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.
I’ve said in the past I don’t like repeating a canyon too many times a season as it takes the sense of exploration away from it for me.
Well 2020 has changed a lot of things. With bush fires and COVID and park closures I think I’ve done Empress Falls more this year than I have since my short stint as a guide in the 90s but I’ve been reminded that as much as the conditions on the day it’s people you go in with make each and every experience unique
So when I get a text saying, We’re heading to Empress, Wanna come.
I think why the hell not
Rolling into the car park late. I hastily gear up, hug some old friends, meet some new friends and off we go.
Some hadn’t done Empress before so there is that buzz of new excitement that I find infectious
It helps when they are all just a little bit nuts
Signing the log book we note Lib and Justine are not far in front of us
We meet Libby and Justine at the bottom of the final abseil and make our way back to the car park all smiles and banter
Whadda ya doing this arv? Wanna Canyon after work? Says Madie
This is becoming a habit. I kinda like it.
Should we invite others? say I
Yeah, I miss people
A flurry of last minute invites were sent out. Sadly no one was available for an early Tuesday afternoon adventure with zero notice. Go figure
Madie and Leo arrive at the car park and after I field some work calls it’s about 4pm as we make a dash down into the canyon.
We were traveling lightish and fastish (For me) and my camera is playing up so not many photos were taken.
Some giggles, banter and poking fun later we are through the canyon and me and Mads start up the hill while Leo pulls the rope on the last abseil. He still well and truly beats us to the climb and ascends up ready to belay us
Up I go and start up the next bit while he belays Madie up.
I get almost to where it starts flattening out when he jogs past, Come on Flynny.
I have a bit of a jog. Legs are cramping. I walk for a bit. Looking back Madie is jogging and gaining on me fast. Leo is heading up the last little hill to the car park. I try to jog again. Stubborn or determined or sumfink
Back at the cars we laugh as we change into dry clothes.
Hey, Russ and Libby are going to do Juggler!
We should join them…
We drive around to meet them and then head off into Juggler at a slightly more relaxed pace.
And we reach the end and walk out in the darkening twilight
Party size: Butterbox, 3 Juggler, 5
Time: Is irrelevant when you are hanging out with awesome friends or Butterbox 1hr 45 Juggler 1hr 35
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving: Terry Pratchett
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
Does the pope shit in the woods… I mean, Is a bear catholic… I mean… ah fuggit, yeah sure
It’s mid afternoon when we roll into the car park. It and every other car park on the Mt Hay road is jam packed. Oddly no one else is in the canyon though.
We start gearing up.
Did anyone bring quick draws……
Karabiners will have to do but that’s future us problems. We set off down the trail.
It’s a cracking day and a relief when we drop into the shade of the gully
We had trundled through the canyon itself fairly quick, the water was chilly but the day outside was baking (well baking in the sense that we haven’t acclimatised to summer yet) so we spread out on the rocks below the final abseil for a snooze to allow the gear to dries out and the afternoon to cool down.
I’m not good at sitting still so eventually I gather my gear and begin the trek out, knowing the others will catch me soon enough. It was still a hot march up to the climb
Once there I grab Russ’ spare Biners and free up a couple of mine and lead on up.
Another quality afternoon in a quality canyon with quality people.
Many years ago I helped carry a girl with a broken leg out of a little known canyon in the Newnes state forest. For the life of me I can’t remember how I got involved in that but I remember asking her party what the canyon was like.
The pools were really pretty, says they. But not worth the scrub bash
Certainly the scrub hiking back up the hill was not pleasant that day.
Figuring that may not be such an issue just now I thought I’d go for a look and the above named legends decided to join me.
Beforehand I asked my mate/guru, Bob if he knew the creek, he mentioned there was an old 4wd track right down into the creek and he use to take his kids down there to teach them to abseil and go yabbying in a pool in an erosion cave but he hadn’t followed the creek further down.
Now I may or may not have misinterpreted the track notes I made from the aforementioned party’s description and so we may have taken far more rope than we needed. Where I wrote Second abseil 50m down creek. I should have wrote 50m further down creek to 2nd abseil… Carrying 100m worth of ropes where the longest abseil was less then 10m may have been overkill…
Despite some dire weather predictions it was a glorious spring day, mostly, and after Dick and Libby met at my place we swung over to pick up Izy at the crack of d̶a̶w̶n̶, I mean 11am
I chose not to take the 4wd track that goes all the way into the creek as one on the opposite ridge should give us a sorter walk out while still getting us within a few hundred meters of the start of the canyon.
It also gave us great views
So far it’s a pleasant, canyonish creek. Unfortunately it’s about now my camera battery died and I realised I left my spares at home. Everyone else had left their stuff at the car as it was going to be a short one….. Thus we’ve no photos of the best bit, 3 abseils in a very short but very pretty canyonette.
The fires had taken out any decent anchor trees so the fiddle stick came in handy on the first two. 1 off a big log over hanging the drop and the other off a rock wedged low down for a short abseil to a ledge and then a jump into a stunning pool
The third drop proved a bit harder to find an anchor. I was searching in the creek for a suitable rock or some where to wedge a log when Libby says What about that!
She is pointing to a stone pillar in a small overhang up on a ledge just down stream of the waterfall.
We slip up to check it out. Some delicate traversing along the narrow ledge gives me access to the pillar that is in an alcove above a wider ,dirter end section of the ledge, It is about 30cm in diameter and looks and feels nice and solid. I give it a test and drop on in then dig out phone to grab a few final photos.
A final bit of canyon like creek
And then it’s up the hill, across a narrow saddle and back to the car
So it’s still early and we decide to leave the wetsuits on and drive across to drop into Alcatraz
all the alcatraz photos are copywrite to Izy
Timings: First one 2hrs car to car
Alcatraz: ~1.5hrs car to car
You can’t please everyone, unless you’re an avocado: Maddy G
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
NB: Uncharacteristically I didn’t take a single photo all day so full credit for all the photos herein goes to the awesome bunch of folks above.
The forecast was for torrential rain, slushy snow and freezing conditions so when Kylio put out an invite to do a wet canyon followed by a wet abseil trip of course we all said a great big enthusiastic yes.
The day before I’d swung by Adventurebase to catch up with Leo and pick up a bit of gear. It was a miserable day but the torrential rain was more an annoying drizzle and I duck out to check the track out of our second option, as it had been closed for a while last year, but I was happy to see it open.
Anyhoo, Saturday dawned awash with sunshine. Unfortunately we didn’t get as much rain as predicted but Empress was running a bit better than usual and we were keen to hit it.
I don’t think anyone was expecting every one to turn up so we’d need to split into smaller groups to abide the group size limit but also to keep things moving, we were expecting it to be coolish in the canyon, waiting in line for an abseil wouldn’t be ideal.
Jumping into the first pool was a bit of a rush and instant icecream headache. But by keeping a relatively quick pace I never really felt cold, even while manning the abseil line at the end.
We all regroup at the base of the falls. Some of us jump in a few times just for the hell of it then we shake ourselves off and head back up to the cars.
Here we say good by to half the group and the rest of us stay suited up and head off for our next adventure
This is one I’ve thought about doing for a while, but in summertime the waterhole at the bottom tends to be busy with all sorts of people from families trying to relax to thrill seekers and instagrammers so I never through it appropriate to toss ropes. Therefore when Kylie suggested it doing it in winter I was in like uncle Errol.
Glad I did, it might just be my new favourite abseil in the blue Mountains
The rocky bottom creek was a bit slippery in places but we all stayed up right, mostly, and soon we came to the main event
An over hanging start drops us straight into the flow but a short way down was a ledge that ended in a v slot which funnelled the full pump directly intp your face as you dropped into a lovely 10m of free space.
With beaming smiles we make our way back up to the cars and make a bee line for warm food and cold beer.