The forecast was for rain, lots of it topped by severe storms…
Gaz had been keen to do Starlight canyon and I suggested the MTB/canyon combo rather than the full loop. If the tunnel was dry we’d get all the way up to the waterfall. And if it was not abseiling in from the top is not the best idea anyway.
Anyhoo. Dawn came sunny and warm and we crossed the Wolgan and pedalled our way down the management trail.
Even with a detour through the ruins the bikes turned an hour long walk into a 20min ride.
Almost immediately we ran into this little beauty
Morelia Spilota Spilota
This use to be our go to winter trip before realising the impact to the Bats. The tunnel is an important hibernation cave for bent wing bats so the canyon is now officially off limits over the winter months.
I’ve done this one quite a few times and while I’ve heard tales of people be caught out by high water levels personally I’ve never had water over ankle deep before
Just before the little climb up/down in the tunnel the water became too deep/cold for us to continue today so we turned back early
These guys did a few laps, some of the were so low it seemed we we looking down on them.
And then as it was only early and the predicted storm was still a few hours away we followed the cliff line around for a look up Devils Pinch
The better way to do this combo would be to abseil down Devils Pinch and then reverse up Starlight.
Once again more water in here than usual and after a coupe of cold wades and tight canyon sections we were startled by a gawdaweful rachet and something dashing past us into the next pool.
A young lyrebird… Not sure if it fell in or was nested here and got trapped by the rising waters after a wet couple of weeks but it was was panicked and trying to swim and not doing very well.
Producing a small hand towel Mckenzie and Jodie caught it as genitally as they could and carried it back out past the deeper pools to release it at the lower end of the canyon.
For a bird renown for mimicking the best sounds they sure produce horrible pitches when they are scared.
Party size: 4 (3 experienced I beginner)
Time: 6.5hrs relaxed pace bit of photophaffing
“There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan
Most people do Newnes ( or Starlight) Canyon as a round trip, climbing up the pipeline trail, working their way around the ridges and abseiling in. And don’t get me wrong that’s a great way of doing it but there is a lot to be said about doing it as an up and back from the bottom.
The canyon is off limits over winter as it is an important hybernation cave for bentwing bats and disturbing them during their sleepy time invariable leads to a percentage of them dying as there is no food around food them to replenish the energy it takes to come out of hybernation.
Anyhoo, I had planned to do this earlier in the year on the last weekend before the closure except in the week leading up NPs put out a notice that they were hazard reduction burning and all the canyons in the area were closed…….
Fast forward to the other end of hybernation season and we were good to go.
The plan was to ride down the maintenance trail from the locked gate, stash the bikes then make up way up to the cliffline and into the canyon.
I’ve done it this way several times and have always been able to get all the way up to the bottom of the abseil point (the top of the canyon) no dramas. However, last summer people were reporting deep swims in the tunnel and while that is normal after heavy rain the fact that the water hung around post rain had me thinking maybe something in the floor or blockage had changed.
Not tha I was too worried about long swims after the dry winter we’ve had but the thought of a deep wade through stagnant, bat shit filled water wasn’t that inviting. I needn’t have worried as the tunnel was as dry as a nun’s nasty.
But I get ahead of myself
While bikes arn’t necessary they do turn an hour long fire trail walk either way into the 20min ride and the ride down was uneventful, almost. Tina had a small off at the bottom of a loose down hill on a sandy corner and hurt her elbow. As a mad trail runner that didn’t bother her. a sore elbow would not stop her from running so no worries. We hide the bikes in the thick scrub and head across the river which is about as low as I’ve ever seen it.
Up the hill we went taking a bit more of a meandering route than I usually take which made the climb up fairly simple, then we took in the views down the Wolgan from the base of the upper cliff before working our way around into the canyon.
Entering into the lower canyon is like entering another world. The micro climate is completely different to the scrub out on the exposed hill side
This is magical, Flynny, says Sav as we make our way up through ferns, coachwoods and vines so big that at first you think you are stepping over a fallen tree, only to realise its a living vine.
I smile to myself, this is just the appetiser and I think that is the reason I like doing the reverse trip of Newnes Canyon. The starlight section is so awesome that when you come through it from the top you are in such awe of the top section that you kind of over look how spectacular this bottom section is.
And then, just as you are thinking the walls are petering out and the canyon is about to open out the upper cliffs encroach and suddenly the canyon closes in
And then we reach the Amazing Wallaby tunnel, better known as the Starlight section, high up the walls close in so much, become so twisted, and are jammed with chock stones that it forms a high narrow tunnel.
I feel on previous trips the glowworms were far more abundant, maybe that has to do with the dry winter, maybe it’s just the time of year as I think it’s around mating season for the flies, maybe it’s just modern headlights are so bright now you don’t notice the worms unless you tuen them off and give your eyes a few minutes to adjust, or maybe the bats had a wormy feast when they awoke
I have known people to absiel in here but be blocked by deep water in the tunnel so they had to prusik back out and abseil in further down. I also know of at least 1 group who pulled their ropes without checking the tunnel was passable and were forced to spend a couple of days huddled here waiting for rescue…. When absieling in the first person need check all the way through the tunnel before getting others to absiel or pulling ropes.
And after taking time to enjoy just being there we leave Ed and TJ to get about photo phaffing with their good cameras and the rest of us make our way back down
We have a bit of lunch and then explore up a side canyon called Upside Down canyon.
The bottom section of Upside Down involves some tricky climbs up through small holes. I made the first look far harder than it was mainly as I forgot had the go pro on a chest mount and had to do some contortioning so as not to scracth the crap out of it.
I remeber the water fall from previous visits and started brisging up, the walls were a tad slippery, I had no doubt we could get everyone up, what I did doubt thou was getting people back down safely without ropes… I’m sure there use to be a log or something here to make the down climb simpler.
Anyhoo despite knowing the top section has some pretty bit I decide it’s not worth the risk today so we turned tail and headed back down.
Ed and TJ are still phaffing so we sit back and just take in the surrounds
The ride back up the valley is a bit more difficult than the ride down but for a mountain biker it’s still better than trudging along a fire trail.
Party size: 7 mixed canyoning experience levels but all experienced outdoors
Timing: 6hr 20 with lots of photo phaffing and chilling out
People talk about their comfort zone as though it’s a place they want to stay don’t they realise your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be