25-26/10/2014 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay
"This article describes a spectacular new canyon in the Wollangambe Wilderness. It is Short Creek, which joins Bungleboori Creek from the south just under a mile downstream from Yarramun Creek. It is a two rope, wet canyon, which is remarkably scunge-free, and canyon conditions continue right to the bottom. Also, with the route guide information given later in this article, it can be reached in an ordinary weekend by average parties. So this trip should become fairly popular when news of it is circulated."
So wrote Chris Cosgrove in the Kameruka magazine in 1974. Judging by the number of photos or reports on the web, I'd say his prediction of its popularity was overstated!
I had been looking to visit Short Creek for many years. I remember cancelling an Easter trip back in maybe 2003 when everyone got sick! More recently, Rachel had also been interested in doing it, but had been put off by the scrub. Rik had mentioned several years back that he had done it as a day trip, of which something like 12 hours had been spent fighting scrub. We resolved to wait until a fire went through before attempting it!
Early afternoon on October 17 last year, the State Mine Fire was burning out near Lithgow, many kilometres away from the lower Bungleboori. Rachel joked that maybe Short Creek would be doable next season, a prediction that came true in only about 3 hours when the fire raced 25km across the Wollangambe Wilderness, destroying 5 homes along the way.
When the first hot weekend in October arrived, I somewhat foolishly suggest we try and hit up Short Creek. Perhaps I should have thought a little more about the amount of walking across the tops, even despite the lack of scrub. Certainly on the Sunday afternoon, when the mercury climbed up over 30, we were absolutely plodding!
We set off on the Saturday morning from Mt Irvine. I luckily had phone reception, as I couldn't remember how to get to the start of the track leading to the Tesselated Pavements, and had to consult my own website!
On our previous visit to the Tesselated Pavements, we had continued down the pass into the Wollangambe. My abiding memory was raw legs from Mountain Holly, so it was a pleasure wandering through open bush! I remember little else from that descent. The going in the creek was slower than I remembered, though not all that hard in the scheme of things, and we were at the 'Gambe in about an hour and a half from the car.
From here on we were in new territory. A few patches of lawyer vine was the only real unpleasant stuff left post the fires. Climbing out of the next creek downstream, we had some small clifflines to negotiate, with one short pack haul, but we were soon near the top of the ridge having morning tea. It was an hour and a quarter's walk across nearly 4km of now open tops. Navigation was made much easier as you normally get a view of incoming ridges and high points through the thin tree cover. The march flies were out in force, as were the wildflowers. Lobelias and Dampieras were the most common, with Isopogons and Patersonia (native iris) out as well. The bright red flag of one lonely Waratah was the only one we saw on the whole trip.
Descending into a side creek, we searched without luck for a way through the small cliffline. Eventually we cut our losses and abseiled 5m down a slab that we probably could have climbed up if we were desperate. The cool of the creek was a welcome relief from the heat of the tops, as we had lunch under an overhang. I was feeling almost chilly by the end of lunch, and we knew it was unlikely we would see the sun for the rest of the day.
The interest started soon after our side creek flowed into Short Creek, with some drops that we could climb down, before a larger drop that we abseiled. The creek started to form a canyon, and then the first of the two main abseils arrived. While there were two slings around the obvious tree, both came away in my hand, burnt through, presumbably by falling debris from last year's fires. One of our two 37m ropes was conveniently just the right length, not that we could tell from the top. The pool at the bottom was shallow on one side, but unfortunately not where you could get off the rope, entailing a swim!
Unsure of the length of the next drop, we left the previous abseil rigged, and tossed the other 37m rope single strand off the somewhat dubious bolts. I heard the "off rope" call from Rachel, and then had to swim back to retrieve the first rope. The longer abseil also ended in a large, deep pool, so by the time I had finished pulling the ropes from both drops, having been treading water in the spray of both falls, I was shivering a fair bit. As it turned out the longer abseil appeared only to be about 23m, judging from the position of the knot.
The canyon only continued a short way further before opening out a little, into a very deep and beautiful gorge. Time was getting on, and we were keeping an eye out for campsites. None were forthcoming, as the gorge stayed deep and narrow, with the occasional swim or deep wade to keep us on our toes. Nearing the junction with the Bungleboori, we started to hear the rumble of thunder. It echoed ominously in the narrow confines of the gorge, and when Rachel spotted a small overhang, we decided it might be worth taking. The storm eventually passed, its bark worse than its bite, with only a shortish shower of rain, though it did storm again briefly overnight.
The next morning dawned fine and warm. We wandered down to the Bungleboori for a bit of a look. I explored downstream a few hundred metres through some scrub into a nice section of gorge, and also spent some time checking out possible passes. We then returned to our packs and headed up the pass, which would have been more straightforward had we stuck to the creek. We were soon up in the sun on a rocky ridge, where we stopped for morning tea. Then it was a slog in the hot sun across the tops to the Wollangambe. I stopped twice to tape my feet, which seemed lack a bit of toughness. Our pass was fairly easy to find, and we were soon down at the Wollangambe, enjoying a refreshing swim at lunch.
Then it was back out the way we came. Both of us were plodding by this stage. We enjoyed a short break photographing the field of flannel flowers below the Tesselated Pavements, before following, and mostly losing, the track back to the car.