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.
With an early Easter combining with a few family birthdays I wasn’t able to organise the usual Easter Epic Ride this year so instead conspired with Tal to do a quick early morning trip to Dalpura canyon.
Ben posted that he was down from Qld and keen to check out a canyon or two and I messaged to say if he didn’t get a better offer he’s be welcome to come with us. He accepted the offer and we met nice and early in some typical mountain mist. AKA, fog.
Last time we had done Dalpura we dropped into the western tributary, which had some nice bits high up but also involved some thick cutty scrub. This time around we followed Toms track notes and found a reasonable track into the Eastern tributary which also had acouple of short and shallow but nice canyon sections.
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Anyhoo it doesn’t take long to get to the abseil. It’s a short drop into a very nice chamber. Last visit I was still using and iPhone4 for photos so I was hoping for some nice light to see how the TG4 would go.
We waist no time rigging up and drop on in.
It’s a nice little abseil into a deep green pool. Luckily you land on a ledge just below the water and can work your way around the side.
While Ben was setting up his tripod I remember I have the glass ball thingy my sister bought me. It’s been in the top pocket of my pack for about 3 months, I keep forgetting it is there but decide to have a play with it.
Dalpura is more a series of short canyonish section but it has some nice bits
All too soon the canyon opens out and a final optional abseil snakes it’s way down a cleft.
We can walk around it if you don’t want to abseil.
We’re here to experience the canyon….
Party size: 3
Time: 3.5 hrs car to car with some photo Phaffing
Some people are so obsessed with reaching the top they forget it’s the side of the mountain that sustains life.
Access: Getting to the carpark involves a dirt road with a few rough bits. Nothing extreme but a 4WD is handy just for the ground clearance and traction
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward.
Map: Wollangambe 1:25000 These can be purchased at Lithgow Tourist information center or online for around $10
Time: Less than 2hrs with a bit of time for lunch on the clifflines at the end
Depending on which map you look at or who you talk to this is either the Wollangambe or Dumbano fire trail. Open source and google maps seem to show it as Dumbano fire trail. Wollangambe fire trail is what I always knew it as and makes more sense to me as at the end you lookout over the ‘Gambe just upstream of Wollangambe crater.
Anyhoo, whatever you want to call it, it’s a pleasant stroll with some stunning backdrops.
Turn off the Bells Line of road at the ZigZag Railway onto the Newnes Forest rd. Follow this along for around 4.8km and turn off to the right at the bottom of a hill below Bald Trig.
Unfortunitely the start of the fire trail looks a bit like a rubish tip where grubs seem to dump there soft drink bottles and coffee cups… But it gets better.
Set your odeometer here, you want to stay on the main fire trail but there are a couple of intersections where it is easy to take the wrong fork.
At Approximately 1km keep left (right follows the old Wolgan Railway easment around Bald trig to the sand quarry.)
At Approximately 2.5km stay right then at approximately 6.4km stay left. After a little over 8km you will come to the locked gate (GR 499952).
Park up and follow the old road on foot past the gate. The first couple of hundered meters is steep then it is easy going along a flattish ridge for 2km.
Either side of the ridge are sheer sided gullies and at the end of the ridge is a rocky point (GR 505931) in between where these two tributaries meet the Wollangambe.
This is a nice spot of a bit of lunch (or as we did today cheese on smith chips…) there are some great views with Mt Banks straight ahead, Mt wilson slightly off to the left and Bell out to the right. And the wild Wollangambe can be heard gurgling below.
For the more adventurous this route, with some off track navigation at the end is the shorter way to access the Wollangambe crater which is usually done as a over night bushwalk from Bell. (its not a real crater but a circular depension holding a hanging swamp. I think it is the reminants of a large billabong type feature made in a sweep of the wollangambe. It sure looks craterish from aerial photos and satelite images though.)
Note: The great outdoors is an ever changing place. Bush fires, changing weather, vegetation growth and forestry activities can all effect the trail conditions and thus the difficulty of the walk. These are a rough guide only and are by no means meant to be a definitive guide . They do not replace the need adequate map reading and navigational skills
Note 1: Taking care While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails. Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.
Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police for very little.
Note 2:First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. First aid training is highly recommended
Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for you first few outing is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.
The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.
Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.
So I always thought it odd there were some great canyons running off the Blue Mts Plateau on the North side of the Highway but not much to the South. Sure there was Empress, which is stunning, but I thought it an oddity in among the micro canyons, steep cracks and more open V-gullys running into the valleys on the south side.
Awhile ago I heard rumours that something else had been found but was vague on details. Then the 5th edition Jamieson guide came out with a brief description of the awesomely named “Great Uncle George” Canyon and I’ve been keen to check it out but just hadn’t gotten around to it.
Hey Julie, texts I, U off on ANZAC day? though my spelling and typing is even worse on text.
Sure am, says she or something to that effect and we hatch a plan to visit Old Uncle Georgeyboy. She contacts Jim who pioneered a different exit up an easy ridge back to Ingar Fire trail which makes a very short car shuffle or negates the need for one altogether if you don’t mind a bit of boring fire trail walking at the end.
Jim and his wife Lyn are keen to come along, even better.
Ed can’t make it as he is busy doing family stuff, which is a bummer. As I know he was keen to check it out too.
Tal was keen but when I woke him up at the crack of 7:45am he groaned, rolled over and pulled his covers over his head… Um OK. Julie shows up we stash gear and head up to meet the Cooks at the car park.
It’s a short walk in… if you veer through the private property but it may be best to skirt around the outside, avoiding the swamp and neighboring gully. Up top it’s a bit of an erosion scar. A trail dozed down towards the cliff edge must surely be an old fire break as it’s too steep for a standard 4WD.
Anyhoo we reach the abseil point. Jim set up on the rope, backs up and with a little hop disappears. It’s funny to watch. One second he is there, there next he is not. Hopefully I can get some video together over the next week or so as I have a good clip of Lyn doing the same.
A nice overhung abseil into a awesome amphitheater. A tall waterfall plunges into a sited up hole which must once have been a very pleasant swimming hole.
A set of stairs lead back up the through the cliff line and while the rope is getting retrieved I fire off a couple of photos and head up the stairs to see where they go. A lot of work had gone into making the stairs and the trail above them. It takes me up to a little cave where more stairs are carved up the rock face to no where, as the trail continues around a nose and up above the top cliff line.
A Lot of work went into this track
Wind swept cave in the upper cliff line
Odd place for a step
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What followed was a pleasant stroll down a very pretty creek inter-spaced with some abseils and some nice canyon sections.
More pleasant creek follows. It was mostly easy walking with a little bit of boulder hoping
Nice Creek walking
Starting to Canyon up
Some boulder scrambling and wades
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Several times the canyon threatens to form, swings around a corner and peters out
And after a bit more creek walking a canyon forms with a bit of length to it
Julie photoing me photoing her
Canyon opening out
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It opens out briefly
While never overly deep or tight it does seem to keep going for a while
Canyon formation opening back out
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And then there is more pleasant creek scrambling with enough awesome scenery to make it well worth while
The Jameison guide says to continue down stream a while then out another creek, which requires a car shuttle but Jim had scoped another option last trip and we scramble up a break in the clifflines which leads to an easy ridge back toward the picnic area near the start of Ingar fire trail and thus back to the car.
So, while I wouldn’t say the canyon itself was overly spectacular it was a very nice trip in a beautiful creek that was, for the most part, very easy going. While a couple of the abseils had tricky starts they were all a bit of fun.
Party Size: 4 all experienced
Timing: 5hrs car to car with lots of photo phaffing, exploring, chatting and taking it easy )
All in all a great day in the great outdoors with great people
I thought the entrance chamber was so awesome I went back with Mandy and Tal a couple of days later for a picnic via the stairs
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We were trying to figure out why these stair would be carved under the cave, its certainly easy enough to walk up the slope beside them then Mandy cottoned on to a likely answer, could they have quarried blocks from here to use int he stair case below?
Claustral is the quintessential Blue Mountains canyon. A deep, dark, sustained slot accessed by a series of abseils down a dark hole known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. Once in you are committed, the slot can be as fearsome as it is beautiful. Flash floods do happen and the exit is hours away. It has claimed the lives of some very experienced canyoners and been the scene of various rescue operations over the years.
It’s part of the big three. Thunder, Ranon and, Claustral canyons and their tributaries, carve the saddle in between Mt Tomah and Mountain Banks into a deep maze that has come to be known as the Carmathan labyrinth.
In 1804 the botanist and explorer, George Caley, gazed up at the Blue Mountains and confidently declared “There is not a single peak which would take more than half a day to scale!”
He was right, but it wasn’t the peaks that would thwart him in his attempt to cross the mountains. His party reached the top of Mt Tomah with little difficulty then set about crossing the short distance to the next peak, Mt Banks. He didn’t know about the labyrinth that awaited him below.
We were taught at school that the early explorers failed to find a way across the mountains because they tried to penetrate the river valleys when they needed to follow the ridges. But Caley’s plan was always to follow the ridges between the high peaks. Unfortunately the ridge he tried to follow didn’t exist
Scrambling down through lawyer vines and disjointed cliff lines they eventually came to a deep dark chasm they called Gaping Gill (while a chasm still bares this name it is probable they were looking into the lower reaches of Thunder gorge).
With no way to cross the chasm they beat a retreat back up to the ridge and tried another approach. This time into a gully Caley would name Dismal Dingle. Night descended and they made camp in a small overhang. Awestruck by the glow worms lighting up the wall over head, tormented by possums who ran like little demons through their camp stealing their food, eaten alive by mosquitoes and, terrorised by a wild fire that ripped up through the Grose Valley his men threatened revolt if he tried to push on they way they were going.
Come morning they beat another retreat up to the ridge line and opted to follow this in a wide arc around the labyrinth below. They were now on the very ridge that would one day carry the Bells Line of road. A native track way, had they stayed on this ridge they would have achieved their goal of crossing the Mountains in little over another days walk. But, of course, they didn’t know this.
Their plan was to follow the ridge line they mistakenly believed connected the major peaks they could see from the Richmond plains . And so they veered off to explore the peak of Mt Banks with Hat Hill, their next objective. Upon reaching the top of Mt Banks they looked down in dismay at the 300m cliff line that plummeted into the Grose Valley with Hat Hill unreachable on the other side. Dejected they turned tail and headed for home.
Later, or so I have read somewhere (but for the life of me I now can’t find the source) an early female bush explorer (Mary Biles?) ventured into the rim of the Labyrinth and upon peering down into a dark slot dropping into bowels of the earth wrote words to the effect of “One day the depths may be explored. Whether brave or fool hardy those who do surely will not suffer from claustrophobia.” Thus the slot was later christened Claustral canyon.
OK, maybe I spiced a bit or even all of that intro up. I’m not a historian, don’t take it as gospel. After all, I got my history of the world from Mel Brooks and all I know for certain is “It’s good to be the king.”….
Anyhoo. I’ve a confession to make. I’d never done Claustral Canyon. I’d been into the system through Ranon and I’d wandered up the bottom section of Thunder canyon but back in the day Claustral was the most popular abseil canyon and I was put off by the thought of lining up to access the abseils. I was a bit of a canyon snob really and I come to realise I had cheated myself of a great experience.
Soooooo when Ed and his mate, Lewis, invited me along on a photophaffary trip I jumped at the chance. Now as you probably have worked out by now I have a little point a shoot camera (Olympus Tough TG4) and am not overly concerned at capturing amazing images of art, more documentaries of my travels so I had a sneaky suspicion that they needed a mule to carry the ropes so that they might lugg in more photomagraphary equipment needed to get their awesome shots but I was cool with that.
As it was everybody bought rope.
Anyhoo, I was running a bit early so stopped by the Emu Cave to get a few photos and explore the rock shelf a little more. then it was onto the car park
After a quick meet and greet, with the wrong party ( Are you Lewis, Says I. Nope, says he. Are you doing Claustral? We’re doing Ranon. Cool we’ll probably see you in there)
Lewis arrives and we introduce ourselves just as Ed turns up. We reconcile gear, stuff packs and we’re off. The traditional entry and exit point to Claustral was from the top of Mt Tomah, however in 2011 the land the access track crosses changed hands and the new owners built a house right where the track was. And who can blame them, they have some of the best views in the mountains.
A new route was found from the other side Mt Bell. This made the exit a lot longer and more convoluted which I think may have reduced visitor numbers a bit.
Anyhoo. We quickly make our way down through a pleasant gully and soon reach the junction with Claustral Brook
A bit of creek walking and boulder scrambling brings us to the first swim and we suit up and plunge in as the canyon begins to get deeper
A little more scrambling and we come to the abseils. 3 successive drops down into a dark abyss. Ed and Lewis scramble to get cameras out. Looks like I’m going first for want of a better model
The drops are pretty cool. Abseil 10-15 meters, swim across a pool to a small stance and repeat
The final abseil starts through a small hole and drops into darkness. Much awesomeness
From here its 50m through the darkest part of the slot until it widens slightly at the Junction with Ranon.
The moss covered boulders and fern strewn walls at the junction may well be the most photographed bit of canyon in the country but it is truly stunning.
After lots of photo phaffing we head down. The boys need to be very careful with keeping their gear dry so it’s in and out of dry bags a lot. The advantage of my TG4 is I can keep it at the ready. The photos may not be the same quality but as it’s so handy I have about 600 to trawl through.
Just as the big cameras get triple dry bagged to continue on Ed looks up to see one of the group coming in from Ranon has slid out along a fallen log that spans the canyon 40 or 50 meters up. There was a scramble to get cameras back out in the hope they were going to abseil down the middle of the canyon walls from this log but by the time cameras were out he had thought better of it and retreated to do the normal route through the waterfalls
With all the standing about i had begun to get cold so I peeled down the wet suit and put a light thermal underneath which improved things greatly.
Light rays, canyons and photographers
We caught back up to the other group at the junction with Thunder Canyon, which is a great spot for lunch. They soon finished and continued on, we have a quick look up Thunder and then followed suit.
After this junction the canyon opens up a little and there is some tricky scrambling down some drops before it closes back in.
Once it closes back in you encounter the infamous tunnel swim. Way back when I did Ranon the last time the water level was down and you could walk through here. Now it’s a spectular 50m swim
A little more scrambling, a couple of pools and you reach the exit
There is a steep haul up Rainbow Ravine, which has some pretty canyon sections itself, then a long walk up the ridge to the top of the Camels Hump. I remember last time getting to this point and thinking we had come up the wrong hill. From the top the hump it looks to be surrounded on all sides by chasms and the old exit point to top of Mt Tomah can be seen across a particularly deep chasm. You can see why, with no maps and no knowledge of the land Caley and his crew had so much trouble. I’m remember almost having my own muntiny on my hands as hungover and exstausted Della and Lurch were in no mood to drop down and climb out again.
Just when we thought we would have to descend all the way down and start again the trail crossed a narrow, bridge like rock saddle. It barely looks real. Something straight out of Tolkin. The old exit is now just up the hill. 10-15min up to the car park… The old exit.
The new exit is not so quick and does involved dropping all the way back down into Claustral Brook. We head steeply back down. There are some nice canyon sections and a swim or two before we reach the gully we came in on.
Yeah it’s a long walk out. Yeah I’m feeling it today but it’s not too bad, we’ve done worse.
Party Size: 3 All experienced
Time: 10hrs car to car. Lots of time spent striking poses and snapping photos