I’m in. Dad has photos of it from Jeep trips in the late 60s early 70s, though they knew it as the Wolgan Earth Pillar, a name they got from the Luchetti’s who had the farm down Valley. They got it off Carne’s map from his early 1900s mineral survey where he recorded it in his journal as “Earth Pillar, the Pinnacle, Wolgan Valley”. Anyway it’s been on my list of things to visit for a long time.
Of course Madie was in too.
Hey, do you want to go in from the top and check out a few canyons while we are down that way?
Some times I wonder what it would be like to have friends who hear out my hair brained ideas and say things like, That sounds ridiculous, Flynny. No way we should to that….
But noooooo. Despite several epic scrub bashes my friends keep saying things like, hell yeah lets do it.
Lucky, otherwise this blog would be rather boring.
Besides no one is going to be telling there grandkids about the epic weekend they had playing golf, right?
Well unless they win a major or sumfink.
We were planning to walk out to a base camp Friday night. 3pm and it’s pissing down. None of us want to start walking in the rain but the rain parts, the radar is clear and it looks like it’s going to be a perfect night for a stroll.
Leo and Madie swing past my place to drop off Pippa the Wonderdog.
Should we take 2 cars?
There’s only 3 of us….
Maybe we should have taken 2
Driving up on dusk and the sky to the north looks like something out of an Armageddon movie.
Rolling storm clouds and blasts of lightning heading right to where we are going. That wasn’t on the radar!
We get to an intersection. Swing right. says I. Left has a 4wd creek crossing.
When was the last time you looked? Says Leo. I got a 2wd through there last year.
While I thought they had done a bit of work to the crossing I hadn’t tried going that way since getting rid of my old FJ45 Cruiser.
We go left, much to Madie’s trepidation.
The creek crossing is up but it’s much easier than the deep rocky drop off of years gone past. We get through easy enough. Except the hill up the other side is a soft rutted mess. 1 quick go at getting up and the ute sinks to the diffs. Lucky it is very wet and Leo is able to reverse out with help of the steep terrain.
We are going back the other way! Madie puts her foot down. And I’m driving from here!!!
We take the by-pass. But halfway down a sharp log hidden on the inside of a corner rips the side wall out of her rear tyre. Pssssssssssssssss.
We get out to change the wheel. Armageddon skies open and the rain belts down. There is an issue with the jack handle which also doubles as a thingie to wind the spare tyre down. Nothing that a quick adjustment with a shifter or screwdriver to open up the slots wont fix.
Where’s your tool box.
I don’t have one….
Apparently Madie cops one of my infamous eye rolls . My kids take the piss out of me about them all the time but surprisingly this is the first one thrown Madie’s way.
Anyway, a bit of dicking around with a small multitool and a blood sacrifice and Leo has the handle working.
Tyre changed we rock into the car park and decide it’s way too late to start our walk so we set camp for the night .
Before you read on; Part of the joy of visiting lessor known canyon areas is not knowing what you’ll find. Sometimes its a disappointing creek bash and sometimes you get a good one. If you ever plan on exploring this area do yourself a favour and leave the rest of this post until after you come back.
We are up before the sun and after a quick breakfast we are on the trail a little after 5.30am.
After being closed to vehicle traffic 20 years ago this trail devolved into a nightmare scrub bash, like the type of scrub even I avoid, and that’s saying something. Post fires it’s easy walking and we pick our way along the ridge line the old road use to follow for about 8km before spearing off into untracked territory.
We reach our chosen base camp around 8.30am, dump the camp gear and head off for our first canyon in good spirits.
To be honest we weren’t expecting great things from canyons out this way but this one had a nice start
After a bit the canyon opens up somewhat and then begins to drop steeply. We abseil the first drop and then I scramble down the next few to see it it’s likely to drop into a lower section. It’s pretty but the walls are getting wider and more impenetrable so we make the call to ascend back up the line and try to force a pass to the ridge and drop into another creek.
At about the same point we decided to scramble out of the last canyon we had a quick bit to eat. Despite covering a lot of ground so far we are still full of enthusiasm and even talk about trekking down to Dick Rock today. We must have been delusional
Heading down to our 3rd canyon of the day and we drop into a tributary thinking it will be an easy pass down
We spent longer in this one than we thought we would, definitely longer than the previous two so squeezing in Dick Rock today was out the window. Time to beat a pass up to the tops again
We get out of the canyon and through most of the cliffs easily except for one little bit that Leo scrambled up with a couple of little boosts from me at the bottom and balls the size of a medium sized car at the top.
He dropped a rope for me and Madie to ascend. I go up to to the ledge and haul Leo’s bag then drop the rope back to Madie. She begins to ascend as I go up the ramp and begin to chimney up the last bit.
Rock! Rock! Rock! Fugg!
I’ve knocked a large rock loose and it tumbles down the chute. Luckily it misses the rope and gains enough momentum to sail out into space. Madie was 5m up the rope with nowhere to hide. The adrenaline rush was real.
But we are up and encounter our first unburnt ridge of the trip. Thick, scratchy, cutting scrub. It was a relief to finally get to a burnt bit.
It’s getting late. We have a couple of deep saddles to get past on the way to camp but Madie navigates us there easily. I have to say I was well and truly slowing down.
Night descends but we are back to the ridge we walked down on our way to the first canyon.
Then Madie lets out a whoop at the sight of the reflective stripes on my Overboard dry bag I had hung up in a tree above camp.
35km and 3 canyons in 14hrs.
We roll out the sleep mats, have a quick diner, a few laughs and then we’re in bed engulfed with satisfaction and a glorious star filled night
A slightly more sedate wake up time, a casual breakfast and we are off a bit after 8.
I’m feeling a little dehydrated from yesterday so I’m determined to drink more today. The plan is to descend a canyon, punch down to Dick Rock and then up another canyon. We knew of a couple of easy passes up ridge lines but it’s going to be a hot day so ascending up a canyon that is supposedly reversible is more appealing
But first we work our way down through the cliff lines once more. This time we manage to scramble right down into the creek
It’s pretty but never really canyons up
It’s hot in the valley we have lunch then take a higher route back which avoids some of the the scrub and short cuts the corner and we work our way up to our intended creek.
Where this morning’s “Canyon” was a pretty creek walk this wasn’t even that. The heat is oppressive and despite drinking a shit load I’m starting to struggle.
But we boulder hop and scrub bash our way high enough up to starting thinking of forcing a pass to the tops.
Thoughts of squeezing in another short canyon are out the window.
By the time we reach camp it’s around 5pm and I’m suffering camps. I’ve drank about 8l of water already today but haven’t pissed since breakfast.
We pack camp, I mix some extra electrolytes into my hydrapac bladder and we start up the hill.
I’m really struggling and a few times have to call for a rest. Much to my equal parts chagrin and relief halfway up the ridge Madie and Leo split my gear between them leaving me with minimal weight. I’m still slow but finally we reach the ridge with the old trail. We still have 8km to go but it’s going to be easier walking.
I’m making OK pace now but my stomach is dehydrated and refusing to take much in. I’m taking small sips out of my hydrapack trying to get through. The cramps are bad, the slightest miss step and something locks up. I get service on the phone and text Mandy to let her know we’re going to be late. My finger camps bad. That’s a new sensation for me.
About 4km along the fire trail we stop for a rest. I try and take a slightly bigger drink. 3 steps later I spew that up. We march on.
I tune out and walk on.
200m to go calls Madie, you can do it Flynny.
All that’s between us and the car is Natural bridge. I stumble my way down. I normally wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the climb up the other side. I stop for a rest. I spew again. There is nothing in my stomach. My whole abdominals cramp and lock tight.
If that’s what period cramps feels like , girls you get even more respect from me.
Finally we get to the car.
68km walking for the weekend, mostly off track, 3 nice canyons, two disappointing creeks, and one big a tick on the bucket list.
Home at last, I spill out of the car and spew again.
He’s alive, Madie tells Mandy, but he’s got a bit of heat stroke. You may want to get him checked
A quick shower and I think I’m good for bed but Mandy suggests a trip to hospital to get checked out.
At hospital they whack me on the scales, I’m 10kg lighter than I was Friday!
They take some blood and put me on a drip. 3 bags in they send Mandy home and book me in for the night.
6 litres of fluid later, do you think you can pee now? we need to see it before we can let you out.
I feel I want to but it’s not coming out.
Well, we can always put a catheter in.
Apparently that threat works every time.
They release me lunch time Monday.
It’s the adversity as much as the victories that makes the lasting memories.
So for her first and second trips I’d taken Izy through a couple of obscure “canyons” and while she enjoyed it and thought they were pretty they were more creek walks with abseils so I wanted to get her through something decent.
Next stop Hole in the Wall
Dick hadn’t done this one either and Russ is always keen.
The walkout was fairly uneventful though the usual clear trail disappears towards the end and we double check the map just to confirm we hadn’t gone to far left and missed the turn to the entrance.
A one stage we disturbed a reasonable size copperhead (well I think it was a copperhead based on its behaviour but couldn’t get close enough to see for sure or to get a good photo) and before long we were at the start of the upper section.
I’m always in two minds whether to suit up for this bit or not but it was a coolish day so far so we decide to don the wetties.
We round the corner and enter the canyon proper
And then we are back into the light.
The wetties are starting to get hot as we make our way down the creek to the lower section and by the time we get there we are looking forward to the cold water.
We reach the plunge. It’s a relatively simple down climb. There is anchor set up, I guess for a hand line. I normally jump but it looks shallow today. I remember this happening after the big fire in the early 90s, with the soil loosened and not vegetation to hold it back a lot of canyons and swimming holes silted up with sand…
I assess it and take a leap
I tend to find glowworm displays are better late November through December but they still put on a good show for us today. Like previous pools the cave has silted up quite a bit. It makes the climb out on to the ledge a bit easier though how it will clean out with the lower exit now blocked I don’t know
Other than the glowworm cave, where we sat still for a bit, I hadn’t found it that cold but then we stepped out into the ‘Bungleboori/*hackspit*Dingo crk. It was a good deal colder so we waste little time make our way upstream to the exit.
Group size: 4
Time: around about 6 and a bit hours car to car
The higher we soar the smaller we look to those who cannot fly: Friedrich Nietzsche
Sleepy little town on the outskirts of the Riverina
A small sleeper of a canyon somewhat less visited than it’s neighbours
The name fits with other creek names in the area. Yileen = To dream/dream like. Dalpura = Peaceful, Kamarah = Sleep. I’ve not been able to find a meaning for Koombanda, Jungaburra or Jinki but assume they fit the theme somehow.
Like most canyons in this area it’s not that deep or sustained but has some pretty bits to it.
From the bottom of Koombanda it’s possible to scramble up the nose below the junction and drop back down into the top of Kamarah. I guess this is the way most people do it, it makes sense as they are both short and adding in Kamarah then exiting up to the west via convenient tree roots can be a quicker than exiting via the old mine, especially if you don’t want to do a car shuffle.
You do, however miss some nice erosion caves further up the gully
Anyhoo this description is almost longer than the canyon already
With a day off and everyone else seemingly busy I took the opportunity of a quick afternoon stroll. The creek is drier than I’ve seen it before. I wander down off the ridge, check out the caves which seem to have a lot more block fall than I remember, then make my way down until the walls start to canyon up
Then the creek drops into a dark hole
And then just before the junction with Koombanda brook you can climb out on the right, or continue down this this nice overhang to scramble up on the left
Time: 2.5hr car to car with a lot of faffing around
Whatever you do today don’t forget to be just that tiny little bit awesome
Time-To-Go, Sketchy, Marcula, BeerandScotch, Justadlib and meeeee
Ah Straylia! You’ve done it again. After all the devastation of the fires it’s pissing down rain.
Driving out of town I half expect to see a line of animals marching into an Ark two by two while a crazy dude calls out damnation from god.
I have to admit I was a little anxious. Empress is one canyon that always had me worried in rain. For a small canyon it has a large catchment and a relatively tight constriction. The Falls at the end have a rep for going from a gentle trickle to a wall of water in not much time. In 2005 Matthew Donovan lost his life when his party was hit with a storm burst part way through and he failed to negotiate the second last pool, being pinned under the sharply undercut wall by the sheer force of water.
While our canyoning cuzies from around the world often play in much higher water flows there are additional dangers of doing flooded canyons that don’t usually experience high flow. Canyons that see a lot of water generally clean themselves of the log jams and boulder chokes that feature in many Aussie canyons. Rising waters often pickup and sweep down stuff lying on previously dry banks creating hazards, both from solid impacts and hydraulic stoppers.
There’s definitely a skill to being able to spot and avoid hydraulic hazards, as well as speciality equipment, techniques and team work required to negotiate the canyon safely.
But I knew I was in good hands, people whose skills and judgement I trust. And overriding the nerves was an undertoe of excitement
I get to Mt Vic only for my brain to do this weird thing where it remembers it forgot to remind me to pick up my wetsuit! Some swearing happened. Passing cars probably thought the crazy dude in the ute had a bad case of road rage…
A quick phone call to Mandy and she offers to grab my wetty and meet me half way back home. She really is golden.
I’m slightly late as I pull into the car park and was surprised to see just Madie and Leo. It appears there was a little confusion over the late night change to the start time. They all know changing plans is what we do the best. Or sumfink
Anyhoo, we decide to head off for a look and if all goes well we’ll do a second run when the others arrive. But all agree it is probably going to be a none event today, we’ve had a lot of rain.
On the way down we discuss Go/No-Go indicators. If its below this rock at that point that section is good, If you can see such and such from that vantage… Blah Blah Blah. We also talk emergency exit options. The good thing about Empress is it is short and you can get many looks down into the canyon on the walk in and there are options to get out.
At each inspection point things look better. Time-To-Go’s been through at higher levels. A quick look at the radar and while there is going to be steady drizzle the heavy stuff isn’t due to hit until later. This thing looks like it is on. Woot Woot.
We are warned about which sections have siphons and whirlpools and where the water wants to force you into under cut walls and then we are in.
I’m a bit cautious as I go over the edge but I am grinning like an idiot. Dropping over the edge I get hit by a wall of water but I’m through it quick and behind the main brunt. Working my way down I’m being peppered but the main flow is to the left of me. At the halfway ledge I say hi to BeerandScotch
and then I’m into the flow.
It’s hard to describe the sensation. White water. White noise. It’s almost instant sensory derivation as the water pounds into you, pushing you down the rope. I feel a weird mix of being a passenger, being in control, being in consequential, being alive… I’m watching for the tail of the rope as I know Sketchy set up short so she could bleed rope out as I went. I see the bottom, Well I think I do and I let go and fling myself down. What A rush.
I float there being smashed by the spray and just enjoy the moment.
I hear the others calling and It’s-Time-To-Go hurls the throw bag. Perfect throw. I grab hold and they pull me across the pool. I’m still grinning like an idiot.
We laugh and high five and all that. The others are keen for their turn.
Damn phone rings and I’m stupid enough to check it…. Work. Looks like I’ll miss run 2:-(
By the time they get back to the start the water is up another 2 foot or so. Still doable and it looks like they had a ball.
The heavy rain hits a few hours later pushing water way up past safe levels. I’m glad we got in when we did. It was a great experience.
As usual there are a lot of opinions on the socials as to whether people should be out in these conditions.
Should people be encouraging others to do so. Most definitely not.
Personally with this group, at that time, in those conditions I felt perfectly safe, or as safe as usual when canyoning.
As stated earlier I trust their skill levels and their judgement. I think they are amongst the most safety conscious groups I have ever been out with. There is a level of skill across the group that we have worked to achieve and a level-headedness that I admire. I wouldn’t suggest others try to do it without building those attributes up first.
Was it risky? Yeah sure. But it was a calculated risk based on skill levels, knowledge of the canyon and escape routes, team dynamics, keeping a close track of weather apps and always being prepared to back out.
500 people die on the roads in NSW every year. What risk analysis did you do last time you hopped into a car?
“It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.” Aaron Lauritsen . Substitute “quiet little towns” for adventures and it captures this group prefectly
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
Jamie, Aimee, Mamie, Gamie and shamie…. I mean Jamie, Aimee, Matt, Mark and Meeeeee
Confession time: I’d not done Kanangra main before.
Abseiling for the sake of abseiling doesn’t really float my boat so it wasn’t a trip that ever featured high on my priority list but with anchor options that put you into more of the waterfalls rather than beside them it sounded fun and when Mark invited me on a trip I thought it high time I pop my K-Main cherry
After an early meet up we set off into the Kanangra wilds amidst banter and bravo. Before long we arrive at the start of the epicness and gear up
Epic is a word used a lot with the Kanangra wilderness and I have to admit it humbles you as you get dwarfed in the terrain.
While water levels are down after a long dry spell, and even at normal level it’s not considered anywhere near hi-flow there is something about being swallowed into a waterfall halfway down a rope
Below is a typical “Ethical and safe” blue mountains anchor…. sling crumbled with 1 sharp tug
I’m glad Mark converted me to releasable systems and flaking ropes into/out of bags. Constantly coiling and uncoiling ropes on this trip would be a PITA. We got the others into it too
And then we rock hop down the the Kalang junction and begin the “gentle stroll” back up manslaughter ridge… Helps if you stop to smell the orchids every now and then
Another great day with great people
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face : Eleanor Roosevelt
So I’d been thinking about doing Looking Glass but then had a few other offers. For various reasons I was either unable to get to the other offers, they got cancelled or I decided I’d really rather do Looking Glass. After a bit of a shit week at work a long, complex walk and tricky little canyon was just what I needed
As luck would have it Kent was doing a trip there so late Friday I gave him a call and jumped on board.
Pulling into the meeting place I was pleased to see Louise and Scott as I hadn’t managed to catch up with them for a trip in ages and they are always good value.
Others arrived. Stuff was jammed in cars and before we knew it we were in the Wolgan and on our way.
The haul up through the cliffs was no where near as difficult as I was expecting. The walk along the ridges made up for it though. Lots of spurs where it was easy to loose the main ridge if you wasn’t paying attention, thou a fire in recent years meant there wasn’t much scrub so walking was easy.
We managed to scramble down into the head of the creek then followed it down to the first abseil. I was so caught up in enjoying the bush and the banter it took me by surprise when someone said we’d been going for 4hrs already.
On my last trip with Tim I mentioned we’d been using releasable anchors. Today he packed his “Gate” which he had picked up as a freeby when he bought something at Adventure Base but had never used. And by gate he meant Gigi but none of us knew how “Gigi” was pronounced so “Gate” it was.
I’d be keen to see the figure 8 block. said he.
Did you bring your fiddlestick, Said Scott
Let’s rig every abseil different and see how they compare, said someone else. Oh wait, that was me.
I’ve been loving learning and sharing new techniques lately so this was going to be a fun day.
I started setting up the second drop using a figure 8 block.
Can we fiddlestick this one. asks Allie
I’ve been wanting to try this. Says Scott. I bought one but Louise is a die hard member of the DRT crew (Double rope techniques or, as we re-dubbed it, the Dinosaurs (using) Redundant Techniques…. 🙂 )
Ok well she wont have a choice for this one. I grin
So, I’d been toying with an idea to help manage the pull cord. I’d tested it a bit on the cliffs behind my place and it was working a treat. So confident in it was I that I posted a video of it to the Australian Canyoners facebook group to show people how it worked.
So of course today in the wild in front of a bunch of keen onlookers the whole thing turned to shit, the bobbin fell apart and I’m mid way down the abseil looking at a knotted mess wondering how rectify it….
Back to flaking it into the throw bag like a normal person…
Next up Figure 8 block.
You wont be able to release that when it’s loaded. Says Kent
Yeah I will, say I. Pull on this I’ll show you
Na I’ll get on rope. I’m telling ya, ya wont be able to lift my weight to release it.
Kent gets on rope , locks off so his whole weight is on the system… I pop the lock and lower him down. Easy peasey.
Well I’ll be buggered. Says Kent. You have to show me that
And then we stroll back through the ruins and back to the car
Time: 8hrs car to car relaxed pace with plenty of stops and discussions around anchors
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. I ignored both, went my own way and discovered more than I ever thought I could
Little Miss Sunshine, The Russian Gangster, The Dare Devil, Badass Barbie, Archie, White Water Wizard and Meeeeeee (the eeejiot)
When Kylie said her crew were keen on a trip to this area and invited me along I jumped at the chance and then pretty much rearranged the trip… But they were cool with it.
There has been a lot of good discussion on the Australian Canyoners group about rigging releasable contingency anchors and with Mark’s guidance we took the opportunity to practice setting up with a figure 8 block. A method I’ve not used before but one I’ll make use of in the future.
I’ve always like the idea of releasable anchors and have used munter-mule knots in the past but found them too much of a pain in the arse to bother with on most recreational trips, however there are a bunch of devices out now that take the hassle out of the equation. And for those not into buying more gear (weirdos) most people would have a spare figure 8 in the gear bag somewhere. I was surprised at how simple and quick the figure 8 block was to rig.
But I get ahead of myself.
It’s -4 when Little Miss Sunshine arrives at my place, minus the sunshine, and we head off to meet Mark and the others. I know the others only from online interactions so it’s cool to finally meet them in person.
After a gentle stroll up the hill, wait. No, that’s not right. After slogging up the hill we dump bags and set off for a side trip to our first canyon of the day, slipping up the usual pass and short cutting through the scrub to the top of the slot
An hour or so later we are back at the bags and make our way around to visit the next slot/micro canyon
And then it is up my pass and onto the tops for some views followed by more scrub
1 abseil to go and as I was pulling rope across for Mark to feed it through the anchor there was an almighty rumble, the world shook and a car sized boulder broke off the cliff above and went sailing past about 10m to the right of us….. It was impressive to witness but scary AF when it happened
And then its a combination of walking, stumbling and dirt skiing back down to the cars
Another great day in the bush with great people visiting 3 short but very different canyons
Party Size: 7
Time: 7hr 15 car to car
There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom. Ever!: Viggo Mortensen