Category Archives: Bushwalking

FNQ: Paluma (19-22 Apr 2019)

With Nationals in Townsville over the ANZAC weekend and Easter falling the weekend before there seemed no excuse for spending a bit more time in Far North Queensland. Originally we had hoped to do some canyoning but with our collective fitness and the effort of lugging all our gear we ended up settling on just bushwalking. We based ourselves in the very small village of Paluma which has a great trail network right on its doorstep.

Day 1: Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls is Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall, with the main drop being 268m. After two flood events during this year’s wet season all of the waterfalls we visited were pumping!


All 268m of Wallaman Falls



You know it’s big when you struggle to fit someone into the photo at the bottom






Grass trees


Day 2: Jourama Falls

Originally we were going to do our walk to Crystal Creek today but as we were driving to trailhead not that long before 10am we decided it might be a bit late in the day to start. Instead we headed down the hill and around to Jourama Falls. There are some lovely rock pools to swim in below the main falls but our destination was the top of the falls. Beyond the tourist lookout is a bushwalker’s pad which takes you around to the top of the falls. It was hot and sweaty work but we were well rewarded with a swim, views and the place to ourselves.


The multi-cascaded Jourama Falls from the tourist viewpoint


Almost level but a fair way to go to before a swim


Dry feet crossing


Finally swim time!


Wet feet crossing

Abseiling Jourama Falls was one of our intended canyoning trips – but I wasn’t too disappointed we weren’t. The amount of water was intimidating and the bolt placements were such that you would be rapping directly through the main falls.


Checking out the first major drop


Looking downstream


First drop


The joys of not camping :)

Day 3: Crystal Creek Falls, Birthday Creek Falls

This was by far our biggest day. Started walking around 8am and not back until 5:30pm. Following the most recent flood event the road to Birthday Creek Falls (and Paluma Dam) was closed so the only way to visit was to walk. I had came up with a loop which took in Ethel Creek Falls, Crystal Creek Falls, Torsten’s Rockgarden and Birthday Creek Falls and completely exhausted us!


Rainforest walking


Ethel Creek Falls


Well marked track junctions


I’m not sure I’d want to be crossing this creek if you needed to use that rope!


The top cascade of Crystal Creek Falls


Crystal Creek Falls




Trail marker




Torsten’s Rock Garden


Swimming below Birthday Creek Falls

Day 4: Cloudy Creek Falls

After our big day yesterday we just did the local tourist walks that most visitors do.


Crossing Cloudy Creek Falls

This finished up at the Rainforest Inn, the only cafe in Paluma (opening hours vary generally open Fri – Mon). I’d read about the scones on the web and they did not disappoint!


Rainforest Inn, Paluma

Kanangra: Pages Pinnacle & more (13-14 Apr 2019)

10 years later, another party in a cave, this one a bit more work to get to! Tom & I decided to avoid the out and back walk by pioneering a new route (for us) in. We started the day with breakfast at the Kanangra Walls lookout which was lovely and were walking by 8am.


Early morning views

I’d been meaning to get to Pages Pinnacle for many years but I was a bit disappointed on approach. It was slightly more interesting once we got on top and scrambled up on one of the large rocky outcrops. I made things a bit tricky for myself by stuffing apples in both pockets and then trying a beached whale manoeuvre to get up on top.


Morning tea at Pages Pinnacle


Descending Pages Pinnacle


Descending Pages Pinnacle

After morning tea we descended 600m via Crafts Ridge down to Gingra Creek which was very weedy.


Hmm. How do we get out of this weed infestation?

After a few minutes we managed to pick up the Old Cedar Road which was reasonable going above the creek until we lost it.


The Old Cedar Road

Sick of sidling we descended into the creek and stayed in it until it was time to ascend. The rocks were quite slippery but at least we were away from the thorn bushes and weeds.


But then we reverted to the creek

From the creek we had a 600m climb up to Ti Willa Plateau. I was feeling great and raced up the first 250m but was then a bit disheartened when I realised that was all we’d climbed. The vegetation got worse as we got higher, and we were tiring so the last half hour was a slog. Tom was joking about whether Caoimhin & others would be at the cave when we got there. My response was ‘of course!’, given we were going to arrive after 5pm and their plan had been to get there about 3:30pm.


Near the top of the ridge

It was very quiet as we approached the cave. We were the first. We seem to be making a habit of this. Hopefully they weren’t in the wrong cave somewhere else! We set about gathering firewood and a few minutes later heard voices. As is often the case with large, disparate groups there had been a late start and things had taken longer than expected. Nevertheless everyone was happy to be there and it wasn’t long before we were settled in around the fire.


At the cave. But where is everyone else?

Everyone fulfilled their duties to the birthday boy by performing a poem or song and then it was time for bed after a big day. Sorry, before bed it was time for cake, peaches and custard!


They turned up!

The wake-up call was the Happy Birthday song on the recorder (sadly no snooze button). Breakfast also involved peaches and custard, sadly standards had slipped in 10 years and there were no pancakes this time. Most people a little scarred from the previous day decided an early start was in order to avoid a late finish. We were the last ones away at around 8:30am.


Check out that view!


Caoimhin pointing… maybe not at a feature this time!?


Log book entry


Views back towards Ti Willa Plateau


Tom grumpy about something (being asked to smile?)


Looking a bit happier now


Climbing up from Gabes Gap


Gordon Smith Pass


Never get sick of this view

The walk out was fairly uneventful other than the somewhat common issue of someone ending up on the coal seam cave track instead of at the Walls, fortunately self-corrected and we didn’t have to send out a search party. A great weekend in the bush – looking forward to seeing which cave we’re going to in 10 years time.

Wineglass Tor (30-31 March 2019)

Another Saturday morning driving South out of Sydney with the rain pouring down. At least this week I was fairly confident we would drive out of it into a clearing weather pattern. Things were looking good when we met the rest of the group at Sutton Forest as 1) we hadn’t run out of petrol on the way and 2) it wasn’t raining. We had a pretty efficient rearrangement and headed off in two cars to the start of the walk. Less promising when the rain started again, and perhaps a little nervous when we started discussing which road we were taking in and Alex says “oh not that one! I’m sure when we were driving it a couple of months ago Paul & I definitely agreed it would be dreadful in the rain”. Anyway we made it through the various puddles and pools, only slid around on a couple of clay sections and both cars were still intact when we got to the end of the road. Unfortunately it was still raining. Tom had been forecasting a slippery track down to the Shoalhaven but it wasn’t too bad, and the rain stopped part way down and the fog cleared for some views. We had morning tea at the river and hunted around for a crossing point.


A damp and foggy descent to the Shoalhaven River

We crossed without any issues near the start of the Back Bender Walking Track (as marked on the topo map).


Crossing the Shoalhaven River

Then it was time to find our way on to the rather steep looking ridge and the track. From this point on the trip was exploratory for me. We climbed steeply on to the ridge. I wasn’t surprised we didn’t pick up a track at the bottom but I had expected once we were on the ridge proper it would become apparent. What became apparent was the track was theoretical. The ridge was steep and somewhat vegetated so it was a bit of a slog up the 600m climb. We weren’t progressing at quite the speed I planned for so we had lunch most of the way up the ridge. The wind picked up around now and I comfortably walked in my walking shirt, fleece and rain coat for rest of the day!


Tom half-way (??) up Backender (Backbender?) Buttress

Interestingly the topo has the Buttress labelled as Backender Buttress, but the (theoretical) walking track is called Backbender Walking Track. Presumably a typo?

The wind was brutal but we were happy to be walking along the ridge and starting to get some good views.


All smiles now that we’re at the top with some views!

Roger located Touga West Trig which is a bit back from the cliffline and a bit of ridge navigating took us around and on to the Wineglass Tor ridge.


Roger on Touga West Trig

If the logbook at the Touga Trig is anything to go by it doesn’t get many visits. We were the second visit in 2019, but there were none in 2018!


Roger with the logbook at Touga Trig

We had a break and enjoyed the views from Wineglass Tor. The wind was a menace which meant it wasn’t the most relaxing break.


Roger with Wineglass Tor


Alex with his goon bag (get it?)


Jo’s the Queen of the World! (and check out Great Horseshoe Bend)


Alex hiding from the wind


Tom trying to exert his (presidential) authority

From Wineglass Tor we had to follow a series of intricate ridges around the tops of Battery Spur, Potty Dodger Spur, over Specimen Hill and then down, down, down. The final ridge we descended was pretty steep in places but gave up great views into Tims Gully.


Patsy and Jo almost at the bottom of the ridge

We made it to our excellent campsite just on 6pm and had a rather late happy hour commencing after 7pm!


Back at the Shoalhaven trying to decide where to camp

The consequence of the late arrival was everyone was up until Bushwalker’s Midnight (9pm) and many until Alex’s version of Bushwalker’s Midnight (10pm).


Action round the campfire

The next morning we did an optional trip up Tims Gully to Sparkes Falls. The majority opted for a later wake-up and relaxing morning but Roger, Jo and I headed up the creek.


Lack of action around the campfire!

Tims Gully wasn’t particularly exciting and it was very dry which made walking up it fairly straightforward. It was only when we got in the immediate vicinity of Sparkes Falls we found some decent pools. The Falls themselves only had a trickle going over but they were still pretty impressive given how slowly the creek had been rising to that point.


Jo contemplating… but what?


Jo and Sparkes Falls


Walking in Tims Gully


Typical Tims Gully terrain

Back at camp we all packed and had lunch. Tom had located a reasonable crossing point just before Little Horseshoe Bend while we had been off in Tims Gully.


Shoe changeover time after crossing the Shoalhaven again


That hill is what we’re climbing in a minute

The ridge was much more pleasant than Backender Buttress. Climbing steeply before flattening into a lovely narrow ridge with great views over the Shoalhaven. I was somewhat surprised to find the remains of fencing going along the ridge!


Tom part way up


Looking down near our camp


Stunning narrow ridge walking


You find fences in the strangest places


One side of Little Horseshoe Bend


The other side of Little Horseshoe Bend


Our narrow ascent ridge

I enjoyed the climb up the efficient (in other words steep) and fairly clear ridge.


Jo taking in the views, most of the climbing done

Once at the top we picked up an old fire trail then went cross-country back to the cars. A great weekend out in lesser visited region (at least for SBW!).

Barren Grounds (16 March 2019)

The forecast was horrid and I was close to cancelling the walk. It was pouring with rain as we drove down. Fortunately the rain cleared and we barely got a sprinkle all day! It was a great walk given the conditions as we were mainly on fire trail all day so didn’t get saturated by the wet bush.


A corridor of ferns


A curious viewing platform


A somewhat hidden trig


Drawing Room Rocks


Drawing Room Rocks


Drawing Room Rocks


Drawing Room Rocks


Tom and The Stone Bridge (flow was very healthily going over it as well as under)


Always the season for a water jump

O’Hares Creek exploration (9 Feb 2019)

I’d been searching for a new walk to put on the SBW Program back in November when the Summer Program was being compiled. Flicking through the Wild Swimming Australia book I’d seen Jingga Pool and Minerva Pool but with both being short walks from the car park they didn’t quite fit the brief for an SBW trip. Instead I made up a route which followed fire trails that paralleled O’Hares Creek before we’d bashing to the creek and following it downstream.

The day started fairly uneventfully, the most difficult obstacles of the day being large golden orb spider webs which covered the track.


Difficult obstacles early on

We arrived at O’Hares Creek in time for morning tea, at a lovely pool. Of course it didn’t take Alex and Tom long to get in.


Morning tea swimming time

After morning tea we were straight into the swimming with a large pool to cross to continue downstream. And so the pattern was set – swim, walk on some rocky slabs, squeeze through some river gums, and on we went. It felt like there was more swimming than walking! The banks were not looking great for walking so we generally stuck to the creek.


Beautiful cascades


One of many swims

At one point despite there being a perfectly good jump rock Alex decided he was going to jump out of a tree. It provided us with a lot of entertainment…


What’s that in the tree?


Is it a leopard?


Maybe a panther?


More likely a drop bear!


Oh, it’s superman


Exiting after another swim


Alex forgot to bring tea bags so tried out casuarina needle tea… not sure it will become a thing

We had a relatively early lunch since there were potential storms forecast and some clouds had started gathering. Looking at the map I concluded we’d only covered 1.5km in the 2 hours since morning tea. With over 3km to go we were unlikely to be having an early finish!


It’s only lunch time and they already look exhausted!


Vivien on a nice slabby section


Intricate weathering

Fortunately the brooding clouds blew away and we didn’t get any rain or storms that had been forecast. Just a warm day (early 30s) which was good given how much swimming we were doing.


Melanie swimming again


River gauge near Cobbong Creek junction




Nearing the junction with Stokes Creek


Crossing Stokes Creek

Eventually we made it to Jingga Pool, where unsurprisingly there were some other people. Alex was warned not to jump as the water wasn’t deep enough, but after depth testing, Alex was jumping (no surprises there).


Admiring Jingga pool


Synchro jumping


The aftermath


More jumping

From Jingga Pool it’s only a short, but very steep, walk back to the car park.

A fun day out in a new part of NSW.

Wollangambeing Around (2-3 Feb 2019)

We didn’t have any plans for the weekend, and Emmanuelle had suggested an overnight camp. Tom came up with a different route in and out which worked well with the weather – a cool, drizzly Saturday followed by a sunny, warm Sunday. Saturday was spent on the ridges, paying attention to navigating.


Tom enjoying the views at lunch

We met up with the others, who had all managed to take slightly different routes in, for a fun evening in a cave.


A welcome fire on a drizzly evening



What are you guys doing here? This is our cave!

After Tom’s previous trip covering this route got his party back to the car at 11pm I was keen for an early start! We had slightly modified the route, plus the 2 of us probably move a bit quicker than his previous party.


Early start on a clear sunny day



The bush, and everything in it, was saturated

The first half hour or so was a bit miserable pushing through saturated scrub at a very slow pace. But after that we had clearer route before hitting the Wollangambe River.


Beautiful Wollangambe

Travelling down the Wollangambe was fairly slow initially and where Tom had been talking up a 9 hour day the night before, suddenly it turned into a 10 hour one (still nothing on the 14 hour earlier trip). But then we hit the sandy sections and our pace picked up considerably.


Tom negotiating a small drop



Tom on the go



Still going



And still going! (or is he?)

In the end we made it back to the cars in just over 8 hours, in time for apple pie at Pie in the Sky on the way home.

Ettrema Gorge (26-28 Jan 2019)

Another weekend, another SBW trip. Wow. I love them, but organising 2 overnight, relatively rugged trips, in the space of 3 weekends is hard work. I’d been to Ettrema two previous times, in 2007 – the first multi-day bushwalk I’d organised without Tom, and in 2010 – the first time I’d met our now good friend Rich. The two previous trips had followed the same route – down Myall Creek, along Ettrema Gorge and up Transportation Spur. This time I’d planned a different route. Despite advertising the trip as ‘largely exploratory for leader’ (apparently a definite turn-off for many in our club) and ‘Walkers must be proficient scramblers, with a head for heights’ I’d had quite a of interest. Numbers had settled at 7, which is probably as big as you’d want given the relative paucity of campsites.

Saturday started rather disastrously as my car ran out of petrol on the Hume somewhat short of our meeting point at Sutton Forrest. Oops. Eternal thanks to the other car who bought a jerry and drove it back to us, and to Tom for taking his life into his hands to fill up on the edge of the Hume with about 30cm separating him from the traffic hurtling past. With that little hiccup ironed out we were only running an hour later than scheduled. We started walking shortly after 11am. The leader demonstrated her inability to navigate and converse, by marching off down the road in full conversation, while her husband kindly pointed out we were meant to be in the bush…. Aaah. The joys of being leader.

We had a bit of scrub to deal with, and we overshot the side creek we were trying to get in by, but it didn’t take too long before we were in Bullfrog Creek. I was pleased that there were pools of water even in the upper reaches. I had been hoping for lunch by a swimming hole but settled for shade and a shallow pool.


Lunch in Bullfrog Creek on day 1

There was a bit of scrambling and the handline came out for one drop before we made it to Ettrema Gorge. Nerriga topped out at 39.9°C about the time we hit Ettrema so it was no surprise that the first semi-decent pool we got to had everyone in it!


As soon as we were in Ettrema Gorge it was spa time!

From there we made our way down the creek, scrambling, swimming or jumping as seemed fit.


Must stay in single file…

We had seen another car near the entrance to Bullfrog but we were hoping the occupants weren’t going to be at our intended campsite. We got to Isoceles Pool on a bend which I recognised from one of Tom’s trips. I got the thumbs down from Alex which I was surprised at as he had been depth testing the water and it looked good for jumping… but then I realised it was because he had seen people.


The depth-testing rock plop

But I recognised the first person I saw, we’d met at the SBW Christmas party. I knew another SBW group had planned to be in Ettrema over the long weekend, but they weren’t meant to be here today. Given the weather it didn’t surprise me that they weren’t at their intended campsite on the tops.


This is the life


Hang on a minute, they didn’t walk in with us


Tough life on a 37°C day in Sydney

Fortunately the campsite was large enough to accommodate both groups and we had a lively time around the non-existent camp fire (park fire ban and besides with the weather…). To the bemusement of the longer-term members in the other party Alex pulled out the SBW Song Book from many years ago and proceeded to provide some entertainment. Thunder and lightning rolled around for quite a while lighting up the night. Most of us had gone to bed when it started raining quite heavily. Much relief that the flies had all been put on tents!


Fortunately it was a large campsite

My group was meant to set off at 9am but I knew we were unlikely to hit that when I only looked at my phone at 7:50am. I couldn’t believe we’d slept so late – probably in part due to the overcast sky. Eventually we got away about 9:20am. It wasn’t long before the first jumping opportunity…


Early morning jumps


Not all of the gorge was waterholes


Morning tea jumping


Beautiful cascades

It was a lovely relaxing day. Rock-hopping, interspersed with swims (and jumps), and with an unambitious schedule there was no particular hurry.


Lunch time tea and float


Gorge walking


Afternoon jumping


Synchro jumping


Recently shed skin


Stunning gorge

I had floated the idea of heading down to Jones Creek that afternoon, before walking out via Myall Creek the next day. However, there was vocal support for camping at Myall Creek, and none for Jones so we stayed at Myall. There was a bit of scratching around for enough sites for everyone but I think we were all accommodated reasonably in the end. We had an excursion up Myall Creek to the swimming hole to fill the afternoon. I soon regretted it as, of course, then the questions started about how we were exiting the next day. “no, we’re not climbing the face of the waterfall” “yes, we are going to traverse across to the top of it” “no, you’re not going to die”…. Hopefully the distractions of many jumps took the focus away…?


Contemplative stillness before the jumping began


OK, both of you jump on 3


No, not you Alex… Sierra and Steve


Yes, Sierra!


And Patrick!


Steve finds a higher jump spot


And launches


Tom decides to up the ante and get even higher… (though thinks better of it and comes down the same way)

Tom climbing up to the top of the waterfall to potentially jump didn’t make anyone less nervous as he made it look precarious. He had a photo from his 2000 trip of one of the guys jumping from the top. I did remind him that they were a lot younger and more foolish then, and I don’t think anyone was too unhappy (except Alex) when Tom decided to return the way he’d come.


Alex very animatedly talking about hyperbolic parabaloids

Happy hour conversation was dominated by discussion of hyperbolic parabaloids (thanks to the ‘stacked flavoured chips’ aka pringles knock-offs that I’d brought). Then more song book entertainment. Eventually we banned the song book for the rest of the evening. I hope the other party enjoyed the half of the song book Alex had left for them at their intended campsite.

Day 3 dawned grey with a little rain. Not the ideal conditions for our traverse above the “pool of impending doom”. Fortunately the rain didn’t last and the rock was pretty dry by the time we got there. I quickly scooted over and dumped my pack and came back to offer assistance to those who wanted it. I was pretty happy when we were all across, except Alex who we’d left at camp still making tea. When he arrived and asked what we were doing about pack-hauling I could happily say we were already sorted.


Tom traversing above the “Pool of Impending Doom”


Steve looking very casual


Patrick traversing above the “Pool of Impending Doom”


And why didn’t you jump from here yesterday Tom!?

The ascent of Myall Creek was a pleasant combination of rock-hopping, slab climbing and the occasional trickier section.


Alex and “The Pool of Death”


Tom and “The Pool of Death”


Scrambling up Myall Creek


More scrambling up Myall Creek


And more scrambling up Myall Creek


Tom checking out the views


Alex at probably the trickiest point in Myall Creek


Sierra using a hand line to get up


A final swim in Myall Creek


Some decided to sleep instead

Despite having swims and several breaks we made good time. We had lunch in a side creek before the final ascent on to the tops, through the mandatory section of scrub, and then back to the car. A great way to spend a hot weekend.


And so endeth another great adventure


Shoalhaven scrambling (19-20 Jan 2019)

Another weekend, another SBW trip… NSW got a brief respite from a week-long heatwave so we only had a warm weekend (high 20s?) rather than a very hot one (mid 30s). Regardless we were in the right place for cooling down, a creek with water albeit not as much water as the previous time the leader visited. Initially the creek was fairly easy going with a few pools and easily negotiated drops.


Paul taking the plunge


Nic scrambling a dryfall

After a late morning tea (11:30am) we had to leave the creek to get around a larger drop. There was lots of traversing loose slopes, some scree slope descents and some hand-lining. By the time we all got back into the creek (1pm) it was time for lunch!


Sketchy shale slopes


Daniel mid way down a long scree slope (photo doesn’t really illustrate the ‘fun’!)


The final descent back to the creek

After lunch we were able to stay in the creek, with various scrambling descents. I managed to keep my pack dry all day. Most of the others didn’t bother (in one case probably with regret!).


Swarming down a drop, while Alex never misses a chance to throw rocks into water


Paul: “Alex don’t you dare jump”…


More scrambling


Partner assists down a drop (there were multiple ways down)


Damon lying down on the job


Wading time


Avoiding a swim

At some point a grass tree stem was acquired and it provided a focus for charades. Many uses were identified for it from broomstick to boom mic to butter churner. Amazing how many hours of entertainment one burnt stem can give.


“The stick” in action as a bat

We got to camp around 4pm. Our leader was lagging behind a little. Turns out he’d not shut one of his dry bags properly and had been carrying an extra few litres of water in the dry bag. Oops. At least his food was in a different dry bag.


Jump rock!


Not the sleeping bag state you want… right Paul?

Most of us took to the very warm water and stayed in for a while. Alex decided he needed some flotation, so took his bag in and happily floated around on it for quite a long time… Funnily enough when your food is just in a grocery bag submerging it in water for hours is probably not the best way to keep it dry.


Or the food state you want… right Alex?


Shoalhaven reflections


My very comfortable spot (really should return that borrowed bivvy)

The next morning we made good time along the Shoalhaven soon reaching the compulsory swim.


Pack swim time


Getting around the bluffs

Then it was into another creek, which was narrower than the previous day. Lots of scrambling ensued, including a couple of drops where we needed to use the hand line (thanks Alex for getting up without it).


Nic climbing while everyone looks on


Ross on his way up


Damo’s so strong!


Up, up, up we go


Waiting for the traffic to clear


Delightful slopey dirt bank to cross

It was some of my favourite sort of terrain; lots of choices and problem-solving to determine how you were going to get up the various drops.


You take the high road, I’ll take the low road


Now where?


More route options


Swim time!


Not where I’d expect to find a wombat?!

We got to lunch at a waterfall which we apparently couldn’t get up. There was a scree slope on the true right, and a dirt bank on the true left. Neither looked great to me. Paul went off bashing up the left to investigate. After what seemed like hours later both him and Alex (who had gone right) were at the top of the waterfall. At which point Alex easily scrambled down it and we all then went up it…


Climbing the impassable waterfall :)

Only to then encounter a much larger waterfall!


This one looks a bit more impassable :(

This time we did scramble out. It was more delightful loose slopes and rocks. We got so high above the creek that Paul decided we’d just go up to the ridge and traverse rather than do any more scrambling.


Long way back to the creek

A couple of hours of easy walking had us back at the cars at 4pm.


Very open ridge walking

The drama for the day wasn’t over though! Paul couldn’t find his car key. His pack was emptied and searched, and searched again. Just as he was about to give up hope the key was located in his billy. Phew!

A great weekend in the bush.

Morong Deep Fail #3 (12 Jan 2019)

In Jan 2018 I finally had a successful descent of Morong Falls after 2 failed attempts in 2008 and 2010. Sadly Tom hadn’t been able to make that trip so I was keen to do it again so he could come along. I optimistically put it on the SBW Program for him…. Only to find he was still injured :(

I’d had a lot of interest in the trip, and a waiting list. But was the weather going to come to the party? I spent the weeks leading in studying the Kowmung River levels. I knew that for our successful trip last year the Cedar Creek level had been around 0.25. I had been told that up to about 0.35 was still fun and up to 0.4 was doable… it had taken several weeks for the level to get down to 0.36 a few days out from the trip. Great! Except then the days leading up had storms forecast. Shooters Hill had 28mm on Thursday but it didn’t seem to impact the river levels. (NB. Cedar Ford is >45km downstream of Morong Deep so not a perfect indicator of conditions)


Water levels up to the Friday (11th) before the trip

Not dissimilar to my Colo River walk I lost participants as the week progressed. I gave everyone the options on Thursday – should we proceed knowing that we might have to bail out? I got positive responses so we were on. Water levels were holding in the 0.35-0.40 range, forecast for Saturday was great. Fingers-crossed!

It rained heavily the whole way to Glenbrook on Friday evening. This wasn’t really consistent with the forecast. While picking up Clive & Will in Glenbrook I have a look at the radar – there’s widespread rain everywhere. Hmm. The rain continues most of the way up the mountains. We get fuel in Mt Vic and I have another look at the river levels – still sitting at 0.38, the rain gauges in the areas surrounding the Kowmung catchment haven’t had more than 10mm (compared to Goulburn and some parts of the main mountains getting >50mm that afternoon).

We get to Boyd River campground at 10:15pm. “@#&*!” I hear as we’re getting gear out the car. “What’s up?” “My shoes are in my car in Glenbrook, I only have thongs”. “oh”.

The rain starts pouring just as I’ve put my fly on the tent. I’m sitting in the tent, listening to the rain, looking at all the maps I’ve brought trying to come up with an alternative plan since Morong Deep is clearly out of the picture. And what am I going to do with shoeless Will?

I didn’t sleep well.

Woken by what sounded like hundreds of kookaburras at 5am my thoughts click back to the alternatives.

I finally meet Nic, the 4th and final member of the party. Part of the reason the trip is on the program is because Nic suggested it – but under club rules as he is still a prospective member he can’t lead trips yet. We’ve been exchanging emails for weeks but we haven’t met before. “Great day to go and have a look” he says. “Oh” I think.

Somewhat later than planned Nic, Clive & I set off for the locked gate (“giving us time for the river to go down”). It’s a beautiful day. We get to Morong Creek “that’s quite a lot of water” says Nic. Indeed. Not so much we couldn’t cross so we cross and head down to the Kowmung.


Upper Morong Falls


Upper Morong Falls

After a bit of faffing above bluffs we find our way down. A brown, frothy river meets us. Crossing looks a little challenging. If my mind hadn’t already been made up, it was made up then. We would be heading back out shortly.


Our first view of the Kowmung looking downstream

We put a marker in place to see whether the river was rising or falling and had morning tea. Nic and I managed to get across the river dry and went for a bit of a scout. After half an hour I don’t think the marker had moved, though Nic more optimistic than me thought it might have dropped very slightly.


Nic using the only dry crossing near the bottom of the spur


Savage Cataract


Nic exploring downstream on the true-right. We exit up the spur on the left. (for comparison see this photo from last year – the big boulders are the same, but the river is barely visible)

For something to do we decided to cross the river, make our way downstream a few hundred metres, cross back and head up the next spur. That was relatively straight-forward though there were very few safe places to cross the river.

My camera also decided it’d had enough, so that’s the end of my photos for the day.


More river

It was a fun, if humid and hot climb up the spur through a few granite outcrops. We had lunch at a lovely cliff-edge spot at the top with good views. It was the perfect weather for doing the trip – just the wrong water levels.

After lunch we headed back to the cars, and were a little surprised to find my car parked there as well as Nic’s. We’d left my car with shoeless Will so he could at least go somewhere from the campground. Shortly after he arrived back with a family he’d met – they’d been swimming at Morong Falls so we must have only just missed them after lunch.

I had a nap, then we prevaricated about what do the next day. There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for any of the options on the table. We went for a swim in the pool above Kalang Falls which was wonderful and refreshing. We then came to the democratic decision of going home that night.

Back home at 10:30pm I had a look at the river levels. Wow.


Water levels including Sat/Sun! Peaked at 0.57


Rainfall in the 24 hours before the trip


Colo Passes 11a & 13 (15-16 Dec 20018)

It was the case of the shrinking trip. A week before we had 7, by Tuesday it was 6, Thursday down to 5. 5 minutes before we were meant to meet in Windsor on Saturday morning we were down to 4 when I got an sms from Alex informing me he had just woken up… and he wasn’t parked just round the corner. Given the weather forecast (hot with potential severe storms) I wasn’t too unhappy with the small group. Since Tom was in doubt to complete the trip (after all we were due another person to pull out…) we decided to take 2 cars in case Tom needed to bail out early.

I was loaded up with much of our shared gear as well as my packraft which made navigating the off-track sections awkward. As there had been storms the previous two days the rocks in the creek were wet and walking on them was akin to walking on ice. The slippery conditions made for slow progress in the creek.


Treacherous conditions in the creek

We had various forays up onto the sides to get around some of the larger boulders, ultimately ending up above the junction of our first creek and the main one. Sweat was pouring off us with the humid conditions so after a drink and some scouting we backtracked a bit and found a way back into the creek.


Almost canyoning

I managed to pick up a couple of footpads on the true right which eventually brought us down to the Colo River around 12:30pm.


Preparing to launch


The crew on the water early on

After lunch and inflating the flotilla launched. Bill was quick to get some fishing in – obviously having practised casting from a lilo a few times before. It wasn’t long before he had a reasonable sized bass but decided we had a bit too far to go in the heat to keep it for dinner.


Bill fishing from the shore

We were in no hurry to get down to Canoe Creek so we drifted where we could, enjoying the flow particularly in the earlier sections.


Early rapids


Bill of the king of the lilo!

The lilos probably had the better run through most of the rapids – there seemed to be lots of lilo sized gaps and not so many pack-raft sized!


It’s a hard life

The promised storms developed and hit us briefly. After about 5 minutes of heavy rain it cleared to a lovely afternoon, and we were feeling pretty happy with our decision to be out there.


The storm about to hit us hard

Talk turned to who would be at Canoe Creek – we were meant to be meeting another SBW group, but it was unclear from a series of text messages that morning whether they were still coming. Alex had said he might catch up with us later in the day. My money was on no one being there, but second choice was just Emmanuelle, Vivien & Justine.


More victorious lilo rapid-running


Not quite as smooth for the pack-raft!

The last section of the river as we approached the Canoe Creek junction seemed to take a while with the series of rapids growing longer and requiring more clambering over. Sadly Bill’s lilo decided it had enough at this point and popped. His fishing rod & reel not wanting to miss out also decided to malfunction (snap / fall off).

Eventually we came within sight of the corner and I could see Emmanuelle standing there waiting for us. After some good-natured castigation at our late arrival (51 minutes after happy hour!) we set-up for the night, then settled down to happy hour at the somewhat controversial time of 6:30pm. Vivien’s group had similar shrinking issues to mine having also gone from 7 to 4 (only Andrew had made it in addition with V, E & J).

We had moved on to dinner by the time a distinctive figure with his classic-felt bush hat appeared carrying a boogie board. Alex had indeed eventually caught up with us – after 7pm! We had a pleasant evening, but not around the campfire due to the ongoing park fire ban.

With only a short walk out the next day there was no designated get-up time and Tom & I managed to sleep through till 8:30am. The morning was whiled away with swimming, napping and general laziness. After a cooling swim we set off at 11am. I’d forgotten how steep the Canoe Creek track (Pass 13) was and with my heavy pack I needed a couple of boosts from behind to get up the steeper sections.


Cooling swim before the steep climb-out


Taking a breather after the steep section

We finished off the weekend with a late lunch at the Colo Riverside (with air-conditioning! 36°C outside according to the car). An excellent weekend in the bush. (And Tom survived).

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