Category Archives: Bushwalking

Burra Korain Head (April 2018)

A lovely walk out along Burra Korain Ridge gave us speccy views of the Grose Valley in several directions.

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Gross Valley views

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Tom at our morning tea spot

After morning tea we retraced some of our steps and the headed west towards Victoria Creek.

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Pagodas galore – who knew?

We had lunch on the cliffs above Victoria Creek.

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Carl & Tom at our lunch spot

After lunch we left Tom to head back the way we came and the rest of us headed steeply down into the creek.

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It wasn’t all views, there was some creek bashing

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And some very pretty sections of creek

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Victoria Creek

After we got to the creek then it was up the other side. The vegetation was fairly challenging.

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Some fairly arduous bush-bashing

Before we made it to the base of the cliff line which we followed round until a break.

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Overhang

And I finally got to Odin Head the way I had planned to go a couple of years ago. We met a couple of other bushwalkers there who we had a good chat with.

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And then views back to where we came from

And luckily for us when we got to Victoria Falls Road they offered us a life back to our cars (Tom was meant to pick us up but had gone adventuring on his way out so was running a little late).

Easter 2018

We may not have had a particularly active Easter this year (by our standards) but it was a lot more active than the last 3 Easters where I think we managed one day walk across all three long weekends!

We met up with Andy on Friday and after much deliberation while we crawled in traffic up the mountains eventually settled on Mt Piddington for our climbing. Andy’s climbing skills are far superior to Tom & mine, but he graciously humoured us by leading some easy/moderate graded climbs.

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Views from above the Piddo Crag

 

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Andy leading S.S.C.C.1 *** 14

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Tom on S.S.C.C.1

Somehow with our late start, 3 people climbing, and no particular deadlines we managed to get to late afternoon having only climbed SSCC1 and Hocus Pocus.

On Saturday we did the Grand Canyon Loop bushwalk with Andy, Chris & Liz and family. The car park was pretty insane but despite that the walk didn’t feel too crowded. It was the first time I’d actually done the full loop – even though I’ve walked the section from the bottom of Jugglers Canyon to the Grand Canyon abseil at least half a dozen times.

Sunday post-Easter Egg hunt was adventure time for Mala! Mt York the venue for her first abseiling experience (incidentally the same place Tom taught me to abseil some 14 years ago).

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Prepping to abseil

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Mala and Liz abseiling

After that Andy and Tom set up a couple of top-ropes. Liz & I warmed up on Lishenback (** 10) then eventually both made it up Birds Nest (15). We farewelled Liz & Chris & fam then escaped the beating sun at New York.

Andy led up Spoonbender (15) for me. Then I had a go at following him up Illusory (19) but eventually conceded defeat.

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Andy leading Illusory (19) (I think!)

I watched with interest as he climbed a couple of routes which looked pretty impossible (to me).

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Andy on Spanking de Sade (*** 21)

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Clipping the final bolt on Spanking de Sade

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Andy on Are You Loathsome Tonight (*** 20)

With the daylight savings change it was almost dark when we got back to the cars and were most surprised to have to crawl back to Blackheath in the heavy traffic!

An most enjoyable weekend with great friends.

Box Vale Tramway (March 2018)

We needed to back in Sydney for a social engagement in the evening so this walk in Mount Alexandra Reserve near Mittagong was the perfect length. After a fair bit of rain in the preceding weeks the creeks were flowing, the tracks were slippery and the leeches were out in force.

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One of the old cuttings

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Following an old tramway makes for gentle flat walking!

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Tunnel under the rocks

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View from the tunnel

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Views down the Nattai River Valley

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The steep incline down to Box Vale Creek

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Crossing the Nattai

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Fallen trees made things a bit trickier in places

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The Natural Arch obscured by a large amount of flood debris

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Tom at the top of Forty Foot Falls

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The cave behind Forty Foot Falls

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Tom taking a shower

 

Hidden Valley (March 2018)

It’s always nice to explore a new area – no one on the trip had been into this area of Morton National Park before. The first challenge was finding the Sassafras entrance and driving along the road.

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The gate at the turn-off on Braidwood Road

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At the NP entrance

That successfully negotiated we then had a long and fairly boring fire trail bash, though Dee and Alex did manage to have a ‘swim’ in a small creek we passed along the way. Things started getting more interesting when we got nearer to The Vines and the vegetation changed from low heath to rainforest.

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Clive in the forest (trying to avoid leeches!)

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As usual a plume of smoke follows Alex around

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Alex surveying the land at lunch

It was nice to be on a track rather than fire trail as we headed down to the Hidden Valley turnoff.

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Hidden Valley turn off

Five of us headed into Hidden Valley, visiting Dark Brothers Cave and scrambling up onto Sturgiss Mountain where we enjoyed wonderful views.

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Dark Brothers Cave (I presume?)

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Views from Sturgiss Mountain – Pigeon House unmistakeable in the distance

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Descending Sturgiss Mountain, views over Styles Plain

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Clive on a scrambling section of the descent

Returning to our packs at the Hidden Valley turnoff we headed to Styles Creek where I was hoping we’d find a campsite. Fortunately there was – quite a luxurious one at that! Having been in Eucalypt forest for much of the walk it was great to come out onto the flats where there were great views of the surrounding features.

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The team at camp

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Sturgiss Mountain at sunset

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Quiltys Mountain overlooking Styles Creek

The temperatures indicated we’d tipped into Autumn with most of us slightly under done on the warmth front overnight. There was a lot of dew but my borrowed bivvy bag did a good job of keeping me dry.

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Breakfast time

The second day we just had a retrace of our route (minus the Hidden Valley excursion) from Saturday.

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Alex crossing a side creek. Is the log an old bridge?

It was a long, hot walk back along the fire trail.

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The long, hot fire trail bash back to the cars

We were all very happy to get to the pub in Nowra for a beer and dinner!

A great walk to get a feel for the area and start planning some further walks.

Arabanoo Creek (Feb 2018)

This was Vivien’s third attempt to run this trip with extreme heat and wet thwarting the previous two. I was a johnny-come-lately to the event not having been on the list for either of the earlier trips. Injuries and life brought our starting line-up down to 5, some defectors in a rival party of 5 taking a much easier trip to Box Creek Falls.

Alex started the weekend well by forgetting both his bushwalking clothes and his sleeping bag. Fortunately Tom had brought two sleeping bags up to Kanangra so Alex was able to borrow one. We were away from the Walls carpark just after 8am. Sierra had never been out on the plateau and was soon pointing out landmarks to us… just the completely wrong ones.  We took our time enjoying the views from the plateau lookout before heading off towards Coal Seam Cave.

We had an early first morning tea at Cottage Rock and then we were off track down to Arabanoo Creek.

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Jo taking in views below Cottage Rock

We were joking about whether there would be any water in Arabanoo Creek and were pleasantly surprised to arrive at a pool. The going was pretty straight-forward as it was largely dry and we could in the main just march down the middle of the creek. I managed to trip over and land heavily on my right hand so we decided it might be a good time to have morning tea.

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Jo on one of the trickier sections

There were a couple of scrambly sections which we had to negotiate fairly early. With my right-hand somewhat out of action this upped the difficulty level for me. When it came to skirting round pools for the sake of keeping my feet dry I, for once, was the first to plunge in. At one stage Alex decided he was going to throw his pack across the pool… after a few swings he realised the pack wasn’t going to make it and tried to stop… next minute both Alex and his pack were in the pool having lost his balance. Fortunately nothing hurt other than pride.

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Vivien still laughing over Alex’s fall into this pool (from about where Vivien is standing)

After that pool I decided to take the high route and managed to avoid getting more than knee deep but the others went down the creek getting chest-deep wet. After his unintended ‘jump’ Alex decided it was time to hit the heavy stuff – out came a can of berry cider (never to early to start drinking?!).

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Other than the hat you’d think he’d got lost from the streets of Newtown

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Vivien admiring one of the more dramatic sections in Arabanoo Creek

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Our only mandatory swim

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A planned jump this time

After a slightly canyon like section the creek flattened out. Then the snakes began. Red-belly black after red-belly black after red-belly black. Ever pool had a snake. We learnt that if the person in front was taking an odd line down the dry creek it was probably because there was a snake in the obvious line.

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Lunchtime!

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Not sure if this guy was alive or not, certainly wasn’t scuttling away

Eventually we made it to Christys Creek which had perhaps even less water than Arabanoo Creek. Then a few hundred metres to the junction with the Kowmung where Vivien had promised a “decent campsite”. I was less than convinced of the ‘decency’ at the stony spot we initially ended up at, but fortunately Jo discovered the real campsite slightly upstream. The Kowmung was in a pretty sad state – no flow, just large, somewhat unappealing, pools.

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Relaxing at camp

Vivien & I did manage to find a pool that was over waist deep for a swim which was fantastic. With a Park Fire Ban in place there was no fire to ward off the mosquitoes that were out in force. The women seemed to receive a lot more attention from the mossies than the guys and ultimately that was what sent us all off too bed. I had a bivvy on loan from Bill which the others were pretty disparaging off. After some initial difficulty sorting out how to best have my pack propped up to keep the bivvy off my face it came good. I had a brilliant night, safe from the mosquitoes and not having to swelter in my sleeping bag.

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Given how miniscule Alex’s sleeping mat & pillow are I can see why he doesn’t bother sleeping on them.

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The mighty Kowmung. Or where it should be.

The next day was going to a be a long slog back up to the cars so we got an early start. The first bit of uphill was the most unpleasant as we were directly in the sun.

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Early steep climb on Stonehag Hill

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The most technical section of scrambling we did, on Stonehag hill

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Views over the Kanangra-Boyd wilderness

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Morning tea and trying to match features to the map. Mt Colong of course is unmistakable through the trees.

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More scrambling to get to Arabanoo Peak

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Lunch in a cave below Mount Colboyd

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Descending into the saddle at the other end of Mount Colboyd

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Grass trees on Marrilman Heath

The Box Creek party were waiting for us (well, out at the lookout) at the Walls carpark when we got back. We had dinner in Lawson on the way home – a good weekend had by all.

Mother Woila – Jillaga Creek (Jan 2018)

I think John had been planning a revisit to Deua National Park every since our last trip in 2015. We had 5 returners from the 2015 trip plus Alan to give us 6 which is a good party size. This time John had a 4 day route in mind – to deal with unfinished business with Mother Woila on the first day, then see some new parts of Deua for the rest of the trip.

Most of us drove down the night before and camped. Some took the opportunity on the morning of day 1 to read the email with the details for the first time… and realise that we were meant to be carrying water for the first 2 days! Fortunately between extra water in cars and Currambene Creek everyone was able to load up sufficiently (though there was some disagreement about what the ‘right’ amount of water was). The first challenge of the day was getting cars to Dampier Trig. We all made it, but John’s car was smelling quite unpleasant and issuing smoke by the time we arrived. Oh well! That would be a problem for 4 days time!

And so we were off. We quickly picked up an old fire trail off Dampier Trig which took us out towards Mother Woila.

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Following an old firetrail from Dampier Trig

Gladly dumping our heavy packs we set off on a side trip to get onto Mother Woila. A couple of snakes in quick succession (black? & tiger) made us a little jumpy but it wasn’t long before we were having morning tea overlooking our objective.

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Sierra at morning tea with views of Mother Woila

We headed down to the saddle where there was some discussion about how to ascend. In the end Alex & Alan headed off to the right-hand side while the rest of us skirted around the left with the intention of heading up the gully between Mother Woila and Little Woila. The siren-call of the cliff face drew us in though and before we knew it, despite having good beta that there was no easy route up this face, I was half way up a cliff with Bill valiantly following me. I was hoping John & Sierra would get to a similar spot by an easier route and we could take their route down…. unfortunately (or fortunately?) they had backed off much earlier and so were at the bottom. I was now at a vertical face I had no chance of getting up and I didn’t really fancy reversing what we’d just done, but that was what needed to happen. Fortunately I had the only handline in my pack. A few pitches with the handline around some marginal trees we were back at the bottom of the cliff. By this point Alan & Alex were already at the top waving at us… guess they were going to be waiting a while!

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Bill bravely following me up an ill-advised attempt to get up Mother Woila

We eventually made our way up the gully, after a couple of attempts up minor gullies, and out to the rocky outcrop on Mother Woila. It had been very warm and humid as we’d made our way up and thunder rumbled overhead as a storm brewed. A few photos, an essay in the logbook by Sierra, and then we decided we’d better get off before it started raining. We were pretty happy that Alex & Alan thought they had a suitable route for the whole party to descend rather than reversing our longer approach.

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Views of the approach ridge from Mother Woila

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Tabletop from Mother Woila

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Not many (different) visitors to the log book in the last 2 years!

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Chocolate + hot day = winning combination

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Bill in the top of the chute descending off Mother Woila

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Looking back up the top of the chute

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Sierra in the lower chute

The rain largely held off until we were back in the saddle.

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Alex in the saddle as the weather closes in

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Moody Tabletop

With my unsuccessful climbing foray, and the heat taking its toll, we didn’t get back to our packs until 4pm. As it was raining we figured it was best to get to Horseshoe Point rather than have lunch. Finally at Horseshoe Point at 5pm we had lunch – has food ever tasted so good? The storm had cleared by then so we enjoyed drying out in the sun.

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After the storm clears Sierra at Horseshoe Point

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Mother Woila through the trees from Horseshoe Point

We had a pleasant time around the fire before turning in fairly early. The rain came back not long after we went to bed.

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Camp at Horseshoe Point (yes, Bill is available for fashion advice any time)

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The weather comes in again

We had a long day ahead so we got away from camp at 7am. The ridge between Horseshoe Point and Tabletop gave excellent views in the early morning light.

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Looking out to Scouts Hat

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Sierra scrambling with Mother Woila in the morning sun

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The ridge to Tabletop

Even with the early start it was oppressively humid and it was soon clear our original objective was out of the question. A new plan was hatched which eliminated several kilometres of ridge walking and took us to Jillaga Creek sooner than expected.

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Looking back on our route: Tabletop (left) and the ridge to Horseshoe Point (right)

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Something didn’t like this tree!

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First view of Jillaga Creek, and what a sweet view it was

We hoped that Jillaga Creek would be running and it was music to the ears when we heard the flow before we could even see it. The easiest walking was in the creek so that’s where we walked. It was a beautiful section of creek surrounded by ferns and easy walking on the rocky bed.

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Easy walking in the upper reaches of Jillaga Creek

Another storm came through as we walked down the creek. We kept going keeping an eye out for campsites. There were a number of single sites but not much for 6 people. With the rain still teeming down we settled on a site about 4pm.

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Another storm comes in

After standing around waiting for the storm to blow through for quite some time we eventually decided to set up. Teamwork made for a relatively dry set up and it was amazing how good it felt to be under the fly (even if it was in the mud) and out of the rain.

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Bill setting up the biv in ‘dry’ conditions

Eventually the rain did stop but everything was soaked through. Bill did a grand job getting a fire going and drying out wood. I was a little surprised to pull out my silk inner liner from my pack and find I could squeeze a considerable amount of water out of it. Note to self: pack liner is useless! Fortunately with the heat from the fire I was able to dry it and my Thermarest out quickly. In the end we had a pleasant evening and there was some damage inflicted on the 2 litres of port which Alex had brought.

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Drying out after the storm

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Camp night 2

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Delicious dehy meal Nicole made me as a thank you for lending her our dehydrator

It was interesting to see how much the creek had risen from when we arrived to the next morning. After the fact reviews of the weather data showed Snowball had 13mm and Bendethera had 21mm so I guess we got somewhere in between those numbers. (and our first day Snowball had 9mm, and Bendethera had 2.4mm)

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Jillaga Creek early on day 3

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Love a party where everyone brings a map!

We kept walking downstream on Jillaga Creek until we reached a junction with a major side creek. This junction was our original planned night 3 camp, but we were here for morning tea on day 3 instead. At this point we split the group. John & Bill headed down Jillaga Creek towards Bendethera with the hope of getting a lift back to Dampier Trig. The rest of us set off on the planned day 4 exit.

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Parting of the group

The first part of the exit was walking up the side creek. It was beautiful with lots of little cascades, a few deep plunge pools and a lot of extremely slippery rocks.

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Alex enjoying our side creek

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Sussing out exit options at another lovely cascade

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Sierra and I take a high route to avoid getting out packs wet

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Cascades

We expected to hit an impassable waterfall which would be our cue to head on to the ridge, and sure enough we did.

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Don’t think we’re getting up that…

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Shower time

We backtracked downstream and had some lunch before filling up water and scrambling up a steep loose slope to attain the ridge proper.

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Heading back downstream to an exit

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Just before we exited on to the ridge

The rest of the day was all about going up. We were at about 400m in the creek and we needed to get to Dampier Trig at 1239m. And there was a fair bit of undulating on the ridges as we went. We were fortunate it was overcast and somewhat cooler than the previous 2 days, even so I was constantly dripping with sweat as we made our way up.

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Spectacular country

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Very smooth (& colourful when wet) eucalyptus

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Nice ridge walking

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700m of climbing done, only a couple of hundred metres of vertical to go (thank goodness!)

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Conglomerate outcrop

I was running on empty by the time we made it back to the old fire trail leading up to Dampier Trig. It was great news to find that John was already there. They had made good time down Jillaga Creek and then John had got a lift back to the car while Bill had walked most of the fire trail from the Bendethera Ford and was only a couple of kilometres away. Soon we were all reunited just in time for yet more rain. With the dirt roads successfully navigated back to the main road most of us headed to the Braidwood Pub for dinner and a very late, yet a day early, arrival back to Sydney. An excellent few days in magnificent country with a great group.

Morong Deep – water levels

As mentioned in my recent post about a trip to Morong Deep it was the third time I’d attempted the trip. It was interesting to compare the water levels between the three trips.

Jan 2018 Trip 2008/2010 Trips
These first 2 were taken where you cross Morong Falls from the Morong Falls Firetrail. The photo on the right was from 2010 when we decided the Kowmung level was too high to proceed.

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Upper Morong Falls Jan 2018

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Upper Morong Falls Dec 2010

These were taken on the Kowmung looking back at the base of Morong Falls (Savage Cataract)

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Savage Cataract Jan 2018

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Savage Cataract Dec 2008

These ones are in a section on the Kowmung. They have quite distinctive rock features and it’s interesting to see where the water is flowing (or not).

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Kowmung Jan 2018

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Kowmung Dec 2008

At first glance these two may not appear to be the same spot. I think this is the most interesting comparison set – the water level in the Kowmung is about 1.5m different. The rock which the guys are standing on in the right-hand photo is the largest boulder in the left hand shot. The large boulder next to the swimmer is almost entirely under water in the 2008 photo. It’s perhaps not surprising that we didn’t find a way through the pinch point shortly after this in 2008 (ended up traversing high on the true left).

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Kowmung Jan 2018

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Kowmung Dec 2008

Morong Deep (Jan 2018)

Morong Deep had been on the hit list for quite a while. We had originally attempted it in 2008 but with a combination of slow progress and rain we bailed out at Gap Camp Gully. The next time we tried to do it in 2010 the Kowmung was running very high and we ended up just camping at Morong Falls and playing in the pools. [As a side note here are some photo comparisons of water levels between the 3 trips]

Since then it’s been on the to-do list but I had a mistaken idea that we needed 3 days, plus a good weather forecast, so it hadn’t happened. It was even pencilled into the calendar for a 3 day weekend the week before this trip but with Tom out of action it got scrapped. Fortunately for me (but not Tom) Alex then put it on the program the following weekend as a 2 day trip. Maybe I would finally tick it off! I spent the week before studying the forecast as I had strong memories of how slippery things got on our 2008 trip in the rain. The forecast looked pretty good, 30°C and only a 0-0.4mm predicted for Saturday, with a cooler but dry day on Sunday which would be good for the exit.

Most of the party camped at the start of the Uni Rover Trail on Friday night, with Alan joining us early on Saturday morning. We had a 7am start due to some in the group being scarred from walking in the 40°C+ temps of the previous weekend. By 7:30am we had relocated to the locked gate and were heading down to Morong Falls.

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Definitely a trip worthy of cracking out a new pair of shoes!

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Crossing Morong Falls up high

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Descending down the true right of the falls

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Alan below Savage Cataract

We were on the Kowmung at 9am. It was a humid day but overcast not really matching the forecast ‘sun’.

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The party on the Kowmung at 9am

Our progress down stream was good, it wasn’t that long before we had our first mandatory swim.

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Alex above some cascades

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First swim of the day

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Granite gorge

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Playing in the cascades

Shortly after that we got to the 7m jump (10m in some exaggerated reports). Alan arrived first, spent about 10 seconds evaluating the landing zone, chucked his pack and followed it shortly after (not recommended). The rest of us took the more conservative approach and used a handline on the true-right to descend.

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Looking down at Alan from the jumping spot

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Jo taking the handline option

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Lots of blackberries along the way

The blackberries supplemented morning tea as we worked our way along the river.

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A flatter section of the river

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David S jumping

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Sierra & Alex river walking

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Blow out!

We had lunch at 1pm next to a lovely cascade, but unfortunately the weather hadn’t come to play. The overcast conditions worsened and we got some rain. Fortunately the air temperature was still in the mid-20s but any extended stops did mean people got a bit cold in their wet clothes. Luckily the rain was light and the rocks dried fairly quickly so we weren’t slipping about too much.

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Lunch time

We used a tape to descend on the true left at another set of falls, and then the handline got another use on the true right. Otherwise we had varying sections of flat-ish casuarina river banks interspersed with boulder fields and cascades.

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Jo using a tape to get down another drop

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Jump after using the handline to get part way down

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Amazing boulder

We got to our intended campsite at 3:15pm and right on time the sun finally showed its face so we had a leisurely afternoon warming up and drying off on the flat rock platform. That led into happy hour, the Good Weekend quiz from November, dinner and a game of hearts. (To the parties benefit David had ignored Alex’s decree of packs no heavier than 10kg, hence the port, Good Weekend and cards!)

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A good selection for happy hour

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Lazing about at camp

The clear weather had stuck around since we got to camp and David S decided to join Alex in sleeping in the open on the rock platform. I had elected to sleep under a not particularly flat overhang, while the rest of the party were up in the trees with their flies. The evening went well until around 1am when it started drizzling. I noticed some torch light while Alex and/or David S wrapped themselves in their Tyvek. The drizzle didn’t last long.. but then it came back, again not too heavy. I could see some great stars so I thought that was the end of it, but then the stars vanished and it started pouring. My overhang was on a slope and soon there was water running in, so I relocated to the upper level away from the water. I was very glad I hadn’t decided to sleep on the flatter rock out in the open with the Tyvek boys!

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Looking out from my little overhang in the morning. The two white lumps are Alex & David S

Alex looked like a drowned rat, it appeared all of his gear and him were soaked through. If I didn’t know better I would have thought he’d dropped his sleeping bag in the river. David had fared slightly better, probably from the combination of a higher sleeping mat, a newer piece of Tyvek and better location on the rock.

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My little overhang. I started on the lower level before the rain started coming down

We had been targeting a 7:45am departure though it was almost 8:30am before everyone was ready to go (a very unusual state of affairs on an SBW trip).

The sections immediately downstream of camp were stunning, and I was glad to be travelling mainly on the true-right which had seen the sun for longer and therefore was drier underfoot.

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Jo on a high traverse early on day 2

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Beautiful rock stains

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More high traversing – we hadn’t got wet yet!

I think we were all hoping we’d make it to the exit point without having to swim, but that was not to be. The water was warm, but once you were wet being out was not much fun.

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Sierra and David C warming up (the water was warmer than the air)

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Sierra emerging from a boulder blockade

After an hour or so travelling downstream we hit our exit point. We filled up water and then started the walk up Megalith Ridge. It was a much cooler day than yesterday and the breeze combined with wet clothes meant we were quite cold. Alex’s original plan had been to exit up Hanrahans Creek but with the weather as it was we changed plans and just stuck with the ridge the whole way up. Megalith Ridge certainly gives value for money… it goes on… and on… and on… Eventually we made it to the top where we had lunch.

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Open walking on Megalith Ridge

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One of the megaliths that the ridge is named after

Post lunch it was less than an hour back to the cars. Alan’s car claimed it was 9°C (though David & Jo’s cars had it at 14°C) – not exactly mid-summer temperatures. Possibly the earliest finish I’ve had on a Kanangra adventure! Jo & I had vanilla slice and coffee in Blackheath on our way home – the perfect end to a very enjoyable weekend. Though next time someone book the sun!

Donkey Mountain (Nov 2017)

Donkey Mountain had been on our to-do list for a while. Late November wouldn’t normally be our preferred time of year for a high traverse/camp but when Jon put it on the SBW Program we jumped at the opportunity. It was a warm weekend and even though we had finished the main ascent by 10am we were dripping with sweat. To be fair we were carrying water for the whole weekend (and some people seemed to have the same amount of wine…). It was delightful to get to our camp and set up in the cool innards of the canyon.

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A new meaning to a squatters camp!

Once we’d set up tent city, and with much lighter day packs, we set up off to spend the rest of the day exploring.

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Jon above a large canyon

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I don’t think we’ll be going any further down there

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What is so amusing?

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Jo choosing her own special way through

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Tom enjoying views of the Wolgan valley

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Tom taking a more technical way into this canyon

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Zoolander eat your heart out

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Canyon

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Squeezing our way up the slot

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So Utah doesn’t have a mortgage on skinny canyons after all

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Careful pagoda climbing

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Jon and the daisies

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Jo pagoda climbing

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Happy hour views

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More exploring on Sunday morning

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Lunch views on Sunday

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Start of the steep descent

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“the slab of death”

Utah & Arizona (Sep/Oct 2017) – Part 5 – Cedar Mesa, Grand Canyon, Sedona

We farewelled the Roost, with plenty of canyons there to come back to, and started making our journey south. We camped in Cedar Mesa at a pleasant site off the road.

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Sunset at our Cedar Mesa campsite

We had hoped to do Cheesebox Canyon but having read up on the road access I’d decided there was little chance we’d make it across White Canyon in our car. Nevertheless we drove to Soldiers Crossing and wandered down the road to have a look. The White Canyon crossing was very rocky with sandy sections on either side and we figured even our Subaru Forester at home would have struggled… and Tom wasn’t keen on Kelsey’s cross-country route into the East Fork so off we went to Fry Canyon instead. Beta suggested wetsuits but that the water might be putrid. We decided some short swims didn’t warrant wetsuits – we didn’t really want stinky wetsuits to deal with after our last canyon of the trip. I was quickly chest-deep wet in the first section of the narrows. Fortunately in the sun it was a warm day.

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Tom in the first narrows in Fry Canyon (more prepared than me – I just assumed it was going to be below waist deep and didn’t strip off any top layers)

The second set of narrows looked like it would involve a lot of swimming. We stripped off dry clothes and rapped in. The water was icy and there was only a couple of places where I could stand in the 80 yard pool. Without my pack flotation I would have been struggling.

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Abseiling into the second narrows in Fry Canyon

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Beautiful… but definitely a swim!!

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Tom prepping for the swim

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Tom nearing the end of the ~100m swim (with 1 or 2 places where we could stand)

We were fortunate that the sun was streaming down at the end so could quickly warm-up. The narrows were beautiful. I wasn’t keen to find the moki steps that went down to the ruins so Tom had to settle with viewing them from the cliff above. While walking the rim back to the car we saw another group heading down canyon – made up of about 10 or so people, including several scrawny kids. They would have had been chilled to the bone after the swim!

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Above the canyon looking at the half-way ledge with ruins on it (in shadow)

We had lunch at the Natural Bridges National Monument and did some of the short walks to visit the bridges.

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Tom with Sipapu Bridge

We didn’t have a plan on where to stay that night – dispersed camping options were few on the ground once we got into Arizona. Tom suggested Goosenecks State Park but after a horrendously windy night there on our last trip I vetoed that one. We ventured down the Moki Dugway again with stunning views in the late afternoon. I wasn’t unhappy once that was done and that was the end of any dirt roads for the trip. Eventually we got to Kayenta and found a motel room. After over a week without a shower it was bliss to be inside out of the elements and clean. We did cook on our gas stove in our room that night though.

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Scenic lookout on our way to Kayenta

We were into the ‘tourist’ end of the trip. We had a permit for a 3-day/2-night hike into the Grand Canyon but with Tom’s foot still not right we decided not to do it. Instead we had a night camped at Desert View Campground, and a night at Mather Campground on the South Rim. The night at Desert View was one of the coldest of the trip (and that was saying something). We mainly mucked about at the lookouts with the hundreds of other tourists, taking photos on dodgy cliff edges and trying to absorb the enormity of the Grand Canyon.

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Grand Canyon near Desert View

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Grand Canyon

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Grand Canyon

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Watching sunset at the Grand Canyon

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Sunset at the Grand Canyon

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Breakfast visitors at Mather Campground

Finally we had two days in Sedona, where it was warm, and I managed to wear a singlet and shorts for the first time. We had lunch at Slide Rock State Park and had a go down the natural slide since we were there. The air temperature may have been warm but the water wasn’t!

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Tom amazed at how warm he is at Slide Rock State Park

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Slide Rock State Park

Tom was keen for some sunset and sunrise photography, and with lots of clouds promising a great sunset on the first night I led him on a dud walk up Doe Mountain. While we enjoyed the views it wasn’t the best photography spot.

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Tom looking disappointedly for a sunset photography spot at the end of Doe Mountain

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Compromise spot at the other end of Doe Mountain

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It was a stunning sunset!

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Views for breakfast from our motel in Sedona

The next day we hiked up to Brin Mesa, and then scrambled onto Brin Ridge for great views over the valley.

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Tom on Brin Ridge

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Views from Brin Ridge

Finally we just had a long drive back to Las Vegas to make our flight out. We had a small amount of concern as we were flying via San Francisco, where there had been many flight cancellations over the previous 2 days due to the smoke from the wildfires across Northern California. Fortunately we made our connections and were very glad to get home.

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