Jen, Jodie, Diana, Joel, Ed, Russ, Chewy and meeeeeeee
In an effort keeping positive vibes flowing on the Australian Canyoners FB group through the “Off season” (And to break up the flood of stunning photos Madie’s been posting about European Canyoning. Not that we are jealous. Not us. No…) I put out a Xmas in July canyoning challenge, So far Kylie and Colin had lead trips resulting in awesome photos.. Now it was our turn.
After a round of photos it was into our first canyon, Zorro
And then it was back up to the tops for a lovely Xmas lunch over looking the One and Only Emerites Wolgan resort
Then it’s back to the cars for a short drive around to our next destination. Not so much a canyon as a crack.
This section of the ‘Gambe is harder to get to than the more common “tourist sections” but is renown for having some of the best canyon bits on the river.
In hindsight that’s a bit like saying Wang Dam has the best bits of beach in Lithgow….
Anyhoo, it’s a bit of the ‘Gambe I hadn’t visited before and I had wanted to do it for a while. I knew Madie was keen to check it out too so we semi organised a crew and then half made plans.
Then the weather turned to shite and we ummed and ahhed about going. Even an hour before we were due to head off the rain came in and we discussed doing something else. Then the sky cleared and we thought “Fugg it!” and off we went
I’d planned to do the car shuffle to the end of the Dumbano/Wollangambe fire trail as it should be a shorter walk and I’m not overly familiar with the maze of trails in from Bell.
In high spirits we skipped out to the end of the fire trail and had no difficulty finding a pass down through the cliff.
From there it all turned a bit shit.
My intel said there would be a track.
Reality said there was scrub.
Now I’m not adverse to a bit of a scrub-bash but this scrub was heinous. Razor grass and dead fall and despondency.
An hour later we’d barely gone 600m and light was fading. I wasn’t 100% sure where the famed camp cave was so we made the decision to bunk down in the next viable overhang to shelter from the predicted overnight moisture.
We snacked on Madie’s infamous butter chicken and settled in for a reasonably comfortable if slightly cramped and sleepless night.
Of course the actual camp cave with large, flat sandy floor was just 100m or so down stream…
Morning comes and we pack up for a not so early start. Our advice was it was going to be a long/hard day. After yesterdays experience in the scrub we decided to avoid the banks and stay in the river as much as possible.
This was faster. Mostly. But full of energy sapping sand with pockets of quicksand ready to swallow your leg without warning.
The three images above summarise the tip for me. Stunning cliff lines, dead fall galore and complex boulder scrambling. Oh and sand. Lots of sand….
Eventually we make it to a part of the ‘Gambe we are all familiar with.
Reaching the exit point is usually a bitter-sweet moment as you are glad to have finally made it but know the adventure is nearly over. This was no different. We were exhausted (We’ll maybe not Madie, she seems to gain engery the longer she goes) but smiling. It was a hard trip, even tougher than I had expected, but as always the company and laughter made it great.
Now just the 1hr uphill stroll to the car.
Your comfort zone is a very dangerous place to be
Mt Wilson fire-shed to Dumbano fire trail locked gate: 30min (drive)
With the weather turning cold it’s time to focus on dry trips. Depite popular opinion there are a number of dry(ish) canyons not to far from the usual summer trips that are worth a look. This one is a short day in the Wolgan.
The canyon itself isn’t that great in regards to length and depth of the constriction but it has a couple of standout features and great views.
We met at the servo bright and early and sorted car pools to drive down to the car park. Mick was joining us for the haul up through the cliff lines but then leaving as he had afternoon plans in the bigsmoke
Madie was running 5min late but, hey she had a 4hr drive to get here so no one blamed her. Oh, in a previous blog I stated she needed a constant supply of chips and chocolate. that was just a bit of fun after she brought a large pack of chips on the trip I didn’t mean it to sound like she was a snack scoffing fatty. She usually eats nothing but kale washed down with a cup of steam, or sumfink. I’m the fat guy on our trips.
The frost was lifting off the tops and down in the valley it was a glorious morning so we wasted little time in setting out up the hill.
Our path up is typically steep but relatively easy for the Wolgan.
Some Pretty section of creek and grand overhangs break up the climb
and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.
This is where Mick leaves us and heads back the way we came up. For the rest of us it’s a relatively easy stroll up through the scrub to intersect a faint trail along the ridge.
There is a pleasant bit along the ridge before we drop back down through the scrub to our first anchor point above a 30m abseil down through one of the highlights
Over the millenia water running down a sloping face have carved a deep groove into the rock befre hitting a band of iron stone that created a small pool halfway up the cliff line. Evenually this pool eroded deeper and deeper until it bored a hole staright through the cliff
From below the hole is stunningly circular
A short, dark cave section follows
Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up
On our trip last year we were greeted with a deep, very cold pool here that soaked every up to their necks. Today we didn’t even get our feet wet.
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And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock
At the bottom is usually a deep plunge pool that takes some manoeuvring to get across without falling in. Today it was nearly dry but I made them do the bridge anyway 🙂
The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan
We have lunch in the sun light on the halfway ledge and then there is one more long abseil before the quick march down the hill to the cars
A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world
Ok I wanted to get my young nephew out to do Tiger Snake canyon and invited the others along for the trip. But 2 things happened
a. Nathan broke a couple of fingers, so he wouldn’t be able to abseil and
b. an alert cames through saying the area would be closed due to Hazard reduction burns
That also ruled out my back up plans and after a bit of thought I threw up the idea of Four Dope canyon.
It was going to be a big walk for a shortish canyon but I had enjoyed the neighboring Dead Tree Canyon last year and it was ment to be a similar sort of trip. Plus it’s one I’d not done before and I’m always keen on checking out new adventures.
The others were a little dubious. They had asked around and got reports back saying it was a very ordinary canyon and not worth doing. Oh well I’m going anyway. In the end they came too.
Madie had been introduced to Maarten somehow and asked if he could tag along. He was a backpacker out from the Netherlands and keen to do some canyoning, he already done solo trips to Calustral and Kanangra and so Autal picked him up from Paramatta station and now we we a group of 6.
Slight hickup early on as Al rang. Where are you guys at? Asked he
My place. says I
I’m looking for it and there is no 33 Shaft st….
Wow I’d moved out of shaft street 3 years ago. My tired brain must have malfunctioned (it often does)when I texted the meeting place through to him… That doesn’t bode well.
Anyhoo. We eventually all meet up at the Waratah ridge car park and start the walk out.
It’s a long walk along an old fire trail and then onto a foot pad, but it’s fairly flat and the company is good so time passes quickly
The foot pad comes and goes towards the end. I’ve always found it odd, you’ll be on a very clear obvious trail and 20m later it disappears. Then, if you are lucky, you pick up a faint trail, step over a log and it disappears, then you stumble over a clear trail again. And so on and so forth. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera…
Anyhoo we get to the spot where the track notes say we need to veer off. I may have come a fraction far and we need to skirt back around the head of the gully which would lead into arch canyon and we pick up a faint ridge which begins to drop down early.
The track notes are a bit vague, saying to follow the ridge until it starts to descend then drop into the creek. Well we’ve only just got onto the ridge but it sure is descending. The Canyon is still 1km down stream but we drop into the creek.
Big mistake. It’s scrubby as all get up. We do come across these cool over hangs and erosion caves thou
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It takes us a stupid long time to push through 100m of scrub and we make the call to scramble back out onto the side ridge to traverse above the worst of it.
Some interesting scrambles along the halfway ledge bewteen clifflines and we finally drop back down and suit up.
Are you sure this isn’t 6 dopes? Chardie asks
The slot would want to be special or it’s making my first entry on the never to be repeted list. says I
All kitted up we enter the creek and wade on down stream. Just as it was getting uncomfortably warm in the wetsuits we make our way through a horid mess of tree fall and the canyon drops away below us.
We waist no time roping up. Not even half way down the abseil the walk in is forgotten. Wow.
After a short section of narrow, dark canyon it opens out slightly
And then it drops again and there is a couple of abseils in quick succession
And some nice canyon follows
Now we hadn’t seen any sun in the canyon, it felt like late afternoon twilight the whole time and there was a bit of a cool breeze flowing down between the walls. I was just starting ot feel a bit chilly when we get to the 1 compulsary swim of the trip.
But is is such a nice spot
And then it opened out and we were at the junction with the Bungleboori.
We now needed to make our way about 40min upstream to Arch canyon and a convenient pass out.
I’d used this pass before but approached from the upstream side where we made use of the current to carry us down the deep pools of the Bunglebooru. I was thus expecting some cold swims as we made our way upstream but other than a few wades we made good time along the banks and sand drifts in a stunningly wild section of the river
We soon found ourselves at the juncton with Arch canyon and I was super keen to slip up the canyon a little to have a better look at the arch.
It’s well worth the effort of climbing up the bottom drops and steep creek to reach the arch just as the canyon proper stars (or is that ends…)
We make our way back down to find Chardie and Al have made a head start on the exit track. Maarten and Autal follow. I’m getting out of my wet suit. I hate walking uphill in a wettie.
Me and Madie get into dry gear and give chase up the hill.
Autal is waiting at the base of the upper cliffs and we set off after the others. We can hear them ahead which is a good sign as we scramble up the first viable option and find every one waiting to regroup on the ridge
And now for the long slog back to the car.
Was it worth the 20km of walking and nearly 800m of elevation gain for a short canyon?
Well, whenever you are out in the bush with a great bunch of people it’s worthwhile and to be honest I was impressed by the canyon itself. It had a beauty to it and the first abseil was stunning. It also has a less traveled feel to it, like you are one of the privledged few to experience it’s wonders.
I wouldn’t rush back next week and I’m glad we didn’t do it in the height of summer but would definately consider doing it again in the future if the company was right.
Party size. 6 All experienced, all a little loopy
Time: 8.5hrs car to car with some stuffing around finding our way in.
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.
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.
Acoustic/SunnySide/Wombat(WTF?) is a great little canyon to visit in Winter as it has a nice constriction, some awesome erision caves and with a little bit of care it’s possible to get through it in normal conditions without getting you feet wet.
It’s fairly short so it’s usually conbined with other trips out that way but we had some other stuff to do and living close it’s an easy half day.
Pulling into the car park I handed the map and compass to Tal. Navigation is as straight forward as it gets in trackless terrain so it’s not a bad one to practice on. I gave him a bearing and he lead off following the path of least resistance through the scrub while staying on course. A decent effort delivered us to the dry water course about 100m upstream of where the pogodas sprout out the the ground and the creek canyons up.
Just before the jaws of the canyon Mandy decided to have a lie down when she stepped in a hole and twisted her ankle. After a bit of drama queen stuff she got up and said she’d be fine to keep going.
We left her to walk out the sprain a little as I lead Tallis up an easy scramble to check out the Acoustic chambers from above. The ridge above the western wall is easy to negotiate and gives a great perspective on the canyon.
After quickly checking it out from above we make our way back to Mandy and head on in.
The canyon starts with a little twist and then a nice little tunnel scramble
There’s a few spots where it looks like you are sure to get your socks (and more) wet but with a bit of route finding and care you don’t even get the soles of your shoes wet
and after a little bit of fun the eastern wall opens in to the large chamber…..
You soon have to tranverse across the base of another chamber. In any other canyon this one would blow you away but it is eclipsed a bit by the previous one.
It’s advisable to traverse the right hand ledge above the last 100m of canyon. this avoids a little scrub as well as some delicate vegetation in the final slot which ends in a boulder choke. It also gives better views out into the Wolgan as the canyon opens up.
The view down into the final slot is also pretty cool
There are a few ways to exit. On my first visit we climbed an easy spot on the west wall and went back along the tops. It is also possible to scrmble out the exit portal and scramble around into Bushranger creek or to simply reverse the canyon but most parties now seem to use a hidden slot in the east wall. There a bit of a step up to access it so those short of leg may need a boost but once on the ledge it’s an easy ramp all the way to the top of the cliffs.
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Once up there are vista’s applenty and it’s worth having a good look around.
Then Tal was back on map and compass to lead up up the ridge to the old fire trail and hence back to the car
Party size: 3 all experienced
Time. 1.5hr car to car even with the photo phaffing
Video to come if I can work out why my external drive with the go pro file and editted video on it decided to go RAW…
“many believe that the nature of the universe is to hide itself from mortal eyes. That we must search and meditate upon all around us to see and grasp the simple truth that
is enlightenment. However, perhaps the answers are being told to us all the time and we have just forgotten how to hear them.”