23-24/07/2011 - report - photos - Long Gully Canyon track notes

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Richard Pattison, Andrew "Smiffy" Smith, Neil Soutar, Sue Bucknell

After a week of rain in Sydney, it was nice to go somewhere it wasn't raining. Rich had driven down the day before, to walk some gear in to the river. We bumped into him on Saturday morning at the deepest of the puddles on the road in to the Stan Jones Car Park, futilely trying to drain it with his toilet trowel. Luckily the Forester had no issues with the road, though Sue and Rich waited for Neil to arrive and gave him a lift in Sue's Forester. Rich had managed to get his Mazda in the afternoon before.

We left at about 9:30 and headed down the Stan Jones Trail, along a ridge and into the creek. The creek was particularly slippery after the rain, though there was little or no flow. There were a number of small drops to climb down before the first abseil. Rich had climbed down this on a previous trip, but in the wet conditions it looked a bit treacherous so we abseiled. The second drop is the most impressive one, the creek opening out with views all the way down to the Shoalhaven, and a long abseil down a big wall. We had morning tea at the top while Rich rigged up. After a bit of a walk the abseils started to come thick and fast. Rachel pulled the rope over a large loose rock on one of the abseils and managed to pull it down on herself, only avoiding injury by some fancy footwork. There were a couple of longer abseils, but most of them were short and some of us climbed down a couple of them.

The Jamieson guide suggests Long Gully is a Grade 5 or 6 canyon and is a very long day. We left the cars a little before 10am and were down at the Shoalhaven for a late lunch around 2pm. The canyon itself is in quartzite rock, similar to Kanangra, but with more loose rock, and less water. In terms of difficulty, a little harder than Dione Dell, but easier than Kalang Falls. Using the Jamieson grading system, probably a Grade 4.

The Shoalhaven was up a couple of metres, putting in jeopardy our plans to do Fordham Canyon the next day. Smiffy put a stick in the bank to track the water level. The water was brown and murky, and flowing fairly quickly. It looked like it would need to drop at least a metre for us to be able to cross safely.

After lunch, we walked upstream to the bottom of the last drop in Spring Creek. We mucked around there for quite a while, bouldering on the walls, and skimming stones across the pool. We pushed on further, scrambling along the ledges in the Blockup Gorge until we got to a point that was going to require some delicate moves. The mud on the bottom of my shoes meant that was going to be problematic, and a wet end beckoned.

Back at camp we checked out the rapids, which were pumping. The river level had dropped about 10cm since lunch, not fast enough. We got the fire going and settled in for happy hour and dinner. Richard had a treat for us for dessert that he had brought down the day before - a cake box with individual apple and rhubarb crumbles, and custard.

The 8am start the next morning was abandoned as the water level had only dropped about 40cm total. Instead Rich suggested a walk down the Shoalhaven, climbing up to Mt Ayre, and then back to the cars across Becks Gully. It was mostly pleasant walking downstream, though we all had long pants on. The nettles might have been quite unpleasant otherwise. We stopped to view the Tolwong Chimneys from across the river, and had morning tea on rocky slabs just before the ridge leading up to Mt Ayre. All the layers came off at the foot of the ridge, though Rachel was regretting some of them as we had to wade through prickly scrub to get on to the more open slopes above. We were up the 420m climb in about 40 minutes, too early for lunch. So we walked around to have a look at Hogans Hole, and then back along the old trail leading out along a ridge over Becks Gully for lunch. We had 250m down into Becks Gully and then 370m up to the high point on the other side. In places the ridges were knife-edged, with good views into the creeks on either side. We were back at the cars bang on 3pm.

Unfortunately getting away wasn't quite so easy. Back at Neil's car, he'd left the lights on, and the car would not start, even when pushed. Reminiscent of Bell Creek earlier this year, when Neil left the lights on and his car wouldn't start...! Sue and he went off to talk to the ranger while the rest of us headed for the servo at Exeter. They eventually managed to get the car started, but Neil had to drive on straight back to Sydney to try and get the battery charged.