09/02/2008 - report - photos - Better Offer Canyon track notes
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, James Yorston
Rachel and I left home about 6am in the pouring rain, hoping that it was just pissing down over Sydney and not at Newnes where we were going. The rain meant we had a slightly slow run in to Lithgow, and we met James at about ten past eight, instead of ten to eight. Glimpses of sun on the way down into Lithgow gave me some hope for the day. We set off to Newnes, and ran into some quite heavy rain down in the Wolgan Valley. Not a good sign. Just as we passed the Emirates development, we ran into a bit of a problem.
The causeway at Barton Creek was quite well flooded. It looked deep and reasonably fast flowing. I took off my sandals and wandered across. It was above the level of the axles of my car, and a couple of inches above the bottom of the door. James was keen to press on, so we set about trying to help the creek drain by clearing debris from around the grass and shrubs on the downstream side. Initially it looked like we were making progress, getting the shoreline to noticeably recede. But that was about it. The next half hour saw no signs of abatement, and despite the sun emerging and plenty of blue sky becoming visible, we decided to give it up. [Afterword: it turned out some friends of ours also tried to head out there later in the day, and the water over the causeway was about six inches higher, so we were happier about the decision!]
Instead we headed back to Mt Wilson to do Better Offer Canyon. I misjudged the start and had us parked at the Mt Wilson turn off before realising we should be back down the road at Dalpura Ridge. I was not overly impressed when I reached into my bag and pulled out two left Volleys. Luckily James came to the rescue as he had a spare pair of runners and was able to lend me a right Volley. Rachel was screwing up her nose at the thought of a deep wade, as it was raining and overcast again. However, James and I were keen to have something to show for the already 240km of driving we had done.
The track disappeared about half way in, a legacy of the regenerating bush after the fires of late 2006. However, the navigation was reasonably straightforward, and we found ourselves at the short first abseil. The second abseil was interesting, the strong flow of water a far cry from the dry chute on my first trip down it. I kept my rain coat on, pulled up the hood, and largely kept dry. Rachel did the same while James went the strip down option. A slippery chute followed, with James climbing down most of it before slipping near the bottom and going for a nasty looking slide. Rachel and I opted for an easy abseil. The next drop was into the chest deep pool, and we all stripped down for this. There was one more drop that I didn't remember which looked like an easy climb down under normal conditions, but was a rather slippery slide into another pool. Instead I did a somewhat dodgy move to climb out and set up the rope for the others to follow.
A short walk downstream brought us to the main abseil. There were no slings on the anchor that we had used previously. James found one on a tree on the left a little further on. I would have reset the old one, but it was not a warm day, and it took you straight down the path of a torrent of water. Some other time! Either way it was pretty impressive with the mass of water flowing over it. One final awkward abseil followed and we were at the end.
We scrambled down the creek and headed across under the cliffs towards Birrabang, stopping on a nice ledge for lunch in the sun. The ledge narrowed rather alarmingly as we proceeded, with a 30m drop below a 20cm wide section. We pushed on for a bit, but our ledge seemed to have taken the high road, and even an abseil back to the ground looked unlikely. Back we headed, having to reverse the unpleasant narrow section, and traverse back under the lower cliff. For a while it looked like we would come back up to meet our original ledge, but we never quite got there.
Birrabang Brook was really pumping, and I was happy we were only in the creek a short way. We had a fight over plenty of slippery fallen trees on the way up before emerging back on the ridge not far from where we had originally dropped off. It started raining again just as we neared the cars.
A nice day in the bush, although nothing like we had planned.
On the way home we got a call from Blue Mountains Police Rescue. Asked for Tom Brennan, then asked if we had been doing Du Faurs today. We said no - we had done Better Offer. Apparently there had been calls for help from the Wollangambe, and they had seen our cars and were trying to find out if we were OK. They also asked about the water levels in Better Offer. I have no idea how they got my mobile number from a car licence plate.