25-28/04/2013 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Richard Pattison
The forecast for the four days was fine and sunny, but setting off with the car thermometer saying 1 degree, and frost on the ground, the thought of canyoning was not that attractive. I had been pretty sick for the couple of days previous, and plodded slowly up the pass. Once on top, we wandered out along a mostly open ridge to a rocky outcrop where I knew there was a small overhang. We reached there for an early lunch, and we decided it would be a good spot to camp the night. The overhangs were small, but enough to keep out the dew, and we didn't expect any rain. I had identified one branch of a nearby creek of interest, while Rich had picked out another, so we made a plan to check them out via a loop.
The main creek was a long grassy flat with no water, which made for mostly pleasant walking. A small overhang on one side of the creek contained a white hand stencil. As we headed upstream, the walls narrowed, threatening to become canyon, but only briefly delivering. At the next main junction we climbed up and over the ridge and down another branch. Unfortunately this was even less impressive, with only a chute at the bottom showing the merest hint of canyon.
Knowing the main creek was dry, we picked up water, which proved problematic as my wine bladder was leaking from the valve. I had to make sure to keep the valve upright to stop it all pouring down my back!
At camp we headed up on top of our rocky knoll for sunset and great views of the Wollemi Wilderness. As we looked behind us, the full moon had just risen over the trees. We enjoyed a leisurely evening around the campfire.
The next morning we set off for a short walk along a ridge and down into a creek that looked promising on the aerial photos. Shortly after morning tea, it dropped into a deep slot via a long abseil. The next short drop was lacking an anchor, and Rich lowered down a log. After debating for some time whether to use the log or try and do the two drops in one, we elected to pull the rope ... only to have the end swing into a crack and jam. Luckily Rich was able to climb back up the drop without needing to use the rope too much, and free it. The next couple of abseils were also rope stretchers, our 36m ropes being just sufficient for the 18m or so drops. There was a final abseil down a waterfall with tree roots hanging down, and then it was a messy boulder scramble to a junction with a larger creek.
The morning's activities had taken longer than anticipated, and it was quarter to two by the time we finished lunch, only leaving about 3 1/2 hours of light to play with. We had another creek nearby marked from our aerials, so headed off to have a look. As we climbed up to it we could see from the bottom it was definitely a canyon. With limited daylight left we decided to go for it. Bashing through the vines up the other branch of the creek, Rich quickly found a log that took us halfway up the cliffline, and then a short scramble onto the balcony. From there it was quick walk around into the headwaters of our creek. It started with a short swim, and then a series of 4 abseils down a nice narrow slot. All too soon we were back at the bottom and making our way back to camp on a sandbar in the main creek.
The following day we planned a loop walk, to try and ascend an interesting looking tributary of a tributary, climb over the ridge, and descend another creek the bottom of which looked good on the aerials. After a walk up the tributary, we headed up the minor branch. There were steep cliffs on the left, but after a couple of tricky sections, the cliffs broke to our right. Unfortunately we weren't really interested in climbing out on the right, so kept going up the creek past a couple more tricky sections until we could finally climb out. Strike one for canyon!
After a break for morning tea, we crossed over the ridge and dropped steeply down into a branch of the next creek. Like most of the creeks, it had a series of slabby canyon-like sections high up, but we had better hopes for further down. At the top of an abseil, it looked like it could be good canyon below, but unfortunatly after a couple of drops, we reached the main branch. This looked scrubby and open, and we gave upstream a miss. There was a lovely section of gorge downstream which was almost canyon, and led us back to the major creek. We had lunch on a boulder in the shade, and from there it was a lovely section of creek walking back to camp.
With a bit of time up our sleeves, we decided to relocate back to our first camp. This entailed heading back up the tributary, and up a pass I'd climbed out some years ago. I had a vague idea of the key to the pass, a climb through a cave and up on ledges, and we managed to locate it fairly quickly. From there it was a slog up the hill with water-filled packs to our overhangs. My body was still struggling from the sickness and I was completely exhausted when we reached camp. Still plenty of time to watch another sunset over the wilderness.
The next morning I let Rich go and check out the creek below our camp, which I'd already been down, as I was still feeling tired. He was away at 7am and back at 9:15am despite getting a rope stuck! We packed up and set off along the ridge and around a large hill to a creek which we'd both been down different sections of. However, neither of us had been down the middle section.
The first bit of creek was similar to the story for most of the trip. Canyon, but not much of it. Mostly beautiful gorge walking. The next section of creek was more of the same, with a high cliff on one side making for easy walking with little undergrowth. At a major creek junction we explored up a side creek to find ... mostly pleasant gorge. We managed to reverse this one a fair way and find a couple of options for exiting. The next side creek was ... same again!
Finally we reached the main canyon, which had some nice drops, but these generally opened out gorgey sections fairly quickly. At one of the early drops I abseiled over a jammed stump, only to have it start rolling on top of me! Luckily Rich was able to jump on it and allow me to finish the abseil without wiping myself out with the log.
This all took us a fair while, and it was 4 o'clock before we were at the end of the canyon. From there it was another half an hour of walking to the major creek, and then another hour of walking back to the road, as the floods had made the going a bit slower than usual. The sun had set by the time we did the final half hour road bash back to the car.