23-24/03/2012 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, James Yorston

After working too many Fridays, I finally worked my normal 4-day week, and James and I headed out along the Glowworm Tunnel Road for a "weekend" of canyoning. The road was in crap condition, a legacy of a summer of rain, and a couple of spots in particular were a struggle to cross. By the time the 4wds hit the road on Saturday, it was going to be difficult getting back. At least we had the Forester!

It was a couple of hours of tedious walk in to where we left our overnight gear, and then a bit further alonge to where we headed off the trail into the bush. The ridge was fine but the scrub in the side creek was doing well from the weather. It eased off once we reached the main creek, and shortly we reached a short, unimpressive-looking drop. The first section of canyon had two abseils, but was fairly forgettable.

It opened out into a bouldery creek, where pretty much everything moved. Any pile of leaf litter or sticks inevitably hid a hole that your foot would go right through, the rocks all had a nice sheen of algae, and one large boulder I stepped on started to roll with me on it! James and I were only too happy when the creek returned to bedrock and took a tumble into a deep slot.

The first abseil was a nice one, off a tree, beside a waterfall, into a deep, round amphitheatre. The canyon walls were high, though the canyon was almost dry, a small creek trickling through the rubble. A little way downstream was the impressive second abseil, off a boulder into a deep slot. We replaced a fairly worn and tatty sling around the boulder. The pulldown was going to prove difficult as the rope wanted to roll into a narrow crack, so I piled up a few rocks to hold the sling in place. Just below this, the final abseil dropped down through a hole in a blockup of chockstones, the end to a short but impressive canyon.

At a creek junction, James and I wandered around into the side creek, which looked briefly interesting but ended quickly at a large waterfall.

Our original plan was to head upstream for some way and try and reverse another creek, but instead we decided to have lunch and search for a nearby pass. The pass was easy to find, though a little harder to negotiate, some pack passing required for the steep bottom section. James headed up the gully above, which looked like it might be difficult at the top, while I wandered around to the next gully, which turned out to be pretty easy, if steep and a bit loose in places. We were soon at the top of the cliffs enjoying spectacular valley views. There were plenty more lookouts on the way up, though the final ridge back to the trail was scrubby and slow, not helped by the fact that we paralleled the road for about 10 minutes because we hadn't bothered to get the map out!

For some strange reason we turned right, thinking that we'd left our gear where we left the trail. It was only after reaching our turnoff point that we remembered we'd left the gear where we expected to come up the gully, a kilometre or so back. D'oh! Nothing for it but to walk this section of trail for the third time, and retrieve the gear. We made a plan for the next day and spent too long looking for a campsite, trying to find somewhere on the ridge top not exposed to the strong sou'wester.

The wind ended up dying down during the evening, and we had a pleasant evening around the campfire. With a bit of breeze and no chance of rain, we didn't bother with flies and were able to drift off to sleep in full view of the stars. It had been a long time since I'd been able to do that (unless you count glowworms!).

The next day we headed off just before 9 and down towards a canyon James and I had both done previously. This time we decided to go via the other branch, which we had previously walked up from the bottom. We were above the creek quite quickly, but with no obvious way down. Luckily we were able to find a series of steps further down that lead us into the creek without an abseil. Only just below here the creek dropped into a narrow slot, and we abseiled down a squeezy drop. This was the same point we had walked up to previously, so we had some scrambling and bridging out to the junction.

For old times sake we headed up the other branch, a wide chamber leading to a narrow slot and then a deepish pool which I had no interest in testing the depth of.

The creek was mostly easier going than the previous day and we soon reached the lower canyon. A few climbs down logs led to the first drop off a large tree fern. There was no anchor at the next drop, so we continued down on the same rope. The pulldown was again going to be awkward, and I jammed a rock in the top crack. I probably should have done something to the bottom crack as well, since the rope slipped in there and wouldn't move. It seemed to be just friction since a concerted effort from both of us got it going and the rope thankfully pulled free.

After a climb down logs, there was another impressive drop. This one also had a nice crack for the rope to slide into, though it looked like it would pull ok. Of course, from the bottom it wouldn't, though some manoeuvring of the rope got the strands the right way around and down it came.

The tricky drops didn't end, as the next one had no anchor. My memory from the previous time was that we had climbed down it. Impressive, since even getting to the edge down a chute seemed dodgy to the me of 7 years later! James belayed me down off himself, and I couldn't see a safe way of protecting it. In the end he was able to jam a log and I tested the rope from the bottom before he abseiled off it.

From there, it was not far to the end of the canyon at a creek junction. By this time it was getting on towards 2, and it was a good thing we had brought our lunch rather than leaving it back at camp as I had suggested!

We headed downstream through a beautiful rainforest gorge to the creek we were originally planning to use as an exit the day before. There were a few patches of quite prickly raspberry, making the going a bit painful at times. The lower section of creek was pretty poor quality canyon, with a number of tricky boulder scrambles, a couple of which needed some passing of packs. At the junction, we were hoping to take the right branch, which looked an easier exit on the aerials, but a large boulder blockup forced us out on the left side of the left branch and up to the cliffline. Oh well, we would just see how we went.

Quickly it narrowed into a gorge, and then a canyon, and things were looking a little grim. I managed to force my way up the first obstacle, a massive chockstone in the creek, and let a rope down to haul up packs. The next waterfall was the worst. Barely wide enough to squeeze through sideways, I couldn't bend my left leg to push up off, and could feel my strength slipping away as I scrabbled for holds. Eventually I pulled over the chockstone, puffing and panting, only to find that a similar looking waterfall awaited us. This one looked a little easier, and I could see it opening out above, so I called James up. With a fair bit of effort, we hauled up the packs and James climbed up after. This next one was also quite narrow, though only with one awkward move to get over a chockstone at the top. It looked like we would be able to get out with some scrambling, so again I called James on. Some more pack-hauling ensued, and we were up. One more set of scrambles and we had reversed the canyon.

From there it was a mostly easy walk up the ridge until the scrubby top, and over the hill to the trail. Already getting late, and with at least a two hour walk back to the car, we hot-footed it back to our gear. After a quick pack and tidy up of the camp, we hit the trail at speed. We made good time, and it was only the last couple of kilometres in the dark to the welcome car.

Of course, with the road condition, it wasn't over by some way. The 4wds had indeed chewed things up pretty badly, and there was a fair bit of wheel spinning on both sections before we got through. Amusingly we passed quite a few 2wd vehicles heading in on Saturday night. Odd! i wonder what their reactions were when they reached the mud!

I called ahead for pizza at Richmond, since we were plenty ready to eat, and then we headed for home. An excellent "weekend"!