[SUBW-A] Trip report - Northern Wollemi canyoning

Roger Butler R.Butler at lake.com.au
Thu Jan 31 09:35:06 AEDT 2002

Party members: Luke Binsted, Justin Blows, Stephanie Cuthbert

After an eventless drive, Luke and I arrived at the Glen Davis campground
ten minutes after Stephanie and Justin on Friday night.  We all had a
sleep-deprived night due to mosquitoes, but bounced up early on Australia
Day and headed for our canyoning destination.

This involved driving through farmland so we did the right thing and knocked
on the door of the farm house to seek permission to go through their land.
We were greeted (sort of) by a deceptively frail old lady who's first two
sentences were "I thought I heard a tap on the door." and "Do you have
permission to be on private land?"  We sought her permission in the nicest
possible way and managed to turn her reasonably emphatic "no" into an "I'm
not really happy about it, but ok."  The main stumbling block was our
honesty when asked whether we'd be lighting fires.  Perhaps honesty is not
the best policy.

So we set off and climbed towards a steep cliffline.  We found a pass
through and headed off along the ridge.  We had lunch and dropped our full
packs in the bush, taking day packs into our first canyon.  This started
with a narrow teaser section in the headwaters, became a normal creek again,
then launched into full canyon quite a way.  It had a few small drops, all
of which Luke managed to hand-over-hand.  The scenery was beautiful but the
smell was anything but.  Thankfully, we got used to the rancid swamp gas and
reassured ourselves that it was caused only by naturally decaying leaf
matter.  Coming to a creek junction, we explored the other branches but
found no sign of canyon.  So we retreated back to our packs and followed a
ridge to a likely campsite.  My navigation faltered on the flat ridgetop and
we stopped short of our destination, being corrected by Justin's GPS.  But
it was late, we'd had a long day, and our destination could wait.

We enjoyed olives, gnocchi, pasta, port, cake, custard, and even a
lightly-roasted witchetty grub during the night's dining.  Luckily, we'd
also found a mossie-free site and slept well into the next morning.  We
gathered our gear and climbed over a knoll to find a magnificent campsite at
our original destination.  If we'd known we would have continued last night!
We all decided that this would be a good base for the next two days' canyons
and left our packs among the grassy glades.

It was only a short way from this site to a long canyon that took much of
the day to negotiate.  Like the previous canyon, it began with a couple of
narrow teaser sections.  It then became a long canyon of superb quality.
Again, it was very narrow in parts and had deep dark sections that we used
torches to explore.  It started dry but became wetter as we went along.
There were a couple of small abseils and one 15m one into a deep cavern.  We
climbed out several kilometres downstream at a junction and relaxed with a
cup of tea overlooking the opposite cliffs.  We arrived back at camp early
and set up for a very relaxing night on our grassy site.  After dinner, we
all traipsed up onto a ridge to watch the sun set through the trees.

Day three dawned as clear as the previous two and again we left our full
packs behind while we explored a local canyon.  The headwaters were
beautiful, with black boys spread among the moss and leaf litter.  The
canyon was wetter than the previous two and had narrow swims and narrow
abseils.  Like the others, it didn't smell good, but was quite long and
impressive.  At the end, we found a pass onto the lower cliffline and then
an long, exposed traverse onto the nose of the ridge.  Safely at the top, we
made our way back to the packs and headed back towards the cars.

But the fun wasn't over!  We still had time to explore another canyon.
Given that the previous canyons were all narrow, we didn't want to carry
full packs into this one.  So we concocted a plan to drop packs at the end
of the canyon and then walk around the ridge to the start.  But walking in
the heat of the day removed our desire to travel any further than we had to.
So Plan B was enacted.  Rather than walk all the way round to a likely pass
on the other side of the canyon, Luke and I abseiled straight in on the
closer side.  The abseil was potentially longer than our ropes, so Luke went
packless with prussik loops first.  Justin and Stephanie walked back via
another pass and met us in a creek near the farmland later.

After the long abseil, we explored upstream and found the deepest, darkest,
narrowest canyon yet.  It wasn't a long section, but was possible to climb
upstream and then downstream again through the mossy slots.  The significant
temperature drop and short wades were a welcome break from the torrid heat

We again donned packs and boulder-hopped down towards farmland, arriving at
a welcome creek about 15 minutes before Justin and Stephanie.  We lay in the
creek recovering and getting somewhat clean, and made tea to replenish our

We drove out and thanked the farmers for their reluctant hospitality, and
stopping again at Blackheath for a good meal.

I forgot to take the canyon on the second day, so these photos are of
canyons on days 1 and 3:


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