beside waterfalls never had a great appeal to me, but Danae was different. It was the most slot like of the Kanangra canyons so the short answer was yes. The long answer was I wasn’t sure I was up to it at the moment.
Danae is steeped in tales of benighted groups, 16 hour slogfests and epic challenges.
I also had other commitments so originally said, No. Well not yet but lets do it later in the season
But the idea began to germinate….
Ah Fugg it! lets do it!
In the week leading up an antarctic blast gave us plummeting temps, a good dump of rain and stupidly high winds so it was with a little trepidation I drove out to to the Boyd river camp late Friday afternoon. The rain had cleared but wind gusts up to 90kph ripped through the tree tops.
We’d be joined for the trip by Madies friend Jeremy, who it turns out I knew from my bike shop days. Also joining us for the night was Matt and Madie’s Dad and step mum.
After much banter and a feast of butter-chicken we seek the warmth of our beds. The plan was to break camp at 5am and be on our way soon after.
Morning came and the wind had calmed considerably but the temperature was still winterish. We sorted packs and ropes and by the time we dropped a car at the pick up point 3 of us set out on the Thurat fire trail just after 6am.
Track notes are deliberately vague but sometime later we veer off into the scrub, cross a couple of minor gullies and then drop down into a tributary to avoid the horrendous scrub on the ridge top. We reach the first abseil point at 7.30.
From there it’s into the stunning slot and abseil after abseil after abseil.
And then comes the boulder field. A steep chute littered with house sized boulders. A massive 3D puzzle that takes about an 1hr to negotiate.
And a final abseil or two then the creek levels out and it’s another 1.5hrs of smaller boulder hoping down to the Junction with Kanangra creek.
From the Junction the haul up to the Kilpatrick causeway is like climbing a ladder for 1.5hrs, only the rungs are uneven, at odd angles, made out of loose dirt and covered in pickle bush, stinging trees and biting ants…
A final scramble up a small cliffline and we top out to amazing views south towards Mittagong and east to the Blue Mts where the classic shape and colour of the Hydro Majestic can clearly be seen nestled on the cliff tops.
What an Awesomely epic day with awesomely epic people.
Group size: 3 all experienced
Timing: 10.5 car to car.
Note this is reasonably quick, especially as none of us had done it before. We were expecting 13hrs.
To do it we had to be efficient on the abseils so we had 3 ropes. A 30m, which was kept with the last person on the bigger drops as the emergency back up, and 2x 60m. The first 60 would be set and as soon as the second person reached the bottom of the abseil the second 60 would be set for the next one. As soon as the last person was down the first would go again.
Rope management was also key with efficient coiling and uncoiling needed, though I confess to ending up with a tangled mess at least once as fatigue began to kick in.
GPS tells me we covered 19km with a bit over 1300m elevation gain.
Remember your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be. In it your senses get dulled, your muscles lax, and your brain turned to mush. Flynny
Madies Time log:
7.45 first abseil
7.55 2nd abseil off 2 trees difficult start
8.26 4th abseil off boulder
8.36 5th abseil 10 m off boulder swing under
8.40 6th abseil down waterfall lots of water
8.52, 7th abseil through hole dark slot under boulder
9.03 8th abseil w traverse line
9.30 9th abseil 5m onto log
A few scrambles
9.40 10th abseil 5m off shitty sling without malion on rhs
9.50 11th abseil 7 ml in sun off rope on rhs
10.03 down sketch 5 m climb and 12th abseil start off 2 bolts and wires on lhs
10.30 scramble over centre of null
10.40 13th abseil off tree onto boulder field
11.34 14th 15m abseil in to pool awkward
11.45 15th abseil 10 m into pool of pitons on rhs
11.55 lunch rock after abseils
12.20 lunch over
1.22 Kanangra Creek junction
1.40 leaving change spot
3.15 track -killpatrick
4.20 murdering gully
4.27 main lookout track
The voice of god boomed out as we stood beneath the NP information sign at the Mt Wilson fireshed.
OK, so the weather forecast was not the best. I’d been watching it closely for a few days, feeling Geronimo was becoming my castle in the air. The unattainable goal forever out of arms reach.
Each trip I had tried to organise had been called off for one reason or another but all was looking good this time around.
Then Lewis messages me. What’s your thoughts on the Weather forecast?
Hmmm. 20mm Saturday and 40mm Sunday with a Storm warning.
Ah, yep let’s keep and eye on it.
I text the same question to Julie as I knew she had been through both canyons a few times.
I wouldn’t like to be in Horseshoe in a down poor. Says She. But Geronimo should be fine.
A few hours later another text from Julie. Fark! I just looked at the forecast.
Let’s keep an eye on it.
Saturdays rain did not eventuate and while Sunday dawned gloomy it didn’t look too bad. I’d been watching the radar and it looked as though the bulk of the rain had thus far swung to the south. Weatherzones 48hr forecast had showers throughout the day but the heavy rain wasn’t due until late afternoon.
Julie and Dick arrive we discuss alternate plans as we head up to meet Lewis and Ben at Mt Wilson. The views from the high points gave us confidence in the 48hr forcast.
Ben and Lewis message to say they are running 10 min late. At the fireshed we wonder over to the NP sign to discuss plans further. A note on the board from another group “Sorry guys no canyon today. 90% chance of rain. David.”
The eerie voice booms out from behind some bushes.
THEY DON’T PULL BODIES OUT UNTIL MORNING.
All those people died in there in weather like this a few years ago! An old dude in a camper van up by the road gives us a not so friendly warning.
OK the Wollangambe does rise rapidly in heavy rain. It has a massive catchment. Being known as an easy canyon can give people a false sense of security. There have been numerous rescues but mostly from injuries or lost parties. That said, a young man did die in the Gambe after being dragged under high water in 1999.
It’s not something we take lightly. Members of the Mt Wilson fire and rescue team have photos of the usually placid Gambe with a raging torrent 3 or 4m above the usual levels. Ed’s done a trip in high water where on of his mates got pinned under water and was lucky to escape. We are not taking this lightly and I wouldn’t have entered a long section of the Wollangambe in this weather
It’s no good looking at the Penrith forecast. You should be checking Lithgow!!
Yep, we cross referenced Lithgow, Katoomba and Richmond plus the 512km composite Sydney radar loop
Well it’s your choice. He gets in his van and drives off.
OK, let me make this clear we were not being flippant about heading out canyoning on a day like today. Here are a few things that went into making our choice.
A close look at the forecast. Not just the morning we were heading out but we’d watched the forecast, synoptic chart and rain radar in the days prior to get an idea of the prevailing weather patterns.
The lead up. With a long dry spell the background water levels are low. This can be a two edge sword. It will take a bit of rain to get water levels back up to normal but with the ground being so dry and hard any rain that does fall is likely to sheet straight off and into the canyon rather than soak in to the ground.
The catchments and length of constriction. The canyons we had planned had relatively small catchments and relatively short constrictions
Knowledge. Julie was familiar with both canyons
The group. I’ve canyoned with Julie a bit now, she has a wealth of experience and I trust her skills and judgement. I’d hope she thinks the same of me. I’ve done a couple of trips with Lewis and again have confidence in his abilities and his level head. While Ben and Dick are relative beginners as far as canyoning goes they have rope experience and are capable in the bush. Not one of the group would I consider a liability if things went wrong.
Back up plans. At no point were we so determined to do the trip that we weren’t prepared to abandon it or change plans if things looked dicey.
So with the predicted heavy shower at 9am not arriving and the radar showing the bulk of the rain still passing to the south we gather gear and head on down to cross the ‘Gambe and up the other side.
Dropping off the ridge a fraction early we traversed through scrub below the upper-cliff lines for quite a ways. In hindsight it looked as though a track came down off the ridge further along.
Anyoo. All part of the adventure or sumfink.
We find the first abseil and look down on a nice dark slot. Just as Lewis ropes up the drizzle starts.
The first abseil is straightforward and probably the easiest of the day. The next involved an anchor strung around a boulder pearched right on the edge. Clipping it required a long reach while on a sloping ledge. Julie set a safety, threaded the rope and set some off cut anchor rope up as a retrieval so the rest of us could pull the ropes around to clip on in a safer location.
the drizzle was still light but constant. It gave the canyon an eerely soft light
This is the infamous Geronimo drop where legend has it Glen Robinson jumped into the shallow pool below on the first descent. It’s normally a swim through here the combination of a long dry spell and siltation meant it was barley a deep wade today.
after a narrow hall and stunning chamber the canyon opens out a bit before the walls close back in. Busy taking photos I fall behind slightly and as I round a bend I’m greeted by the site of the rest of the crew leaning over intently studying something…
Shall we go down the hole? Will we fit? Sure we will. Are you sure? Yeah Sure. Can we use that log for and anchor? ……
Julie down a narrow squeeze
Ben down the rabbit hole
All OK for the skinny folk but it was a bit of a squeeze for me and for a moment my pack snagged and I thought I was wedged in but a bit of wiggling and contorting got me through. I’d blame big shoulders or some thing but, um. yeah…
And just like that we are back to the Wollangambe. We swim, wade and otherswise make our way down stream through some grand sections of canyon. Rounding a corner we are confronted with a large boulder choke. Typical of the Gambe but in this instance it looks as though a fresh collapse has added to the obstical
We reach the bit where we had first crossed a couple of hours before and spread out on a bit of a grass to eat lunch. The 2pm heavy showers hit right on cue. Well perhaps more rain than showers but it was pleasant sitting there in the rain reflecting on our day so far.
The rain eases and we make the call to head back up the opposite side to the start of horseshoe. The haul up the hill seemed much easier this time around, maybe because we didn’t have to route find so much to get through the clifflines, and before we knew it we were dropping off the ridge again, gaining the creek right on the massive chock stone that marks the start of the canyon without the need to abseil the top cliff line nor bash down the scrubby creek from higher up.
over head the ominous boom of thunder.
That doesn’t sound good.
Looking about the sky was still light and the clouds looking misty rather than stormy. Knowing we have a short constriction ahead of us and a small catchment above we opt to drop in. The biggest worry is the Wollangambe and we are on the wrong side of it now anyway.
It might be short but it sure is nice
The weather has turned a bit cooler now Lewis, Ben and Julie opt to leave their wetsuits on for the walk up. Julie changes at the big pagoda where we rejoin the main track.
All in all another great day in a truly beautiful part of the world
The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time. – Henry David Thoreau
Party Size: 5
Time: 7hrs car to car, not rushing but not dawdling either
*Slight detour* in March I am again taking part in the West Cycles Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Whether preforming bush rescue, emergency patient transfers, and all the rest no one has ever had to pay to use the helicopter due to public donations. If, like me, you believe this is an invaluable service or if you just enjoy reading my blog think about pitching in with a donation. Large or small every bit counts. follow this link for details 2018 West Cycles