18/03/2011 - report - photos - Claustral Canyon track notes

Participants: Tom Brennan, Andrew "Smiffy" Smith, Duanne White

After having scouted out a new route a couple of weeks earlier, I was keen to head into Claustral once before the season ended. Duanne was free and Smiffy managed to get a day off work so we had a small but efficient party of three. Driving up through the drizzle at Mt Tomah, the weather didn't look very inviting and Smiffy and I were glad we had brought steamers. Duanne didn't have a wetsuit, so was going to have to suffer a bit with my spring suit. The weather at least wasn't supposed to get any worse, so while it might be damp, it shouldn't be unsafe.

We parked around the back of Mt Bell and set off over the barrier and through the wet bush at about 8:30am. I had some trouble retracing my steps from my earlier trip, but we were soon on track, and indeed managed to find marked trees from beyond where I'd found them previously. These led into a gully and then along the side to my earlier pass. We gingerly minced our way over the lawyer vine just above the creek and then scrambled our way down the creek to Claustral. All up about an hour in.

I had no idea exactly where we had dropped in, though it pretty quickly became obvious that we were going to need to swim on the way out. We were soon suiting up above the first jump, which was a little over waist deep. Someone had installed a bolt for the hand-over-hand option, which wasn't there a few months ago. Down at the first abseil, there were also some changes. The log that had been there for many years was gone, and has been replaced with two new bolts and chains. Somewhat unnecessary as it's not like there is a shortage of anchors at the drop. I wonder whether the log went naturally in the storms of early December, or whether it was "helped".

There was a good flow over the waterfall. Duanne dropped a biner at the top, which promptly got washed away into the pool below, never to be seen again.

Someone had obviously done a lot of bolting, as the next anchor also had a second bolt. Thankfully the third was still just off the same old slings, though there was a log floating next to the keyhole that looked suspiciously like the old log from the first abseil. The water level was excellent, with plenty of atmosphere through the Black Hole.

We made our way through the main constriction with no problems, Duanne pointing out all of the basalt river stones amongst the sandstone. At the Thunder junction we almost stepped on a small diamond python, which was curled up and looked thoroughly miserable, if that's possible of a snake.

We pushed on for an early lunch at the big overhang, and were finished and off again by 12:15pm. It was only another hour to the exit where I briefly contemplated climbing out in my wetsuit before just going with the already wet thermal top.

The rope that had been hanging down the first of the scrambles up Rainbow Ravine last time was gone, which I wasn't too upset about. We made our way up the rest of the scrambles and were on the Camels Hump in good time, a little under an hour. It took somewhat longer than I expected to get back into Claustral, and even longer still before we reached Dismal Dingle. The swim that we had been dreading was between Dismal Dingle and our entry/exit, and we stripped down for it. In reality it wasn't that bad, particularly as you can bridge most of it.

Finally back at the exit at 3:30pm, we headed back out the way we came in, though we just took the ridge rather than trying to retrace the marked route. It seemed more straightforward. Back at the car a little before 4:30pm, so about 8 hours all up. A quick stop at one of the many pie shops and we were on our way back home after an excellent day in the bush.