31/01-01/02/2009 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay

Dumbano. The subject of three previous attempts of mine to visit. Once foiled by road deterioration, twice by rain. Forecasts of 30+ degrees for the weekend, little or no chance of rain, and mountain bikes in the car meant that the previous obstacles should not be a problem. The original plan was a day trip down Dumbano and up Cesspit Canyon. Not knowing how long a day that would be, Rachel and I decided to do an overnight trip down Dumbano and see how far we got. While the heavier packs would slow us down, they would also give us a chance of getting to the lower constriction.

I had been out along the Upper Wollangambe (Dumbano) Fire Trail recently and knew it to be in pretty bad condition. Despite this, the thought of mountain biking with overnight packs didn't excite, and I decided to chance the Camry's ability. It was tested several times, including two badly rutted out sections, and one rocky hill. We almost came unstuck (well stuck) at an innocuous looking clay puddle that I strayed too close to the middle of. Luckily the front wheels were almost out, and with a bit of bodily assistance we were able to get the car moving again. The only casualty, my sandals, which were caked with a sticky substance with an unpleasant manure-like smell.

Just past this we left the car at the bottom of the rocky 1097 hill and set off on foot. We turned off towards 1014 a little less than an hour later and followed ridges down to Dumbano Creek. Getting in was easy, the cliffs being only a few metres high, and we came across our first little section of canyon, with Rachel leading the way down a skin-grating squeeze/drop almost immediately. This bit of canyon was fairly low quality and didn't last too long, and we spent a while bashing down the scrubby creek.

The next section of canyon was much more impressive. Not particularly deep, but very narrow, and with some long swims. We both had wetsuits, but hadn't bothered to put them on, and just floated along on our buoyant packs. At the end of the narrowest, deepest bit the canyon opened out with a ledge, and we had lunch. I checked out exits on both sides. Ahead looked like creek wading, but we were straight back into the canyon. There was plenty more fun and games, with several challenging drops. We avoided any abseils, though one came fairly close. This continued on and off to a scrubbier open area. By this time it was getting on towards 6pm, and we decided to see if we could find a cave for the night.

Luck was not quite on our side. We found a cave, though it didn't have a flat floor. Further downstream there was more canyon, and we weren't keen to press on. There was a small flattish area nearby that we cleared for sleeping, and we cooked dinner and drank port around a fire that was completely unnecessary except for cooking and keeping mozzies away.

We were up early the next morning, donning wetsuits and hitting the water by 8:10am, possibly a record! This lower section of canyon was excellent, deep and dark. As we approached the Cesspit junction, shafts of light lit up the walls as the sun started to encroach. Further downstream looked good, but for us it was time to head for home. The bottom section of Cesspit was even more impressive than what we had just come down. Classic canyon. It was too dark to take many photos, and too cold to stand around for long. There were several swims to a chockstone blockup that seemed to have no obvious solution. We ummed and ahhed for a while until I found a duckunder into a cavern from which we could climb out through an unstable logjam. Hauling the packs over the top was the only time we needed the ropes all trip.

There were several more chockstone blockups also requiring negotiations, although these were more straightforward. With what looked like the best bits of the canyon below us, we decided it was time to exit. There was an easy option on the south side, but being able to exit on the north side would save us a few kms on the fire trail at the end. A steep gully opposite gave us a scrambling route out and we were soon on the tops.

The heat was unsurprisingly quite oppressive, and while the scrub was mostly mild, it was fairly arduous going across the tops. We reached a knoll we had crossed on our way in, and had lunch in what shade we could find, fending off march flies. The last couple of kms to the road were knocked off pretty quickly and then we had the 4km road bash back to the car. Getting the car out was a bit quicker than getting it in, and then we headed down the road to Dargans Dam for a well earned refreshing dip.

An excellent weekend of canyoning in some relatively rarely visited country.