Category Archives: Canyoning

Jerrara Creek (17 Apr 2021)

Stop the press! James was available for a second canyoning weekend less than 3 months after our last trip. However, true to form, the weather was not looking great for the weekend. I looked at the where the rain was going to be, and suggested heading south might be the best bet.

After a series of indecisive conversations through the week we did make enough decisions to end up on our way to Bungonia on Saturday morning. We had a relatively late start as we’d been discussing Long Gully – and we’d been at the Shoalhaven for lunch when we’d done that trip previously. However, Tom was now angling for Jerrara Creek. It was only while we were driving down that I looked at his notes and saw the 8-11 hour time estimate. Well. With our likely start time we were going to have 8 hours of daylight. Better make sure we all pack our torches, or hope that 2009 Tom who wrote the notes had been over-estimating the time needed.

After doing a lap of the campground (no, it’s not like we’re pressed for time), and the disappointment of finding the Bungonia campground did not permit wood fires (no, I didn’t pack a stove), we left the car at 9:45am. It wasn’t long before we were wet-suiting up in Jerrara Creek. We proceeded pretty smoothly through the canyon.

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James abseiling the first drop

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Tom & James “enjoying” a swim – not the warmest day!

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Impressive drop

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Tom on his way down

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James descending the same drop

It’s been a while since I’ve done a canyon with a lot of long drops, and even with only 3 of us, I’d forgotten just how it takes to get people down.

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James on the first pitch of Jerrara Falls

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James at the start of the second pitch of Jerrara Falls

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The third pitch of Jerrara Falls

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View of Jerrara Falls

We enjoyed the brief periods of sun we got and were pleased to find the clouds had largely cleared in time for lunch.

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Lovely lunch spot and time to warm up

We left our lunch spot at 2pm that gave us 3.5 hours till sunset – seemed like we wouldn’t be needing to use the torches – but you never want to be too confident!

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Tom descending into the shade

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Big country (and another swim looms)

After the swim in the photo above we had a longish section of boulder-scrambling which we moved through pretty efficiently. I was sweltering in my wetsuit and when James joined my pleas we stopped at a lovely spot to get changed. It would have been a nice spot to camp but I was not unhappy to only have our day gear with us – lugging a wet 60m rope makes a pack heavy enough.

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This was such a tranquil spot

From there it wasn’t long till we hit the exit. Though I think James was a little dubious about this being an NPWS track given the state of it, particularly at the bottom. My legs haven’t felt so sluggish on a hill in a long time but we made it to the top without really stopping so I can’t be that unfit!

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Slogging our way up the Red Track

I think we were back at the car around 5:15pm, so all up 7.5 hours. Perfectly timed really in the end – what with the sun at lunch, and doing the climb out in the shade with the lovely evening light.

Fortunately James had a stove so our night wasn’t a complete disaster, particularly after a bottle of red and some fortified shiraz 🙂

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).

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Water looks relatively benign from here

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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.

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Jon looking somewhat unimpressed

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Alex disappearing through a hole in the log jam

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Tom trying to find a way through the hole

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The team and a pretty section of canyon

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Without Tom blocking the view

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Canyon

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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.

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Alex emerges from the waterfall

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Jon getting smashed

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Jon near the bottom

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Tom before the worst of it

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A bit of boulder scrambling

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Tom checking where he’s going

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Jon all smiles now

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Alex on his way down

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Jon wondering where to stop

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Tom nearly at the bottom

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Not quite at the bottom yet though!

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Final short abseil

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

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Lovely cascades

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Pretty

From there it was a straight-forward walk out.

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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.

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First abseil into the Black Hole

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Second abseil

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Sunbeams!

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Nice light

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Sunbeams

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Sunbeams

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More sunbeams

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Magnificent

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More sunbeams

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Canyon

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Oh wait, more sunbeams

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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.

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.

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Climbing up through the burnt pagodas

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Crossing a void

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Lunch in the mizzle (with some views though)

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Afternoon excursion

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Pleasant creek

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Home for the night

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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.

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Meadow walking across the tops

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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!

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The others negotiating a small drop

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Bouldery section of creek

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Pink flannel flowers everywhere!

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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.

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The guys about to launch (not)

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Tom about to launch again (not)

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Canyon!

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In the canyon

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Cascades

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Impressive country

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On a rocky ledge

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Tom kindly clearing the spider webs for the rest of us

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Lunch spot

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Swim time

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Nice section of creek

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

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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.

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Early shallow canyon

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A low section in log & debris soup

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One of many log jams to be negotiated through the weekend

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Tom & James on a climb down

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

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Tom trying to work out what to anchor off

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

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James with the somewhat less awkward abseil start

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Team work gets an stuck rope unstuck

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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.

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You shall not pass!

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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.

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Victim of a flood sometime in the past

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Tom in his element (photographing canyon formation)

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Swim time

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Day 2 – this canyon looks like a cracker!

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Tom setting the rope from above

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Tom abseiling

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Lots of swimming through narrow sections follows

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Spider web and moss

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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!?

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Finally he emerges from the narrows

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

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Canyon formation

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

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Go that way!

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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.

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an inconspicuous looking pass

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

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Do the limbo!

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Canyon formation

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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.

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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.

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Tom on the second abseil in our first canyon

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Below the second abseil

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Tom abseiling (again)

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Tom in the canyon

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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.

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The final (not) awkward abseil

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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.

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Impressive amphitheatre

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Tom disturbing a bunch of composting debris

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Crossing a wide section of creek

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Crossing back again…

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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.

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Camp night 2

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Happy hour!

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Early morning dip on day 3

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Early morning canyon exploration day 4

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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!!

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

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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.

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Tom proving he still has the nerve in Deep Pass

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Deep Pass Canyon

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Deep Pass Canyon

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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.

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The Toms near the top of the canyon

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The team getting into the canyon

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Tom C bridging

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The Toms negotiating the first obstacle

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Sculpted canyon

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Tom C hand-over-handing a small drop

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Alex, Giles & Tom C

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Tom in his element

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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.

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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.

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Early on in the creek

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Walking through an overhang

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Slow section

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Mark hand-over-hands, while Jo watches on

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Looking pretty canyony

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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.

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Lauren reversing up the creek

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Lauren & Jo in a side creek/canyon

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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).

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Delightful sunset

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Dusk

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Dawn

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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A vegetated first abseil

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Foam left from the storm the night before

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Another vegetated abseil

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No vegetation in sight!

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Smiffy checking out what’s below

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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.

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Smiffy on the same deep abseil

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It’s still going

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Canyon formation 🙂

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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.

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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.

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A dry-feet crossing

 

Mostly Type 2 Fun (19-21 Dec 2020)

With more “forced” holidays (me from Christmas shutdown, Tom from having to use his 4 weeks of leave in the calendar year) we had the week before Christmas off. Throwing around ideas Tom suggested exploring some tributaries of Annie Rowan Creek, but he would rather have more than just us. Well, I was trying to get more activities for the Club program so here was a perfect match! Unsurprisingly there wasn’t much interest – finding those special canyoning companions that a) could give up 5 days in the week before Christmas to go bush b) had sufficient exploratory canyoning experience and c) were actually interested were likely a very narrow intersection on a venn diagram! So it was just 3 of us who met at Clarence on a rainy, cool Saturday morning – a day later than originally scheduled, as the Friday forecast had involved 20-40mm of rain, mainly to be delivered via storm cells.

Saturday and Sunday were now forecast for just a few millimetres of rain – just drizzly – and relatively cool. Monday originally had a new trough forecast but then it moved to Tuesday so we were feeling happy we should get 3 relatively good days in, and if it rained Tuesday we would probably just be walking out. I was wondering if we were a little crazy as I shivered while we exchanged pleasantries. Forty-five minutes later we were at the Natural Bridge car park – unsurprisingly the only ones there. The walk in on the Mt Cameron track was very easy going after the fires last summer. And so it wasn’t long before we were leaving the trail and heading off to find our first creek. It didn’t seem like it had taken very long so I was quite surprised when my camera said it was almost 12:30pm as we were finishing our first abseil.

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Tom on our first abseil of the trip

The first creek Tom had been down previously. I was quite impressed by the canyon, Tom definitely hadn’t oversold it.

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Alan surveying an impressive section of canyon

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Tom ready for a swim

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Log slide!

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Alan in the constriction

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Tom in the canyon

We had a very late (3pm) lunch in our intended overhang for the night. The afternoon was spent exploring the nearby creeks. It was a useful afternoon in the sense of answering a bunch of questions (can we get back up if we abseil this waterfall? Is there a pass out here? Does this tributary have any canyon?). Unfortunately the answers to the questions were all “No”. So it was a bit of a disheartening afternoon. I was tired (not that surprising with a 5:30am start), and very glad when we finally headed back to camp. As usual Tom and I had our lengthy procession of courses (cheese & crackers, soup, main, tea)… while Alan had his oat bar dinner in about 5 minutes, probably before we’d even sat down!

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Our little overhang for the night

At least our exploration the afternoon before meant we were efficient the next morning. We quickly made our way into a nearby creek and walked up it further than yesterday to a tributary Tom wanted to have a look at. Getting into it required a swim – which neither Alan or I were game for at 8:45am. You can’t stop the canyon explorer though as he swam away camera in his mouth. He was gone longer than I expected – apparently a nice little section above what we could see.

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Tom braving a swim very early in the morning, exploring up a tributary of a tributary

From there we found a way out of the creek and into a nearby creek system.

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Morning tea views from the ridge

We expected canyon (though we knew nothing beyond that) in the lower section of the creek. Tom had identified via the aerials an upper tributary of interest, so decided we may as well drop in high up and see what was there. It was a surprisingly good section, with a few drops and a bit wet.

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Dropping into our next canyon

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Tom after making this abseil start look very awkward

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Ferny delight

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Tom ledge walking

And the creek between Tom’s upper tributary and the “known” canyon was pleasant. It felt like today was coming together almost the opposite of yesterday afternoon! The lower section didn’t have much rope work but lots of scrambling and water.

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Tom and the ferns

Lower down I was a bit perturbed to see a goanna on a rock in the middle of the canyon. I was going to have to go past it on one side or the other – and I really didn’t want it running up me – especially given I was just wearing shorts and swimmers! Even though it seemed pretty cold it’s beady eyes were watching me as I approached. Being a bit nervous I then tried to rush past it and of course screwed up the next downclimb, sacrificing my elbow skin to the canyon gods. For the record the goanna was still sitting there when we left it.

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Here’s a first for me – goanna in a canyon

Tom’s studying of the DEM data meant we followed a half-way ledge around into the next creek. While it was essentially a means to an end, as a way to get across to our next canyon, it was a nice creek in its own right. My favourite feature was the creek of sand – no water in sight – but the sand made up for it.

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Creek of sand

The original plan for the day had been to drop into another canyon, but given the time and unknown nature of the next canyon we decided to have a high camp and leave it for the next day. It was a speccy spot with fantastic views over the Wolgan. There were ominous clouds in the sky so taking advantage of the reception we checked the forecast. “Hmmm” said Tom. “What?” I said in reply. “30-50mm of rain tomorrow, with potential storms”. Great.

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Top views for happy hour

We had hoped being up high would mean less mosquitoes but it was not to be. The mosquitoes were one of the reasons Tom and I were up for the pre-sunrise light show. Many bush trips are about trade-offs in suffering. Carry a tent – suffer with the weight in your pack the whole time. Carry a fly – suffer when the mosquitoes try to bite your face and any other exposed body parts. Coincidentally it was also the summer solstice. If only we had known just how long a day it was going to be…

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Stunning sunrise

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Stunning sunrise (but you know what they say “red in the morning, shepherds’ warning”)

The sunrise was great, even though Tom didn’t have any of his fancy cameras with him to truly capture it. But by the time we’d boiled the billy you couldn’t see anything. The cloud had rolled in and we were in mist. Everything was damp while we packed up.

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Not much later, same spot as the sunrise shots

Given the forecast we decided the best plan was to cut the trip short a day. This was easier said then done since we were a fair way from the car. The first point of business was the canyon we were camped above.

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Many of these to walk through!

Not long after 8:30am we were dropping into the creek. We had thought this canyon had been reversed but the first major obstacle we came to even Alan agreed there didn’t appear to be any way to climb the waterfall.

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The start of our next canyon

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Tom abseiling

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Mainly down climbs in the upper section of this canyon

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Alan went down the log, but Tom and I opted for the comfort of a rope!

We thought this spectacular cavern was the end of the canyon. Tom even stopping to mark ‘end of canyon’ on his GPS.

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Spectacular cavern, hard to do it justice

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Tom below the cavern

But not long after that we catch up with Alan who’s sitting above a drop into a dark, curved canyon.

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But wait, that’s not the end!?

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Nope! Look down there

I went down first, and then realised there was another small drop. The light Alan had been able to see seemed a long way above me so I wanted to make sure we could actually get through. I was hoping I wasn’t going to have reverse the two ropes I had just come down as I proceeded down stream to check it out. I had an awkward floating disconnect, glad to find I could walk in most of the water sections rather than needing to swim without the buoyancy of my pack which I’d left behind. Eventually I got to a section where it was clear we would be able to get through. A couple of whistles up to the guys for them to proceed. Slightly embarrassingly I found there had been no need for the floating disconnect as only a metre away I would have been able to stand!

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In the depths of the canyon

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Tom swimming

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It keeps going

Finally we think we’ve got to the end. An impressive canyon! It had a taken a bit longer than we’d expected since there was so much of it – so we were glad we hadn’t decided to go for it the night before, as well as a bit apprehensive about the distance still ahead of us for the day. We stopped for an early lunch around 11:15 in an overhang which would be a reasonable camp option. We figured this might be our last time out of the rain for the day.

From there it was definitely type 2 fun for the rest of the (longest) day. We followed the cliff line around for a bit – alternating between relatively easy passage following wombat tracks and fighting our way up and down through scrub. Eventually we dropped down to a ‘grassy’ shelf which was much easier going, before making it across to Annie Rowan Creek. Here we were met with fields of cigesbeckia (as Tom kept telling us). While not particularly scratchy or woody it still proved quite difficult to move through when it was head high. Alternating leads we eventually escaped it and sidled above the creek for a while. I had mentally budgeted 1 km/hour – which meant with 4-5 kms in the creek we were going to be in for a long time, not a good time. Tom said he thought 2km/hour was achievable – I was dubious, with good reason as it turned out. The creek was pleasant enough, but it had been raining since mid-morning so everything was wet and slippery. Tom managed to flick something across his left eye, and couldn’t focus. I smacked my head into a rock overhang and needed a few minutes to compose myself. Alan just kept on going, as Alan does.

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Many hours later, traipsing up our exit creek

By 6:20pm we made it to our exit from the creek. Still 1h 40 of daylight left, but definitely not 1h 40 from the car. Tom called a halt to get water, clean out shoes and find our head torches. Fortunately the pass was straight-forward and once on top we just had to walk ridges until we found the trail we came in on. It wasn’t difficult walking but with more knee high natives (that look like weeds) it wasn’t quick.

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Even more hours later, the remains of the hut on Mt Cameron

After what seemed like hours we founds ourselves on the track. After what seemed like more hours we were back at the saddle where Tom & I had stashed our more comfortable shoes from the walk in. And after what seemed like the most hours ever we finally were back at the cars. At 10:41pm. It was still raining, though had eased off a bit in the last half an hour so fortunately we were able to get changed into warm, dry clothes without getting too wet. By 11pm we were driving out in convoy – fortunately the road held up pretty well given the rain. Once we got back to the main Glow Worm Tunnel road we waved Alan past us. He sped off, and we crawled along – Tom driving, but apparently unable to read the speedo as his vision was still blurry.

I suggested we go via Lithgow so we could get some food – all we’d had since our early lunch was a couple of nut bars and some dried apples. It had been a long time since we’d used the State Gully Mine Road to leave the Newnes Plateau. A left instead of right hand turn when we got to town made the day even longer. Navigation corrected we found ourselves at the 24 hour McDonalds a bit after midnight. The Longest Day was over but we were still a long way from bed.

Walking like a cowboy from chaffing, I also couldn’t stop shaking – I couldn’t tell if it was shivering from the cold, or general body discomfort from lack of food and the efforts of the day. Once I got some food and coffee into me I felt a bit better – which was just as well since there was a 2 hour drive still to go, which I definitely needed to drive given Tom was seeing multiples of any reflective things!

I decided to take the main line rather than Bells Line due to the easier driving – only to find as we made our way to Victoria Pass that the Great Western Highway was closed at Mt Vic and we were going to have to divert to Bells Line anyway. Can this day get any longer? We pulled into the garage at 2:45am, stumbling into bed leaving a car full of wet stuff to be dealt with in the morning. With my various flesh wounds (chafing from swimmers, chafing on my lower back from the pack, chafing on both my hips, both knees cut to pieces from bush bashing) I wasn’t sure sleep was going to come easy despite having been awake for 22 hours.

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Assessing the damage at home – so it seemed the strapping after day 2 did have some impact!

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I’m sure there’s a mindfulness challenge awaiting me here

 

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