When I was a kid a lot of amazing adventures started or finished at 166 Bells Street. We are 13 or 14 popping wheelies on our BMXes, or hanging out high up in the climbing tree, or digging tunnels in the river bank or making home made fireworks out of stuff you could still buy or find when we were kids or sumfink.
Let’s go yabbying.
We grab some string, stuff some form of meet into our pockets, race off on our bikes and head up to some long forgotten little dams in a long forgotten gully right at the edge of town. It all sounds very Huckleberry Finnish. But it’s nothing so grand, just a day in the life of me and my mate Smiddy some time in the 80s. Nothing overly memorable except we didn’t catch any yabbies and on the way back while bridging through what I’d now call a canyonette (but back then was just a nice bit of narrow creek) Pat slipped in. We are wearing jeans and jumpers, it was an icy winters day (the yabbies had been smartly tucked up in their nests) and it was cold ride home for Smiddy.
Anyhoo, fast forward mumblemumble years. (Would you believe 10? No? How about 20? Ok it’s closer to 30, and by closer I mean over 30) Mandy is keen for a small walk and thinks Ida falls might be the go.
Pulling up in the little car park it’s packed (well 4 or 5 cars but enough to ruin the uncrowded feel I like.)
Hey there’s another gully we use to frequent and from memory it’s kind pretty too… says I
Especially after we’ve had a bit of rain through the week.
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
So with a bunch of other commitments I didn’t get out canyoning at all in August. In fact the last real canyon trip I lead was almost 2 months ago so I was frothing to get out.
I was keen for a couple of the Pagoda canyons on the Plateau before the weather warmed up and when Madie said she had the weekend off I thought why not combine a few of the smaller ones to make it worth her drive.
I also thought she’d might be nutty enough to join me for our first wet canyon of Spring.
Can I bring a friend, asks she.
Yep says I. And so Wouter, would be joining us for his first canyoning experience.
Jen had a morning free opted in for the first canyon too.
After a long dry spell a week of steady drizzle was welcomed by all and certainly made the first two usually dry canyons a bit more special.
The first recorded group through here called it Acoustic Canyon due to a series of these chambers. But as there was another little canyon out in the Nayook system already called Acoustic this one is now normally just called Sunnyside, though the Jameison guide also lists it as Wombat.
Back to the car we say goodbye to Jen and make our way to the next one.
So do you guys want to slip over and check out the tops or make a dash for time and go and get wet in another canyon? Asks me
Why can’t we do both, replies Madie in her best el Paso impersonation.
Then it’s back up the ridge, into the car for a longish drive around to our next stop. I have to say I was a bit excited for this one. Madie was so excited she wetsuited up while we were driving. I’m not sure Wouter knew what to make of it all.
We made the car park at a bit after 3. Starting a canyon, a wet canyon so late on a cool, wet, early spring day would normally not be sensible. But this one is super short, we managed to go car to car in just over an hour which is nuts.
But it is nice as a side trip on the way home.
So are we going to abseil down beside a waterfall? Asks Wouter on the way in
After a long dry then a week of drizzle I wasn’t sure what to expect but as we short-cutted over the ridge we could here the falls roaring and as they came into veiw it looked just right.
It’s a cracker of a abseil
All in all another great day in the bush
Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Party Size. 4 for Sunnyside/acoustic. 3 for Zorro and Alcatraz
Timing: I think it was about 2hrs car to car for Sunnyside (with a bit extra walking along the firetrail due to trees down). a fraction under 2hr for Zorro and 1hr for Alcatraz with a bit of time driving between the lot
So my nephew is keen on canyoning but for one reason or another his options for doing a long wet canyon are limitted.
I’ve been meaning to get him down another dryish canyon for a while. My original plan was to take him down Tiger Snake canyon but we had to get back to town early and I had not taught him to abseil yet so we descided on this one with an optional abseil for the hell of it.
Now some people dismiss the smaller, drier non abseil canyons but this one has one of the prettiest constrictions going and it’s close to home so it was a no brainer
Nathan and Mandy enter the canyon from the bottom
A massive storm 18months ago scoured the sand out of this bit leaving a puddle just on balls deep. Today it was icy
With frozen toes we decide to slip up onto the tops for a bite to eat and a bask in the sun
It was glorious
looking back into the depths
Warmed and fed we continue on
And make our way back to the cars for a bit of wedding cake action
What if something is on TV and it’s never shown again? :Smudge- Outdoor type
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 meant 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 had already done solo trips to Claustral and Kanangra and so Autal picked him up from Paramatta station and now we were a group of 6.
Slight hickup early on as Al rang. Where are you guys at? Asked he
My place. says I
I’m looking for it and there is no 33 Shaft st….
Wow I’d moved out of shaft street 3 years ago. My tired brain must have malfunctioned (it often does)when I texted the meeting place through to him… That doesn’t bode well.
Anyhoo. We eventually all meet up at the Waratah ridge car park and start the walk out.
It’s a long walk along an old fire trail and then onto a foot pad, but it’s fairly flat and the company is good so time passes quickly
The foot pad comes and goes towards the end. I’ve always found it odd, you’ll be on a very clear obvious trail and 20m later it disappears. Then, if you are lucky, you pick up a faint trail, step over a log and it disappears, then you stumble over a clear trail again. And so on and so forth. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera…
Anyhoo we get to the spot where the track notes say we need to veer off. I may have come a fraction far and we need to skirt back around the head of the gully which would lead into arch canyon and we pick up a faint ridge which begins to drop down early.
The track notes are a bit vague, saying to follow the ridge until it starts to descend then drop into the creek. Well we’ve only just got onto the ridge but it sure is descending. The Canyon is still 1km down stream but we drop into the creek.
Big mistake. It’s scrubby as all get up. We do come across these cool over hangs and erosion caves thou
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It takes us a stupid long time to push through 100m of scrub and we make the call to scramble back out onto the side ridge to traverse above the worst of it.
Some interesting scrambles along the halfway ledge bewteen clifflines and we finally drop back down and suit up.
Are you sure this isn’t 6 dopes? Chardie asks
The slot would want to be special or it’s making my first entry on the never to be repeted list. says I
All kitted up we enter the creek and wade on down stream. Just as it was getting uncomfortably warm in the wetsuits we make our way through a horid mess of tree fall and the canyon drops away below us.
We waist no time roping up. Not even half way down the abseil the walk in is forgotten. Wow.
After a short section of narrow, dark canyon it opens out slightly
And then it drops again and there is a couple of abseils in quick succession
And some nice canyon follows
Now we hadn’t seen any sun in the canyon, it felt like late afternoon twilight the whole time and there was a bit of a cool breeze flowing down between the walls. I was just starting ot feel a bit chilly when we get to the 1 compulsary swim of the trip.
But is is such a nice spot
And then it opened out and we were at the junction with the Bungleboori.
We now needed to make our way about 40min upstream to Arch canyon and a convenient pass out.
I’d used this pass before but approached from the upstream side where we made use of the current to carry us down the deep pools of the Bungleboori. I was thus expecting some cold swims as we made our way upstream but other than a few wades we made good time along the banks and sand drifts in a stunningly wild section of the river
We soon found ourselves at the juncton with Arch canyon and I was super keen to slip up the canyon a little to have a better look at the arch.
It’s well worth the effort of climbing up the bottom drops and steep creek to reach the arch just as the canyon proper starts (or is that ends…)
We make our way back down to find Chardie and Al have made a head start on the exit track. Maarten and Autal follow. I’m getting out of my wet suit. I hate walking uphill in a wettie.
Me and Madie get into dry gear and give chase up the hill.
Autal is waiting at the base of the upper cliffs and we set off after the others. We can hear them ahead which is a good sign as we scramble up the first viable option and find every one waiting to regroup on the ridge
And now for the long slog back to the car.
Was it worth the 20km of walking and nearly 800m of elevation gain for a short canyon?
Well, whenever you are out in the bush with a great bunch of people it’s worthwhile and to be honest I was impressed by the canyon itself. It had a beauty to it and the first abseil was stunning. It also has a less traveled feel to it, like you are one of the privledged few to experience it’s wonders.
I wouldn’t rush back next week and I’m glad we didn’t do it in the height of summer but would definately consider doing it again in the future if the company was right.
Party size. 6 All experienced, all a little loopy
Time: 8.5hrs car to car with some stuffing around finding our way in.
Madie told me she had trouble finding the entrance to the lower section of Bells creek on a solo mission. So we threw a few dates around. Nothing worked for us both
Poo i have to go to Zanzibar. Says she. I guess April wil be too late.
Na Aprils good. And shit Zanzibar!
Great Now I have a Hoodoo Guru song stuck in my head. And it’s not even one of my favourate Hoodoo Gurus songs
Man I’m back, keen for bells creek???
Apparently Madie’s back. We lock in a date. Others were invited. The weekend came and it was a warm one for this time of year. Perfect for Bells
I breifly considered a car shuffle from the Bells line of road out along the ridges but group size would make that awkward so I opted for the standard slog down to Du Faurs creek and over the ridge. A couple of people dropped out but any way it not a bad walk
I pull into the carpark next to the Mt Wilson fire shed. Marchelle, Ev and Craig are waiting. I look around sure Madie would have camped. Oh that looks like Autal down there.
Autal wanders up. Madie’s there. She is making coffee.
Yep she has a full on camp kitchen going on with a frying pan full of water on the boil. Anyone want coffee. I need coffee.
Sometime later we are all ready to go and set off along the fire trail.
It’s easy walking and with some friendly banter distracting us it seems like no time and we are making our way down the rope into Du Faurs creek
We reach the standard start point for Clatterteeth canyon but head straight across and make our way up through a series of little cliff lines on the oposite side
There is a slight track leading up to the ridge top but then we are on our own. The scrub has grown back since the last lot of fires but nowhere near the horror stories of yore.
I take a compass bearing and we make our way along the ridge and drop off the other side. I considered trying to drop into Little Bell but opted for the easy gully where a track comes and goes at random and soon we reach the start of Belfry Canyon.
It’s taken us just under 2hrs. Which is fairly good going.
For a trip that has a relative beginner rating of 2 in the guide book there are some tricky bits. The navigatioin being one and some interesting down climbs being another.
No one wants to carry in abseiling gear if they don’thave too, despite the unnecessary ring bolt above a realy nice natural anchor….. It looks worse than it is. It’s a pretty simple down climb and a deep pool below, if you land in the right spot…
Bellfry is such a pretty canyon in it’s own right and the early Autum sun light gave us some rays in the narrow bit
The yellows and oranges of the sandstone som give way to lush greens
We emerge from the dark swim and fnd ourselves at the junction with Bell Creek
From here there is a bit of creek walking interspaced with some bounder scrambling and a couple of down climbs that have you scrtching your head at the beginner rating
And then we descend into lower Bell Creek Canyon.
The constrictions in Bell Creek are really top notch. It’s a high quality canyon for a long way
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Hulks hand? The Angry green man seems to like canyons.
The canyon closes in.
This time I decide not to make the same mistake as last time and suggest we blow the lilos up.
Oh, we didn’t bring any.
So me and Madie blow our lilos up and the others will be swimming
Again there is so much more light in this section than on my previous visit.
longish lilo/swim sections are broken by some wading, down climbing and boulder hoping
And then we get to the long dark tunnel like swim.
and just when you think it’s opening out it goes from a narrow dark canyon to a deep grand gorge
What time’s lunch? I’m hangry
How about we get to the junction with Du Faurs, there might be more sun.
How far it that?
Just around the conrer…
It was a bit further. but we continue
We eventually stop on a sandy beach and replenish energy supplies.
Then make our way up into the lower section of Du Faurs creek
And then we exit up Joes canyon.
From there it’s a quick walk around to meet the usual Wollangambe entrance track at the big Pagoda and a final slog up to the car park.
Another enjoyable day with a great bunch of people.
Party Size: 6 all experienced
Timing: A tad under 8hrs car to car
Include some foolishness to you serious plans. It’s wonderful to be silly at the right moment.
Access: A nice walk along a gentle ridge. Tar to parking area
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward though the trail can be a little vague further out
Time: 30min out. 30min back
Date walked: 31-03-18
Jinki ridge is another spur off the Bells Line of road that gives nice views over the Grose Valley. A trail runs from the Bells Line of road out between Jinki and Dalpura creeks and the Pagodas out the end are reminiscent of the Lost city.
Getting there: From the weigh station at Bell follow the Bells line of road toward Sydney for approximately 4km and just after the concrete lane dividers end there is an old fire trail which goes right just as the road swings around to the left. Turn off into this fire trail and park at the locked gate (Obviously try not to obstruct the gate)
The fire trail goes South and then veers East to start and is easy to follow (note: there is another fire trail just back a bit at a more open park spot, but it goes West then swings North) . Jinki ridge offers great views over the upper Grose over towards Mt Victoria.
The fire trail eventually deteriorates to single track. It can be a little vague but just stay on the top of the ridge
Views change to your left side with some vantage points looking down the Grose. Towards the end of the ridge you get views over to Valhala Head and Thors Head from high pagodas. Be careful near the cliff edges as they are all over hung and brittle.
Also care is needed on the pagodas. The plate pagodas are fairly unique to our area and iron stone bands that make them so unique break off very easily. These awesome rock formations take thousands of years to form, the last thing we want is for them to be damage by a careless footstep.