08-09/12/2007 - report - photos - Upper Wollangambe Canyon track notes

Participants: Tom Brennan, Gill Fowler, Fiona Macrae, Mike Baldwin, Charles Blumer, Jill Calkin

I left home at 10am to allow myself time to get another lilo and still meet Mike, Fee and Jill at North Richmond at 11:15pm. I probably didn't need to worry! They were another half an hour, and then needed to rebuy the food that they had left in the fridge at home! Some more pfaffing, lunch at Mt Wilson for a car shuffle, and we finally reached the start of the track at 2:50pm. Thankfully there were no thunderstorms on the way in, although it was nice when the cool breeze came out as the humidity was pretty stifling. We only had one minor navigational problem, and it didn't take us too long to correct. We finally got to see the famous three pronged tree and the large boulder. Quite obvious - once you knew what they were!

From the cliffs above we could see our camp cave for the night

Charlie and Gill arrived shortly after, while I was up on the ridge collecting some firewood. Charlie and I had both brought the paper so had a relaxing afternoon reading as we got the fire going. Cheese and port were the order of the day before dinner. After dark, the glowworms in the overhang put on a fabulous display.

The following morning both Jill and Gill's lilos turned out to have slow leaks, although both seemed likely to survive the river. At about 9:20am we set off along the river to Wollangambe Crater. It looked significantly more overgrown than last time I was there. A game of disc golf looked likely to end in a lost disc in pretty quick time. Further down the river the track disappeared, and progress slowed. Significantly. After half an hour or so (probably a couple of hundred metres) Charlie, Gill and I took to the water. It took Mike, Fee and Jill a while to catch up as they changed into sandals. Other than the occasional easy sandy bottom section, the going was very slow along the scrubby, bouldery banks. Particularly around the pools, where eventually most of us ended up swimming. A bit on the chilly side though.

After three and a half hours we had barely covered two kilometres. I was starting to weigh up chances of having to stay another night. A break for lunch brought the unwelcome rumble of thunder, but luckily minimal rain. Thankfully, after lunch a long sandy stretch presented itself and we made good time. The cliffs towered impressively overhead, nearly a hundred metres of sheer sandstone. Another boulder scramble and we reached a long swim, where Mike, Fee, Jill and I decided it looked canyon-like enough to blow up our lilos. Good timing.

The Wollangambe in its upper reaches was particularly impressive, the walls much more massive than in the tourist sections. The recent rain meant that riding many of the rapids was an option, and good fun it was. There would have been a lot more walking a year ago. There were still numerous boulder scrambles, and they kept our pace down. More awesome canyon followed. I scrambled up a side creek to spot some slings hanging down from an abseil above. Worth a further look from the top, no doubt.

Further down a waterfall rained through a hole in the canyon roof. I though we would be on track to exit before dark, but a number of successive boulder scrambles just before the river swung north to the Geronimo junction slowed us down again. The light was fading as we reached the final set of scrambles down to the Bell Creek junction. I had thought we might walk along the bank from there, but the strong flow meant that it was a lovely cruise down to the sandbar at the exit.

The climb out was a bit of a slog. My anaemic head torch didn't help. Neither did the fact that we had been on the go for almost 12 hours. Finally we reached the fire trail, and it was not far to the car. Rather than doing another car shuffle, we squeezed all six of us and packs into my car and drove to Bell. 11pm at Bell meant home at about 1am. Certainly not the day I had imagined, but a superb canyon.