Hole in the Wall and Banks Canyons

Hole In the Wall, Dingo Crk/Bungleboori (part there of), North West and Banks Canyons. Trip report

Party: Edwin, Tal, Meggs, Ben and me

The last time I had done Hole In the Wall canyon Alicia Silverstone was Clueless, Tas Pappas was king of vert skateboarding, Michael Jackson was weird but not yet totally creepy, hypacolour Tee shirts and hammer pants were cool, clear cola was a not so distant disappointing memory and the internet 2.0 was so fresh people still didn’t really know how to do interactive (any git with a website was considered an expert in their field, cough cough mummble)

Oh, and you could drive all the way to the faint foot pad that lead the way in.

I had done the canyon a few times. First time was with Mandy, Scott and Gav(?). I remember needing to shimmey into the tunnel section and then it being a tight squeeze up and over the rock jam to get out. Next time was a few years later with Mandy and Della. This time we we able to walk into the tunnel section and there was a narrow but relatively easy squeeze down to the left through the water under the rock jam. 3rd time was seconding a commercial party. We didn’t make it to the tunnel section. A massive storm hit us in between the 2 canyon sections and we beat a hasty retreat in rapidly rising water. I had a couple of bad experiences guiding that year and that topped it off, no more commercial guiding for me.

Anyhoo, time to revisit the Canyon. Gaz and Bryson couldn’t make it but the rest of the crew were keen. Since the last time I had been through the Wollemi Wilderness area had been declared which meant it was going to be an extra 30min walking either way. With HITW being a relatively short canyon I hatched a plan to link it up with Banks Canyon to make the walk more worth while.

Neither I nor any of the others had done Banks Canyon before but I had memories of people discussing doing them as a double back in the day.

As the weekend neared we started gathering some more info. of course I consulted both Dave’s and Tom’s pages and both indicated  that, while a big day it was comfortably doable. Of course they aren’t your average joe canyoner

Other info trickled in

AD couldn’t come but said he remembered doing Banks on it’s own years before and remembered it being a massive day. I was stuffed afterwards, says he

Edwins mate did the trip a week or two before. 8hrs car to car with a party of 2.

Someone else said they did Banks on it’s own, no faffing about 10hrs car to car…

I started to think we might be biting off more than we could chew. As usual we decided to bite anyway and chew like hell.

Well not exactly, we decided to get an earlish start and set a cut off time. If we weren’t at the exit point on Dingo crk, AKA Bungleboori North, by 12 we’d give up on Banks and set it aside for another day.

A guy from work, Dave asked if he could come along, he use to be in Ramblers and wanted to get back into canyoning. I gave him the run down. We’d be leaving my place at 7 at the latest and needed to be efficient on the raps.

6:40 I get a text Dave was just leaving home he’d be 20min late. Now I’m normally accommodating but we didn’t know how long Banks was going to take. I had stressed we didn’t want delays… Sorry Dave, we left without him.

I know the plateau reasonably well but I hadn’t been out to the end of Waratah ridge for a long time and with the pine forest heading out now logged it all looks a bit different so I printed out Toms turn by turn, km by km, guide and promptly left it on the breakfast bar. I took the right at the fork knowing that they both go to the same place but thinking for some reason R was quicker if you had a vehicle with  a bit of ground clearance… Needless to say a little bit of consultation over the map was needed before we reached the car park at around 8am. Meggs did point out that was twice I’ve gone wrong on fire trail recently.

Anyway. It’s along walk in but the track is now very well defined and it’s not hard walking out along the ridge line.

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Edwin saves energy by levitating down the entry trail

 

About 1 hr later we reach the junction with the exit track, swing right and make our way down to the start of Hole in the Wall. We decide not to suit up yet and enter the dark confines of the upper constriction.

The first section is narrow and twisty but doesn’t drop all that much. We get wet up to our wastes and manage the few little drops without difficulty

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DCIM166GOPRO

We make good time and it’s only 10am as the gorge opens back out and we make our way down to the lower constriction

The walls close back in and we get to the first abseil. Ed declares it can be jumped. We suit up and have a quick bite too eat. The plan is for a few little stops for food rather than 1 long lunch

I’m looking at the pool at the bottom of the drop. The clarity of the water makes it look shallower than it is. I can see a bit of a rock ledge poking out at the right and a big log on the left but the glare of the sun makes it hard to see how far they stick out. The bottom looks rock. I normally don’t balk at jumps but…

It’s deeper than it looks just aim for the center, says Ed. I’m still dubious and decide to down climb. It’s an easy scramble and I check the depths, it’s over 6foot. From the top it looked like 3… Ed and Tal jump. Ben and Meggs decide to rope up and hand over hand.

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It’s jumpable, says Ed

The bottom section of HITW is spectacular. An abseil or two later Meggsie calls back up. Does anyone have a torch? This next bit is really dark. Didn’t you bring torches? No. I said you’d need water proof torches. No you didn’t. It was in the text message. I didn’t read that… you’ve done this before. I can’t remember what I did yesterday.

Oh well 2 head torches between 5 people was going to make the cave section interesting. And didn’t it what.

I have never seen so many glowworms in a such a small space. It was, like, totes amazeballs. I’m hoping the go pro is sensitive enough to pick them up as with torches off it really was stunning.

The duck under down to the left is silted up again so it’s up and through a tight squeeze. Either it’s getting smaller or…. It takes us a bit of time to get every one through

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1 last abseil and we’re out of HITW and into the wider Dingo crk (Ok, so it’s been marked as Dingo crk since atleast the 74 edition maps but its still hard not to refer to it as the “Boori”).

As the guys wade up the gorge I decide it would make a great foto so I take the go pro off the chest strap, switch over to photo mode and click away, then as I go to put it back on the chesty I promptly fumble it and drop it in the dark waters…

Now when I needed a new case I thought the “stealth” case looked cool. I’m now regretting the decision to go the black case that hides the flashing red light. Duck diving in I can’t see jack. Char from the fires two years back still pools in black clumps in the depths. It was dark in the gorge with dappled sun light reflecting off the water. I fish the head torch out, still no good. Damn. I wonder if another party will find it some time in the future.

Giving up I continue up stream, and kick the bloody thing in a wide section 10m up stream of where I dropped it. The Go Pro gods are smiling on me.

I worry we haven’t made as good a time in the lower constriction as I was hoping but as we reach the exit point up stream I check the time and it’s 11:55. we make cut off with 5min to spare. Sorry again, Dave but at this stage I’m glad we didn’t wait for you.

A quick lunch and we consult the track notes for accessing Banks. Cross the river head up on ledges and around right to a gully 50m down stream. We’d spied the gully on the way up and wondered if it would be easier just to wade down stream and access it. The notes hinted at a need to traverse around a bit higher up so we cross over and there are signs others have done the same. Then the faint trail goes no where and turns back down toward the water, 10m down stream of where we’d just crossed.

We wade down and climb up to the right of the gully. There doesn’t seem to be any easy, safe paths up to the base of the upper cliff line but we skirt up the side of the gully regaining it just above the “impassable waterfall” The pass up to the start of North West canyon is a razor grass shrewn scrub bash. Once in NW is easier going. it’s a reasonable little canyon but nothing to write home about. It does how ever give us access up through the cliff lines. The heat up top was oppressive after the cool of the Canyons

I’m getting tired, says Tal, can I wait here instead of doing Banks?

You could mate but you’ve done the hard work and you’re on the wrong side of the Valley. We have to go back down into ‘Boori and up the other side to get home.

Ooooh. OK, we don’t have to bash back up that gully again? Cool I’ll do Banks

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We scramble down into the next gully and suit up again. Squeezing into his wetty Tals zipper lets loose… He’s going to have a cold back…

Banks is interesting. Cutting through the upper layer of Banks sandstone, the walls aren’t that deep but it is consistently narrow. There is a lot of sucking in stomachs, squeezing, dragging packs behind as there not enough room for both you and a pack. Even the go pro chest mount had to come off. The abseils in the constrictions are short but interesting. The one into the dark is technical and cool. Duck unders where you have to pass short under water tunnels to get through and one or two tricky down climbs that look like some parties rope up for… The water isn’t flowing as much here and after the crystal clear water of HITW it’s a little stagnant and pongy in places.

Then the creek opens out and it boulder hopping and route finding. 2 final abseils. Nice simple and longer than the others.

and again we’re at Dingo crk, AKA the ‘Boori. Wide and majestic, one report said. A disappointing boulder hopping scrub bash said another.

I’ll go with the former. Wide and majestic. The long swims are very reminiscent of floating down the Wollemgambie, ‘cept you’re going against the current, you’re not on a lilo and you’re pretty shagged from an already big day. Our passage was disturbed by a baby brown snake casually swimming down stream. I would have thought the coldness of the water would have it seeking the nearest rock, log or human to scramble out into the sun but it swam on looking for adventure down stream.

Meggs and Ben saw another sunning itself on a rock not far on… the rest of us missed it.

There wasn’t much boulder hopping in this section but it was becoming more strenuous. In about 40min we were back at the point where Hole in the Wall enters.

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The crack in the towering canyon walls where Hole in the Wall flows into Dingo crk, AKA the Bungleboori North branch.

Another 10min up stream to the exit. It’s amazing how much harder this section was the second time around. Obviously after the big hike the legs were starting to get weary but the long swims also took their toll on arms and shoulders. Scrambles that had been simple the first time around seemed to be overly complicated and taxing this time.

I don’t think there is a single submerged rock or stick in this section of creek I didn’t bash my knees, shins, nuts or all 3 on.

 

We make the exit, hang suits, ropes and harnesses out to dry a bit and then stuff ourselves with chocolate and energy bars. After a bit of a rest make our way out. Its a steep haul to start then a gentle winding trail out along the ridge. Views over the cliff lines are stunning.  It’s not a hard walk just a constant one foot in front of the other that seems far longer than the walk in.

 

So there you are. We managed to do it. I was impressed with Banks but don’t think I’d do it as a trip on it’s own. Going in through Hole in the Wall wouldn’t add much more than maybe 2 or 3hrs to the trip.

 

So the details are.

Groups size 5, all experienced and capable abseilers, thou we do still help Tal and Ben rope up. Ages 50something 40 something 20 something (or is that 30 somehting) and 2 teen somethings

None of us had done Banks before

Left car park around 8am. Got back around 6. We  had a few more delays in HITW than planned and took a fair bit of time finding our path up through NorthWest canyon to the top of Banks Canyon. I then stuffed around a bit trying to fix Tals Zipper before heading in.

We weren’t rushing but didn’t faff with photos and looking about about either. We kept a reasonable steady pace. The trip was around about 20kms and contained around 1000m of elevation gain. It’s a big day but doable if you don’t have any major dramas along the way

We had a 20m rope and a 50m rope. The 20 was enough for all but 3 of the drops, the reason we took 2 was a) I like a back up spare and b) we had planned to stack the abseils in Banks sending the first person down with spare rope to set up the next drop to save time. We didn’t end up doing this as we weren’t that pushed for time.

10hrs car to car. Plenty of day light left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zorro Canyon: Small adventures for the Geographically misaligned

OK 2 things

  1. I’ve always thought I was a reasonable bush navigator. With no formal training I’ve always managed to  get us where we wanted to go and back to the car with out too many mishaps.
  2. I’ve always thought I had a pretty good memory for places I’ve visited. 4WD routes I did with dad as a kid I found easily as an adult many years later and so on and so forth.

Today would challenge both those perceptions a bit.

A bit over a decade ago (well closer to 15 years ago) I was on a trip that visited a few interesting slot canyons, including the Cracks of Doom. Not really a canyon, more just a thin crack that slotted down through the cliffline. Interesting though very short and not something you would do a trip up to visit on it’s own, but easily tied in as a side trip when visiting other interesting stuff out that way.

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Back then there wasn’t much info around on it. I think we may have been the second or third party to visit the cracks. Anyway on this trip our guide mentioned another dry canyon in the area called Zorro, saying it well worth a look.

I immediately consulted maps and set a goal of checking it out. Then life happened and  I never got around to it. Now getting back into the swing of things I decided I should take the chance to tick it off the list.

Now my memory was sure he said it was right out the end of the same fire road. My memory was wrong.

But that was OK. While there was little info online a few private messages to people in the know relinquished a grid reference and a bit of an idea of what we were in for re abseiling.

Quickly plotting the grid reference on the map showed it wasn’t near the fire road I thought but on a ridge nearby. The map didn’t show a fire trail heading out that way but the old series maps were pretty lacking in that regard. Luckily the surveyors at work had some aerial photos of the region and I could make out the trail running pretty much where I thought it should be.

I didn’t bother getting more info on the Cracks of Doom. There still isn’t any info online but I’d been there, I had the start plotted in the GSP and on the map and I remembered where it was. So I thought.

Anyhoo, we rounded up the crew. Tal ditched me for a weekend paint balling and mucking around with his mates. Ben wasn’t well so that left Edwin, Gaz, Bryson, Meggsie, AD and myself. We’d have a look a Zorro then if everyone was up to it drop into Cracks of Doom.

The drive up was uneventful. I lie.

We got to the turn off and after giving it a good look drove past. Now just a few months ago there was a clear sign to Birds Rock. Now there was a Birds Rock conservation area sign on a few different roads. No dramas we drove on for a bit, realised our mistake and back tracked a bit to take the right turn.

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From here a few little secret twists and turns and we found the right trail. Soon it got a bit rough and steep so we ditched AD’s Rav 4 and piled into my Triton. It felt a bit like cheating. The Canyon should start just down from where we parked the car. Most involve a bit more of a hike.

We park, I set the GPS(more cheating) and check I had the right gully. All good, we head down a scruby but not too scrubby gully. The right gully by the by. Then I decided to second guess myself and check the GPS. And the GPS did something weird. It had been pointing straight down it now pointed to the right.

I should point out she’s an old girl s far as GPS’s go. 90s era technology and the receivers some times struggle under thick canopy. Not an issue as I’d only ever used it for back up. So I consult the map and declare, confidently but wrongly “its a bit odd but we might need to be in the next gully across.” And so we skirt up a small rise to the right and into the next gully.

Scrubbier, but before long we come to a convergence of pagodas that seems to match the description we had of the entry. All good, we gear up.

We wander down a pretty little slot but after a 100m or so it opens out into an amphitheater. “We’ll that was Zorro. we can head back up now.” They laugh at my jest, or at me. Not sure which but I’m sure it’s the jest.

The cliff closes in again and we come to a tight squeeze down a narrow hole that seemed to end on a ledge that dropped away again. I’m not sure that matches the description I have of the first abseil but there looks to be a pass around the back side of a pagoda to the right so we slip over for a look before getting the ropes out.

The view from the top of the pagoda was magical and below us was a narrow slot which looked like the slot we were after. Only problems were is was a lot deeper than we had ropes for to abseil in from this point and according to the compass it was heading the wrong way.

I pulled out the map. The slot we were after should be running NW. “We should be able to scramble down just over there.”says I “But that’s where it opens out at the end.”Says Ed, pointing to where the compass assured me was east.

Sure looked like it. I have map and compass out scratching my head. This doesn’t make sense. A few of us consult over the map. It can’t open east. That doesn’t feel like east. Compass says that’s east. Map and compass didn’t align with terrain and sense.

We decide to scramble up the next pagoda to get a better look. The view from up here was stunning. “Amazing.” I mutter for the first of many times today.

Another thing happened too. Taking out the map and compass again everything aligned as it should. Odd, I’ve experienced this sort of magnetic anomaly once before where the compass needle was pulled off north for some reason. I assume a big mass of iron stone or something mundane like that. Not aliens… Probably.

Not sure why that would effect the GPS too, maybe aliens, but anyway we now knew where we were.

We skirted back up the ridge a bit and then around into the gully we had started down in the first place. Gaining it pretty much as the canyon started.

All righty.

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This was an interesting slot. Dry so far, yet after a short scramble down the cliffs were towering above us. It wasn’t as twisty and turny as most canyons but it was nice sustained, narrow slot. Most canyons tighten in and open up as the water carves and weaves it’s way through the rock.

This was almost uniformly narrow and deep. And straightish.

Soon we came to the first abseil. Tight and over hung we looked down on what appeared to be 2 pools of water. “I thought you said it was dry.” says Meggsie “I said dryish.” says I “I do think that was the terminology used.” AD back me up. “I’m pretty sure we can bridge across them.”

I rope up and head down. It is a lovely little drop.

 

Bryson comes next and heads on down to check out what is next in store for us while the others descend.

By the time we have the ropes pulled down he has bridged across the pools, just getting his feat wet and has scrambled down the next drop.

I weigh up the risk, effort needed to bridge against getting wet to the knees and decide just to wade through.

I look down the next drop, impressed Bryson managed to down climb it with out roping up. A convenient semi shelf lets us slide our butts down while chimneying with our feet on the far(not very far at all) wall. It was slippery and awkward with a pack but not as difficult as it looked at first.

Another pool at the bottom could be bridged with just getting ankles wet.

Not far on the canyon opened out to the infamous Z that gave the canyon it’s name. The walls took a 90° turn left, opened it to an chamber with amazing rock formations then turned 90° right to continue on just as narrow as before

My iphone 4 camera and lack of editing skills just doesn’t do this chamber justice.

Another short pool easily bridged and then the canyon opened out to an amazing view down over the 6star Wolgan resort and across to donkey mountain. It was here, sliding across a ledge to get a photo of the guys roping up that I tear the arse out of my shorts. I apologise in advance to who ever is foolish enough to belay me down the next drop…

A fairly straight forward 20m abseil and a bit of a scramble  and we’re at the base of a spectacular cliff which we follow around to find our exit gully

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The exit gully proved to be a nice fern filled canyon itself and while the far end contained a steep scramble it has to be one of the easiest exits I’ve done

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Before long we’re on top. Almost exactly opposite the spot we had been an hour or so earlier

On the left you can make out the Z in the canyon just above the center of the frame. The big pagoda with the orange underhang at the top left was the pagoda we climbed earlier to get our bearings. On the right is looking down into the exit canyon.

 

The views for the top were amazing

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Ed and Bryson with the Wolgan Valley and Donkey mountain in the back ground. You maybe able to make out the cabins of the Wolgan resort in the Valley.

 

A short, very short, walk later and we are back at the car, Gaz is handing out Apple Ales, it’s barely noon. Don’t mind if I do

Cracks of Doom then?

We trundle back into the ute. Both Gaz and I are sure there is a short cut across to the fire trail that I am sure leads us to the CoD but we opt to head back out, retrieve the Rav4 and slip around the main road.

Now with Zorro I can blame the navigational error on a magnetic anomaly (be interesting to know if anyone else has experienced that out there) the next error comes straight fro my obviously addled memory.

Now I’m sure I’m on the right fire trail. Map doesn’t show it going exactly were it needs to, but then it doesn’t show any other trails going there either.

I grab the GSP out and it’s pointing pretty much straight along the trail.

“We should swing left here some where” and sure enough the shortcut comes in on the right and we swing slightly left. The road gets very 4WDy. I don’t remember it being that rough but it was 2002(?) and we were on mountain bikes.

 

Anyhoo.

I’m sure we need to drop off to the right at a small saddle between slight high points. The road gets rougher and we decide to ditch the ute and hoof it the last 1km. A 1km flat walk in, Kind of luxury on  canyon trip.

We pass a motor bike trail that is well known to members of the group and continue on. The road ends at a camp site. “This isn’t what I remember” says I. But the GPS says our destination is 800m straight on and there is a bit of a foot track heading that way so on we go. 50 meters later we are standing on the edge of a cliff looking 750m straight across the valley at an impressive crack cutting down the opposite cliff line. “That’s our crack” says I “We should be on the other side of it”

Gaz pulls out his phone, fires up his gps mapping ap and sure enough there is another fire trail on the ridge behind the crack we are looking at. Buggar. Wrong ridge, Wrong road. Oh well a nice perspective of the crack.

I had been sure, 100% certain this was the right ridge. So certain I didn’t bother double checking. “Sorry.” says I.

Oh well there is a slight ledge heading down that looks like it might give us access to the valley floor. I entertain the idea of slipping down, crossing the gully, ascending Cathedral crack then dropping back down CoD and then back.

The valley floor is impressive but it’s lush in a thick, very thick undergrowth kinda way. And there looks to be a bit of a slot with opposing little cliff line barring our way to the other side. We had left the ropes and gear in the ute.

Oh well, we decide to slip around the base of our cliff line and just have a look along this side of the gully. Hopefully we can get another pass out further around. There are some interesting caves in this area so you never know. And what’s the point of adventuring if you don’t have a bit of an explore.

The cliff line is nice but the going soon gets very scrubby. We come across  pretty waterfall and some decide to cool off before we continue around. Much scrub bashing later the find a pass up.

Once again the view from the top is amazing. Delicate plate pagodas and awe inspiring cliff lines. Odd to find the plate pagodas so close to the smooth, rounded pagodas of Birds Rock. We faff about with some photos before slipping back up the ridge line to intercept the motor bike trail, and hence easily back to the car.

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Disappointing I didn’t get to show them down CoD but we did have a nice view of it from across the gully. More disappointing my memory was so off. But it was interesting gully with great views so not all doom and gloom

 

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We get home just in time to intercept my newly P plated daughter backing out the driveway “Coming for a swim at Clarence dams, dad?” says she. “I’ll meet you there” says I. I need to unpack, refuel and find some other swimmers…

 

*Another attempt at the Cracks of Doom and finally *a descent of the Cracks of Doom