With the combination of an injury and work deadlines it had been 6 weeks since I’d been out in the bush and boy did I need to get out. All 3 of us were nursing foot injuries so this was meant to be a chance to get out and enjoy being in the bush without being too strenuous. So of course we started our long weekend loaded up with several litres of water, ropes, harnesses and at the last minute my down jacket also made it’s way into the pack (another 800g I really didn’t need to be carrying).
Tom’s SLR soon got some action, to justify the weight, with lots of low lying cloud about.
Eventually we made it to the spot we planned to base camp and had lunch. The cloud continued to envelop us from time to time and it wasn’t conducive to sitting around. That said, it was still after 1:30pm when we set off to do our canyon. “How long will it take?” asks Jonathan. “A few hours”. Ok, well we have 3.5 hours till sunset….
We stumbled into camp well after dark, fortunately no one going over a cliff edge in the dark. Despite our 5am wake-up and a solid day of activity we didn’t go to bed till after 10pm. I slept like a log. Tom was up early to photograph sunrise but I enjoyed a sleep in. We knew we had the luxury of more time today, but also a longer canyon. I suggested we should get going and save any relaxing for when we got back to camp (hopefully in the light) later in the day. Even so we weren’t away much before 10am.
Despite both Tom & I having done this canyon previously there were many abseils, some awkward, some requiring particular care with rope placement, others needing to be doubled-up, so we didn’t make any speed records getting through the canyon.
The others started on lunch at 2pm in the feeble sun in the creak bed while I went to look for some water. We’d picked some up the day before but not in a spot we could get to today, I went a long way downstream and didn’t find any. Oh well, we’d have to make the 7L we had back at camp do. I scoffed my lunch on my return and then we were off. Detouring off from the exit I found a couple of pools – not the most attractive looking but definitely good for putting out the fire, and probably fine for drinking if you didn’t mind heavily tannined water.
We made it back to camp in the light – but only with half an hour to spare. The sun was already lighting up the cliffs opposite camp with magnificent colours so we settled in for cheese & biccies and Good Weekend Quiz. (For the record a respectable 18/25).
Our final day I decided to stay at camp with the Good Weekend while the others went to explore another small creek. Then it was just a matter of retracing our steps back to the car – easier said than done when we were all feeling the impact of a much harder weekend than planned! Relieved to be back at the cars we then had a slow drive home in the long weekend traffic – broken up by apple pie at our usual stop on Bells Line. A great weekend in the bush – though maybe next time we need something a little easier after a 6 week lay off!
It’s been a while between visits for this canyon – 13.5 years since my only other visit. I wasn’t expecting much, it was really just a way of getting Tom out canyoning after a injury-limiting season. It’s actually quite a nice canyon – though a very short day, we took 4 hours car to car including lunch.
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.
We met up with the others, who had all managed to take slightly different routes in, for a fun evening in a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tom and I had set out on a 4 day trip on the 27th but that lasted only a day as Tom re-injured his wrist. Disappointed we headed home and I put out a call on facebook for canyon playmates not really expecting any responses since any self-respecting outdoors person would be away on an extended trip at this time of year. Plus the forecast was for temperatures in the mid-high 30s which was a bit daunting. To my surprise Alex said he was keen (just to clarify, Alex is of course a self-respecting outdoors person who had meant to be on a 5 day trip which had been cancelled due to the heat). I’d been wanting to get back to Crikey for a while and suitable/willing canyon partners for that trip were few and far between so suggested that as my preferred option. Despite having just driven back from the Newnes Plateau on the 28th I was up at 5:30am on the 29th doing it all again. Alex was (surprisingly) early for our meeting at North Richmond, and we were away from the car at the HITW carpark by 9am. Alex hadn’t been to the area before so didn’t have the same scarring of walking the tracks into HITW previously (or maybe I’m not so much scarred from the walk in but the anticipation of the long walk out).
It wasn’t long before we were dropping into the cool recesses of Hole-in-the-Wall. As there were no other cars in the car park we didn’t see any one as we made our way through the canyon.
The squeeze in the glowworm cave was a bit strenuous with our overnight packs but eventually we were both through.
It was midday when we hit Dingo Creek. We had lunch at the ‘usual’ lunch spot then headed up North-East Canyon. It was almost a year to the day that I’d done Nosedive with James so that meant we avoided any faffing about with route finding.
It is very quick to get into Banks Canyon and I couldn’t believe it had been 13 years (also almost to the day) since I was last there. The upper section is very pretty if not particularly deep.
Despite having done the canyon once before I had no memory of it and I hadn’t looked at the notes which made it feel exploratory (if not for the proliferation of slings). It makes things much more exciting when you’re abseiling into a dark hole and you can’t tell how deep it is!
It was 3pm by the time we were back in Dingo Creek. We walked downstream, stopping to check out the lower reaches of Fortitude Canyon.
After some discussion we decided we’d push on to Froth and Bubble before making camp. The next sections of the Bungleboori are lovely, with towering cliffs and canyon formation. It was hard work with my overnight pack and lack of canyoning fitness (only the 3rd day this season?).
We got to the Froth and Bubble junction at 5pm, and I realised I had no information about the supposed camp cave in the area. Fortunately it took us all of about 2 minutes to find a good one. So we settled in for a pleasant night around the fire (glad that we were in Blue Mountains NP and not Wollemi NP where the park fire ban for all of summer is still in place). It was fairly cool, no clues down in the creek of the heat wave which had settled over NSW.
I didn’t have a great night’s sleep. I was woken from a deep sleep thinking Alex had whacked me on the elbow with sticks he was breaking for the fire… to find he was asleep and the fire was out. That somehow turned to me thinking some creature had bitten my elbow. But there was no scuttling of a creature retreating into the bush. Unclear what had been dream and what was real I struggled to go back to sleep full of thoughts of a creature large enough to bite my elbow. Eventually I drifted off only to woken by very noisy rustling near my head (which was pointed into the back of the cave). Again no tell-tale noise of a creature retreating, so I tried to sleep again. The rustling returned. This time I decided to get the torch out and have a bit more of a look around. To my surprise (and some relief?) the Bruschetta Chip packet, which had been sitting by the fire when I went to bed, was now only a metre from my head. The packet was made of foil and explained the loud rustling. I figured whatever had moved it would be back so I sat there in the dark waiting to spot it when the rustling resumed. I didn’t have to wait long before there was a rattus fuscipes staring back at me in the torchlight. It was somewhat unperturbed and stared back for a long time before eventually abandoning the bruschetta chips. I put the chips in the tree and finally managed to go back to sleep!
I’d given Alex a sleep-in so we didn’t leave camp until 9am. The entry to Crikey initially seemed to be taking a long time but then suddenly we were in, an hour after leaving camp.
At the bottom of our 3rd abseil it was pretty dark so we were using head torches. There was a large eel in the pool which seemed attracted to our lights and hung around close to the surface while we retrieved the rope. As Alex said sometimes it’s better not to have light so you can’t see what’s in the pools!
A bit further on Alex yells up from the bottom of an abseil that he has a snake on him. I figured I’d misheard but when I got down there was a very small snake which appeared to be dead floating in the pool. Alex assured me it was very much alive when it was on him, so we weren’t that surprised when it suddenly rolled over and stuck it’s head up. I think it was probably a juvenile mustard-bellied snake.
It was interesting to the see the ‘age’ on the rockfall at the end. When we’d been here in 2011 the fall was new.
We were back at our cave for lunch, and then started the long slog back to the cars.
We went up Froth and Bubble Canyon as far as we could, soaking in the cool, knowing it was going to be a hot walk.
To our pleasant surprise there was quite a lot of high cloud and so the heat wasn’t too bad. The car temperature gauge did say it was 34°C when I turned it on at 5:30pm but had cooled down to 29°C after a few minutes of driving. A great weekend away.
With Friday off work I was keen to make use of my three day weekend however I didn’t get any takers for a full three days of activities. On Friday afternoon we hatched a plan with Toni & Smiffy to go out to Red Rocks for the weekend. I was all packed to go and then Tom & I headed into Blackheath about 6pm. Two minutes out of the car to go to the grocery store had me doubting the sense in our plan! The wind was bitterly cold, I think the BOM had the apparent temperature at -5°C and that was only the early evening. I’m not sure how much convincing Toni & Smiffy needed but it didn’t take that long to get agreement via text message to convert plans into day trips.
I’d been wanting to do Orang-Utan Pass for a while but Tom had been resisting my suggestions. It seemed like a good option for the day as it was on the East side of the ridge keeping us out of the 50-60km/h westerly wind. Unfortunately Toni’s gaiters ended up at our house instead of in the car so she bravely forged on with bare legs despite knowing we were likely to encounter a fair bit of lawyer vine. I didn’t take a heap of photos as the bulk of the day was either bush-bashing or else on the Grose Valley track to Perrys Lookdown which we’d walked several times recently.
We were happy to get back to the house and get the fire roaring. Sparkling red, cheese, and later on a delicious chocolate mud cake made for a pleasant evening inside out of the wind.
The next day the incentives for getting moving weren’t high as we could hear the wind buffeting the house. Eventually we settled on Jugglers Canyon since Toni hadn’t done it, and Tom thought it would be out of the wind.
For the record Juggler still gets plenty of wind.
We took a different route out from our usual one. I was quite surprised to find some handrails!
Since we’d started quite late it was unsurprising that it was well and truly lunchtime by the time we got back to the cars. We had lunch in Katoomba, the enthusiasm for post-lunch activities was limited so we called it a weekend at that. A satisfying one despite the bout of softitis that kept us inside overnight
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.|
|These were taken on the Kowmung looking back at the base of Morong Falls (Savage Cataract)|
|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).|
|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).|
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.
We were on the Kowmung at 9am. It was a humid day but overcast not really matching the forecast ‘sun’.
Our progress down stream was good, it wasn’t that long before we had our first mandatory swim.
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.
The blackberries supplemented morning tea as we worked our way along the river.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!