Miners, Birds, Bells and, Labyrnths

14-08-16

Edwin and me

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The harsh mid day sun made it difficult to get nice shots. This one is almost there

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!

 

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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.

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Ed investigating a slot

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.

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Side 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.

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The gully eventually closes in
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It’s not deep or dark but it is relatively sustained

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.

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Up we go

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.

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This option was very tempting

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.

 

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Across the Wolgan

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.

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Ed in the canyon

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Ed in a squeeze

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The Hollow pagoda.
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Pagoda country
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Yep magic

Back

 

 

Reconnaissance

19-07-16

Julie, Lyn, Jim and I

 

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

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Jim leading us up the hidden slot
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Julie
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Natural Oculus
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Entering the netherworld
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Looks wet down there. We’ll send Jim first
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A nervous smile? before descending into the water
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Can it be bridged?
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Lyn
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Split in the Wolgan cliffline
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This one was a bit damp with the spray but not cold at all
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Views

Hole in the Wall and Banks Canyons

Hole In the Wall, Dingo Crk/Bungleboori (part there of), North West and Banks Canyons. Trip report

Party: Edwin, Tal, Meggs, Ben and me

The last time I had done Hole In the Wall canyon Alicia Silverstone was Clueless, Tas Pappas was king of vert skateboarding, Michael Jackson was weird but not yet totally creepy, hypacolour Tee shirts and hammer pants were cool, clear cola was a not so distant disappointing memory and the internet 2.0 was so fresh people still didn’t really know how to do interactive (any git with a website was considered an expert in their field, cough cough mummble)

Oh, and you could drive all the way to the faint foot pad that lead the way in.

I had done the canyon a few times. First time was with Mandy, Scott and Gav(?). I remember needing to shimmey into the tunnel section and then it being a tight squeeze up and over the rock jam to get out. Next time was a few years later with Mandy and Della. This time we we able to walk into the tunnel section and there was a narrow but relatively easy squeeze down to the left through the water under the rock jam. 3rd time was seconding a commercial party. We didn’t make it to the tunnel section. A massive storm hit us in between the 2 canyon sections and we beat a hasty retreat in rapidly rising water. I had a couple of bad experiences guiding that year and that topped it off, no more commercial guiding for me.

Anyhoo, time to revisit the Canyon. Gaz and Bryson couldn’t make it but the rest of the crew were keen. Since the last time I had been through the Wollemi Wilderness area had been declared which meant it was going to be an extra 30min walking either way. With HITW being a relatively short canyon I hatched a plan to link it up with Banks Canyon to make the walk more worth while.

Neither I nor any of the others had done Banks Canyon before but I had memories of people discussing doing them as a double back in the day.

As the weekend neared we started gathering some more info. of course I consulted both Dave’s and Tom’s pages and both indicated  that, while a big day it was comfortably doable. Of course they aren’t your average joe canyoner

Other info trickled in

AD couldn’t come but said he remembered doing Banks on it’s own years before and remembered it being a massive day. I was stuffed afterwards, says he

Edwins mate did the trip a week or two before. 8hrs car to car with a party of 2.

Someone else said they did Banks on it’s own, no faffing about 10hrs car to car…

I started to think we might be biting off more than we could chew. As usual we decided to bite anyway and chew like hell.

Well not exactly, we decided to get an earlish start and set a cut off time. If we weren’t at the exit point on Dingo crk, AKA Bungleboori North, by 12 we’d give up on Banks and set it aside for another day.

A guy from work, Dave asked if he could come along, he use to be in Ramblers and wanted to get back into canyoning. I gave him the run down. We’d be leaving my place at 7 at the latest and needed to be efficient on the raps.

6:40 I get a text Dave was just leaving home he’d be 20min late. Now I’m normally accommodating but we didn’t know how long Banks was going to take. I had stressed we didn’t want delays… Sorry Dave, we left without him.

I know the plateau reasonably well but I hadn’t been out to the end of Waratah ridge for a long time and with the pine forest heading out now logged it all looks a bit different so I printed out Toms turn by turn, km by km, guide and promptly left it on the breakfast bar. I took the right at the fork knowing that they both go to the same place but thinking for some reason R was quicker if you had a vehicle with  a bit of ground clearance… Needless to say a little bit of consultation over the map was needed before we reached the car park at around 8am. Meggs did point out that was twice I’ve gone wrong on fire trail recently.

Anyway. It’s along walk in but the track is now very well defined and it’s not hard walking out along the ridge line.

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Edwin saves energy by levitating down the entry trail

 

About 1 hr later we reach the junction with the exit track, swing right and make our way down to the start of Hole in the Wall. We decide not to suit up yet and enter the dark confines of the upper constriction.

The first section is narrow and twisty but doesn’t drop all that much. We get wet up to our wastes and manage the few little drops without difficulty

DCIM166GOPRO
DCIM166GOPRO

We make good time and it’s only 10am as the gorge opens back out and we make our way down to the lower constriction

The walls close back in and we get to the first abseil. Ed declares it can be jumped. We suit up and have a quick bite too eat. The plan is for a few little stops for food rather than 1 long lunch

I’m looking at the pool at the bottom of the drop. The clarity of the water makes it look shallower than it is. I can see a bit of a rock ledge poking out at the right and a big log on the left but the glare of the sun makes it hard to see how far they stick out. The bottom looks rock. I normally don’t balk at jumps but…

It’s deeper than it looks just aim for the center, says Ed. I’m still dubious and decide to down climb. It’s an easy scramble and I check the depths, it’s over 6foot. From the top it looked like 3… Ed and Tal jump. Ben and Meggs decide to rope up and hand over hand.

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It’s jumpable, says Ed

The bottom section of HITW is spectacular. An abseil or two later Meggsie calls back up. Does anyone have a torch? This next bit is really dark. Didn’t you bring torches? No. I said you’d need water proof torches. No you didn’t. It was in the text message. I didn’t read that… you’ve done this before. I can’t remember what I did yesterday.

Oh well 2 head torches between 5 people was going to make the cave section interesting. And didn’t it what.

I have never seen so many glowworms in a such a small space. It was, like, totes amazeballs. I’m hoping the go pro is sensitive enough to pick them up as with torches off it really was stunning.

The duck under down to the left is silted up again so it’s up and through a tight squeeze. Either it’s getting smaller or…. It takes us a bit of time to get every one through

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1 last abseil and we’re out of HITW and into the wider Dingo crk (Ok, so it’s been marked as Dingo crk since atleast the 74 edition maps but its still hard not to refer to it as the “Boori”).

As the guys wade up the gorge I decide it would make a great foto so I take the go pro off the chest strap, switch over to photo mode and click away, then as I go to put it back on the chesty I promptly fumble it and drop it in the dark waters…

Now when I needed a new case I thought the “stealth” case looked cool. I’m now regretting the decision to go the black case that hides the flashing red light. Duck diving in I can’t see jack. Char from the fires two years back still pools in black clumps in the depths. It was dark in the gorge with dappled sun light reflecting off the water. I fish the head torch out, still no good. Damn. I wonder if another party will find it some time in the future.

Giving up I continue up stream, and kick the bloody thing in a wide section 10m up stream of where I dropped it. The Go Pro gods are smiling on me.

I worry we haven’t made as good a time in the lower constriction as I was hoping but as we reach the exit point up stream I check the time and it’s 11:55. we make cut off with 5min to spare. Sorry again, Dave but at this stage I’m glad we didn’t wait for you.

A quick lunch and we consult the track notes for accessing Banks. Cross the river head up on ledges and around right to a gully 50m down stream. We’d spied the gully on the way up and wondered if it would be easier just to wade down stream and access it. The notes hinted at a need to traverse around a bit higher up so we cross over and there are signs others have done the same. Then the faint trail goes no where and turns back down toward the water, 10m down stream of where we’d just crossed.

We wade down and climb up to the right of the gully. There doesn’t seem to be any easy, safe paths up to the base of the upper cliff line but we skirt up the side of the gully regaining it just above the “impassable waterfall” The pass up to the start of North West canyon is a razor grass shrewn scrub bash. Once in NW is easier going. it’s a reasonable little canyon but nothing to write home about. It does how ever give us access up through the cliff lines. The heat up top was oppressive after the cool of the Canyons

I’m getting tired, says Tal, can I wait here instead of doing Banks?

You could mate but you’ve done the hard work and you’re on the wrong side of the Valley. We have to go back down into ‘Boori and up the other side to get home.

Ooooh. OK, we don’t have to bash back up that gully again? Cool I’ll do Banks

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We scramble down into the next gully and suit up again. Squeezing into his wetty Tals zipper lets loose… He’s going to have a cold back…

Banks is interesting. Cutting through the upper layer of Banks sandstone, the walls aren’t that deep but it is consistently narrow. There is a lot of sucking in stomachs, squeezing, dragging packs behind as there not enough room for both you and a pack. Even the go pro chest mount had to come off. The abseils in the constrictions are short but interesting. The one into the dark is technical and cool. Duck unders where you have to pass short under water tunnels to get through and one or two tricky down climbs that look like some parties rope up for… The water isn’t flowing as much here and after the crystal clear water of HITW it’s a little stagnant and pongy in places.

Then the creek opens out and it boulder hopping and route finding. 2 final abseils. Nice simple and longer than the others.

and again we’re at Dingo crk, AKA the ‘Boori. Wide and majestic, one report said. A disappointing boulder hopping scrub bash said another.

I’ll go with the former. Wide and majestic. The long swims are very reminiscent of floating down the Wollemgambie, ‘cept you’re going against the current, you’re not on a lilo and you’re pretty shagged from an already big day. Our passage was disturbed by a baby brown snake casually swimming down stream. I would have thought the coldness of the water would have it seeking the nearest rock, log or human to scramble out into the sun but it swam on looking for adventure down stream.

Meggs and Ben saw another sunning itself on a rock not far on… the rest of us missed it.

There wasn’t much boulder hopping in this section but it was becoming more strenuous. In about 40min we were back at the point where Hole in the Wall enters.

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The crack in the towering canyon walls where Hole in the Wall flows into Dingo crk, AKA the Bungleboori North branch.

Another 10min up stream to the exit. It’s amazing how much harder this section was the second time around. Obviously after the big hike the legs were starting to get weary but the long swims also took their toll on arms and shoulders. Scrambles that had been simple the first time around seemed to be overly complicated and taxing this time.

I don’t think there is a single submerged rock or stick in this section of creek I didn’t bash my knees, shins, nuts or all 3 on.

 

We make the exit, hang suits, ropes and harnesses out to dry a bit and then stuff ourselves with chocolate and energy bars. After a bit of a rest make our way out. Its a steep haul to start then a gentle winding trail out along the ridge. Views over the cliff lines are stunning.  It’s not a hard walk just a constant one foot in front of the other that seems far longer than the walk in.

 

So there you are. We managed to do it. I was impressed with Banks but don’t think I’d do it as a trip on it’s own. Going in through Hole in the Wall wouldn’t add much more than maybe 2 or 3hrs to the trip.

 

So the details are.

Groups size 5, all experienced and capable abseilers, thou we do still help Tal and Ben rope up. Ages 50something 40 something 20 something (or is that 30 somehting) and 2 teen somethings

None of us had done Banks before

Left car park around 8am. Got back around 6. We  had a few more delays in HITW than planned and took a fair bit of time finding our path up through NorthWest canyon to the top of Banks Canyon. I then stuffed around a bit trying to fix Tals Zipper before heading in.

We weren’t rushing but didn’t faff with photos and looking about about either. We kept a reasonable steady pace. The trip was around about 20kms and contained around 1000m of elevation gain. It’s a big day but doable if you don’t have any major dramas along the way

We had a 20m rope and a 50m rope. The 20 was enough for all but 3 of the drops, the reason we took 2 was a) I like a back up spare and b) we had planned to stack the abseils in Banks sending the first person down with spare rope to set up the next drop to save time. We didn’t end up doing this as we weren’t that pushed for time.

10hrs car to car. Plenty of day light left.