Author Archives: rachel

Russells Needle & Rocky Waterholes Creek (21-22 September 2019)

Coming up with new trips for the Club Program takes time, and for once I decided a repeat trip was in order. I’d led the same route in 2017 and thought it was good enough to do again without 10 years in between. Plus I figured there’s a limited time before the vegetation in the Nattai River recovers from the floods so best to get as much walking in while it’s relatively open and easy-going! After a very dry winter coastal NSW got 3 days of consecutive rain in the week leading up to the trip. More rain was forecast for the weekend which wasn’t ideal, but fortunately for us (maybe not so much for the environment) the forecast totals had shrunk to negligible levels by the day before.

So we set off at 8:30am from the car park, treading the section of fire trail which I have now walked several times since my first visit in 2016. Other than Tom the rest of the party hadn’t really walked in the area so I was glad I had included the side-trip out to Ahearn Lookout. The low cloud had lifted by the time we got out there for morning tea. The rock pools were full from the recent rain.


Russells Needle from Ahearn Lookout


Lauren pointing out the birds from the lookout half way down Slott Way


Photographer in action

A delightful stand of orchids attracted our attention on the descent to the Nattai. With several keen photographers in the party I think there would have been a mutiny if I hadn’t allowed us to stop for a closer look!


Emilie pointing out a spider in the orchids

We were most surprised to find an orange tree growing in the river bank. It was laden with fruit until Onni went fruit-picking.


Orange tree growing in the Nattai River


Onni boosting his vitamin C intake!

The clouds had started to look a little ominous as we prepared to ascend Russells Needle. Fortunately there were only a few light splotches, not enough to make any of the rock slippery. The tape stayed in my bag as everyone handled the route up confidently. Though not everyone felt the need to attain the true summit.


Alex scrambling up to the Russells Needle ridge


Yep, it’s a long way down


Emilie enjoying that airy feeling


The press gallery


Onni on the (avoidable) scrambling route to the summit

Keen to avoid drinking the Nattai we headed up the side-creek to see if there was water about. With the frog chorus echoing around us we figured it was only a matter of time before we came across some water! We found quite a few reasonable sized pools and filled up. Curiosity not quenched we then went for a further explore upstream with ideas for future exploring being thrown around.

The campsite that we’d used in 2017 seemed a little damp so we headed back downstream to an earlier spot. Of course it was right on arrival that the only reasonable rain for the day arrived. Rather than sit it out we all got our tents up only for the rain to stop pretty much as soon as we’d finished.


Tom supervising the fire starting



It rained between 6-7am but then cleared which I was glad of as a morning of rock-hopping is much better when the rocks are dry! Though as it turned out, maybe because we were coming off the back of Winter, some of the sections were exceedingly slippery regardless.

I hadn’t spent a lot of looking at timings, or comments, for the previous trip, as my memory was it had all been pretty straight forward.


Lauren & Alex crossing the Nattai on Sunday morning


The Nattai River

Rocky Waterholes Creek started much the way I remembered – flat with lots of small-ish rocks to hop along. We made good time and the conjecture around the fire the night before about today looking like it could be a short day seemed on point.


Early stages of Rocky Waterholes Creek

But then the rocks started getting bigger. The route-finding and scrambling got harder. I didn’t really remember the house-sized boulders. (though on checking my previous trip report I do mention them). Our pace slowed considerably. Onni had decided very early on to go for the barefoot option, I was surprised to see he maintained his barefeet almost the entire way up the creek. It did mean he could move more directly up the creek as the rest of us were trying to keep our feet dry.


Plenty of boulder scrambling


Lauren going for an ambitious route

There were plenty of beautiful pools and Onni even had a swim!


Beautiful pools


Onni on one of the many of the large boulders

The junction with Iron Creek seemed to take an age to get to. We had thought to have morning tea there but at 11am I decided we just needed to stop junction or not.


Lauren checking out an interesting rock seam


The barefoot bushwalker!?


Choose your own adventure (and check out that flood debris!)

Eventually we made it to our exit side-creek and we had lunch. Tom recalled the route Alan had led us up last time and we were quickly through the exposed section. We bashed out to the ridge a bit earlier which brought us out near the end of the fire trail which saved a bit of time. Most of us headed out to the end of the ridge to Fingers Lookout. I discovered the logbook (well single A4 piece of paper in a jar) which I had missed on the earlier trip.


Disintegrating records in the log book jar


Looking down into Rocky Waterholes Creek from Fingers Lookout


Lauren likes sitting near the edge it seems


The yellow fleck in the distance is Tom at the lookout

From there it was just an hour or so back to the car, but probably the most painful of the trip despite it being technically the easiest! I think we were all feeling the full-on two days we’d had, in particular the full body workout in Rocky Waterholes Creek, and were glad to get back to the cars at 5:30pm. A great weekend with a great group.

The only surprise at that point was when Alex asked Tom & I if we were wearing our driving shirts. I had no idea what he was talking about until I came around the side of the car to find that Tom & I had packed the same shirts to change into. How embarrassing!


Awkward. Unplanned wardrobe coordination.


Folly Point (17-18 August 2019)

Originally this walk was meant to happen in May but with injury issues I’d had to cancel it. It was only after it was republished on the club weekly update that Tom told me he couldn’t make the new dates. Oh well, his loss! I love going to new places, but running trips to areas you haven’t been to before brings additional stress to running a club trip. Despite this being a well-known route and shouldn’t bring many difficulties there were still plenty of things playing on my mind in the lead up. Would the fire trail be as easy to ride as I thought I remembered it would be? Would there be water at Folly Point? Would anyone’s bike break down? Would everyone arrive in the right place at the right time on Saturday morning?

The forecast, in contrast to the previous weekend, was great. Light winds, pleasant winter temperatures, just what I wanted. We were all at the National Park car park with bikes loaded up, ready to go by 9am. Woohoo! The initial section of road to the campsite and toilet was a bit rocky and covered with fallen sticks – not the most fun first few hundred metres. But things soon were easier going and I enjoyed the slight uphills as we cycled towards Newhaven Gap.


Toni looking like she does this all the time!

Stashing bikes we headed off on foot towards our goal of Folly Point. From now on it was all new to me, as well as 3 of the 4 others in the party. The track doesn’t seem to get a lot of use and was pretty overgrown. Certainly it was much easier going than had there been no track, but there weren’t many sections where you weren’t either ducking through banksia corridors, walking through spear grass, or generally pushing your way through vegetation. The occasional spots where you popped out and got a view were much appreciated.


Dennis taking in our first awesome views


Negotiating a crack


David approaching camp

We didn’t have major difficulties following the track, though I could see if you were not used to route finding that it would potentially be easy to miss it in many places. There was only one spot where we faffed about for a couple of minutes before we re-found it. During those few minutes I managed to fall into a small gully and pay my skin sacrifices to the scrub gods (and continue to be constantly reminded of that sacrifice 2 days later). We got to camp mid-afternoon which gave us plenty of time to explore and appreciate the views.


Cosy campsite in the banksia


Watson Pass logbook

I clearly hadn’t needed to be worried about the water situation. There are several deep potholes in the creek below camp, and it would take a very long extended dry period before they would be completely dry (if ever?).


Some of the water at camp

Those of us who hadn’t been to Watson Pass before went for an outing down below the cliffline. It has some scrambles that would be challenging with a pack. The spikes and chains themselves are curious, you look at them and think “are they really necessary?”, but I couldn’t see a way up without them. With help from someone else I could probably make it up, but if on my own I think I’d be stuck.


Dimitri using the spikes on Watson Pass


Scrambly section of Watson Pass

I was going to go back up the track and look for the other lookout I’d read about, but when David showed us the views on the cliff edge I didn’t really feel I was going to get a better view elsewhere! It was just stunning, and the pinnacle at the edge had a very convenient spot to sit with a back rest.


Pretty speccy


Amazing view, great weather. Bliss.


Vantage spot. Two late arrivers found somewhere to camp out here!


A bit of exposure

We climbed up the pagodas behind camp to get view towards Talaterang, which didn’t leave a lot of time for gathering firewood. Unfortunately that meant Dimitri and I were hauling eucalypt up the pass as the sun was setting. We were a little surprised to then bump into two women coming towards the pass! I asked where they were heading for and they said “the point”. “Good luck with that!”. Any way we didn’t see them again that night, and when David headed out for some early morning views he found them wedged in somewhere with a view of sunrise from their tent. Good on them.


Exploring the many pagodas surrounding camp

By the time we had wood collected it was a bit late to drag everyone back out to the cliffs for sunset. I ducked out for a couple of photos, before returning to the fire and happy hour.



I also got up for sunrise which was nice, though the wind had picked up overnight so it was a bit chilly out on the tops.




First light on The Castle and surrounding peaks


Early morning


Breakfast fire

The party was very efficient in getting ready and we were away 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. We seemed to make better time on the way out, maybe lighter packs? Though my knees were suffering a lot more with a second day of bush whacking. I think trousers would be my apparel of choice if I head out that way any time soon.


On our way out, with the ubiquitous cairns


Climbing out of a gully


The track was pretty over grown – this was one of the easier banksia sections!


Morning tea on day 2


More “track”


Almost back at the fire trail

Back at the bikes by 11:15am we road unencumbered up to The Vines. From there it’s just a short out and back up to the Bora Grounds on Quiltys Mountain. We had lunch with a stunning view down Kilpatrick Creek towards Pigeon House Mountain.


Complete change of scenery below Quiltys Mountain


Bora Grounds on Quiltys Mountain

Then it was just a matter of riding back to our packs (though some of the party got a bit of extra riding as they didn’t recognise the spot we’d left them…), and then back to the cars. A very civilised finish just after 3pm meant I was home in time for dinner. It was a wonderful weekend in the bush.

Wet & wild in Wollemi (10-11 August 2019)

Winter in Sydney had been something of a non-event, a string of records for most consecutive days over 20°C, amongst general mildness. Of course just as a trip Tom had planned on the SBW calendar 3 months earlier was due a polar vortex was heading for NSW. The wind was the biggest concern as the original plan had us camping on the tops facing west. After much deliberating, giving the group the opportunity to drop out (half took the chance), the rest of us were scheduled to meet up on Saturday morning, with a revised route that hopefully took us out of the full brunt of the wind. Though there was still the forecast of snow for both days!


Tom scrapped the Friday night drive-up as we didn’t really want to be camped out in the wind waiting for a tree to fall on us. So very blearily we left our place, with Kirsten, at 5:20am. We saw our first snow going over Mt Tomah and it continued as we headed west.


Snow at the Mt Vic Causeway junction

Not much to worry about from a driving perspective but then we got messages from Lauren and Ross saying the Great Western Highway was closed. Lauren was stuck at Wentworth Falls, Ross in Katoomba. The trains were still (mostly) running so they managed to hop on the same train train. That meant we weren’t really in any hurry so had time to stop and have photos in the snow.


Tom in the snow above Lithgow. It was much thicker on Sunday when we were on our way home.

We were lucky to find an open café in Lithgow at 7:20am on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately it had literally just opened so the heater had just been turned on so it wasn’t much warmer in there then it was outside! But at least we could get a coffee while we waited an hour for the train to arrive. The snow flurries continued to build as we watched out the windows. As we drove out of Lithgow, with 5 of us squeezed in the car, I did wonder what we were thinking! Fortunately once we descended into the Wolgan Valley things cleared and it just seemed to be a normal, albeit cold, winter’s day.

Arriving somewhat later than planned Tom had already adjusted the previously adjusted route. It was pretty pleasant walking early on, particularly since we got to drop packs and few times to go and explore various side gullies.


Interesting historical feature in this canyon


Climbing up a side gully


In the side gully


Interesting rock formation

It had been largely dry to start with but we’d copped one bout of sleet/hail, and so we were glad to have some protection for lunch in an overhang. With the temperatures we had though you didn’t want to be sitting around for too long – not when we had 4km to cover in 4 hours and Tom thought we might be pushing it to make it before dark!


Convenient overhang for lunch (yes, it rained)

There was some medium scrub to get up on the tops and then it was relatively straight-forward (if a bit meandering) to make it to a lookout as another rain band passed over us. At just the right time the skies cleared and we could take in the beautiful Wollemi wilderness. But not for long as we still needed to get to camp!


Tom promised views… and he delivered (on Saturday at least)


Looking over to where we would have been on our original route


More views

We didn’t have too many issues finding our way down into the creek, Tom’s memory of a trip 10 years ago seemed to be serving us pretty well (other than a small side canyon we failed to find just before lunch). I think he was starting to get a little worried as the camp cave he was expecting hadn’t materialised….


Descending a small chute


More descending

It was just a little further on than he expected. Strong winds are good for something – lots of recently fallen branches – we soon had a good fire going and could warm up. While I’m sure it was more sheltered down in the creek than on the tops it was still pretty breezy from time to time. And despite the fire and many layers for once I was glad I had brought my down jacket along.


Our camp cave – not so protective on a windy night

I was warm overnight, if not completely dry as the wind would occasionally blow in a bit of sleet. It was raining / snow flurrying as we set off in the morning, but we had a climb to warm us up almost straight away.


What you can’t see in this photo is the snow flurry!

Being in dry canyons is quite pleasant in this sort of weather, and we (mostly) had a fun time negotiating a couple of small drops. The latter, which I don’t have any pictures of, involved a wriggle through a cave.


Descending a canyon


Some tape work

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) there was a bail out option mid-morning. The rain had been fairly constant to date and while we ate morning tea in another convenient overhang it didn’t let up. I think there was only one disappointed party member when the leader decided we were going to take the quick way back to the car. It didn’t take long for us to get wet pushing through the undergrowth. We ebbed and flowed on our contentedness with the decision as the sun occasionally popped out, or another snow flurry came through.


Walking through saturated ferns – guaranteed to get wet!

It was raining at the car and so we just piled 5 wet bodies in and headed out, wondering whether we were going to be stuck in Lithgow for the night! The snow drifts were impressive as we approached Lithgow but the major roads to Sydney were open. The traffic was heavy through the mountains due to all the ‘snow tourists’. Wanting to avoid the traffic we put Lauren & Ross on the train and headed home via Bells Line – which was scenic with plenty of deep drifts. An enjoyable weekend out, if a bit chilly at times.

Bonnum Pic (overnight) 27-28 July 2019

We’d only visited Bonnum Pic once previously, back in 2013, and we hadn’t taken a tape. That meant unfinished business as we hadn’t gone right to end. I was nursing a calf injury so needed something flat-ish and short-ish; Tom was keen on high camps for sunset/sunrise photography; and with the unfinished business of getting to the end… I thought it was a genius idea to do this walk again but this time as an overnight trip. We had one of the most leisurely starts I can remember for a walk – leaving the cars at 11:40am. There were quite a few cars at the start so we figured we’d see the various day trippers at some point in the afternoon.


I’d seen some comments on about an ‘obvious’ camp so I wasn’t really looking out for campsites as we made our way along the cliff edge. But by the time we hit some of the more scrambly section we hadn’t seen anything obvious and it looked unlikely that there was going to be anything in front of us. Ditching packs we continued walking out along the narrowing ridge – glad to have the extra agility now being packless!


Tom doing the ‘slide of death’

At the slide of death we had a bit of discussion of which tree to anchor off and whether the tape was actually doing anything other than being a mental aid! Lewis elected to stay there and enjoy the views while Tom & I made our way to the end – new territory. We found the log book – for a few years it seemed to be dominated by SBW’s John K who seemed to have an entry every other page.


Low dam levels in the distance

The dam levels are noticeably low – not a surprise but sometimes having a visual makes things feel more real.


The end of the pic

Having had our full of views and happy-snapping (is it happy-snapping when your camera weighs 1.5kg?) we returned to the slide.


Lewis waiting above the slide

Getting back up the slide was the harder bit. I managed to get my left leg stuck in the crack which took a while to wriggle out of. Tom did the same thing before deciding that facing forward rather than out was a better option.


Now the hard bit getting back up

Going facing into the rock meant the tape was definitely more than just a mental aid!


See that effort!



The crux done

So now we had to find a camp – one that clearly wasn’t that obvious since we hadn’t seen it on our way out. We back tracked up onto the last flatish plateau and split up to look for options. There wasn’t anything great, but with only 3 of us we didn’t need much flat space. The good thing about being up on the ridge was there was definitely no need to collect firewood.


Our (2 star?) campsite

After happy hour on the cliffs for sunset we made it back to the campsite before dark. We had pleasant night around the fire and retired to bed at bushwalker’s midnight.


Sunset, with Mt Colong dominating the horizon

With no time pressure the next day Tom of course got up before dawn for some sunrise photography. It was a glorious walk back along the pagodas with the morning light. We managed to stay on the cliff edge a lot more compared to our ‘inland’ route the previous day, which gave lots more views and fun on the pagodas.


On the way back



Lovely rocky walking



More views

We had morning tea out on another rocky outcrop before winding our way back through the bush. At the fence line we met another walker who sounded like he had spent a couple of hours just getting to that point – trying 3 different routes before finally ending up there. We wished him luck in getting out to the cliffs, but it was a reminder that the walk isn’t completely straightforward if you’re not used to following rough footpads.


Cliffs above Burnt Flat Creek

We were back in Mittagong at lunch time – a great, if short, walk in the bush.

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).


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.


Tom and Jonathan with the river of cloud


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….


Getting scrambly


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


Climbing pagodas


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.


Next morning still plenty of low cloud


Tom and Jonathan checking out another river of cloud


Getting slotty


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.


Slightly awkward abseil


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.




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).


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!


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

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.


Looking good


A bit chilly?


It is definitely a swim!


Haven’t seem him looking this happy in months 🙂


But has he forgotten how to abseil?


Nice curves


More grinning


Now what?


Downclimb before another swim


Just your usual end of the creek.


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


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