26-29/01/2017 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Andrew "Smiffy" Smith, Antoniya Bachvarova
After a busy 3-day turnaround from a solid weekend of canyon, I couldn't face a drive out to Glen Davis on the Wednesday night of the long weekend. Instead I opted for the latish, almost civilised start, of 10am at the Coorongooba Campground. Smiffy and Toni arrived a few minutes after us, and there were already a few campers set for the long weekend. By the time we were ready to go it was closer to 10:30am. It was overcast, though not especially cool as we set off up the Coorongooba, first on the fire trail, and then on the right bank. There was enough of a pad to make fairly good going for much of the way until we reverted to the creek.
From morning tea we headed off up a pretty side creek, following it for some way. Just past a junction, we set off up a pass that Smiffy, Rachel and I had been up some years ago, and Smiffy again more recently. Smiffy remembered it better than me, since I went the wrong way at both clifflines. We had a late lunch on top with good views, and then pushed on along a somewhat scrubby ridge to a spot on the a creek where it looked like the canyon might be starting. Small cliffs blocked us, and we had to traverse upstream to get in, with the creek dropping into canyon almost immediately. By this stage it was well after 4pm, so some speed was required in the canyon.
There was a procession of short drops, interspersed with flatter sections. What looked like deep pools in a few places all turned out to be fairly shallow wades, the inky black water due to a layer of dark leaf litter. As we approached the major junction, the canyon narrowed and steepened, the drops got longer and the anchors more interesting. The canyon was very impressive by now, and the drops kept coming. I had been to the bottom of the final drop, and recognised it when we got to the bottom of the final two-rope abseil.
It was now after 7pm, and we needed to find a campsite. Smiffy found a camp cave he had used previously just down from the outlet of the canyon. Rachel found another one I had previously marked, and it seemed pretty good with a flat floor, though not especially overhanging. It was starting to drizzle, so we were welcoming of the shelter. I was pretty buggered, and fell asleep around the fire after dinner!
It was a very hot night, and most of us slept poorly. The next day we left our overnight gear, and earmarked a couple of the nearer side creeks to investigate. I had been up all of them from the bottom until we hit waterfalls. One I knew could be reversed - if you were a good climber! I wasn't sure about us reversing that one, so we spent some time looking for a pass, before giving up and walking up that creek. It narrowed to an impressive gorge, and then a pleasant canyon, before a 2m waterfall with logs. Rachel put up another log and managed to climb the waterfall, in a somewhat grovelling style. I followed, similarly! Smiffy tried to do it with his pack on and broke Rachel's log as a result! Finally we were all at the top, and after another small slippery waterfall, there was one larger waterfall to reverse. This one had stopped me last time, but it turned out to be relatively straightforward to negotiate - I certainly hadn't wanted to have to climb back down last time.
While we were able to get out on the right, we wanted to go left, and that meant reversing a few more waterfalls in another section of canyon until we were up. Crossing the ridge was very pleasant, the fires of a few years back making for easy walking through low vegetation. Dropping into the creek, we made our way down past a junction, and just before another junction, the bottom dropped out of the creek. Rachel crawled through a hole to get to a ledge above a double drop that looked quite high, but I figured would go on one 36m rope. I volunteered to go first, and the one rope reached. There was another shorter abseil off a tree a long way back, meaning both ropes were required, and then one more short abseil to a point where the creek started to open out.
After lunch we set off up the other side looking for a pass. Climbing up more and more tricky chimneys and ledges, we eventually got to the top of a ramp ... that we could walk down on the other side back to the creek! D'oh! There was some more meandering back and forth on ledges before we finally worked out way up on top. This was particularly scrubby, but luckily after a couple of hundred metres, it opened out into burnt areas, and was easy walking for a couple of kilometres to our creek. Again, it was after 4pm when we dropped into the creek, and made our way down a scrubby section and a short abseil to the first of two larger waterfalls. These were both excellent abseils, but into gorge, not canyon. I had been to the bottom of this, and my memory said it was pretty easy going from here back to our cave. Obviously somewhat faulty memory, since the first couple of kilometres were slow going, with lots of fallen trees and boulders. So again it was after 7pm when we arrived back at camp, tired.
The following day we packed up camp and headed further upstream. I knew of an easy pass and we used this three times. The first side creek had an impressive two-rope abseil, but no real canyon. The second creek we dropped into fairly high up, and after a slow scrubby section, started to drop into a canyon. The canyon wasn't great quality, but it had some nice waterfalls, and finished with a beautiful two rope abseil into a large amphitheatre. There was one final exercise to get off a massive chockstone.
A short walk took us back to the packs, and a third trip up the pass, this time much slower, with full packs and water for a high camp. By this time it was again after 4pm, though still hot and unpleasant. A storm was brewing, but it largely barked with little bite. Only a small amount of rain fell, but the temperature thankfully dropped a few degrees and the cloud cover made for more pleasant conditions. We cut across country, which had been burnt, making for mostly easy walking. Crossing a ridge and an old road, we headed out on another ridge between two branches of a creek. I was hopeful of making it to the end, and finding a high camp with views. Unfortunately I carelessly took a wrong turn and wasted 10 minutes in the waning evening, when everyone was getting tired and grumpy. Eventually we camped in the saddle before the non-existent cliff edge, with a very warm night again making sleeping quite unpleasant.
It cooled down a little before morning, but it was already warming up again by the time we walked the short distance over the hill and down into the pleasantly cool gorge. Dingo Creek was quite beautiful, with mostly easy walking through the long impressive cliff-lined creek. A lovely section of slabs and pools heralded the start of the steep section, and after one two-rope abseil, we had a late lunch in a small patch of shade. The rumble of thunder threatened, but like the previous day, it was mostly noise. Some more slabs and interesting downclimbs led to another couple of abseils, and then one final easy abseil left us in the lower bouldery gorge. A bit of rockhopping and then out on the bank for an easier walk down to the Capertee River.
Again it was after 4pm, and we were a long way downstream from the cars. I was expecting the Capertee to be a sandy highway, but the river was actually a mix of boulders and pools, and not an option for walking in. The bank was a bit slow, though in places it opened out into river flats. We were expecting to hit the road at some point. I thought based on aerial photos that it would arrive well before where it was marked on the map, but we found no sign. The skies had darkened significantly by now, with the approach of a real storm. As we bashed through a scrubby section, it hit with some fury. First rain, then hail the size of mentos, lightning flashing directly overhead and thunder echoing in the deep gorge. There was nowhere to go, so we kept walking, tensely awaiting the next flash. Eventually the storm passed overhead and the rain eased.
By this time we had reached a long stretch of easy river flats, which made for pleasant walking. Just after a small creek crossing we did pick up the road, pretty much where it was marked on the map. The signs of the storm were unmistakeable as we continued. Debris littered the road in places, large trees had been snapped in half by the lightning. The carnage was sobering to see, and while it would have been amazing to have seen, I was happy we weren't anywhere near one of these strikes.
My map was in my bag, folded, so while I thought we were nearing the camping area, I had misjudged our progress. It was rather a disappointment to cross Freshwater Creek knowing there was still another couple of kilometres to go. Eventually we hit the locked gate and trudged the final stretch across the grassy campground, watched carefully by a mob of kangaroos. An excellent if tiring weekend of exploring in this rarely visited part of the Wollemi Wilderness.