22/03/2008 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, James Yorston, Duncan Sinclair, Hindrik Buining
Rachel and I were running a little late for a 7:30am meeting with James, Hindrik and Duncan at North Richmond. However, a call from James at 7:10am to say they hadn't left and were still waiting for Duncan meant I could slow down and not risk any double demerits.
The others turned up about 8:20am - Duncan had slept through his alarm. We reconvened at the Waratah Ridge turnoff, unsure of whether we would be blocked by logging. It had drizzled the whole way up. The road was in good condition, and there was no sign of any logging in progress although a lot less trees than before.
Rachel and I were planning on heading out for a night or two, but while the forecast said a few showers, the weather looked like it had set in. We decided to just go for the day and see what things were like when we got back to the cars. The job of leading once we got off the fire trail became a joy, the scrub heavy with water, and it didn't take long for everyone to be pretty soaked from at least the waist down. Down at the Bungleboori we crossed over but had a bit of work to get to the exit gully without a swim. Rachel decided the ledge traverse was not so safe if you didn't have the height and stripped down for a short swim, while the rest of us swung on trees and generally stayed drier.
In the exit gully, Rachel and I went up the side, while the other boys went straight up North East Canyon. However, they found it slow going and soon joined us up on the bank until we rejoined the little slot. I never fail to be surprised how good an exit that one is, and we were standing on the ridge overlooking Banks Canyon shortly before 1pm.
Remembering last time, I quickly picked up a track which led down into the Banks Canyon creek quite easily, and we were soon picking our way up the other side. The drop into Nosedive looked a little steeper and longer, but it turned out to be reasonably straightforward. All up it took us about 40 minutes to get into the creek and find an overhang out of the rain to have a spot of lunch.
The first bit of excitement after lunch was when the creek entered a dark cavern. Those of us who had them pulled out torches, and those who didn't waited for those who did to point them in the right place. On the other side of the cavern the sky seemed a little brighter, but the rain didn't seem inclined to ease off.
A short section of pleasant creek walking led to a bouldery section, which dropped into another dark cavern. There were some slings and I could hear the water drop away beneath as I bridged out to investigate. I got a bit of a surprise at just how far when I turned my torch on, although it proved relatively easy to scramble down and avoid a swim. The next section was also interesting, squeezing through a narrow cleft into another impressive cavern.
The next drop looked a little more difficult, although Hindrik demonstrated the easy way down by jumping it. Most of us took the opportunity to put wetsuits on, even though it wasn't much of a swim. The continual rain and lack of sun meant that things were pretty cool. I even tried out the spray jacket over the top of the wetsuit trick, which worked pretty well at keeping the airflow off. Finally we had to harness up as the next drop didn't have much alternative but to abseil.
After a little more canyon things started to open out, and we could see the cliffs of the Bungleboori (unfortunately now much less evocatively known as Dingo Creek) ahead of us. There was one final 20m drop down to the 'Boori as the rain came down even harder. The section of the Bungleboori upstream from here was spectacular, a superb walk, although Rachel and I felt particularly uncoordinated on the very wet and slippery boulders. It took about 35 minutes to the Hole-in-the-Wall junction. This also never fails to amaze me, how narrow a slot it is, and how hard to spot from only a little way upstream or downstream.
Fifteen minutes later we were at the exit. None of us bothered taking wetsuits off. After emptying the sand out of our shoes we waded our way through the wet scrub up the ridge and back to the cars. There seemed to be fresh footprints, but no sign of any other cars at the car park. By the time we got back, our hands were quite frozen. Neither Rachel nor I was particularly interested in setting up camp given the dreary weather, and so we hit the road back to Sydney, stopping at Aldos at Richmond for a very large serve of pasta each (we could have shared one between us!).