26-31/12/2014 - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Richard Pattison, Melissa Thomas, Sue Bucknell, Simon Hager
Rachel also has a blog post with photos from this trip.
For a number of years now, we have headed off to the northern Blue Mountains over Easter and Xmas/New Year for an extended trip to explore for new canyons. This year, 6 of us headed off for 5 nights into the middle reaches of the Cooroongooba between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve.
The first day and a bit, and the last day or so were in relatively familiar territory, but most of the rest of the trip was in fairly new territory for us. Rich and I had various creeks, as well as passes, marked out from studying the aerial photos, though most of the canyons we had marked we did not have high hopes for. The creeks were mostly canyon - the two we had as good were good, and the rest were - well - average at best. The passes all went, mostly fairly easily; in some cases with a bit of work.
- Day 1 - we headed up a pass and camped on an open ridge, with a nice lookout nearby for happy hour and sunset. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in and the evening around the campfire was punctuated with the occasional drizzle.
- Day 2 - the next morning was chilly for a summer, with everyone in beanies and jackets. We headed down a nearby creek that some of us had been down before, through a short but pleasant canyon. Plenty of rockhopping brought us to a larger creek. Rachel decided to sit this one out, but the rest of us set off up a nearby creek, which looked like a pass and possibly a canyon on the aerials. It was certainly a pass, a fairly steep but easy one, but no canyon. However, as we descended the next creek, the bottom dropped out of it and we could not see the floor of the canyon. Anchor points that would allow rope retrieval were in short supply, so Rich backed up a few floating logs with himself, and came down last. The rope came down afterwards as well, with some difficulty. I overbalanced on a short slide into a pool, slamming my right thumb into a submerged rock and badly spraining my thumb, not a good start to the trip! I abseiled the final drop left handed, and descended the boulder field rather gingerly back to the main creek. Rachel and I headed upstream to find a campsite, while the rest of the party explored the next creek upstream, which also had a reasonable canyon in it. Camp was on a nice sandbank opposite a creek junction - Sue opted for wet feet and camping on the other side of the junction.
- Day 3 - we headed upstream a little further, keeping an eye out for camp caves, as the forecast for the day was for up to 10-20mm of rain. Rich found a shallow cave, and we left our gear under the overhang. Leaving with day packs, we headed up a nearby ridge, which was a good pass, with a couple of exposed but easy spots. Contouring around the top of a gully, we dropped into the main creek of interest, and explored upstream to make sure we hadn't missed anything, stopping for morning tea where it was obvious there was nothing more to be seen. Downstream started with some drops, and what looked promising, but it was not until we reached the junction that the canyon started. The side creek was better than the main creek at this point, but the main creek improved from then into a good canyon, with five abseils below the junction down a lovely slot. We had lunch back at the cave, and then set off up the same pass to look down the minor gully. It started off with some promise, but opened out into a walk down gorge. Rachel and I explored a nearby creek in the afternoon, while Simon looked for more camp caves, and Rich and Mel headed upstream to explore a section of creek that we were planning on skipping the next day. The forecast rain failed to eventuate, so we could have had a more roomy camp on nearby river flats.
- Day 4 - we left our camp cave, and headed up a nearby pass, crossing the ridge into the next creek system. The canyon started slowly, through a bouldery tunnel, before dropping into a deep slot. There were two abseils, and a good section of canyon before it opened out at a junction. We explored up the side creek - which was just a pass - and then continued down a mild canyon to a larger creek for an early lunch. Leaving packs, we set off up a nearby creek, which started with an interesting scramble up a huge dead tree, and then entered a promising looking canyon. This was probably the highlight of the trip in terms of exceeding expectations, as what looked like a widish gorge on the aerials was hiding a short but good quality slot. Rich dropped a rope down one fall, and we were able to climb up to where the creek obviously opened out above a drop. Satisfied with our discovery, we headed back to the packs, and walked down to a larger creek junction where we figured we would camp. This left us with most of the afternoon, so we walked upstream past some beautiful blue gum flats. The first creek we checked out narrowed into canyon, and had a few interesting drops to climb up, as well as a tunnel. I slipped on one of the drops, jarring my ankle, which proceeded to get sorer. We continued up the creek beyond the canyon for a while, but it looked on the aerials that we would have to go almost all the way to the top before any other canyon-like section, so we returned to the main creek. There was still a bit of time left, so we picked one of the three creeks opposite that had some promise, found a nearby pass, and dropped in. Rich managed to climb down into the canyon while the rest of us abseiled in past him. The canyon opened out a little further downstream, and we did a long abseil from a ledge on the left to return to the main creek, and from there walked back to camp (limped in my case).
- Day 5 - the next morning, we returned to the scene of the previous afternoon's activities, to check out the last of the two side creeks - "Tom's Canyon" and "Rich's Canyon". Mine looked promising from the bottom, as it had a nice section of canyon that ended at a waterfall. Rich, Simon and I climbed down into the canyon above the falls, but we had already passed the highlights. Crossing the ridge, we headed into Rich's canyon, which was continuous for a while, but fairly shallow. We managed to avoid abseiling in either. Then it was back to the packs, lunch, and up a likely pass that we had spotted the day before following a small fault line. With a large hill in the way, Simon, Sue, Rachel and I took the longer but flatter route contouring around the bench while Mel and Rich went over the mountain. Surprisingly we reached the top of our next creek within a few minutes of each other. This was a creek with a short section of canyon that Rich and I had looked at from the bottom on a previous trip. There was an interesting grassy clearing in the middle section of the creek, interesting because it didn't seem related to a basalt neck, as is usual in this country. The creek soon dropped into canyon, but it was fairly low quality, and we were soon at the bit we had explored before. After a nice walk (and swim) up a larger creek/canyon, we set about looking for campsites. These seemed in short supply in the narrow creek. Rich found the best option, another shallow overhang on a ledge above the creek, cosy for 6. Rachel and I settled in while Rich took the others off to visit a canyon that we had done on a previous trip.
- Day 6 - I was struggling to walk. As well as my ankle becoming sorer, the front of my foot had a cut that was particularly painful. What I didn't realise at the time was that it was an infection, from a burnt stick through the bottom of my Volley on our Dumbano trip from a week earlier. Simon had a minor quad strain, so he joined me and Rachel for the easier walk out. Rich, Sue and Mel headed downstream to try and knock off a missing section of canyon from a previous trip. Our group reached the meeting point, an aboriginal cave we had visited before, mid morning. We sat around a bit, boiled the billy, read the old messages in the bottle, took photos of the aboriginal art, had a second morning tea, killed march flies and mozzies, sat around a bit more, and finally started on lunch before the others eventually turned up. It had taken them a bit longer to get out than they had planned. After lunch, we set off across the open ridge and into a creek to exit. This had a short but pleasant canyon. We were soon making our way down open ridges for a short walk back to the cars, and the long drive back to Sydney.