30/11/2019 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay

What often surprises me is how many little known canyons are still waiting to be discovered - or rediscovered - so close to civilisation.

A couple of weeks ago, Rachel and I visited a couple of creeks in the Blue Mountains, one of which was a good canyon that appears to be very rarely visited. I had visited the lower part of this creek many years before, approaching down one of its tributaries, which was not a canyon. This time we came in via a different tributary, which was also a canyon. The canyon is quite vertical, and even though I'd previously done it with two long ropes, it felt at times as if we were going to run out!

After completing the trip, we drove and camped out, and were planning to do another exploratory trip the following day. However, we needed to be back in Sydney for dinner, and after a late start, we decided that an exploratory canyon might jeopardise getting back in time. Instead, we headed for coffee in Mt Vic, lunch at Olympian Rock, and a short walk/scramble up to Portal Lookout.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and we decided to take on the previously cancelled trip. This one would be a lot flatter, so we took a single medium length rope just in case.

After a walk along the road, we headed down a scrubby ridge into a small creek. The going in the creek was generally pretty good, and we stopped after a short distance for morning tea. A bold Eastern Water Skink saw us eating and tried to climb on to Rachel's foot to get a piece of the action, something Rachel strongly discouraged. Undeterred, the skink climbed up on the log we were sitting on, and approached Rachel again, before Rachel thumped it (the log, not the skink) a few times to get it to back off. Trying a new plan of attack, the skink started circling around to where I was sitting. We had finished our morning tea by this stage, so headed off before he bolstered up the courage to have another crack. A surprisingly ballsy lizard given how infrequently he is likely to see humsns!

After some more creek walking, the creek dropped through boulders, and then a slabby section that started to look promising. A canyon slowly formed around us. We had been going for some time, so I concluded that we must have missed the junction, and that we were now in a section of the main creek that I already knew had canyon. The canyon was quite impressive, and eventually opened out and reached another creek junction, which I planned to exit at. We sat down for lunch. I was quite surprised when I pulled out the GPS to mark out lunch spot to find we were still in the side creek, and that the canyon section we had just done was all new!

That of course meant we still had a way to go.

After lunch, we pressed on through another long section of canyon, and then a bit of creek walking before my hoped for exit gully. The exit gully certainly tried hard to not be an exit. It turned into a little canyon, similar to Sheep Dip or Twister. Around each corner was a waterfall, usually around 2-3m high, variously sloping to vertical. Some we were able to climb up directly, others I would boost Rachel up, and then I would climb up and haul on her leg to get up the slippery waterfalls. After at least half a dozen of these the canyon finally opened out and we were able to escape on the left.

As it turned out, this was a bad mistake. With the benefit of hindsight and aerial photos, had we gone another 200m upstream, we probably would have had a relatively easy walk out up a scrubby ridge. But our exit spot seemed lead to a wonderland of banksia, hakea and tea-tree, interspersed with small clifflines. Given the angle of the slope, it was probably the worst scrub I've encountered, and that's saying something! At its worst, it us an hour to go 150m horizontal and 70m vertical. Where we weren't wading through head high ferns, or fighting through banksia scrub, this sometimes involved hanging on to sedges and sword grass to get up steep little cliffs of dirt. By the time we reached the top of the ridge we were cut and scratched to pieces.

From there, we had another 40 minutes of "normal" scrub to get back to a track, and then an easy walk back to the car. An excellent day, though somewhat diminished by our route out!