Category Archives: Canyoning

Bowens Creek North (1 Dec 2019)

On Saturday night we had a very pleasant evening at Cathedral Reserve with a bunch of new female canyoning friends. Those of us not feeling too worse for wear the next morning (the wear was from the prior day canyons not overindulging… I think!) headed off for Bowens Creek North Canyon. I was teetering on the edge of wussing-out. Mt Wilson was covered in mist, I had a cracking headache, but I decided since I was there I should just do it. The mist eventually lifted, though some smoke lingered from the many fires in the surrounding areas. I was very glad I did as we had a great day out – lovely to do an all-women trip with new friends.

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The way in

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Kylie on the first (optional) abseil

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Trish on the first (compulsory) abseil

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Bec on the first (compulsory) abseil

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Looking down canyon

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Going down the plughole

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The lovely Kylie

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Bags away!

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Monica heading down

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The group at the bottom

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Looking back up canyon

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Beautiful

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More greenery

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Walls of ferns

 

November adventuring (Nov 19)

I’ve been a bit slack on sorting my November photos so they can just go in one post.

First up…
We had hoped to get out for an overnight canyon in Kanangra but given the catastrophic fire danger, and National Parks guidance that the public should keep out of remote areas of the parks we figured that probably wasn’t in the spirit of what they were asking. Instead we visited a canyon Tom had done many years ago, via a new tributary.

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Looking canyon-y

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Whatcha doing down there?

I was getting a bit nervous as this point as there had been a number of sections where Tom had said “hmm, I don’t remember this”. That’s quite out of character for him and I was beginning to wonder if we were in the right creek. And if we were in a different creek did we have enough rope!?

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Hmm. I hope the rope reaches down there!

Fortunately he remembered this point and it became clear once I got to the edge we were going to be ok.

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Can he get across?

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Guess not!

Though apparently last time he managed to get across. Guess ageing isn’t a good thing.

Then in keeping with not being “remote” we had a lovely cliff-top camp only a few minutes from where we were able to leave the car. Though of course everything was very smokey with the Gospers Mountain Fire raging away.

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Wildflowers still out

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Sunset, cheese & biccies, fortified shiraz… What more could you want?

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Room with a view

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Flannel flower

We’d climbed up Portal Lookout many years ago but I couldn’t remember much about the route. I had planned on leading an SBW trip up to it, but after our recce I decided against that idea. Unusually, I (presumably) found this route harder than I had on our earlier trip given I have no real memory of it.

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After this recce I decided not to lead this walk for SBW!

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Well… we’re abseilers sometimes

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On the way back down

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Creek walking

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The cotton fairy has been?

We had a weekend in Victoria to get some fresh air after all the smoke in Sydney. The Otways are one of the wettest parts of Australia so it was nice to see some decent water flowing – not that I’ve chosen to put up any of the photos of the many waterfalls we saw!

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I wonder how old?

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Cheecky lunch companion

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Stunning… if in the wrong continent

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Californian redwoods

Lastly we bashed around in the upper reaches of well-known canyon. This yielded some surprisingly good canyon sections.

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The adventurer emerges

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Canyon ledges

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Canyon

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Getting a bit chilly by this point!

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The adventurer

We exited via another tributary – not knowing if it would go. We climbed about 8 small waterfalls. Our general technique involved me standing on Tom’s knee to get up, then bracing myself so Tom could use my foot as a handhold so he could haul himself up. It was quite fun… as long as we could continue to get up them… which we did.

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Yep, another waterfall to climb up

Unfortunately our choice of route to get back onto the ridge turned out to be less than desirable. It was possibly the worst scrub I’ve had the pleasure of bashing through. I think we took an hour to cover 200m and my legs were streaming with blood from all of the sword grass cuts by the time we got into clearer territory. That part of the day is not one to be repeated!

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Sadly this photo doesn’t display the full brutality of the last hour of bush-bashing (for 200m gained)

All in all a pretty good month, given that many of the National Parks in NSW are closed due to the fires.

Macquarie Pass Canyon (2 Nov 2019)

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Practising different rigging techniques

 

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Tom checking whether he’s going to need to be lowered

 

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After lots of practice we are now on our way down-canyon

 

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Tom’s never one to miss a slide (sadly the photographer missed the slide action shot)

 

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Abseiling

 

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We’ve caught up with the others

 

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Looking down canyon

 

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Final abseil

 

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Tom jumping

 

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Tom sliding

 

First canyons of the season (20 Oct 2019)

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Cool depths of Dalpura Canyon

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A tunnel

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Will the log hold?

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Getting in a bit deeper!

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Yep, it’s fresh

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Tom on the final (optional) abseil

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Morning tea views

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Tea-tree (leptospermum somethingorother)

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Perfect set-up!???

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the unclad bolt

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We just climbed down Tom as a meat anchor in case anyone wanted a rope. Alex seems to be doing fine with it though

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Staying dry

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Onni also has no need for the rope. Or shoes :)

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One of many Waratahs we saw

 

Rejuvenating, while being scratched to pieces, in nature (8-10 June 2019)

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).

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Tom and Jonathan above the cloud (and in it at times)

Tom’s SLR soon got some action, to justify the weight, with lots of low lying cloud about.

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Tom and Jonathan with the river of cloud

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Where is everything??

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….

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Getting scrambly

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This is meant to be dry canyoning! (As Jonathan bravely abseils into a pool of unknown depth)

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Climbing pagodas

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The cloud still about as the sunsets

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.

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Next morning still plenty of low cloud

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Tom and Jonathan checking out another river of cloud

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Getting slotty

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The man in nature

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.

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Slightly awkward abseil

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Another awkward abseil

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.

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Camp

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Bliss. Happy hour, quiz and sunset.

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).

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Sunrise from the comfort of my sleeping bag – some advantages to sleeping under a fly!

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!

 

Koombanda Canyon (10 Mar 2019)

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.

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Looking good

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A bit chilly?

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It is definitely a swim!

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Haven’t seem him looking this happy in months :)

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But has he forgotten how to abseil?

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Nice curves

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More grinning

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Now what?

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Downclimb before another swim

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Just your usual end of the creek.

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Don’t think any vehicles are going to be getting to the end of the road any time soon

 

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.

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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.

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A welcome fire on a drizzly evening

 

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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.

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Early start on a clear sunny day

 

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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.

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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.

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Tom negotiating a small drop

 

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Tom on the go

 

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Still going

 

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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.

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)

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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.

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Upper Morong Falls

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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.

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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.

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

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Savage Cataract

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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.

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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.

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Water levels including Sat/Sun! Peaked at 0.57

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Rainfall in the 24 hours before the trip

 

Bungleboori Canyoning (Dec 2018)

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.

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Alex in Hole-in-the-Wall

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Alex abseiling in Hole-in-the-Wall

The squeeze in the glowworm cave was a bit strenuous with our overnight packs but eventually we were both through.

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Are you sure you can fit into that hole?

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.

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Monitor near Dingo Creek

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.

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Upper section of Banks Canyon

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!

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Alex abseiling into the dark

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Abseil number 3

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Alex abseiling in Banks Canyon

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Alex abseiling in Banks Canyon

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.

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Looking towards the Bungleboori from the bowels 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?).

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Delightful Dingo Creek

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.

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Simple pleasures (thank goodness we’re in Blue Mountains NP where the park fire ban was lifted)

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!

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Our very comfortable camp cave… but why are the bruschetta chips in the tree?

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.

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Crikey!

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Alex abseiling into Crikey

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Alex in the middle of the second abseil (or start of the third if you re-rig)

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Canyon formation

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Alex about to abseil into the gloom. We had our torches on

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!

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Canyon formation

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Alex silhouetted just before the long swim

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Looking back up canyon

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Wider canyon

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Alex abseiling

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Canyon formation

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.

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Alex has been offering sacrifices to the canyon gods (Check out that bleeding knee)

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.

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Rockfall with 9 years of age on it (recent last time I was here)

We were back at our cave for lunch, and then started the long slog back to the cars.

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Don’t spill your tea Alex!

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.

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Exploring up Froth and Bubble Canyon

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.

Avoiding the wind! (7-8 July 2018)

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.

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Smiffy photographing Tom crossing the crux of the route

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Tom carefully easing his way across the small ledge

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The logbook. A bit more traffic in 2018 compared to previous years (average seemed to be about 1 trip per year since it was placed in 1990)

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There was still plenty of route-finding to come

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Toni at the one spot we used the tape

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.

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Toni on abseil

For the record Juggler still gets plenty of wind.

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The snaparazzi!

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Toni abseiling

We took a different route out from our usual one. I was quite surprised to find some handrails!

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Tom handrailing :)

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Toni coming up the handrail section

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 :)

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