02-03/02/2019 - report - photos - Upper Wollangambe Canyon track notes
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay
Despite only patchy white areas on the radar, it drizzled and rained all the way up the mountains to Mt Wilson. Rachel refused to let me drive for the first bit, to ensure that we'd stop for petrol. I would have pushed on to North Richmond, despite our little petrol incident on the Hume Highway the week before!
Luckily there was little rain at Mt Wilson, and the bush was in fact pretty dry. There was another large group getting ready in the car park, to do the Tourist Section by the looks of it. They were starting late (after midday), and looked ill prepared for a cool wet day in the canyon, though they did at least have wetsuits. We wondered if we should say something, but didn't.
We headed off down the track with raincoats on, but took them off only a short way down. Crossing the 'Gambe at the Geronimo entry, we headed up to the first outcrop for a scenic lunch. The Geronimo track is pretty faint in places. Given that we were continuing along the ridge rather than dropping off into the creek, it didn't really matter. Once we were well up on the ridge, the vegetation got easier, and we made fairly good going along the ridges, to the ridge to the north of Wollangambe Crater. The vegetation seems to have largely recovered from the fires of Oct 2013, and I imagine in another couple of years things might start to get pretty scrubby. We dropped off the ridge to hit the creek near the Wollangambe junction, and then had the worst section of scrub to cover the approx 300m to the camp cave. There had been a decent pad when I was last there - but that was 2010 - and we only managed to pick it up for short stretches.
Eventually we emerged into the cave, but our hopes of finding the others already there and firewood collected were dashed. No sign of anyone! Perhaps Rachel's email to the others about the weather in the mountains had put them off?
After a bit of firewood collection, we heard Toni and Smiffy on the ridge. Still no sign of Emmanuelle, Vivien and J, or Nicole and Brooner. Apparently they had all been ahead of Toni and Smiffy, so where they were was a bit of a mystery.
It was a while longer before they all emerged from the scrub along the river, having chosen to visit the Crater. Like us they had had an unpleasant slog for the final section. We all settled into the cave, got a fire going and started happy hour.
The following morning, Rachel and I were ready first, and set off over the ridge. More painful scrub on the bank on the other side before we got to the Crater. From there we had a pretty good route over the ridge and into a side creek that took us into the 'Gambe, cutting off what I recalled as being a slow, boring section of river. The 'Gambe was beautiful, clear water running over a sandy bottom, beneath high sandstone cliffs. Unsurprisingly, no signs of anyone else. We wetsuited up, and set off, walking, wading and swimming down the river.
This part of the Wollangambe has some of the best sections of canyon in the whole river, though the good bits are interspersed with some sandy stretches and the occasional rocky rapids or boulder blockup. The rocks and logs were all wet from days of rain, and were slippery as ice. Most of them were negotiated on all fours or bum-sliding. After slow progress early on, the sandy sections became more frequent, and we started to make better time.
Just past the Geronimo junction we reconnected with humanity, passing a party from SPAN Outdoors. A short push from there, and we were at the beach at the exit stripping off wetsuits.
We powered up the hill to the car. In my case I was being hounded by the small black biting flies, so I was pretty disinclined to stop! We were back at the car just after 4pm, for about an 8 hour day. A signficant improvement over the 14 hours from 10 years ago!
A compulsory apple pie stop at Pie in the Sky, and then home to Sydney. An excellent weekend in the bush.