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 outside.
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 thirst.
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: