09/02/2013 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan

Over the years I have explored much of the Wollangambe River for canyon. A few years ago I'd done one of the parts of the upper Wollangambe, and there had been some excellent sections of canyon, with long swims. With a fair way to go until I knew we could exit again, we climbed out that day and walked back to the cars.

Having a day free and going solo, I decided to finish off the section, walking in where we'd climbed out, and going downstream to where I'd walked to on previous trips.

With a latish start from Sydney and stops in every town from Katoomba to Mt Vic, it was almost midday by the time I set off. Not the greatest start, since the weather was hot and humid, with the chance of storms. Thankfully there was a little cloud that kept the direct temperatures down a touch.

I followed a track for some time, and then left the track and headed down an easy ridge, wading through a mass of ferns at the bottom into the Wollangambe. It was a hot day, and there was a noticeable temperature drop in the vicinity of the river. Being hassled by biting flies, I changed quickly into my wetsuit and set off downstream. Almost immediately there was the ominous rumble of thunder. Having only just reached the river, I attempted to ignore its possible message and press on regardless.

The river was flowing quite well. Quickly I reached the first scrubby obstacle, a large mess of fallen timber blocking the stream that was too low to go under and not strong enough to go over. There seemed to be a fair bit of this along the river, though it wasn't clear if this was the result of the recent rains, or if it had been there for a while. The river bottom varied between sandy sections and shingled ironstone, more of the latter than the former. Interspersed was the occasional large black boulder, which inevitably proved incredibly slippery.

The river continued in this fashion for quite a way, and while - other than the wood blockups - it was quite pretty, I was looking for canyon. The odd overhang would break things up for a while as the cliffs came down to the river on one side, but not the other at the same time!

A bouldery section tantalised, but around the corner it was more of the same. At the start of another boulder section I stopped for lunch, hoping that just beyond things would get interesting. Unfortunately not.

I reached a longish swim around a corner and finally looked down a canyon.Pretty poor quality, but canyon nonetheless. It didn't last long, but not much further on I came to a deep pool with massive boulders blocking the river at one end, and dropped in. After filling water from a side waterfall, there was some more canyon, a longer section. There was one more section of canyon before I reached a junction I'd been to a couple of times many years ago. At this point I was in familiar territory. I stripped off my wetsuit for the climb out, as the ongoing rumble of thunder that had followed me all afternoon finally turned into a brief spattering of rain. I was pretty disappointed with the canyon, but that's sometimes the way. You never know unless you go.

The ridge was easy in places, scrubby in others, and it took me a while to hit the track. I was not feeling particularly fit and I stopped for a break for afternoon tea not far after. From there I decided I should push on back to the car in one hit. I crossed the small creek a few kms short of the car and pretty much dogged it all the way from there. Admittedly it was 17km including a reasonable amount of off track in an afternoon, but I was a bit short of fitness.

I headed to Blackheath for dinner, abandoning thoughts of a night trip down Grand due to tiredness and an incoming storm (with real rain). Overall a good day filling in a missing piece of the puzzle, even if it wasn't great canyon.