Kanangra Main

19/10/2019

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.

Pitch 2

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

Jamie on rope
Waterfallbow
Aimee looking tinier than usual
She took control of this anchor and look at her go with feeding the rope out of the bag. Nice work

Below is a typical “Ethical and safe” blue mountains anchor…. sling crumbled with 1 sharp tug

At least there is not far to fall…

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

Rope stuffing beside waterfalls, it’s a thing we are into…. Or sumfink
Looks like a jump, feels like a jump, smells like a jump… Well half a jump. Woot woot

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

Party Size: 5

Time: 8.5hr car to car taking it steady

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Aimee’s take on the day

Xmas in July canyoning challenge

20/07/2019

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.

Ed as Scary Santa
A splash of colour in the Aussie bush
Me and Jen. And yes they are my own boobs. Legs together because the at the first down climb I took a big step and tore the crutch out of the candy cane stockings. Um I’ll be going first on the way down. MmmmKay..

After a round of photos it was into our first canyon, Zorro

How cool does the red look against the Aussie Bush in Winter
Jen belaying the guys
Zorro is an amazing little canyon with entrance and exit chambers that are consistently narrow and straight
It has some little challenges along the way too. Most groups abseil this drop which is a worry because when Chewy tested the anchor the sling fell out in his hand…. The sling was basically around a bit of mudstone that was more mud than stone
Ed embracing a game of the water is lava. With a bit of encouragement everyone managed to keep their feet dry
The Z chamber, which separates the entrance and exit chamber with a grand, perpendicular hallway
Joel and Diana heading towards the exit
Jodie, Jen, Chewy and Russ bridging their way down the exit
Jen, Diana and Meeeee. With the gang in the back ground ©Joel
Jen and her magical polar bear slippers on the final abseil

And then it was back up to the tops for a lovely Xmas lunch over looking the One and Only Emerites Wolgan resort

As John Lennon sang, The sun is out, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are….. Um the gang?
All the cool Blue Mts Canyoners where besta…. I mean polar bear ugg boots? While they lost an ear Jen managed to keep them crispy white.

Then it’s back to the cars for a short drive around to our next destination. Not so much a canyon as a crack.

Of Dooooom.

Those following along back home may remember me not finding it, not fitting through it and opting to go around it. Well 10kg down and this time through I went

looking back up as Jodie enters the Crack of Doom
Russ at the point the crack turns from Narrow to Squeezey
Jodie getting her squeeze on
Ed almost to the bit where it allows you to breathe again
Looking back at the impressive crack that descends the cliff line

And then it was around to have a look at a bigger crack/micro canyon. Catherdral Canyon. AKA The diamond cavern

All up it’s only about 50m long but it’s kinda nice

From there we make our way back to our exit slot, The Crack of Doom 2.

A slightly more sensible width it’s still narrow and parallels the cliff with just a slight bend as it ramps it’s way up
It ends in an easy 3m chimney climb out.
Me giving Jen a little hand. Now my climbing style has never been described as graceful and Jen’s legs might be a little shorter than mine but humping the rock was never in my bag of tricks. You learn something new each day or sumfink… ©Ed

All in all a great day in the bush decking the halls, prancing about, jingling bells and generally having a laugh with seriously awesome people.

Group Size: 8

Time: Is meaningless on Xmas

Tomorrow owes you the sum of your yesterday. Nothing more than that.:-Robin Hobb

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Greek Myths and pirate ships

06/07/2019

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.

First up is a series of towers detached from the main cliff line by some interesting slots. I know Yuri has a name for them but I can’t remember what it is

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.

The North eastern cliffs are riddled with undercuts and sand caves. The most impressive of which is this beauty with its ribbons of colour and delicate iron stone plates. Animal tracks abound in the fine sand all along the cliff line
Into the Lair we go. Not sure how the minotaur will react to 8 burly blokes instead of 7 Athenian youths and 7 maidens fair but anyhoo we’re not scared….
Not the legendary beast but a legendary beast.
Ok so with a bit of moisture and greenery Minotaur’s lair is a nice walk through slot, not as long as I remember and the walls are quiet shallow, but nice

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.

Ariadne tended the labyrinth, She was the Daughter of Minos, King of Crete, and a bit of a spunk. Mick is hoping to find her. That may be the Minotaur in the back ground
New album, Lust for Ariadne by Mark and the Descentionists drops April 2020… or sumfink

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.

Ed and I spotted this slot in 2016 but were short on ropes (shorter than we knew it would turn out) so we opted not to descend it at that time. Checking it out is probably the only reason I bothered to do Minotaur’s Lair again
So we probably should have stuck with the Ancient Crete theme but we’re splitters and went with Walk the Plank canyon, AKA Ed’s Plank
Russ volunteering to be first to check it out

Non remanebit ex eis ungula et circulo fundae : No sling shall be left behind. Or sumfink

It was about now we hear the dreaded whoosh, crack, kaboom.

Everyone OK.

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….

Russ in the short but nice middle section happy none of those rocks had hit him

More squeezey fun ensued
And then it opens out in to a pleasant exit chamber
Ed admiring the end of his plank. Or sumfink

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

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Newnes Plateau canyons

29/09/2018

Madie, Chardi, Tim, Marchelle Gabby and meeee

I often browse websites, blogs, trip reports and photos looking for inspiration and in doing so years ago I stumbled across a name of a canyon I’d not heard of before. My interest was pipped. More research revealed nothing but another name of a second canyon close by.

After some assumptions, deductions, guess-work and staring at satellite imagery I mark 2 points on the map with question marks. But at the time I didn’t have a group I thought would be willing to go in search of a probably low quality canyon through thick scrub just for the hell off it. And, well life got in the road And that was the end of that.

But the other week I pulled out my old map and those 2 question marks burned into me. I put out a call to see who’d be keen on an exploration trip that would probably involve a wet canyon but probably not stunning or wow material.

To my surprise the above mentioned folk said yes and so we found ourselves parked on a seemingly random bit of otherwise highly trafficked firetrail and we headed off into the untracked scrub.

Only then we stumbled over an old vehicle track that was heading right where I’d marked would be the most likely easy way to enter the creek.

The track stopped at a rock outcrop and while there was no obvious path down it was an easy scramble into the creek. Surprisingly there was a footpad of sorts along the creek edge. OK this must get more visitors than I thought.

And then

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Just like a chocolate milk shake only crunchy

I was pretty sure I was looking at a small Wollemi Pine. But this isn’t where they were suppose to be. I fire off a few photos to compare images later on but I convince myself it was something else.

What going on? says they

I thought that was a Wollemi pine. say I

The plaque says it is a wollemi pine.

OK I missed that. It seems it was planted in 2008 as a memorial to two people who enjoyed the area. OK that explains that.

From here the faint track disappears and is replaced by not so faint scrub.

Scrubby Scrub.

At some point the conversation turns to buggery and bestiality. WTF? the weird conversations you have in the bush. Those who recognise where we are may get the reference.

Anyhoo Chardi, who missed the memo that it was going to be a wet trip until Tim picked him up and asked if he had his wetsuit packed, is not impressed with the scrub so far. He makes comment on our 6 dope trip and threatens to wipe me off his list if things don’t improve dramatically

Luckily we round a bend and are greeted by a drop into a heavenly looking pool. Well it would be heavenly looking if it was 28° summer day instead of at 14° mid spring day…

How’s the water?

Bathy and only knee deep, or sumfink…

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Chardi in the first swim, Marchelle roping up

What follows is a delightful little Sheep Dip style of canyon with lots of slides

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Madie on the first slide

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Marchelle on another slide

Abseils

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Tim keen to get back into the water

and Jumps

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Madie taking a leap

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How much fun is this?

Chardi forgives me for the scrub on the way in.

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Marchelle wondering if she can stay dry: Gabby manged to on this one

And in-between were some surprisingly nice bits of canyon. Not mind=blowing wow but nice

 

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And after another little drop we find a spot in the sun to warm up and have a bit of morning tea. There are signs that this spot is more visited. I point out there is a popular walk in the area and this bit could be visited from the bottom up before the waterfall stopped you.

We continue down a track of sorts but now I’m looking for a pass out to try to link up with the other possible canyon. I’m starting to think there wont be one when a steep gully appears that looks like it might go.

Tim and Gabby follow Madie up a steep bit of scrub out of the creek. Chardi and Marchelle follow me a few meters down stream where I think looks to be an easier ramp.

I scramble up a steep rock using a small sapling as a hold and reach out with my other hand to grab a reasonable size tree root.

That’s not a tree root. Tigersnake! Big one. Now I’m generally pretty good around snakes so I slowly stand and be as non-threatening as I can be. Old mate has flattened out but on a cool spring day I doubt he is going to waste energy on me if I don’t threaten him. I slowly reach for my camera. The bugger stands up and comes straight at me. I jump back off the rock.

Did I mention the rock was steep. so now it’s on top of the rock where I was just standing and I’m at the bottom of the rock which pretty much puts us eye to eye about a foot and a half away from each other.

It comes at me again. Shit!

Ok so snakey people know that Tigersnakes put on pretty good threat displays but unless you try and pick one up or step on it they’ll often do a bit of bluff where they launch a closed mouth headbutt to scare you off. This one had it’s mouth closed. I highly doubt it was looking to bite but when it’s coming at your face all that goes out the window. I launch myself backwards down the hill.

Chardi is wondering what the hell is going on, surely I didn’t fall of that bit of rock, did I break and handhold or…. Oh Snake.

I stumble in the loose rocks and fallen branches, I’ve put a good couple of meters between us but I look up and it’s still coming at me. I’m all tangled up on the ground and have nowhere to go. Shit Shit! Shit! I’m f#$ked.

It gets to within about a meter and veers off. Shit!

Marchelle cottons on to whats happening. The Snake coils around. Takes another good look at us, sees there is now 3 big things not just 1 and takes off into the undergrowth directly towards the other group.

Watch out! Angry Tigersnake coming across towards you.

They all take it nice and calmly and continue up the hill. I compose myself and do likewise.

Later, back at the cars Chardi brings up the snake encounter.

What? Where? Oh wow we thought you called out you couldn’t continue up where you were and were coming across toward us. Then we wondered why you didn’t

No wonder they were so calm about it.

But we get ahead of ourselves. For now we continue up and reach the top of the gully only to be blocked by a small overhang and the last little bit of the cliff. Using Chardi as a ladder a scramble up the overhang and the dirty, not quiet vertical scree and set a rope. I call,Rope below .

Don’t bother there is an easy pass up to the side.

Now they tell me.

Once through the cliffs it was an easy stroll through fairly open scrub down into the next gully along until we are stopped by a reasonable sized cliffline. We had plenty of ropes but as they say in the Bluies “The nose always goes! Sometimes.” Just up-stream on a bend I see a steep nose that looks like it would indeed go.

The scrub to get there was horrid but it gave us a way down. It was steep and slippery and at one stage Gabby slipped  bounced into me and like a snooker ball I shot off down the next bit. Then again she slipped and landed on me…. Well she says she slipped but I’m taking it as a compliment or sumfink.

Anyhoo we reach the creek. The dry, dirty creek filled with razor grass and dead fern fonds and choss and disappointment.

We fight our way down stream. Chardi revokes his forgiveness and when we are sure this isn’t going to be a canyon suggested the creek be renamed Flynny’s Folly.

And then a trickle of water. Then a rocky bottom. And then, out of nowhere

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Alright

I didn’t think the previous creek was as cold as I expected. This one seemed to make up for it.

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But it was quite a nice little canyon

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With plenty of small abseils and swims

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Call Madie on 1800 CANYONs  

At one point we drop into a pot hole to find the other side to be rimmed with a 2 meter high wall (Water must flow underneath but  the passage was silted up with sand. I scramble up. The wall is about a foot wide and drops straight back down into a pool on the other side. I help Gabby up and then use her pack to lower her down until her feet touch the water and drop her.

I must admit I didn’t really pay attention to her landing. I help Tim up. Just slide down the wall and land soft it’s only about waist deep. says I.

Tim slides and disappears under the water. OK chin deep….

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This was the longest and most complex abseil of the day and in the cool breeze coming up the canyon it was the first time I really felt cold all day

But just around the corner it opens up into a glorious amphitheatre and we warm ourselves in the sun thinking that’s it. But just just down stream

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It canyons up again

One more short swim through the darkest and prettiest bit of canyon so far on the trip

And then the gully opens out.

Near by was far more popular canyon and while we were in the area we thought why not

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And then it’s up the hill and back to the car.

Party size: 6 all experienced

Timing: 6hrs car to car

Life is more enjoyable and less oppressive with some mountain air, a little adventure and just the right company

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Views over the wolgan

19-05-2018

Madie, Autal, Catherine, Chris and meeeeee

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.

Anyhoo.

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

 

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©Madie

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Ignore me, I’m an idiot… ©Madie

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Autal reaching up for that last hand hold….

and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.

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Chris stretches out in the warm sunshine

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Nice spot of a morning tea break

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

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©Autal

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Me in my happy place ©Autal

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Autal filming Cat as she starts her descent into the unknown. ©Madie

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

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Abseiling down through that hole is an amzing experience and somewhat scarey as at first it looks and feels like you wont fit ©Madie


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Madie preparing to drop into the hole ©Autal

From below the hole is stunningly circular

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And once through there is still a long abseil to the gully below

A short, dark cave section follows

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Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up

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Autal at the start of the short canyon section ©Madie

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Autal dropping in ©Madie

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.

click to enbiggen

 

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Cat and Chris in the canyon ©Madie

And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock

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©Madie

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The light in this section is just magical but hard to capture with a little point and click camera

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 🙂

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Madie demonstraighting the technique

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Autal emerging from the hole

The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan

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Autal in a hidden slot int he wolgan cliff line

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Yours truly heading back out into the sunlight ©Madie

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Autal emerging from the upper cliff line

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Chris

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

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It doesn’t get much better than this on a warm Autumn day ©Autal Farkas

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Autal high above the Wolgan ©Madie

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A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world

 

Party Size: 5 all experienced

Time: 6hr car to car

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6 dopes go to 4 Dope Canyon

05-05-18

Chardie, Autal, Al, Madie, Maarten and me

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

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.

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Autal belaying Chardie
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Madie locks off to take some photos
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Ahead the canyon looks quality
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Charlies angle or sumfink

After a short section of narrow, dark canyon it opens out slightly

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And then it drops again and there is a couple of abseils in quick succession

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Chardie on rope
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The last one is the most awkward drop of the trip but not too difficult

And some nice canyon follows

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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.

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Chardie braving the cold, clear waters

But is is such a nice spot

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Maarten asking Madie if he can jump it
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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

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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…)

Madie admiring the arch from below and giving it a bit of scale
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It’s a stunning bit of landscape
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Looking up Arch canyon

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.

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A shot of the arch from the exit track.

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

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Looking over the gully that hides Arch canyon and out into the Bungleboori wilderness from the top of the pass out

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.

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Claustral

11/12/2016

Edwin, Lewis and myself

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

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Ed scrambling down

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The canyon is looking good already

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

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The start of the abseils

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Lewis on the first abseil

The drops are pretty cool. Abseil 10-15 meters, swim across a pool to a small stance and repeat

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Lining up to take photos on the small stance between drops

The final abseil starts through a small hole and drops into darkness. Much awesomeness

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Edwin dropping into the Black hole of Calcutta, nicely back lit by Lewis’ torch

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.

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We played around here for a while snapping photos from all angles

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Lewis contemplating the light

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It’s much greener than I remember. One of the most fern filled and moss covered canyons I’ve been in

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Cameras at 10 paces… I’ve heard of people paying to do the guided trip just for a photo here

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.

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Canyon formation

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Canyon Formation

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

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The group coming in from Ranon catch us

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Like the slot the greenery just keeps going

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.

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Looking for sun rays but the day was a little overcast so the few we got were very faint

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Ed carefully wading with the camera out

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Canyon formation

Light rays, canyons and photographers

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Ed chasing Rays

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.

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Lewis looking down a pot hole

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

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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

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North Wolgan wandering

08-10-2016

Mandy and I

After a lazy long weekend in the Wolgan, with just a stroll up to the arch to break up the eating and drinking

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Wolgan Arch

I was keen to head back down and have a bit of a look around a dry canyon I knew of but hadn’t explored before and so I dragged Mandy out and ventured back down the valley.

I’d heard about this in the early to mid 2000s but never got around to having a look.

The road in crosses some private property, a couple of old school mates owned a block up the end but wasn’t 100% sure there weren’t other properties on the way up so in the interest of doing the right thing we left the road at the first gate and wandered up through the scrub on the other side of the creek.

We soon passed Ringo and Karl’s block and started climbing the steep hill that would bring us to the lower cliffline and the first short canyonette.

It was steep and loose and the weather had decided to play spring so it was fairly muggy too but we made our way up and reached the base of the cliffs without too many dramas.

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The first canyon section started with some promise, a scramble up through another impressive arch. The slot carved up through the lower cliffs but opened out almost as soon as it started.

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Nice scramble up through an arch into the canyonette

Climbing out of this brief slot we wandered up through a pleasant, if sometimes scrubby amphitheater  to the next cliff line

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The scrub was thick with lawyer vines as the valley rose up to the base of the upper cliffs but once there the cool breeze racing up the constriction was like a sigh of relief.

We had to negotiate a squeeze through a tunnel section under boulders

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Mandy making it look easy

And then we were into the main constriction

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Mandy enjoying the cool breeze

My original plan had been to scamper up and out the top to admire the views and check out some other  little canyons near by but Mandy hadn’t been feeling the best so I contented myself taking a bunch of photos and then we retraced out steps back the way we came.

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If you stick our tongue out it helps you squeeze your gut through

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A Window on the Wolgan

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Mandy under the arch

Party size 2, both experienced, but Mandy feeling unwell on the climb up so taking it slow

Time: 4hrs with lots of photo phaffing

 

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Ida Falls

Access: Easy walk, thanks to Ty N. and all his hard work fixing up the old track. There is some steep uneven dirt steps and a couple of spot where you are stepping over or along logs but no abseils or rock scrambles.

Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward.

Map:  Lithgow  1:25000 These can be purchased at Lithgow Tourist information center or online for around $10 each though not really needed here

Time: It takes about 30min to walk up to the falls.

Ida

Ida Falls is a nice little walk on the outskirts of Lithgow. There are hand stencils in the area suggesting it was important to the native peoples prior to white settlement. The lower gully was once a coal mine and relics from that era are easy to spot.

Familiar to generations of Oakey Park kids as a semi secret hidout and yabbie hunting spot.

Half way up the gully is over looked by Top Points on the ZigZag railway to the left and a forgotten look out (opposite PoW memorial on Scenic Hill) and old climbing crag to the right.

In recent years a young local took on the task of fixing up the trail so others less adventurous could visit it. Please respect not only all his hard work but the very nature of the location, a piece of pristine beauty right on the edge of town

Getting there:

Head down Inch st this becomes Bells St after the second rail over bridge. At end of Bell st cross a little bridge (Notice the tunnel this creek comes out of on the right) and there is a small parking area on the right. Walk back towards the last house, down toward the crk. You need to get to the other side of the railway line and you do this by passing through a cool old culvert.

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Mandy in the tunnel

Once through the tunnel look for Ty’s home made signs as the guide you across the creek then up to the right to avoid the boggy ground and hence up the gully towards the falls

 

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The Falls don’t always have a flow going over them so it’s best to do the walk after a bit of rain, or even while it’s raining. Return the same way

It’s possible scramble up through breaks in the cliff lines and visit the upper gully to but care and respect is needed

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. A basic first aid 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.

 

ida falls

 

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