26/12/2013-01/01/2014 - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Richard Pattison, Andrew "Smiffy" Smith, Antoniya Bachvarova, Sue Bucknell

Rachel and Smiffy also have photos from this trip

As we've done for a number of Easters and Xmas/New Years, we headed into the northern Blue Mountains on an extended trip to explore for new canyons. This time we had a group of 6, and we were out for 6 nights, which is probably about as much canyoning as my feet can take! It probably didn't help that we covered a fair distance, that a number of our days were quite long, and that I didn't sit out any of the side trips.

The first half of the trip was in a relatively new area for us, and our canyons and passes were mainly guided by studying the aerial photos. The second half of the trip had us moving through areas we had visited before, so we had some existing knowledge of potential canyons and passes.

With a number of fires burning in the Wollemi, we were a little unsure as to whether our trip would be able to go ahead. In the end there was some decent rain before and during Xmas. However, we could still see plenty of smoke from the Girribung Creek fire beyond Gospers Mountain, and had a lot of noise from helicopters flying over us every day.

  • Day 1 - we walked in a short distance to a camp site
  • Day 2 - we started off by dropping down into the upper reaches of a creek not far from camp, which had a short section of poor canyon. Below this was a nice gorge. At a creek junction, Rich and I explored upstream and found another short canyon, with a pool. Rich swam through to confirm that the canyon section ended just out of sight. Then it was a walk downstream to a larger creek, and up a nearby pass which we had spotted on aerial photos. Over the ridge was our next creek, which also looked good from aerials. It turned out to be a great canyon, narrow, twisting and dark, though we were able to climb down all of the drops. At the next creek junction we spread out to look for camp caves and camp sites, and managed to find a decent camp cave not too far away. Rich, Smiffy, Toni and I did an afternoon walk to another nearby creek, which had a bad canyon in it. After exploring one other scrubby tributary which had nothing in it, we huddled under an overhang for a while as a storm came through. Then it was back to the bags and on to the cave for the night.
  • Day 3 - I had reasonable hopes for our first creek for the day, in between two others we had already explored. We climbed a pass that we had spotted the day before. It started with a shallow section of canyon which we could climb down, and then opened out into a clearing. This soon became scrubby and unpleasant, with head high ferns hiding prickly raspberry. After negotiating the raspberry and climbing through a hole, we were in an impressive steep gorge, but unfortunately it never became canyon, though there was a nice waterfall at the end which we could scramble around. After returning to our cave, Rich, Rachel, Sue and I set off to check out two more creeks that looked interesting on the aerials. The first turned into a short canyon, and we managed to force our way up a steep gully at the junction, and from there we were able to get on to the ridge. I decided we should drop in to the next creek near the top, which turned out to be an unnecessary waste of effort. However, lower down it did drop into a narrow slot, with some interesting bridging and downclimbing. Still abseil free at this point...
  • Day 4 - we left our camp cave, and headed down a larger creek. At a junction, Rich, Smiffy and I left the other three and climbed up a gully and over a ridge into another creek. This was an interesting, but fairly low quality canyon, with several abseils, and we rejoined the ladies, who had followed the larger creek, at the bottom of the final drop. After a short walk downstream, we left packs and climbed a pass to the top of the ridge. There was plenty of smoke in the air, and we were a little worried, as we didn't know what was going on with the fires. We easily scrambled down into our next creek, which turned out to be another good one, with half a dozen abseils down a nice slot. Then it was back to our packs for lunch. After lunch we had a interesting slab to negotiate on our pass. On top of the ridge, Toni was able to get mobile reception, so could confirm that the fire was no danger to us. So we dropped down into a steep creek that seemed to take a long time to become canyon. Eventually it got very good, with a number of abseils, and ended at a junction with a larger canyon. A little way downstream, Rich and I went for a walk up yet another very good canyon. We were able to walk up to a very large waterfall, which looked like the top of the canyon. Then it was a short walk downstream to a nice camp site on sandy flats.
  • Day 5 - we set off early in the morning up a side creek. This turned in to low quality canyon, with an awkward climb up at one point that had Rich, Smiffy and me all trying to scale different bits of the canyon. There was a little more canyon higher up, but nothing special. We climbed up a pass and over the ridge into our next creek. This was also pretty crappy, and we met a larger creek and walked downstream through a nice gorge. Passing a side canyon, we headed into some real canyon in the main creek. At the next junction, we climbed up another short canyon, into a wide neck, and onto a ridge. From there, we were able to traverse back into the side canyon we had passed on the way. The lower section of this was short but spectacular, with a fairly long underground tunnel stretching back from the main abseil. After lunch, we continued down the main creek through some more pleasant canyon, checking out some side creeks on the way (poor canyons) to a junction with another canyon. Rich, Smiffy, Toni and I explored downstream to another side creek, a canyon which Rich and I were able to completely reverse with some grunting and groaning. After returning to the junction, we headed up the other canyon to an exit we had used previously. Leaving packs we visited the bottom of the canyon through some very spectacular sections until we reached a waterfall. Finally we exited up the pass and walked along the side of the ridge to a nice ridge top campsite which we had used before.
  • Day 6 - we headed off to check out several creeks that looked promising on the aerial photos. Leaving our bags, we were able to scramble into the first. This, the most unlikely, was a dud, with no canyon, and a big drop. We climbed over the ridge to the next, which was reasonable but fairly short. We scrambled out at the last abseil, where the canyon appeared to open out, and walked back to our packs. Then it was a short walk to the third canyon. This was a great one. While not that deep, it was narrow and twisting, with a number of abseils. At the end we had lunch in a large overhang, and then made our way down to the valley via a narrow ledge and a steep loose slope. Filling up water for a high camp, we headed up our next creek which we had heard had canyon in it. Lower down in the gorge we reached a tricky drop that Rich did well to get up and put a rope down. Higher up, we climbed out a pass and up to a lookout to camp. With a couple of hours left in the day, Rich and I went down the top section of creek that we had missed earlier. It was, to quote someone, a "f***in' dud". All gorge, no canyon. Not even a crappy one. Them's the breaks! We had New Year's Eve enjoying a moody sunset over the rugged landscape, from the smoke from the fires still burning.
  • Day 7 - we all went our separate ways. Rich and I headed off in different directions intending to each descend a canyon and meet at a creek junction for more exploration. Sue, Toni and Smiffy headed for the same canyon as me without the time pressure. And Rachel headed for the cars and a swim. I'd done my canyon previously, but it was great to revisit, especially as there were some beautiful sunbeams so early in the day. Rich and I managed to time our canyons to perfection, arriving at our designated junction within a minute of each other, and about half an hour early. Exploring up our creek, we quickly hit canyon from the bottom. We climbed a steep pass and traversed around until we could enter the creek higher up. The creek had three abseils and wasn't a bad canyon, again reconfirming what we had found on the trip - that canyons can be found in very small creeks. Then it was up our pass again, and a slog back to the road, where we had a 9km road bash to the car.