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.
Mark, Ed, Ethan, Rob, Russ, Mick, David and meeeeeeee
I’d first visited the Minotaurs lair (AKA Bell Minor canyon) with Ed in 2016. It was a hot dry winters day and too be honest I didn’t think much off it.
But on the way out we spotted a tight slot that’s looked like it may be interesting. Being short on rope and time we didn’t descend it that day so I guess it was time to go back for another look.
Also Geoff Fox had told me about a slot up above the lair that he said was worth visiting so after a cold wet week we set off for a bit of an explore.
Then we head around the corner and into the gully. We cross over and avoid the worst of the scrub by traversing the base of the cliff.
And then we scramble out to look for the slot Yuri ad Geoff labelled Ariadne slot. Just when we thought we’d have to be too high another set of clifflines rise above us and we follow them around.
Its a pretty slot and would make a great abseil in from the top but no Athenian princesses were found so we make our way back down to the junction with Minotaur’s lair and fight our way through tree fall up the other side.
It was about now we hear the dreaded whoosh, crack, kaboom.
With the exception of possibly soiled pants every one was fine. Russ had looked up in time to see a baby head size rock tumbling in slow motion down the canyon. It hit the wall then exploded on the ground where he had been standing moments before….
One more little abseil and we reach the junction with the main gully
Some dense scrub
Some complex boulder hopping….Sliding
And then an easy walk down the nose to the road.
All up a good day in the bush with great people. It was a fairly long complex walk with plenty of scrub and elevation for 3 fairly short slots but I love this shit and heading out with others likewise inclined sooth the soul and clears the mind.
Party Size: 8
Time: 6hr 15min car to car with a bit of a car shuffle
The hardest thing is to find a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat:- Confucius
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
Despite (or possibly because) starting the year doing some amazingly awesome and epic trips I’ve been struggling to get out lately. Trying to find that balance between family, canyoning, the mountain bike club, work and all the other crap I do has needed a bit of tending.
Anyhooo I had a weekend free and the guys were keen. Our plans to do something in the Wolgan took a dive when I remembered the glowworm tunnel marathon was on and the valley would be packed.
Shall we go one valley over and do Coinslot.
It’s really short shall we follow up with Doomsday (AKA Bull Ant)
They are an argumentative bunch…
Anyhooo, We converge at my place, load gear in ute and head off.
I’d considered doing the climbing route as I know all the guys are competent but then thought if we wanted to do another canyon none of us had done before it might be best to take the quicker way up thus we take the not quiet climbing route.
Previously with different groups, some of whom needed roping up, the climb up to Coinslot always seemed a longer expedition but in no time we were up and into it.
And then it’s back down to the hill to the car, it’s barely lunch time.
I’ve got some vague track notes to get us to the start of Doomsday and after a bite to eat we head off up the other side of the valley. The climb up starts steep and gets steeper. Some dodgy not-quiet-rock-climbing sees us standing on a summit over looking the valley.
Down into a gap and up the other side then steadily up a ridge.
The canyon must start fairly high up in the system….
We reach the point were the notes say to turn towards the creek and need to drop back down through a fair portion of the elevation we just ascended.
I’m already thinking of Chardie and Autal’s comments on my complex bush bashes to visit not so awesome canyons…
Not sure if Madie told you guys but I have a reputation for this shit, say I
Canyon better be good, says they. And I have to agree
This involves an abseil into a pool and then a duck under a low arch. The bottom of the arch is only a couple of inches above the top of the water. As I was already wet I strip off my shirt and volunteer to go first. It was freaking cold
And then we boulder hop, abseil and stumble back down the hill to the maintenance trail and thus back to the car.
It’s not often I finish a canyon wondering whether it was worth it but I doubt I’d rush back to do Doomsday. I know other friends enjoy it and to be fair on a warmer, wetter day it might be more appealing but today it didn’t grab me as anything special.
Everyone wants to experience the view at the top of the mountain. Very few realise the magic, wonder and growth happens while you are climbing it
Party Size: 4 all experienced
Time: Coinslot 2.5 hours car to car. Doomsday 4.5hrs car to car
The next canyon does not appear in any guide and I haven’t seen it marked on any map I’ve come across but unlike the two previous canyons that none of us had done Ryan had visited this one, stumbling across it on a trip a few years ago.
It will be more aquatic than the last 2, says he….
Anyhoo, it turned out to be a great little canyon
So our intel and Ryan’s memory said there were four drops in the canyon, and this is true, but just down the creek we come to a substantial cliff line which looks borderline to big for our rope.
The general consensus from those who have explored this particular slice of the wilderness before is there are no large drops of any significance.
This one looks significant
Well that’s a bit of a buggar.
We join two ropes and anchor the top one just above the knot on a munter hitch. I get on the bottom rope and head over the edge but due to over hanging ledges I can’t see if the ropes on the ground. The plan is once I get a visual, if it is not touching the ground Ryan will lower me on the munter.
As it was when I finally get a look the rope is close enough to the ground to make it down safe.
It’s getting late and we are a long way down the main creek from our camp site so we discuss options of trying to break a pass up through the cliffline while we still have light or trudge a few kilometres up the main creek to a pass Phil has used previously and climb that in the dark.
We opt for the former, Madie has a pass marked on her map we think we can link up with.
Unfortunately we get on to a ledge too early that doesn’t go and are forced to abseil off as light fades where the decision is made to retreat to the main creek and take Phils pass out.
It’s longer and more complicated than I expect but we eventually get to the top and onto the fire trail. We have a couple of kilometres to get back to camp.
The others are staying an extra night, a wise choice, myself and Russ break camp and trek a further several kilometres back to the cars for the long drive back to civilisation
All in all a great experience
Group Size: 6
Time: Car to Camp. 1 and a bit hours. Camp to camp 14 hours. All up just shy of 25 hours and 36km in the wilderness
So what did I think of the Fiddle Stick?
Well… It’s a lot slower than throw and go and has none of the advantages of lowerable anchor systems. There is also a lot more to be mindful of when setting up so will need constant practice but for wilderness canyons where the aim is not to leave anything behind, including slings, rope burns on trees or grooves in rock, it makes a lot of sense.
Another handy tool in the quiver, but as I said one you’d want to practice a bit to stay familiar with it’s use.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself: Alan Alda
Soggy Bottom, Balls Deep, All in, Just a Bobble, Dragged a Toe and Ah Stuff it I’m in, AKA meeee
It’s 9pm, it’s the middle of May and I’m following Madie down a fire trail on another wild adventure.
The snow clouds that swirled around all day had hampered the drive out with constant rain and a smattering of sleet yet as we pull into the car park to meet the others they miraculously clear and we have a crisp stary night for our walk out to where we will camp above the canyons.
We’re not the only obsessive compulsive canyoning weirdos this time around, joining us are Rus, Ryan, Stu and Phil.
Madie had been recently converted to fiddle stick ghosting/Leave-no-trace techniques and I’m keen to check it out but first we pitch tents and enjoy a night of banter around the camp fire.
We’re up before sun rise and set off at first light amid one of the most spectacular pretty dawns I have witnessed.
After a few kilometres walk further along the fire trail we spear off into the bush looking for our first canyon. There are no track notes for the canyons out this way and the un-tracked terrain makes the whole area something special.
And then the canyon opens out and we make our way down to the main creek aiming for a pass up to our next canyon
With a bunch of bike and family commitments throughout March it’s had been nearly 4 weeks since I managed to get a canyon in. Or is that get in a canyon?
Anyhoo, I was tonguing to get out and I had missed some good trips with some good people so when the mad one said she wanted to do a canyon out in the Northern Wollemi on a weekend I finally had free I begged a leave pass and we started to plan.
Invitations were sent and a few people were keen but in the end most were unable to make it.
Briefly we discussed doing it as a day trip but decided that if we camped at the increasingly popular Dunns Swamp we’d have time to squeeze in another little canyon while we were out there.
Let’s go down one and up the other.
Doesn’t the guide say the other has some abseils?
Pffft, It says 1 abseil or a down climb, how hard could it be.
I first visited Dunns Swamp back around 1992 for wild party, now it’s all families and quiet time, lights out at 10pm and stuff. Camp sites were filling up fast and continued to do so well into the night,
We set up camp. This is gonna be fun. We can stay up late, swappin’ manly stories and in the morning, I’m making WAFFLES!
In the morning no waffles were made but we make our way out to the forestry gate. For which I have the combination as it’s part of the bicentennial trail, ‘cept they have changed the locks. This would mean a 10km fire trail slog.
Sometime later we ditch the bikes and do the last bit on foot. I’d driven across this fire trail in dads jeep in about 86, it’s a stunning bit of the world.
We had next to zero info on the first canyon but it looked like we needed to get through some complicated clifflines to reach it. In the end with some less than attentive navigation it was fairly simplez, we just walked around until we found it
Then it was down to the main creek for lunch in the dappled sunlight. Now to reverse the next one. Some of you may die, but its a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
And then we are at the top looking back down and it’s time to head home
Party Size: 2
Time: 7hr (and 2 minutes) car to car being fairly quick on the fire trail with few stops but lots of faffing in the canyons themselves
I’m not allowed the mention the canyons by name for fear of the canyon illuminati kid-napping me and beating me senseless. 1 source of info said we wouldn’t need wetsuits but I’m glad we took them as the second canyon was fairly cold and sustained. Good thing we didn’t wait until mid(dle of) winter to do it.
All in all it was another good day in the bush in a beautiful part of the world. After some late summer rain it sure was green up there on the hills