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
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
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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 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
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…)
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.
Hole in the Wall consists of 2 canyon sections interspaced with a more open creek walk. It’s a reasonable walk in and out, mostly along a flat to undulating ridge. It is a bit of a Show Case canyon thou, being dark and twisty with glowworm caves, fun little water jumps and interesting abseils so well worth the walk.
It also empties into a very pretty section of the North Bungleboori crk, AKA Nine Mile crk, AKA Dingo Crk (though that name was originally appplied to a just small but interesting tributary)
It starts with a bang. You are in a pleasant sort of creek that looks like it might canyon up but is other wise unremarkable, you duck under a chock stone, round a corner and BAM!
I was half keen on the Banks double again but decided after a couple of big weekends I’d be better to take it a bit eaiser. Shaha, Frankie and Kristy joined me for the trip.
Setting off from the car park it was a coolish day that made walking pleasant and an hour and a bit of relatively flat ridge top walking later we descended into the little creek that would soon canyon up.
Normally I wouldnt bother with wetsuits yet, the top section has a few short wades but no swims, but with the day a bit of the cool side I made the call to put them on and in we went
I’ve done this canyon a few times now and it blows me away every time. For the others it was their first time so I encouraged them to take the lead and find the wonder for themselves.
And after a tricky climb down or two the canyon opens out to a pleasant walk down the creek interspaced with boulder hopping and quick sand
Just when it was starting to get uncomfortably warm in the wetties the creek begins to drop again and the walls close in.
We harness up above a small drop. The water down below looks so inviting.
What are you guys like with water jumps?
Shaha and Frankie were up for it. Kristy, not so much.
Ok we can rope you up here or it’s a fairly easy down climb. She opted for the down climb.
Frankie takes the leap first and then Kristy follows using the sling to hand over hand.
Me and Shaha jump.
Another nice canyon section follows before we get to the first abseil.
And then it’s into the show stopper section. a dark cave like tunnel filled with glowworms
The cave seems to periodically silt up and flush out. Last time this was a deep swim and a difficult climb up out of the water over a mid way shelf. this time it was barely ankle deep at the shelf and and easy step up.
Over the shelf and back into a deep pool then a tricky climb out and up a cave like squeeze
And then the longest abseil, down through a hole. When we first visited this I remember it being a sandy floor with a log spanning a hole a bit back from the edge. you had to rope up around the log and it was a very awkward to get on rope and then you swung in and down you went. At the time we joked that “Hole in the floor” would be a better name. Now the floor is bouldery and it’s obvious you are on chock stones. The hole is right at the edge, the log all but decayed. A handy anchor is found on the wall.
Then it’s one last abseil/slippery hand over hand
And then we are into the magestic North Bungleboori… AKA Nine Mile, AKA *hackspit* Dingo Creek.
Now its a 500m wade, swim, scramble, walk up stream to our exit.
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. T E Lawerence
Despite doing the nearby Heart Attack canyon a couple of times for some reason I’d never done Surefire.
Meggsie always said it was his favourite canyon, mind you that was back in the days when you could drop a car on top of the exit ridge and then drive pretty much to the start.
Now there is about a 7km walk in and a 10km walk out.
This is one road closure that frustrates me a bit. I understand closing trails that were becoming rutted out messes but this is a flat ridge top trail with little chance of rutting out. The “End of the World” Lookout at the very end of the trail where Deans Creek Merges with Rocky Creek and they flow into the Wolgan is jaw droppingly awesome. Oh well if you want to see it now it’s a 12km walk each way along a flat dull fire trail so plenty of time to enjoy your wilderness experience i suppose.
When Julie asked if I wanted to do Surefire I thought it would be a great way to finish off a big year of canyoning and I jumped at the chance. We met Madie at the Zig Zag, pile gear into her ute and head off for a big day of adventure.
The walk out along the original fire trail is as straight forward as it gets. The 1970 mineral exploration trail that branches off that and leads out to the end of the ridge overlooking the canyon is very overgrown and the start is hard to spot unless you know where to look. We lost the trail a couple of times but the ridge is easy to follow and we’d regain the trail with out too much drama.
At the end of the trail we spend a bit of time looking for the borehole put in by Coalex to confirm mineral reserves in the 70’s. I had driven out here 20+years ago and the stand- pipe at the end of the road was obvious but for some reason we couldn’t find it today.
We scramble down to the cliff line and needed to traverse back and forward a bit to find a ramp that would get us all the way down to the creek. Once down it was a easy stroll down a nice gully until the creek dropped into the dark canyon below.
We suit up, Madie and I opting to go wetsuits, Julie perhaps smarter in just a shark skin thermal top. It was a tad warm.
There are 3 or 4 abseils in close succession. Hey Craig get a photo of this. Calls Madie as she turns herself upside down.
Despite the focusing issues the light in the canyon was superb. I can see why Meggsie liked it so much.
There follows a short walk inter-spaced with some scrambles along a stunning section of canyon.
And then we came to a section where stick jams create a false floor and there is an anchor set up on a large log wedged across the canyon walls.
This chamber was dark enough that Madie chose to put her head torch on but just as she began her descent a shaft of light beamed down to illuminate her. It was kinda magical
More glorious canyon continued
We came to another drop we needed to abseil. Tom’s track notes say it may be able to be downclimbed but we found it very slippery and perhaps the log jammed in the drop had moved… either way we thought it best to rope up.
A short, cold swim through the narrowest bit of canyon followed, the only real swim of the trip.
from here the canyon opens up slightly but is still high quality
We eventually reach the lunch cave and stop for a well earned bite to eat.
the usual exit is to head back up stream 300m and take and side creek up a gully, perform some dodgy acrobatics to climb out, then wander up through pleasant coachwood forest to regain the ridge top and old fire trail.
I know an easier exit, Julie informs us. 400m downstream is a short steep gully that gives easy access to the top then it’s a short distance up the ridge to the firetrail. We took it 8years ago, much easier.
OK, we make our way down with some boulder hopping and route finding then head up the chosen gully.
The gully wasn’t as quite as simple as promised… Looks like the 8 years since her last visit has filled it with deadfall. Clambering over, through and up it zapped a bit of energy.
Well for me and Julie it did. Madie seems to have an endless supply of energy and positivity so long as there is regular supply of chips and chocolate. That’s pretty… This is fun….Wow, that’s cute….
We come to a short, “interesting” climb up through a hole. I slip up with a little bit of grunting and groaning (It’s been a long time since I considered myself a rock climber) and then drop a rope for the ladies, because that’s the kind of gentleman I am, or sumfink.
Eventually we find ourselves on a wide ledge and Julie leads us back toward the canyon, rather than continuing up the gully.
There’s a old bushwalkers saying around these parts “The Nose always goes… Sometimes.”
We follow Julie back to around the corner to the nose of the ridge past a narrow, steep ramp that might be doable, to a wide ramp with easy walk up access to the top. Works everytime. Occasionally.
The view from the top, down Surefire gully to where it empties into Rocky Creek is top notch and we take a moment to grab a drink and soak in the views.
Now it’s just up this open ridge to the top of the knoll and the old fire trail is just over the other side. Julie explains.
Up we go in high spirits.
Except the knoll has a false summit, and then another, and another…. The higher we go the thicker the scrub gets. I’ve got scratches all over me, Julie is cut to bits, Madie is still smiling and having a great time….
We finally get to the top of the not so grassy knoll and give a sigh of relief at finding the old firetrail.
Now it’s just a 10km boring fire trail slog back to the car.
Let me know when you see the gate. Says Madie at some stage. Oh don’t worry I’ll be whoo-hooing says i
Sometime later, it may have been 1.5hrs it might have been 40 days and 40 nights I kinda lost track of time but eventually I let out a whoohoo.
Madie pushes past me. Race youes to the car. Call she as she breaks into a sprint.
Seriously too much energy… We “let” her win
all in all a big day and a great, if somewhat short, canyon. I’m sure in another week or so I’ll admit the walk in and out was worth it 🙂
Party Size: 3 all experienced
Time:9.5hrs car to car
Doing what you want is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.