13-14/12/2008 - report - photos - Bell Creek Canyon track notes - Bell Creek Complete Canyon track notes
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, James Yorston, Gill Fowler, Anthony Dowle
With 50m of rain on Friday at Clarence, a weekend trip down Bell Creek was looking a bit dicey, to say the least. Still, I figured we could always bail once we got to the creek, and so we pressed on.
Rachel, Gill and I turned up at the NRB to find Ant and James already tucking into a second breakfast. We dropped Ant's car at the fire station at Mt Wilson and piled into my car for the short drive to Watertrough Hill. We left the cars at about 10am. Once we got on to the ridge, there was a bit of a track for a fair way out to the creek. The creek itself was flowing well, as expected, but not too well, so we decided to push on. A little way down we reached the first canyon section. It looked like a deepish wade, and Gill didn't get too far before reversing. We all wetsuited up and headed through.
Not far on a long deep pool awaited. I couldn't get far without a swim and decided to inflate my lilo. James and Gill decided to avoid the hassle of carry the lilos and swam it. However, we found them blowing up their own lilos just around the corner at the next pool! From there it was more of the same. Many long deep pools and plenty of liloing. One interesting obstacle was a large chockstone blocking a narrow section of the canyon. Rachel had a nasty slip trying to get over it using a log propped up against the canyon wall. Ant and James managed to get up and pass packs and lilos over. Rachel and Gill got through under the chockstone through a bit of a squeeze.
My lilo had developed a hole at this point, and was rapidly deflating as we walked/paddled. James was in a similar situation. They would last a few pools but required regular attention. It was mostly a problem when the floppy lilos caught on sticks and branches. By about 4pm we had arrived at our campsite. There was a bit of concern as the camp cave looked like it had had a torrent of water run through it the day before. However, there was a decent supply of wood that we set about adding to, and the water was probably overflow from the drip line rather than the creek which we were several metres above.
I went off and explored up a side canyon, before settling into cheese, crackers and port. The wind was howling through the tops for most of the night, and we had a bit of a breeze through the night despite our shelter. Despite my patch job, my lilo deflated a couple of times during the night, but at least not every 10 minutes.
The next morning dawned cool. Ant's watch said it was sub 10 degrees. We set off at 9:30am and were not looking forward to the first lilo section, which was just around the corner. Given the air temperature was 12 degrees at this stage, the water seemed surprisingly warm! We weren't on the lilos for long, however. The next couple of hours was spent negotiating the large boulder field above the main canyon section. There were some interesting climb downs and jump downs before the canyon proper started. One involved an optional slide off a rock on to a floating lilo. The dark section was particularly spectacular, floating through on our lilos. There were some more climb downs in the dark section that posed some challenges for getting on to the lilos. My patch job from the night before began to come off. Note to self - don't use Selleys Kwik Grip Water based. It might say that it's suitable for repairing your wetsuit, but not only the new patch, but some older patches came off in the water! Eventually the long narrow canyon opened out and we bumped into a couple of other canyoners heading upstream.
We pushed on to the Du Faurs junction where I check out a couple of places for passes. There was a bit of time engaged in a stone skipping competition to make the stones jump over a branch. At Du Faurs we decided to head upstream. There were some nice long pools and I got left behind again taking photos on a slowly sinking lilo. The others were waiting ahead, skipping more stones.
We took the exit through Joes Canyon, and felt the full force of the wind as we reached the saddle. Lunch was had at the pagodas back at the junction, huddled out of the wind (well, a little). We passed a group of walkers heading up the hill - and had whispered comments about us being "canyoners". Awe or derision?! We were back at Ant's car about 3pm, and headed back to retrieve my car. Surprisingly there was another car parked there, and someone had decorated the windscreen wipers with banana peel. We immediately suspected Caoimhin (banana), that the other car was Glen's (baby seat, bought in Orange), and moved the banana peel to the other vehicle accordingly. We headed to the Pines for milkshakes and apple pie, and just missed a call from Caoimhin on the way out which confirmed our suspicions. All up an excellent weekend of canyoning.