19-20/02/2011 - report - photos - Deep Pass Canyon track notes

Participants: Tom Brennan, Vivien de Remy de Courcelles, Stephen Dolphin, Brendon Anderson

Nayook Creek is a rarely visited and fairly untouched part of the Blue Mountains. Many bushwalkers and canyoners have visited it in its upper reaches, which hold the pretty Deep Pass Canyon, but downstream from Deep Pass is another matter.

The route as I originally envisaged it was to wander some distance downstream from Deep Pass to the major tributary to the south, exit up this and then walk back along Railmotor Ridge to Deep Pass.

Based on what little information I could find, the section of Nayook Creek just downstream from Deep Pass sounded like it could be messy, slow going, and not particularly interesting. Instead, we would roughly reverse the route, heading in along Railmotor Ridge, descending the north-flowing tributary, and exiting back to the Natural Bridge before the scrubby section via a pass that Ian Thorpe had mentioned. We took rope and abseiling gear as I expected at least one drop in the tributary.

On Saturday morning we all met at North Richmond and car pooled out to the car park at Deep Pass. A couple of cyclists had camped down there the night before and were pushing their bikes out, talking to another couple who were just heading down for a relaxing night. The grassy campground looked in good condition, with little rubbish or signs of vandalism, the noise of the creek trickling in the background. It was tempting to settle down, but exploration called.

I had climbed the pass on to Mt Norris once before, though just a quick up and down, and not for many years. It was fortunate that we were able to locate the short, steep scramble fairly quickly, and we were soon on our way up the spur towards Railmotor Ridge.

As we headed out on to Railmotor Ridge, we quickly picked up a fairly well-defined track, which made the going significantly quicker. With all of the canyons off to the south of the ridge, it wasn't clear how long the track would last, or whether it would even take us where we wanted to go. I wasn't too keen on ending up in Banks or Nosedive Canyon, so kept a close eye on map and compass. The track became more vague - around the point that the ridge to Banks Canyon departed - and we did question the value of trying to stick with it. However, as soon as we diverged from the track the scrub became noticeably thicker, with vines grasping at us and logs hiding in the undergrowth to catch our shins. There were still traces of a track when we finally left the ridge, and headed down into our creek.

A short while later we were at standing on a small line of cliffs above the creek, overlooking a section of canyon. After a quick, late morning tea, we headed into the canyon which was short and underwhelming, and then out into a scrubby creek for a while. It was not too far to a short drop, a waterfall into a pool which flowed out through a pretty arch. We were able to avoid the pool by climbing up and over the ridge and back down into the creek just beyond. Another waterfall and arch awaited, and while I was able to scramble down part way, I had to pass a rope back up for us to abseil the drop. This was the start of some pleasant canyon, and then a surprise as another drop awaited us. This led into a deeper canyon, which was the highlight of the day, and continued for quite a distance with a short swim or two.

By the time it opened out, it was after 1:30pm, and we were all a bit peckish. After a late lunch, we pushed on down the creek, downing packs to wander up some of the side creeks. One in particular on the left was a canyon in its own right, though we were stopped by a waterfall after the first junction.

Continuing on first through beautiful rainforest creek, then a bouldery section, and then slow scrub, it looked like the last section would be slow going to Nayook. We were again surprised when the creek dropped into more canyon via an awkward downclimb. While not as spectacular as the section further up, it was a bit of a bonus.

Finally we reached the sandy shallows of Nayook Creek at 5 o'clock and I raised my hands in the air in celebration. We had a short break, but as it was getting late, we still had the problem of finding somewhere to sleep.

Nayook Creek was quite beautiful, with some long sections of sandy bottomed creek. The walls were close together, and though it was never quite canyon, it felt like one would be just around the corner. I hoped to get about a kilometre of creek under our belts before camping, in advance of the forecast rain for Sunday. The quicksand was a little treacherous in places, causing amusement for those at the rear. The knowledge of where the quicksand was didn't always help the back markers from working out where it wasn't, so sand-filled shoes were the order of the day. After covering a reasonable distance we started looking for camp caves. With the creek still very narrow, there wasn't much on offer. At 7pm we reached the best spot we had seen in quite some distance, a small overhang with a flattish platform below it. Barely enough space for two in the cave and two flies on the platform, but it would have to do.

We had a pleasant evening with happy hour which even Stephen took part in! Given our latish finish, we retired to bed not long after dinner, illuminated by glowworms all around us.

With rain forecast for around the middle of the day, we were away the following morning not long after 8am, with well over 2km of Nayook Creek to cover. There were a couple of very short sections of canyon along the creek, but disappointingly nothing persistent. The creek started off quite pleasantly, but as we progressed, we spent more time scrambling over boulders, fighting river gums pointing downstream, ducking under fallen trees and swimming short pools. I took a nasty slip on an algae covered boulder and landed heavily on my ribs and hand, needing a few minutes before I could move on again. Luckily it wasn't far to our side creek, and we headed up and had a very early lunch under an overhang. A short scrubby climb led up to an impressive sandstone block perched on a knoll. Hoping to be able to climb it, I went one way and Vivien went the other, but it was well overhung on all sides.

From there back to the Natural Bridge was slow going, with a scrubby ridge, disappearing fire trail and a deep chasm to negotiate. We took the link track from just past Natural Bridge, that took us straight to Deep Pass with minimal road bash, and good views from the open ridge. With the forecast rain not having eventuated, and the weather still unpleasantly warm, I decided we would exit via Deep Pass Canyon, which was cool and relaxing. The real motive was so that I could have a swim and a wash in the beautiful pool below the waterfall! Despite the final climb up to the ridge at the end, I was feeling pretty clean and refreshed back at the car. A great weekend in spectacular country.