Author Archives: rachel

ACT adventures (9 Apr 2021)

Square Rock walk had been suggested to us a couple of years ago but we’d never managed to get there. I finally had an opportunity to knock it off. It was a very pleasant walk through eucalypt forest up to the granite boulders look-out. I did the side trip off to Orroral Valley Lookout but I didn’t find a lookout – not sure if there is one, or if you just get to the edge of the plateau. Given it was a Friday I was a little surprised to see 5 other groups on my way down!


The ladder at Square Rock




Views from Square Rock


Aforementioned cliffs


Beautiful forest

I stopped and did a short way to Gibraltar Falls on my way back down the road.


Gibraltar Falls

Before heading to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and walking to Gibraltar Peak. I started from Dalsetta, and then did the full loop back via the Visitor’s Centre – where of course I stopped for a coffee and use of the wi-fi!


Gibraltar Peak from the logbook at Dalsetta


Views from my lunch spot


Views from the other side of Gibraltar Peak


The best kind of break part way through a walk

First time in a while where I’d done so much track walking (and therefore kilometres) in one day. Square Rock Lookout (incl Orroral Valley Lookout) is 10.25km according to the brochure, and the Gibraltar Peak Loop was around 13km.

What a Canyon! (13 Mar 2021)

It’s the SBW reunion weekend so of course the forecast is for rain. It’s also an La Niña year. So it’s a lot of rain forecast. Hmmph. The forecast was not looking good for our canyoning plans on Saturday with around 50mm of rain predicted for Thursday & Friday. Tom checks on Friday morning and Robertson has recorded 0mm. Excellent. I wasn’t feeling quite so good when later in the day he checks the surrounding weather stations (Fitzroy Falls & Broger Creek) and they’ve had 50mm. Fingers-crossed that there were some very localised storm cells… and not that the Robertson weather station isn’t working!

I had been contemplating not going – with a multitude of injuries (left wrist, right thumb, calf… ) but when Tom said it was a fairly short day, I decided I’d be able to make it through.

After a couple of delays (failing to download the information on Tom’s phone before dropping out of mobile range, for one) we set off with Jon & Alex. Alex & Tom had attempted this trip some years earlier, on another wet reunion weekend, and bailed because of water levels being too high. Tom has no photos from that trip as he’d drowned his camera the day before – so his memory of what the water was like on that trip was sketchy. The water level looks approachable so we wetsuit up (well except for Alex who is wetsuit-less).


Water looks relatively benign from here


Alex on an early scramble

I was pretty glad to get into the water as it was a humid day (forecast high around 30°C) and I sweaty after just a few minutes. I can’t imagine how Jon was feeling in his steamer.

Jon & I made each other feel so much better about the day by admitting each of us been having “bad feelings” about the trip. Probably brought on by the canyon’s history – a fall/paramedic fatality a few years ago and then last weekend a tree/rockfall narrowly missing a party.


Jon looking somewhat unimpressed


Alex disappearing through a hole in the log jam


Tom trying to find a way through the hole


The team and a pretty section of canyon


Without Tom blocking the view




Eternity pool?

Before long we were at the edge of one of nature’s eternity pools. Somehow I got to go first and find out just how much power was in the water flow. Emerging unscathed, other than my camera (the dry bag is definitely no longer a ‘dry’ bag), I was glad it wasn’t any stronger.


Alex emerges from the waterfall


Jon getting smashed


Jon near the bottom


Tom before the worst of it


A bit of boulder scrambling


Tom checking where he’s going


Jon all smiles now


Alex on his way down


Jon wondering where to stop


Tom nearly at the bottom


Not quite at the bottom yet though!


Final short abseil

We had lunch at the bottom of the big fall enjoying the views of the beautiful waterfall.


Lovely cascades



From there it was a straight-forward walk out.


Jon on the way out

My main complaint at the end was that we were out too soon after lunch! I hadn’t really worked up an appetite for something from the Robertson Pie Shop. Nonetheless that didn’t stop me indulging in a caramel macadamia tart.

An excellent short day, giving us plenty of time to get to the reunion, enjoy a swim in the river before settling in for a convivial, if occasionally wet, night around the campfire.

Claustral (5 Mar 2021)

Well, this was a luxurious day. We didn’t leave home until 9am, leaving the cars at 11am to start our canyon. As it was a Friday ours was the only car in the car park – and so had the canyon to ourselves.

Tom had requested the late start so we had a better chance of getting sunbeams in the canyon – well we got them. It was a beautiful day, we couldn’t really have asked for better weather. It was clear blue skies on our way in, but by the time we exited it was a bit cooler with some cloud cover.


First abseil into the Black Hole


Second abseil




Nice light






More sunbeams




More sunbeams




Oh wait, more sunbeams


Abseiling down to the tunnel swim

I always find on ‘trade’ routes it’s harder to write an interesting trip report. But, some memorable moments so that in ten years when I re-read this I can remember…

Both Tom & I at different points managed to fall over while standing in the water. We both fell to our left – where our camera case and dry bags were held in our left hands, while keeping our right hands high in the air out of the water – because of course that was where the cameras were! Tom was only in ankle deep water so the case didn’t get so wet, whereas I was in knee deep water and the case & dry bag got a full dunking. So, a lot less photos in the later half of the trip from me as the camera had to go into my main dry bag.

We tried the banh mi (as opposed to “not rolls”!) from My Dad’s Bakery as a lunch option for the first time. It was pretty good, even if the paper bags had largely disintegrated by the time we had lunch at the exit gully (“like the old days” said Tom at the lunch spot choice).

Timings: 11am left car, 2:30pm at exit gully where we had lunch for about half an hour, 5:30pm back at cars. 6.5 hour day – 2 people, who had done canyon multiple times previously, but with a lot of photo-faffing.

Boolijah Take 3 (27-28 Feb 2021)

I’ve tried to do this trip twice in the last two years. Both times on the SBW Program. Last year the bushfires put paid to the plans, this year it was rain. It was probably fortunate it didn’t go ahead as I had originally planned – since we didn’t really find anywhere that we could have camped. However, it was a pretty good trip and I intend to put it on the SBW Program again soon – though it will require a bit of thought as to the best way to configure it.

As with much of this summer it was a wet weather forecast – but the rain seemed more likely north of Sydney, so we headed south. It was nice to not have any time pressure since we weren’t meeting anyone and we were expecting Saturday to be a fairly short day. After picking up a few supplies and a coffee in Nowra we were walking by 10am.


Starting to get interesting


Tom trying to work out if we can get down


Guess we didn’t get down 🙂


Below it now!


Yep, guess what? There were pink flannel flowers!

As expected we were at our intended campsite by early afternoon. We went for an explore and climbed a nearby pinnacle before settling in for the rest of the afternoon with our books. It is not often I take a book on a bushwalking trip!


Lazy afternoon reading in an overhang


Early morning on the tops


Why hello




More cascades


Another set of cascades


Probably too big to be described as cascades?




Pool & waterfalls


Lovely creek


Tom picking his way down


Back to cascades?


Probably the trickiest bit to get through.


Tom looking for a dry way


But why am I now in front of him?








Glad we weren’t exiting up the east-facing bank…


Creek was still nice if of a different nature


Nearly at the top


Views from a pinnacle

Back at the cars at 4pm but then got caught in a traffic snarl on the way home which meant to we detoured via Camberwarra – a new experience. A great weekend with pretty good weather too.

Creek exploration (13-14 Feb 2021)

The weather forecast was looking pretty ugly for Friday night – with the Norwegian forecasters predicting 37mm a few days out – the BOM forecast was a more “reasonable” 6-15mm. It didn’t sound particularly compatible with the exploration of a quartzite creek! After much agonising Plan B was enacted which involved a very late start by SBW standards – 10am! As hoped for the rain had largely blown through by the time we started – we didn’t really get much beyond spitting through the rest of the day.


Climbing up through the burnt pagodas


Crossing a void


Lunch in the mizzle (with some views though)


Afternoon excursion


Pleasant creek


Home for the night


The other end of home!

Day 2 we revelled in the open walking across the Morton tops (whoever thought they would hear that phrase in their lifetime!) before we set off with day packs into a creek system I’d been wanting to explore for a while.


Meadow walking across the tops


Starting to look canyony

I thought we might by stymied almost as soon as we got into the creek, as there was a drop that needed a handline – at least at the water levels we encountered. Fortunately Tom was able to meat anchor the rest of the party allowing us to use a line with a few footholds, and then he reset off a natural anchor and had a more difficult descent (but he was the tallest in the group by a fair way). I headed down first to make sure we were going to be able to continue on without issue – which we were – other than getting waist deep wet!


The others negotiating a small drop


Bouldery section of creek


Pink flannel flowers everywhere!


Jon going the sloped route

For the rest of the creek any time we hit a drop that we couldn’t downclimb easily we were able to walk around the top of the creek and find a straight forward way back in.


The guys about to launch (not)


Tom about to launch again (not)




In the canyon




Impressive country


On a rocky ledge


Tom kindly clearing the spider webs for the rest of us


Lunch spot


Swim time


Nice section of creek


Spitfire (sawfly larvae) – we saw a lot of these over the weekend


The final creek crossing

Yarramun Canyoning (30-31 Jan 2021)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. James was a regular canyoning buddy. But since 2012 we’ve averaged less than a trip a year with him (the last one being 2017!!!). So it was with some anticipation that the date which had been locked in months earlier approached. True to our previous attempt at this route the forecast was rubbish. Ok, so maybe not as bad as 2017 where we ended up just doing a tour of waterfalls in the Blue Mountains (I think there had been 100mm of rain). This time it had rained for the three days leading up to the trip, and the forecast for Sunday was for more rain, but nothing too serious – though I was less than impressed when I checked the forecast early on Saturday morning to find a possible severe thunderstorm had crept into late Saturday.

Much to my relief James had volunteered his 4WD as transport for the weekend. We negotiated the road without any issue and it wasn’t long before we’d made our way into our creek system. Given the bush was wet and it was drizzling I suggested we put the wetsuits on as soon as it looked like we were going to be pushing through ferns. It wasn’t long before we were chest-deep, and we were in and out of the water for the rest of the day.


Early shallow canyon


A low section in log & debris soup


One of many log jams to be negotiated through the weekend


Tom & James on a climb down


James abseiling a short drop, as Tom waits around the corner


Tom trying to work out what to anchor off


Tom looking unimpressed. Probably because he choose the awkward abseil start.


James with the somewhat less awkward abseil start


Team work gets an stuck rope unstuck


Tom & James in the canyon

The guys went off to look up a side canyon while I decided to continue downstream to an overhang. Unfortunately in my way was this tiger (?) snake who had no interest in moving. I climbed around him, though by the time the guys came through he had relocated to under the log.


You shall not pass!


James down-climbing

This yabbie appeared to have been caught in the flood debris (of which there was a lot). I feel like there’s a funny caption just waiting to be written – it just hasn’t come to mind yet.


Victim of a flood sometime in the past


Tom in his element (photographing canyon formation)


Swim time


More swimming

Despite the short distance we were intending to cover it took us all day. Admittedly there was a lot of photo-faffing, and James did spend a lot of time waiting for me and Tom… We didn’t emerge into a cave (was it our intended one??) until after 4:30pm. There had been some talk of doing another canyon that afternoon, but not with a 4:30pm arrival – there was port to drink and pistachios/biltong/cheese to eat!


We emerge into a cave

Based on Tom’s underselling of the camp cave and the brief look at the photos from his previous trips I had a pretty low expectation of our intended overnight location.

Fortunately it ended up being very large and well protected (if not overly flat) as a severe thunderstorm came through around 8pm. There was at least one lightning strike where the thunder was almost instantaneous! We were very glad to be sheltered from the storm and well above the creek. After the rain had settled down we went down and checked out the creek level – it was definitely up since we’d cleaned out our shoes earlier in the evening.


But there’s a bigger (if less flat) one round the corner). The last occupants went a bit crazy with stockpiling firewood.

The followers had mutinied and decided on a revised route for day 2. Tom our leader was helpless in the face of the overthrow. After an excellent nights sleep (with no mosquitoes – we didn’t end up using the net despite putting it up) we were off to find our next canyon at 8:20am the next morning. An hour later we dropped into the creek just as the canyon started. And an impressive start it was!


Day 2 – this canyon looks like a cracker!


Tom setting the rope from above


Tom abseiling


Lots of swimming through narrow sections follows


Spider web and moss


Probably the most difficult section. It seemed to take Tom (who had the biggest pack as he had the rope at that stage) about 10 minutes to squeeze his way through here. Though maybe he was just taking photos while grunting!?


Finally he emerges from the narrows


Another short drop. Tom’s sporting a debris beard from a the duck-under (sort of) route we took


Canyon formation


James disappearing through a small gap under (yet another) a log pile up


Go that way!


The water levels were somewhat elevated after the big storm the night before

We got back to the cave in time for an early lunch. Packing up we repeated our route from the morning before heading across the ridges and dropping into yesterday’s creek.


an inconspicuous looking pass

From there we took a side-creek we hadn’t explored the day before which was pretty impressive.


Do the limbo!


Canyon formation


A tunnel

Then it was time to head for the cars. The weather had packed it in by then and we walked in light mizzle for most of the exit.


Great views on our walk out

Back at the cars at 4:30pm was a pretty respectable time to end the day. An excellent weekend, despite the weather, hopefully not another 3 years before we have the opportunity to go canyoning with James again!

Extra long weekend (23-26 Jan 2021)

Australia Day fell on a Tuesday this year so it only made sense to take the Monday off work and turn it into a 4 day long weekend. Tom had a plan which he showed me on the Friday night. The plan was full of caveats that we might go several kilometres up a creek and find an obstacle and not be able to find a pass out and have to retreat. Why not do the trip in the other direction then? Tom listened to me – which turned out to be a poor idea in retrospect…. but I’m getting ahead of myself as we wouldn’t find that out until day 3.

The forecast for the 4 days was for a heatwave over NSW. Temperatures around the area we were going to be in were expected to be around 30°C each day. Subsequently we were hoping to spend most of our time in creeks!

We knocked off the ridge walking to get into our creek system by late morning on day 1, glad to have morning tea in relative cool of the creek.

After that we hit one of the few (only?) keeper potholes I have encountered in the Blue Mountains which looks to operate in keeper mode most of the time. Fortunately it was easily bypassed by abseiling into the creek downstream of it. From there we abseiled and waded our way downstream. We sweltered at times in our wetsuits as the canyon was fairly open and shallow.


Tom on the second abseil in our first canyon


Below the second abseil


Tom abseiling (again)


Tom in the canyon


Tom still in the canyon

After a long section of creek walking we eventually hit what Tom said would be the final abseil. As it turned out we ended up doing another one, but perhaps in more drought-like conditions it could have been down climbed.


The final (not) awkward abseil


Camp night 1

The next day we headed down the several kilometres of creek which might have had an impassable obstacle and no way round. We didn’t find any – which just shows you never know till you go.


Impressive amphitheatre


Tom disturbing a bunch of composting debris


Crossing a wide section of creek


Crossing back again…


Finally something that resembles a canyon

Eventually we decided we should make camp. There had been plenty of options through the day, but as is typical at the point where you start wanting a campsite they dry up. We did employ a fairly inefficient method of finding a campsite, which probably made the whole process take three times as long as it should. However, eventually we found ourselves a nice raised sandbank. It was a very warm evening and even with our mossie net allowing us the luxury of not being mauled by mossies outside our sleeping bags I was still a sweaty mess.


Camp night 2


Happy hour!


Early morning dip on day 3


More wading early on day 3

Our third day was the least “successful”. Our plan to ascend a creek was stymied fairly early on. We managed to bypass one obstacle by climbing high around it, only to hit another obstacle shortly afterwards. Perhaps we could have climbed around it, but there was still a long way to go and the further up we went the longer we’d have to retreat if we got stuck. Reluctantly we bailed out onto the ridge. It wasn’t that far to walk around to the upper section of the creek… but even if it was only a couple of hours with the heat it was pretty oppressive.


The end of our attempt to go up this creek

A late lunch back in the shade of a side canyon was a welcome relief. Unfortunately that episode really took it out of us and we didn’t have a lot of energy left for exploration for the rest of the day.


Some hours later, having survived the blazing heat of the ridges, we are back in a side creek


We are not alone! We followed these footprints for the rest of the day

When we found a not particularly good camp cave at 4pm there was unanimous agreement that we should call it a day. A full body immersion in a pool downstream was welcome, as was the temperature dropping a bit overnight.


Camp night 3

After our experience on the ridge the previous day we agreed to get moving early on day 4. We were walking before 7:30am and decided to roll the dice and ascend another side creek. Fortunately this time luck was on our side and we managed to get almost the whole way up it, and once we were stymied we forced our way out onto the ridge.


Early morning canyon exploration day 4


He’s got the moves like… Jagger!?

We did drop back in and explore the upper section which was very nice canyon, but I didn’t take my camera so no photos!

From there we had the ridge-bash back to Deep Pass, but a reasonable breeze made the temperatures more bearable. We were somewhat surprised to stumble across some gear – particularly since we were on the side of the ridge at the time. I wrote them a “Hi” with stones – whether they noticed it on their return who knows!? To go with the footprints we’d been following it made it feel very busy out there in the wilderness!!


We left this stone message for the owners of this gear we randomly stumbled over on the ridge


Descending back to Deep Pass

We had lunch at Deep Pass and sent a few groups who couldn’t find the “waterfall” in the right direction. Post lunch we ascended Deep Pass Canyon back to the cars – we bumped into a large group near the top – including some people we knew.


Tom proving he still has the nerve in Deep Pass


Deep Pass Canyon


Deep Pass Canyon


Deep Pass Canyon

We got to Pie in the Sky in time to claim their last apple pie (but sadly there was only one not two). A good weekend out even if it not quite going to plan.

Yileen Canyon (16 Jan 2020)

Somehow Tom convinced me to come along and be pack-mule, belay bunny and rope wrangler while he sat about at the top of the abseils and took photos. Good thing it was a great day for it – lovely to have some decent sunshine after so much rain over the Christmas period.


The Toms near the top of the canyon


The team getting into the canyon


Tom C bridging


The Toms negotiating the first obstacle


Sculpted canyon


Tom C hand-over-handing a small drop


Alex, Giles & Tom C


Tom in his element


Waiting for Tom B…

At the end we caught up with another group who were just finishing up lunch. Fortunately they hung around to chat for a bit, as when our rope got stuck Alicia volunteered to climb up and sort it out! Thanks Alicia & Paul/Paul/Josh.

Tom tricked us into walking back to the car via Walls Lookout. We got to watch someone climb Check Ya Head (19) on the opposing wall which looked airy.


A great view of these climbers on “Check Ya Head” from Walls Lookout

We finished off the day with a perfectly timed stop at Pie in the Sky – if we’d been even 5 minutes later we would have been out of luck on the pies as we were the start of a mini-rush hour.

Wentworth Creek (9-10 Jan 2021)

Another trip which I’d cajoled out of Tom when I was seeking walks for the Summer Program. We didn’t know anything about the section we were attempting so I guess it wasn’t that surprising when we couldn’t do the trip as planned.

The weather wasn’t ideal for a wet trip, or at least not on Saturday, when it was grey and cool. With the large amount of recent rain there was plenty of flowing water in the creek. Our feet didn’t stay dry for long, and after a couple of swims I think we were all feeling a little chilly.


Early on in the creek


Walking through an overhang


Slow section


Mark hand-over-hands, while Jo watches on


Looking pretty canyony


Tom & Lauren above a waterfall which needs to be abseiled… we don’t have gear.

Having got to a waterfall that we couldn’t safely get down without abseiling gear we reversed upstream and managed to exit via a side creek.


Lauren reversing up the creek


Lauren & Jo in a side creek/canyon


Forcing a pass out

We had lunch on the cliffs above the creek and marvelled that we’d found a way out given how many cliffs there were. Tom gave us a less than 50% chance of finding a way down the next side creek (without using rope). But we went to check it out. Unfortunately his odds were right and were again stymied.

So we picked up water and headed up the nearest ridge. This area hadn’t been burnt and it was a good reminder on what unburnt bush-basing is like…. To our surprise after a fairly unpleasant ascent the ridge opened out to a delightful series of cliffs with enough flat areas for us to have a great camp. Jo made the unfortunate decision to sleep under the stars, but with the cloud clearing there was a lot of dew and her tent went up just before bed (that didn’t save the sleeping bag which had been out though).


Delightful sunset





Next morning we had a fairly early start and got back to the cars at 10am. Not quite the planned weekend but good company and fun exploring anyway!


Our camp

A gap in the storms (26-28 Dec 2020)

We had grand plans for a 5-6 day canyoning trip post Christmas. La Niña had other ideas. The forecast between Christmas and New Year alternated between a lot of rain, and a bit of rain, but generally with possible thunderstorms. Having already diced with the weather before Christmas we weren’t overly enthused to take it on in anger again any time soon. Unfortunately the best weather was early on and my visions of lazing around on Boxing Day were dashed as Toni & Smiffy motivated us to get out and join them. At least they had suggested we just meet up in the bush on the evening of the 26th so we didn’t have to get up early on Boxing Day.

Early afternoon we started driving. Part way along Bells Line of Road I had a look at the forecast. “Severe weather warning”. A quick check of the radar showed an intense cell tracking west to east, south of Lithgow. Around Bell we drove into it. Hail and rain smashed down on us. I wondered how much hail you needed to break a windscreen? Most cars were driving at a crawl with their hazard lights on.


Hail storm on the way

Some cars stopped but the quickest way out of it was to keep driving. By the time we started the descent into Lithgow we could just see the aftermath. Hail all over the road as if it had been snowing. Water pouring off every rock around us. I would not have wanted to be in a canyon constriction. My already weak enthusiasm was being tested.


Aftermath of the storm – see how much water/hail is on the road!

Fortunately once we were through the cell it was back to a nice enough day. We left the car at 5pm hoping to be at our pre-arranged meeting spot with Toni & Smiffy by 6:30pm. The thunder started rumbling around us, and I was mentally noting there were a lot of overhangs along the edges of the gully we were ascending. The rain held off and held off, and started teeming down when we were fortunately about 50m away from a decent cave.


A fine place to shelter from another storm!

Tom looks at the map and realises we’re on the wrong side of the gully. After half an hour of dumping the rain stopped and we sauntered all of 5 minutes around the cliffline to find Toni & Smiffy. At which point both parties admit if it hadn’t been for the others we probably would have all been safely tucked up at home!


Eventually we get to our pre-arranged meeting point with Toni & Smiffy

However, the next day rewards us for being out there. A blue sky with no hint of the unsettled weather.


Completely different weather the next day

Eventually we make it down into the creek Tom wants to explore. A sling at the top of the first major drop tells us we’re not the first (though we knew that anyway). With three photographers out of four we don’t set any speed records for our descent. Plus with the storm the night before there was a reasonable water flow, and some blocked up sections to clear out.


A vegetated first abseil


Foam left from the storm the night before


Another vegetated abseil


No vegetation in sight!


Smiffy checking out what’s below


Tom descending into the unknown

When Smiffy & I first got to the top of this drop the pool came up over the slings, but with a bit of clearing of debris we dropped the water level in the pool by over a foot.


Smiffy on the same deep abseil


It’s still going


Canyon formation 🙂


Smiffy photographing Toni on our final abseil

We were glad to find a nice sunny spot to have lunch in as it had been a relatively wet canyon. However, we had a long way to go to get back to our gear.


Checking out another canyon

After a couple of kilometres of creek-bashing we tried to force a pass onto the tops. Tom & I had found a pass some years earlier but we couldn’t remember where it was having not brought any notes with us. After a bit of exploring we couldn’t find a way up, so retreated back to the creek having lost half an hour. Several more kilometres of creek-bashing it was to be then. Fortunately, unlike our pre-Christmas trip, this creek did get easier the higher we went and we got back to our gear at 7pm…. still plenty of light, but Tom & I had ditched thoughts of heading back to the car that night. It was a much longer day than any of us had expected.

Despite how tired I was I didn’t sleep well, and we were all woken by an early morning thunderstorm rolling through at first light (5am). By 6am we were up and moving, Tom somewhat bemused since he figured we weren’t going anywhere till the storm had passed.

Once it passed we went our separate ways since our cars were parked in different directions. Tom & I were back at the car just before 9am, and having breakfast at a cafe in Lithgow by 10:30am. It was a hot and sunny day and there was a twinge of guilt at not being out in it – until another severe thunderstorm swept across the state in the late afternoon. La Niña is here for the summer it seems.


A dry-feet crossing


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