01-03/01/2009 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, James Yorston, Caoimhin Ardren, Naomi Yorston

As we arrived at the Zig Zag turnoff just after 8:20am on New Years Day, James and Naomi were already there waiting. Heading out along the Waratah Ridge Road we were having bets on the number of cars that were likely to be there already. The five that were there already at 9:30am was quite a surprise for a New Years Day morning. Just after we arrived, a SUBW car pulled up with Dave Lee, Jiri and Cat. They were heading out along the South Bungleboori for 4 days or so.

We left them still packing and set off along the old road. We made good time though the track past the Four Dope/Dead Tree junction is fairly faint, and the ridge quite scrubby. We arrived at the campsite, now somewhat overgrown, before midday. I decided we'd have an early lunch and then set off for our first canyon.

It was pretty hot by this time. We huddled in the shade for lunch, and set off as quickly as possible. It was tricky navigation getting on to the ridge. Intially we were on the right ridge, then I crossed a small creek thinking we needed to be on the next one, only to have to cross back when we started dropping down too quickly. The ridge we were on was also fairly scrubby, the wetter year and lack of fires since 2002? letting the greenery take over. Descending into the creek, we fought our way through more shrubbery for a while, descending a few short drops, one of which we were surprised to find with a fixed line.

There wasn't really any canyon - just a bit of canyoniferous creek, and we soon reached the final drop. The final two abseils were impressive, the second across a pool and then down a massive slab with a curving water chute. A disappointing canyon overall, but not really surprising. I was hoping to check out another canyon likely to be of similar quality, but lack of time and interest prevailed. Out at the Bungleboori I went for a bit of exploring and found a massive chasm with a cool breeze blowing down it just upstream. Of course when I got back to my bag and checked the map, it turned out to be Four Dope Canyon. Not very well marked on the map! Just downstream we found an amazing narrow slot that we could walk up for fifty metres or more. Very impressive. A little further on was another slot, which looked like it might turn out to be a pass. With a bit of scrambling at the top Caoimhin was able to get up and drop a rope down, and we were soon up on the tops. The afternoon views were excellent and we sat for a while on a pagoda surveying the country.

Heading back to camp we made pretty good going until we got to the final hill, which was a scrubby disaster. We all had red raw knees by the top and the slightest scratch made us wince in pain. I'm usually pretty blase about scrub, but while it wasn't particularly thick, it was certainly the scratchiest I've been through.

Around the campfire Caoimhin pulled out his song books and we had an excellent singalong.

The next day we headed off to do Bjelke's Mind and Bridge Canyons. It was again slow scrubby going until we got on to the ridge proper, but after that, open rocky slabs got us to the end quite quickly. I remembered a tricky pass down to the left and we descended carefully. There was more scrub on the way down to the creek, but we hit pretty close to where the canyon started. There were some interesting abseils and excellent sections, including the impressive long straight passage, before we emerged at the Bungleboori for lunch. Downstream we could see a small canyon coming out of the massive cliff 100m or so in the air. That would be an abseil to remember!

After lunch we climbed up our pass and dropped into Bridge Canyon, again pretty much on the money with where the canyon started. At first the creek was fairly open and scrubby, with a number of short abseils. However, it got better and better, with an excellent couple of sections at the end broken up by a crappy abseil where a tree had fallen completely across the drop removing the previous anchor in the process. I counted at least three bridges, so I don't know which the canyon is named after. I managed to stay dry with appropriate bridging, so perhaps the name is from that!? Rachel had an entertaining (in hindsight) slip at the bottom of the second last abseil and took a slide into a deep pool.

Out at the Bungleboori we filled up on water and headed up our pass again. We found an easier route up on to the tops, and set off for camp, pushed by dark clouds and impending rain. Caoimhin set a cracking pace and we were back inside an hour. A roaring fire kept some of the drizzle away, but with the exception of Caoimhin, who still had to cook his veal, we headed off to bed relatively early.

The next morning was much of the same. We decided to rule Crikey out as the cool day and wet bush weren't conducive to a long cold canyon. Instead we took the easy option of Froth and Bubble, just down the hill. Dropping right in as the canyon started, some good teamwork helped us all avoid swimming the first couple of pools. The canyon was excellent though fairly short. The last section had some challenging bridging, which had resulted in minor or major splashes to date! I was determined to stay dry, even resorting to taking my pack off and holding it on a ledge using my shoulder while bracing through a narrow gap.

Back at camp the weather had cleared up a bit, but the forecast had been for more of the same. We cut our losses and packed up and headed out. The only car left was the SUBW crew's car. Before we could leave we had the obligatory hacky sack round into the boot of the car. I suffered a bruised behind trying to kick one over my head and landing on my arse. Dinner was Indian in Richmond, surprisingly crowded.

A great way to welcome in the New Year