Kylie, Hywaida, Kris, Jason, Aimee, Tash and meeeeeeeeee
I’ve done the lower section of Bell creek a couple of times. It’s beautiful.
Like really, jaw droppingly beautiful
But the first time it took us 3hrs to walk into the start of the access canyon, Bell Fry(which is a pretty little canyon in its own right)
Next time we knew where we were going and a hazard burn had taken out a lot of the scrub on the ridge. So we cut that down to just under 2hrs.
But it was still a difficult walk, having to scramble into the start of Du Faurs creek then climb up the other side.
Anyhoo, the Jamieson guide says a good overnight trip is to include the upper section. It also suggests you could do both in a very very long day.
Myself and Madie had mentioned a few times about having a crack of doing it in a day. But we never got around to it
This year a trip got planned. Unfortunately last minute I had to work
I get a text. Ok we are heading in.
Just over 6hrs later. We are out.
Anyhoo I finally got the chance to give it a crack.
Now I’m not as quick as Madie and Russ but a 30min walk down a fairly easy ridge, with me just following my nose until Aimee checked the map and corrected my course and we slipped down a short side canyon and entered Bell creek just upstream of where it canyons up.
So the girls hadn’t caught up for a while and there was a chatter. Well, I say chatter but it was more weird noises and giggling. And, I say giggling, but it was more like cackling. Like b grade movie witches planning downfalls.
TBH I wasn’t expecting the upper section to be so good.
“Upper sections” as described in the book can be hit and miss around here. The upper section of Du Faurs creek is good. The Bowens (North and South) have upper sections that contain pretty canyon sections but they pop in and out and there is scrub and scrambling between. Upper Wollangambe is basically a creek walk…. But this one has sustained sections of quality canyon.
Ok so there are no abseils… I get that’s what some people are after but it’s like 2 totally different sports. Vertical canyoning and this.
Maybe the old skool bushwalkers had it right when they described these trips as Swalks (Swim/walks)
Because I knew it wasn’t the very very long day Jamieson suggested we weren’t rushing at all. We even stopped for little lunch… I never stop of little lunch… but we still managed get from the car to the junction with Bell Fry in just a bit over 3.5hrs. So not much longer than the standard way into the lower section and far more interesting.
As surprisingly nice as the upper section is the lower section really is special
The Lower Section just keeps going
Click the images to enbiggen ’em
We stop for a bite to eat and Kris finds this little beauty
And then the Canyon opens out a bit. It’s still grand and dwarfs us as we boulder hop down to the junction with Du Faurs creek. Then up to exit out Joes and up to the fire shed.
Group Size: 7
Time: 8.5hr car (Water Trough Hill) to car (Fire Shed).
Some of God’s children just are naturally wild: Ray Wylie Hubbard
I’m in. Dad has photos of it from Jeep trips in the late 60s early 70s, though they knew it as the Wolgan Earth Pillar, a name they got from the Luchetti’s who had the farm down Valley. They got it off Carne’s map from his early 1900s mineral survey where he recorded it in his journal as “Earth Pillar, the Pinnacle, Wolgan Valley”. Anyway it’s been on my list of things to visit for a long time.
Of course Madie was in too.
Hey, do you want to go in from the top and check out a few canyons while we are down that way?
Some times I wonder what it would be like to have friends who hear out my hair brained ideas and say things like, That sounds ridiculous, Flynny. No way we should to that….
But noooooo. Despite several epic scrub bashes my friends keep saying things like, hell yeah lets do it.
Lucky, otherwise this blog would be rather boring.
Besides no one is going to be telling there grandkids about the epic weekend they had playing golf, right?
Well unless they win a major or sumfink.
We were planning to walk out to a base camp Friday night. 3pm and it’s pissing down. None of us want to start walking in the rain but the rain parts, the radar is clear and it looks like it’s going to be a perfect night for a stroll.
Leo and Madie swing past my place to drop off Pippa the Wonderdog.
Should we take 2 cars?
There’s only 3 of us….
Maybe we should have taken 2
Driving up on dusk and the sky to the north looks like something out of an Armageddon movie.
Rolling storm clouds and blasts of lightning heading right to where we are going. That wasn’t on the radar!
We get to an intersection. Swing right. says I. Left has a 4wd creek crossing.
When was the last time you looked? Says Leo. I got a 2wd through there last year.
While I thought they had done a bit of work to the crossing I hadn’t tried going that way since getting rid of my old FJ45 Cruiser.
We go left, much to Madie’s trepidation.
The creek crossing is up but it’s much easier than the deep rocky drop off of years gone past. We get through easy enough. Except the hill up the other side is a soft rutted mess. 1 quick go at getting up and the ute sinks to the diffs. Lucky it is very wet and Leo is able to reverse out with help of the steep terrain.
We are going back the other way! Madie puts her foot down. And I’m driving from here!!!
We take the by-pass. But halfway down a sharp log hidden on the inside of a corner rips the side wall out of her rear tyre. Pssssssssssssssss.
We get out to change the wheel. Armageddon skies open and the rain belts down. There is an issue with the jack handle which also doubles as a thingie to wind the spare tyre down. Nothing that a quick adjustment with a shifter or screwdriver to open up the slots wont fix.
Where’s your tool box.
I don’t have one….
Apparently Madie cops one of my infamous eye rolls . My kids take the piss out of me about them all the time but surprisingly this is the first one thrown Madie’s way.
Anyway, a bit of dicking around with a small multitool and a blood sacrifice and Leo has the handle working.
Tyre changed we rock into the car park and decide it’s way too late to start our walk so we set camp for the night .
Before you read on; Part of the joy of visiting lessor known canyon areas is not knowing what you’ll find. Sometimes its a disappointing creek bash and sometimes you get a good one. If you ever plan on exploring this area do yourself a favour and leave the rest of this post until after you come back.
We are up before the sun and after a quick breakfast we are on the trail a little after 5.30am.
After being closed to vehicle traffic 20 years ago this trail devolved into a nightmare scrub bash, like the type of scrub even I avoid, and that’s saying something. Post fires it’s easy walking and we pick our way along the ridge line the old road use to follow for about 8km before spearing off into untracked territory.
We reach our chosen base camp around 8.30am, dump the camp gear and head off for our first canyon in good spirits.
To be honest we weren’t expecting great things from canyons out this way but this one had a nice start
After a bit the canyon opens up somewhat and then begins to drop steeply. We abseil the first drop and then I scramble down the next few to see it it’s likely to drop into a lower section. It’s pretty but the walls are getting wider and more impenetrable so we make the call to ascend back up the line and try to force a pass to the ridge and drop into another creek.
At about the same point we decided to scramble out of the last canyon we had a quick bit to eat. Despite covering a lot of ground so far we are still full of enthusiasm and even talk about trekking down to Dick Rock today. We must have been delusional
Heading down to our 3rd canyon of the day and we drop into a tributary thinking it will be an easy pass down
We spent longer in this one than we thought we would, definitely longer than the previous two so squeezing in Dick Rock today was out the window. Time to beat a pass up to the tops again
We get out of the canyon and through most of the cliffs easily except for one little bit that Leo scrambled up with a couple of little boosts from me at the bottom and balls the size of a medium sized car at the top.
He dropped a rope for me and Madie to ascend. I go up to to the ledge and haul Leo’s bag then drop the rope back to Madie. She begins to ascend as I go up the ramp and begin to chimney up the last bit.
Rock! Rock! Rock! Fugg!
I’ve knocked a large rock loose and it tumbles down the chute. Luckily it misses the rope and gains enough momentum to sail out into space. Madie was 5m up the rope with nowhere to hide. The adrenaline rush was real.
But we are up and encounter our first unburnt ridge of the trip. Thick, scratchy, cutting scrub. It was a relief to finally get to a burnt bit.
It’s getting late. We have a couple of deep saddles to get past on the way to camp but Madie navigates us there easily. I have to say I was well and truly slowing down.
Night descends but we are back to the ridge we walked down on our way to the first canyon.
Then Madie lets out a whoop at the sight of the reflective stripes on my Overboard dry bag I had hung up in a tree above camp.
35km and 3 canyons in 14hrs.
We roll out the sleep mats, have a quick diner, a few laughs and then we’re in bed engulfed with satisfaction and a glorious star filled night
A slightly more sedate wake up time, a casual breakfast and we are off a bit after 8.
I’m feeling a little dehydrated from yesterday so I’m determined to drink more today. The plan is to descend a canyon, punch down to Dick Rock and then up another canyon. We knew of a couple of easy passes up ridge lines but it’s going to be a hot day so ascending up a canyon that is supposedly reversible is more appealing
But first we work our way down through the cliff lines once more. This time we manage to scramble right down into the creek
It’s pretty but never really canyons up
It’s hot in the valley we have lunch then take a higher route back which avoids some of the the scrub and short cuts the corner and we work our way up to our intended creek.
Where this morning’s “Canyon” was a pretty creek walk this wasn’t even that. The heat is oppressive and despite drinking a shit load I’m starting to struggle.
But we boulder hop and scrub bash our way high enough up to starting thinking of forcing a pass to the tops.
Thoughts of squeezing in another short canyon are out the window.
By the time we reach camp it’s around 5pm and I’m suffering camps. I’ve drank about 8l of water already today but haven’t pissed since breakfast.
We pack camp, I mix some extra electrolytes into my hydrapac bladder and we start up the hill.
I’m really struggling and a few times have to call for a rest. Much to my equal parts chagrin and relief halfway up the ridge Madie and Leo split my gear between them leaving me with minimal weight. I’m still slow but finally we reach the ridge with the old trail. We still have 8km to go but it’s going to be easier walking.
I’m making OK pace now but my stomach is dehydrated and refusing to take much in. I’m taking small sips out of my hydrapack trying to get through. The cramps are bad, the slightest miss step and something locks up. I get service on the phone and text Mandy to let her know we’re going to be late. My finger camps bad. That’s a new sensation for me.
About 4km along the fire trail we stop for a rest. I try and take a slightly bigger drink. 3 steps later I spew that up. We march on.
I tune out and walk on.
200m to go calls Madie, you can do it Flynny.
All that’s between us and the car is Natural bridge. I stumble my way down. I normally wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the climb up the other side. I stop for a rest. I spew again. There is nothing in my stomach. My whole abdominals cramp and lock tight.
If that’s what period cramps feels like , girls you get even more respect from me.
Finally we get to the car.
68km walking for the weekend, mostly off track, 3 nice canyons, two disappointing creeks, and one big a tick on the bucket list.
Home at last, I spill out of the car and spew again.
He’s alive, Madie tells Mandy, but he’s got a bit of heat stroke. You may want to get him checked
A quick shower and I think I’m good for bed but Mandy suggests a trip to hospital to get checked out.
At hospital they whack me on the scales, I’m 10kg lighter than I was Friday!
They take some blood and put me on a drip. 3 bags in they send Mandy home and book me in for the night.
6 litres of fluid later, do you think you can pee now? we need to see it before we can let you out.
I feel I want to but it’s not coming out.
Well, we can always put a catheter in.
Apparently that threat works every time.
They release me lunch time Monday.
It’s the adversity as much as the victories that makes the lasting memories.
Russ and meeeee. With a late inclusion of Leo and Madie
A few options were thrown about for weekend adventures but in the end it was cold and damp… Perfect weather for descending a couple of pretty little slots on the Sunnyside plateau
First stop Zorro
The road out is surprisingly clear. Of course I took the first fire trail, belatedly remembering the rough hill down the rocks. I pull up and explain my error. Madie doesn’t look too keen on testing the 4WD capabilities of her ute. Leo, in the drivers seat, looks like a kid on the way to a lolly shop but I decide to turn back and do the detour. Lucky, as looking back up the hill at the junction the link trail hadn’t been cleared for fallen trees
We find our car park and in no time we are descending between the parallel walls of the entrance hall.
And it’s not long until we get to the first abseil
Last year the canyon was as dry as I’ve ever seen it. Today more normal conditions saw a couple of pools, some of which required some tricky bridging to keep feet dry.
I’ve always just down climbed this one. With some careful bridging you can stay dry. I missed a step and right leg went in up to my knee. That leg was too warm anyway
Have I ever mentioned how pretty the central chamber is
The soft light and mist really adding to the beauty
The exit hall was also very atmospheric today with the mist rolling in
Then it opens out for the final abseil.
Not mentioning any names but somebody <Coughitwasrusscough>may or may not have left the safety draw attached to the pull cord and had to prusik back up to retrieve it. Fun times
Then it’s a short stroll back up the hill to the car and we drive back up around the head of the main gully to some cool little features on the other side. The Cracks of DOOM!!
Finally, a quick stop at Bardens lookout where Madie and Leo romp up a pumpy little climb to finish the day off
Mandy and me
We’d had a lazy morning but decide to head out of a lunch date.
I’ve always thought this one a pretty little canyon so I was a little apprehensive as to the state it would be in post fires.
Turns out the canyon itself was fairly untouched. Some of the ferns in the main chamber were brown but that looks more a result of drought
Some people like to cause commotion. Others like to be the commotion.
Despite (or possibly because) starting the year doing some amazingly awesome and epic trips I’ve been struggling to get out lately. Trying to find that balance between family, canyoning, the mountain bike club, work and all the other crap I do has needed a bit of tending.
Anyhooo I had a weekend free and the guys were keen. Our plans to do something in the Wolgan took a dive when I remembered the glowworm tunnel marathon was on and the valley would be packed.
Shall we go one valley over and do Coinslot.
It’s really short shall we follow up with Doomsday (AKA Bull Ant)
They are an argumentative bunch…
Anyhooo, We converge at my place, load gear in ute and head off.
I’d considered doing the climbing route as I know all the guys are competent but then thought if we wanted to do another canyon none of us had done before it might be best to take the quicker way up thus we take the not quiet climbing route.
Previously with different groups, some of whom needed roping up, the climb up to Coinslot always seemed a longer expedition but in no time we were up and into it.
And then it’s back down to the hill to the car, it’s barely lunch time.
I’ve got some vague track notes to get us to the start of Doomsday and after a bite to eat we head off up the other side of the valley. The climb up starts steep and gets steeper. Some dodgy not-quiet-rock-climbing sees us standing on a summit over looking the valley.
Down into a gap and up the other side then steadily up a ridge.
The canyon must start fairly high up in the system….
We reach the point were the notes say to turn towards the creek and need to drop back down through a fair portion of the elevation we just ascended.
I’m already thinking of Chardie and Autal’s comments on my complex bush bashes to visit not so awesome canyons…
Not sure if Madie told you guys but I have a reputation for this shit, say I
Canyon better be good, says they. And I have to agree
This involves an abseil into a pool and then a duck under a low arch. The bottom of the arch is only a couple of inches above the top of the water. As I was already wet I strip off my shirt and volunteer to go first. It was freaking cold
And then we boulder hop, abseil and stumble back down the hill to the maintenance trail and thus back to the car.
It’s not often I finish a canyon wondering whether it was worth it but I doubt I’d rush back to do Doomsday. I know other friends enjoy it and to be fair on a warmer, wetter day it might be more appealing but today it didn’t grab me as anything special.
Everyone wants to experience the view at the top of the mountain. Very few realise the magic, wonder and growth happens while you are climbing it
Party Size: 4 all experienced
Time: Coinslot 2.5 hours car to car. Doomsday 4.5hrs car to car
The next canyon does not appear in any guide and I haven’t seen it marked on any map I’ve come across but unlike the two previous canyons that none of us had done Ryan had visited this one, stumbling across it on a trip a few years ago.
It will be more aquatic than the last 2, says he….
Anyhoo, it turned out to be a great little canyon
So our intel and Ryan’s memory said there were four drops in the canyon, and this is true, but just down the creek we come to a substantial cliff line which looks borderline to big for our rope.
The general consensus from those who have explored this particular slice of the wilderness before is there are no large drops of any significance.
This one looks significant
Well that’s a bit of a buggar.
We join two ropes and anchor the top one just above the knot on a munter hitch. I get on the bottom rope and head over the edge but due to over hanging ledges I can’t see if the ropes on the ground. The plan is once I get a visual, if it is not touching the ground Ryan will lower me on the munter.
As it was when I finally get a look the rope is close enough to the ground to make it down safe.
It’s getting late and we are a long way down the main creek from our camp site so we discuss options of trying to break a pass up through the cliffline while we still have light or trudge a few kilometres up the main creek to a pass Phil has used previously and climb that in the dark.
We opt for the former, Madie has a pass marked on her map we think we can link up with.
Unfortunately we get on to a ledge too early that doesn’t go and are forced to abseil off as light fades where the decision is made to retreat to the main creek and take Phils pass out.
It’s longer and more complicated than I expect but we eventually get to the top and onto the fire trail. We have a couple of kilometres to get back to camp.
The others are staying an extra night, a wise choice, myself and Russ break camp and trek a further several kilometres back to the cars for the long drive back to civilisation
All in all a great experience
Group Size: 6
Time: Car to Camp. 1 and a bit hours. Camp to camp 14 hours. All up just shy of 25 hours and 36km in the wilderness
So what did I think of the Fiddle Stick?
Well… It’s a lot slower than throw and go and has none of the advantages of lowerable anchor systems. There is also a lot more to be mindful of when setting up so will need constant practice but for wilderness canyons where the aim is not to leave anything behind, including slings, rope burns on trees or grooves in rock, it makes a lot of sense.
Another handy tool in the quiver, but as I said one you’d want to practice a bit to stay familiar with it’s use.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself: Alan Alda
Soggy Bottom, Balls Deep, All in, Just a Bobble, Dragged a Toe and Ah Stuff it I’m in, AKA meeee
It’s 9pm, it’s the middle of May and I’m following Madie down a fire trail on another wild adventure.
The snow clouds that swirled around all day had hampered the drive out with constant rain and a smattering of sleet yet as we pull into the car park to meet the others they miraculously clear and we have a crisp stary night for our walk out to where we will camp above the canyons.
We’re not the only obsessive compulsive canyoning weirdos this time around, joining us are Rus, Ryan, Stu and Phil.
Madie had been recently converted to fiddle stick ghosting/Leave-no-trace techniques and I’m keen to check it out but first we pitch tents and enjoy a night of banter around the camp fire.
We’re up before sun rise and set off at first light amid one of the most spectacular pretty dawns I have witnessed.
After a few kilometres walk further along the fire trail we spear off into the bush looking for our first canyon. There are no track notes for the canyons out this way and the un-tracked terrain makes the whole area something special.
And then the canyon opens out and we make our way down to the main creek aiming for a pass up to our next canyon
With a bunch of bike and family commitments throughout March it’s had been nearly 4 weeks since I managed to get a canyon in. Or is that get in a canyon?
Anyhoo, I was tonguing to get out and I had missed some good trips with some good people so when the mad one said she wanted to do a canyon out in the Northern Wollemi on a weekend I finally had free I begged a leave pass and we started to plan.
Invitations were sent and a few people were keen but in the end most were unable to make it.
Briefly we discussed doing it as a day trip but decided that if we camped at the increasingly popular Dunns Swamp we’d have time to squeeze in another little canyon while we were out there.
Let’s go down one and up the other.
Doesn’t the guide say the other has some abseils?
Pffft, It says 1 abseil or a down climb, how hard could it be.
I first visited Dunns Swamp back around 1992 for wild party, now it’s all families and quiet time, lights out at 10pm and stuff. Camp sites were filling up fast and continued to do so well into the night,
We set up camp. This is gonna be fun. We can stay up late, swappin’ manly stories and in the morning, I’m making WAFFLES!
In the morning no waffles were made but we make our way out to the forestry gate. For which I have the combination as it’s part of the bicentennial trail, ‘cept they have changed the locks. This would mean a 10km fire trail slog.
Sometime later we ditch the bikes and do the last bit on foot. I’d driven across this fire trail in dads jeep in about 86, it’s a stunning bit of the world.
We had next to zero info on the first canyon but it looked like we needed to get through some complicated clifflines to reach it. In the end with some less than attentive navigation it was fairly simplez, we just walked around until we found it
Then it was down to the main creek for lunch in the dappled sunlight. Now to reverse the next one. Some of you may die, but its a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
And then we are at the top looking back down and it’s time to head home
Party Size: 2
Time: 7hr (and 2 minutes) car to car being fairly quick on the fire trail with few stops but lots of faffing in the canyons themselves
I’m not allowed the mention the canyons by name for fear of the canyon illuminati kid-napping me and beating me senseless. 1 source of info said we wouldn’t need wetsuits but I’m glad we took them as the second canyon was fairly cold and sustained. Good thing we didn’t wait until mid(dle of) winter to do it.
All in all it was another good day in the bush in a beautiful part of the world. After some late summer rain it sure was green up there on the hills
Former Qld premier Joe Bjelke-Peterson was renown for being narrow minded, whether that was straight and narrow or narrow and twisted is neither here nor there but his name sake canyon is one I’ve had on my radar for years.
Anyhoo, armed with some tips from Kent it was surprisingly quick and easy to follow the contour around from the pass out of the Bungleboori and before we knew it we had entered the creek smack bang on where it dropped into the canyon
And then Madie found a cave full of glow worms
We sat in complete darkness, even Madie was silent… Without a tripod I wasn’t sure how the camera would go picking them up but had a try. Bloody flash went off.
Your flash will turn them off! Madie swings a playfull elbow at me in the dark. It connects with my Crittr, driving it into my crittrs…. Some deep breaths were needed…
Back at the Bungleboori and we fight our way upstream to the exit
And then it was up hill to some stunning views over the Wollangambe Wilderness
and then it was an easy but longish walk up the ridge and back down to collect the camp gear. We opted to exchange it for the canyon gear, hanging wetsuits, ropes and harness in a tree to dry. this saved us carting it all into the camp cave only to carry it back out tomorrow.
At camp we change into dry clothes and settle in for an evening of relaxation and banter. Gabby had carted in a feast, no idea how she managed to fit it all into her pack but it was awesome.
I wonder if there are glowworms in the end of Bubblebath, asked someone after the sun had set. Let’s go for a look.
Again we sat there in silence but this time we had no need to push on. Never have I ever sat for so long with nothing but a constellation of glowworms to break the darkness.
Madie declared a rule: no torches, no flashes. and we sat there admiring the worms in all our glory.
A magical experience.
Sometime later the torches came back on and we made our way out to get some sleep and prepare for the next day
*March 2019 I am once again participating in the Wests Cycle Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter. If you enjoy my blog or just want to help this great cause think about making a small donation