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.
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
and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.
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
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
From below the hole is stunningly circular
A short, dark cave section follows
Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up
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.
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And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock
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 🙂
The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan
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
A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world
Devils pinch is one of several canyons accessed via the Pipeline trail just down steam of Newnes. I’d done a few of the others and was keen to get back for this one as it was reputably one of the better ones in the area.
Ed arrived a my place nice and early and we headed on down hoping to do the climb before the heat of the day. Good plan.
At the car park we debated taking wet suits. We hadn’t used them last year when we did Pipeline Canyon but we had heard the wet section in Devils Pinch was longer, darker and more sustained. We decided to take them, they offer good scrape protection when scrambling down rocks if nothing else. Not such a good plan.
Bags stuffed full we headed down stream to the start of the Pipeline trail and began the climb up. It starts fairly gentle and we had a slight breeze in the shadow of the tower cliffs above us. The higher you go the steeper it gets and it wasn’t long before I was stripping off my sweat soaked shirt to get a bit of that breeze on my skin.
It still amazes me the effort it must have taken to build the pipeline between Glen Davis and Newnes (not to mention all the way to Newnes Junction near Clarence). Back when men were men and so were women or something and hard work was par for the course.
I bet those guys didn’t go home from work and talk about their feelings. says Ed.
I dragged steel pipes up a mountain all day but Ed was mean to me and called me names. Says I.
Anyhoo. We reach the top, dump the bags and make the short detour to the look out. Man how good does it feel to walk through the bush without a 75l pack stuffed full of gear on your back? (What was I saying about men being men… Yeah na, my shoulders hurt.)
We snap a few photos and then continue up to the watershed (It’s not like an actual shed, Stupid…) and veer off onto the Starlight trail. Once again we lost it somewhere around where you’d turn off for Pipeline canyon but corrected our error and pick up the main trail without too much drama.
Considering the popularity of Devils Pinch canyon I expected there to be a bit of a trail veering off the main track, if there is we missed it but found our way down to the headwaters of the creek without incident.
The heat is getting oppressive now so we are keen to get into the cool of the canyon. The creek threatens to “canyon up” a few times before we reach the spot where it drops down a dark slot. Woohoo.
We scramble along a ledge beside the slot to the abseil point and now have to put our gear on balanced on small stances. Didn’t think that through…
The top section is suppose to be fairly dry should we put wetties on now?
It says the abseil lands in a pool and there are some climb downs into water.
Rather than putting harnesses on now, then doing some deep wades and have to take harnesses off, put wetties on and harness up again we chose to put the wetsuits on now. Bad plan.
I’ve said it before but abseiling for me is just a means to get to the next bit of canyon. But this abseil is really cool. Relatively easy start then a long drop into an awesome slot but one you touch down it keeps going down another dark, narrow drop. About 25m all up, or down I should say.
We’re now in a deep, dark narrow cleft. It’s really beautiful. There is a tight squeeze climb down a twisting chute before we are on the cleft floor. The pool the guide suggested we would land in is nonexistent at the moment, just a damp patch of mud.
Rounding a bend and all too soon the canyon opens out into a wide gorge. Scrambling down the valley the creek bed is as dry as a nuns nasty and the heat is slowly cooking me. We stop and strip the top of our wetsuits down in an attempt to stive off heat stroke.
It was disappointing to see this section of otherwise pristine creek was infected with backberry.And Flys! I’m pretty sure there was an international convention of the bushfly alliance. Millions of them swarming around, we were expecting to come across something dead but nothing, just clouds of flys. I’m pretty happy at this point they weren’t bitey.
Finally, droping down through a layer of strata a small trickle of water appeared in the creekbed. I wasted now time in splashing the cool liquid over my head.
And then we come to the next section of shallow canyon with the welcome sight of a deepish pool waiting at the bottom. Rotting vegetaion leaching tannins gave the water what Ed described as a lovely shade of Earl Grey (What’s that Paul Kelly line about the coffee being the colour of the river but not nearly as brown?) but we pulled the wetties back up and jumped in.
The next section of canyon is really nice. It’s not all that deep but has some narrow squeezes, tricky climb downs and deep wades.
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This section is reasonably long and has a lot of fun bits but eventually it drops into another deep narrow section.
Overhanging abseils are nice but usually have shity starts as you work your way over a tricky lip. This one just gradually turns over hung so it’s a really nice start then a 17m abseil hanging in space.
This section is awesome. Deep and sustained and, despite being midday, the play of light on the walls was divine.
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We come to a slightly wider chamber and Ed points down to a funny looking rock. Look a skull. Oh yeah a wallaby skull, fair size. Must have fallen in…. Oh shit goanna.
Sitting on a rock about 3feet away is a small, beautifully patterned lace monitor. I guess that’s who dragged the wallaby in. It’s dark and cool in here but it turns out it an easy walk up from the exit portal so I’m pretty sure it hasn’t fallen in and become trapped. Unfortunately around the corner is the remains of a much larger one, just under 2m long.
The rest of the canyon is an easy walk down a sublime slot.
Click images to enlarge
At the exit portal we get out of the harnesses and wetsuits and eat lunch in the shade enjoying the cool breeze drifting down out of the canyon.
Once fed we opt to by pass the final two abseils and scramble down beside the steep gully to the Wolgan river before commencing the 5km hike back to the camp ground. It was hot, damn hot and our water was getting low. When we did Pipeline canyon the weather gods blessed us with a cooling down poor of rain on the walk out. No such luck today.
A hot but very worthwhile trip.
Party size: 2 both experienced
Time: 6.5 hrs car to car. Bit of Photo Phaffing, not rushing but moving steadily all day.
On such a hot day it would have been fine for most people without wetsuits. The water was cold but the pools short and there were plenty of little patches of sunshine flooding in.
I tried the helmet mount for the go pro, didn’t have the angle right for much of it so most of my clips were unusable, I’ve salvaged what I could…
After a lazy long weekend in the Wolgan, with just a stroll up to the arch to break up the eating and drinking
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.
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.
Climbing out of this brief slot we wandered up through a pleasant, if sometimes scrubby amphitheater to the next cliff line
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
And then we were into the main constriction
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.
If you stick our tongue out it helps you squeeze your gut through
Party size 2, both experienced, but Mandy feeling unwell on the climb up so taking it slow
I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while and it was a bigger day than I expected. Nice to have visited it but I don’t think I’d rush back real soon.
Anyhoo Ed met at my place not too early and after Mandy decided to pyke it was just the 2 of us heading down into the Wolgan.
Packing the ropes we had a couple of options.
Option 1 was either my 11mm 58m or Ed’s 9mm 60m
We choose option 2. Meggsie’s 9mm 40m because it was lighter. This would come into play later.
We soon found our car park and starting marching up the hill, after a bit of steep stuff we found and old road and traversed around a bit on it. So far all good. Then the road took a turn back down towards the main road. We left it behind and traversed our way across and up to the base of the cliff.
Drink breaks. Just above us looks to be an interesting slot around a detached block of cliff. It was more interesting than that as behind it was another slot around a second detached block. Very Noice!
We stuff around here a fair while investigating little nooks and slots and disturb an owl (Possibly a Powerful Owl) before continuing around the corner to the dry creek we are looking for.
Following this up we cross from one side to the other finding some cool sandy caves and side canyons on our way up to the main canyon.
The Bellbirds are in full voice as we make our way up towards The gully.
It doesn’t give much indication it is going to close in any time soon and we start to think maybe we were suppose to head up one of the side canyons. But then, with little warning the canyon appears.
It’s a nice, dry canyon but I think after the beauty of last weekends canyon and with the midday sun belting directly in to create harsh contrasts I was a little underwhelmed.
Never very deep or dark, the canyon threatened to open out on a couple of occasions but kept going further than we through it would. When it finally did open up we had 2 options.
Option 1 is to Reverse down
We go option 2. With Great views over the Wolgan promised we choose to climb out.
After several pagodas offered false high points we reach the ridge top and again have 2 options. We’ve come across a slot that is not running in the direction of out track notes.
Option 1 is to explore a way down through the slot. I have vague memories of trip reports that suggest that it will lead down with a couple of abseils but I’m unsure how big the drops are and we have the short rope.
We choose Option 2. Head down a ridge spur and have a look off the end.
We reach the cliff edge and the grand views typical of the Wolgan greet us. Good spot for lunch.
Now we need to find away down. We wander out to the end of the ridge. Lots of Options all bigger than we are expecting. It’s now I choose to read the track notes a little closer.
“Follow the ridge until the slot…” We didn’t see a slot so make our way back up the ridge a bit.
A steep crack might be our slot but it was hard to say. A bit further around a weakness in the cliff appears to give us access to the lower cliffline where a convenient tree provides great anchor. We toss the ropes.
Sounded like it hit the ground, Says I. Sounded like not much if any hit the ground, Retorts Ed.
I had used my safety rope to tie into while I set the ropes. I pack this up and now I am on rope I have 2 options.
Option 1. Take my pack back off and put it back where I normally keep it.
I choose option 2. I give it to Ed to Store in his pack while I abseil down.
I still can’t see the ground but over I go. There is a second ledge about 15m below me. I can’t see ropes on the ground. I rap to the lower ledge and peer over.
Now either of my 50m+ ropes would have reached. Ed’s 60m would have reached. But the lighter 40m rope ends aren’t on the ground. It doesn’t help we have chosen to rap directly into a small Vee gully. If the tree up top had been 20m either side and the ropes would be on the deck.
Now I have 2 options.
Option 1. Prusik back up and look for another spot to get down.
I choose option 2. I make myself safe by hero looping a “chicken head” a little nub of rock I can hitch a sling around and clip into. It was a reasonable ledge. Then get Ed to re set the rope to full length single strand. This gets me to the bottom fine but the halfway mark is about 7-8m above me.
Now to get Ed down.
Easy I’ll tie my 10m safety line… Um Ed has my 10m safety line. He tosses it down and some how manages to miss the ledge, the trees and the snags and I catch it just fine.
So the solution. Tie my line to the end I have on the ground. Anchor that to a tree just a bit back with a long sling. Ed can now haul the slack back up, lower the other end and rap down on that strand. It’s still head height off the ground but as he weights it the give in the system has him reaching the ground all safe.
Now it was just a stroll back down the hill to the car.
Party Size: 2 both experienced
Elevation gain: 640m
Time: Bit under 7hrs car to car with lots of stuffing about with photos and exploring and rigging up impromptu abseil solutions.
With Julie being an active member of the forums back in the day and the administrator and driving force behind the Ozcanyons facebook group I was familiar with her name and adventures but had never met her in person.
When she put out a call to see if anyone was interested in a mid week canyon trip to a place I hadn’t been in 15 years and wanted to take Tal to at some stage I thought why not. It was school holidays and I could rustle a leave day so I sent her a message that we’d be keen.
Of course school holidays finished that week so Tal wouldn’t make it. Bummer. No worries plans had changed and it just so happened Julie was heading out to do the canyon I had failed to find on our scrub bash to no where.
That left me with a bit of a dilemma. I’d got the day off and was super keen but was reluctant to do it without the others. For some strange reason after I had lead them up the garden path, flipped out and aborted the trip they were all still keen to give it another go. We had unfinished business. In fact we had it scheduled the weekend before but illness, injury and other commitments got in the way.
On the other hand a recon mission with those who knew where they were going might not be a bad idea. It was Ed who had put this canyon on our agenda so I let him know the deal and he said go for it.
As the day approached the weather forecast got worse and I started to think this canyon was becoming my nemesis. Then the day before things brightened up and Julie said it was game on.
I pulled into the meeting place and instantly recognised Julie from her trip reports and photos. Also there were Lyn and Jim Cook and after a quick meet and greet we piled into Jim’s car and headed off for a typical south Wolgan canyoning adventure.
The weather was pretty much spot on for this type of trip. Warm enough to peel off the jumpers. Cool enough you didn’t bake on the haul up .
It’s always good heading out with more experienced people. You get to compare techniques and either confirm you are doing things ok or learn better, or just different ways, to do it. Julie and the Cooks put me at easy right away chatting about past adventures as we headed up the hill.
I would have to say I felt a lot better about my failed navigation as we had a bit of trouble finding the entry point, and my three guides had been here before. We started down the wrong gully before resorting to pulling out the GPS to get a grid reference and consulting the map. No big deal we just zigged when we should have zagged.
All these pagodas look the same. And indeed the next gully over did look rather similar.
Now in the right spot I realized just how close I was on my first attempt. My navigation hadn’t been the issue, just my interpretation. I was looking for an anchor point on the cliff line directly above, and I mean directly above, the actual anchor in the hidden gully….. Live and learn.
From here down the trip is really nice. It’s a fairly average canyon as far as constrictions but it makes up for it with some nice long abseils with some cool features and awesome exposure to make them memorable.
I’m even keener to get the others through here now.
Big thanks Julie for organising and letting me tag along
Koombanda canyon: A long write up of a short canyon
Mandy, Tal and I
My original plans for the weekend had fallen through. A back up plan never got off the ground so come Friday morning when the boss asked what I was doing on the weekend I smiled and said “I have bugger all on. I might have one of those rare weekends where I don’t do anything at all.”
It sounded pretty good….
Who am I kidding not half an hour later I’m texting Mandy “You up for Yileen this weekend?” I’ll admit at this stage I’m 3/4 joking but Mandy texts back “Not sure I’m up for the big abseil. Sunday looks like its the pick of the days what other options have we got for a small trip” “What about Koombanda? and what about doing it Saturday, leaving Sunday for an even lazier swim somewhere.” The idea was planted.
We’d never done Koombanda Canyon before. I’d heard it was short but OK plus it’s an easy walk out up old abandoned colliery haul road.
Saturday dawns wet and drizzly. We had a nice 7:30 sleep in. We still hadn’t committed to the idea but, What do you reckon? says I over breakfast. Want to get the gear packed?
Why not, says she.
We let Tal sleep while we get stuff ready. Finally waking him up around 9:45. We tell Beth our plans and ask if she wants to come. I didn’t think she would as she does like abseiling that much. Declines does she
So it was about 10:30 before we even drive out of town. Talk about a lazy canyon trip. To be even lazier we take 2 cars to do a bit of a car shuffle and reduce the walking even further.
The weather was miserable. I’m thinking of pulling the pin, say Mandy as she climbs in the ute after dropping her car at the locked gate at the top of the Colliery. They predicted 1-5mil and I’m pretty sure that’s running down my forehead just from dashing between cars, says she
’tis a mere heavying of the mist, says I.
To keep an explorational type feel I’d only read the basics about the trip. Where to park, how much rope we needed. But I gave Tal a copy of Tom’s track notes. It says to contour around the hill. Says he. But it doesn’t say which side of the hill, left or right. We check the map, take a bearing and split the difference. Straight over the top
Despite the vigorous regrowth after the State Mine fire that had ripped through a couple of years ago it was fairly easy going, if damp. We dropped into a tributary and it only got scrubby towards the junction with the main creek. Even then it was more ferns then anything else
We soon reach Koombanda crk. It sounds like it has a bit of water flowing through it so we decide to put the wetsuits on. We had done a bit of humming and haing as to whether to bother taking wetties, especially after not using them in Pipeline last weekend but with the weather having a piss weak attempt at summer I’m glad we took them. The swims were short but the water was chilly.
We come to a spot where the water disappears down a drop and under a rock. Is there a tunnel through Tal, asks I. Not Sure, says he. From here I can’t see light coming through from the other side. Best have a better look, says I.
There was an easy path around but under looked like a bit of fun, we were in no hurry, the big arse cave crickets didn’t look that scary and, we might as well make use of the wetsuits
It was a tight squeeze in the middle but the water is crystal clear. It was a bit of fun
There followed a bit of crk walking. Did we come down the same tributary the note mention? Does it mater? The canyon eventually closed in and we scramble down a little chute to a beautiful, if somewhat cold, pool for our first deep swim.
A little more crk walking and we come to our first abseil. It looks like it would be easy enough to down climb to save getting the ropes out but instead I ask Tal if he’d like to try going first? Alright, says he.
Not sure if it was because he really wanted to or just he wanted to freak his mother out a little. He ropes up and down he goes. Fully pro.
I can’t remember the last time Mandy abseiled, it must be 17 years since she had done one in a canyon as I’m sure it was before Beth was born but she handled it like she hadn’t had a break at all. Only problem she had was scrambling out of the deep pool at the bottom onto a ledge in a tight squeeze.
A really gorgeous bit of canyon follows. Not overly deep or narrow but As the great R Smith once sang it was so wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty. (He may sang that more than once, who knows. Not I)
And just around the corner is our next drop. Once again it’s down a cool little hole dropping into the narrows below. The notes says 15m but I don’t think it’s that high. A 20m rope would be very close to reaching so long as the anchor is on a long sling.
Tal offers to go first again
The water here has a reddish brown tinge suggesting high levels of manganese and iron and stuff usually associated with mine disturbance but we are a fair was up stream of the coal seem so maybe its just tannins leaching to the water, there was a lot of vegetation in a couple of the pools up stream. One I may have compared to Yodas swamp on Dagobah. Down stream it seemed much clearer again.
Anyhoo, a couple of twists in the narrow section and we come to a final drop.
The notes say it’s an abseil, says Tal. But it looks like a down climb. They say that it might be able to be jumped. He looked hopeful. I think he wanted to jump
The drop is about 2.5-3m it looks like an easy scramble so I offer to slip down and check the depth. Swinging in under a chock stone I notice there is a hand line set up. Definitely wouldn’t bother setting up an abseil, even without the hand line its a relatively easy scramble. Water is deep and clear of hazards I point out where the rock ledge ends and Tal takes the leap.
From here the creek opens out a bit. A stunning waterfall comes in on the right then things degenerate to a choice of boulder hopping in the creek or picking our way over, through, around and under dead fall on the banks or sometime both together. One of the legacies of the intense fire that ripped across the ridge above, followed by some big gully rakers up rooting trees and washing branches and stuff down to jam up in the gullies. It’s not too bad but it does sap a bit of energy
It seems to take a fair bit of time to get from the waterfall down to our next point of interest. One of the more unique finishes to a canyon trip in the Bluies. You round a corner and suddenly the creek bed is concreted… After carefully working your way down the slipper concrete cascade and around another corner the walls of the canyon look more like a man made breakwall… and there is a bridge spanning them.
We have arrived at the old Grose Valley/Canyon colliery. Dad worked here as a truck and loader driver on the surface in the 70s and 80s and I still look back fondly on the pit Christmas parties that took place over at Glenroy, on the Junction of the River Lett and Coxes River, a bunch of kids high on sugar running through the bush and finding spots to swim, jump and rope swing into the rivers.
It’s an interesting industrial relic in a very beautiful setting, I remember dad bringing me down here when I was young but don’t remember much except getting to ride around in the loader for a bit. We took our time having a bite to eat and a look around.
The cliff lines are stunning and some artists have added a splash of colour to the drab concrete wall.
And then for the walk out… Up the old haulage road. It’s a gentle grade, the only difficult bit is a spot where the road disappears into a land slide but with a bit of care it is soon crossed.
There was a slight threat of summer heat at the bottom but not far up the rain set back in which made for a pleasant stroll back to the car.
Party Size: 3
Time: 4hrs 50min, car to car (with the second car saving us maybe 2km walking) Taking it easy with lots of faffing about with photos and stuff plus a relaxed lunch and look around the colliery site.