SOUTHERN WOLLEMI – 23 July 2016
After two failed attempts, the repeat offenders agreed to come out with me yet again to find this unpublished canyon. Jeff, Trish N and I met up with Beth L, Andre M, Rod S and Heather R at the meeting spot. None of us wanted to get out of our warm cars, it wasn’t looking at all attractive, bitingly cold gale force winds. We shouldn’t have been surprised though, the wind was forecast and it was after all July!
The road out to the start was a mass of pot holes and it was obvious the forecast rain had eventuated as they were all water-filled. The advertised “dry” trip (that Andre kept reminding me about) would possibly be a little wetter than expected.
We set off to where I hoped to find the canyon. I’d been given a little hint this time (which I didn’t have the last two times); I’d played the “little old lady” and the “I’ve only got so many more exploratory trips left in me” cards and someone (who will remain nameless but to whom I am eternally grateful) had taken pity on me so I was quietly confident that we’d nail it this time.
From our high point overlooking a large gully, it was looking good. We walked down into what was supposed to be a dry watercourse and found a running stream, our first hint that this wouldn’t be so dry. We continued downstream and came to a small drop, 1m into a pool, then another 2m into another pool, this would ordinarily be a scramble but with the pools, we opted to negotiate around this section and stay dry. At this point, Jeff, who never intended actually going down the canyon, left us for a day exploring by himself, so we were down to a nice small group of 6.
We next came to a small waterfall, probably about 10 – 12m you couldn’t be sure as it wound around a little. Again, not wanting to get wet we were able to climb around it and check it out from the bottom, where we found a deep-ish pool.
We were now less confident that we were in the right place as I’d been expecting to see a small constricted tunnel and so far we hadn’t found one. We walked further downstream trying to keep feet dry and then found the constriction, it had a lot of water in it and was about 15m long.
Again we negotiated our way around it, none of us wanted to get wet, it was just too cold. I tried to peek up it from the end but the water was calf deep and it turned a corner so didn’t get very far but it was now pretty obvious we were in the right place. Yay!
A little while later we came to another waterfall, again constricted. Not wanting to get wet or land in the pool at the bottom, we abseiled off to the side and then elected to do another small 3m abseil to avoid a difficult climb down, ordinarily, without the unexpected amount of water, you would have been able to scramble down the creek to avoid this 3m drop.
I sort of lost track at this stage, I guess I was just so impressed with the canyon, I think we did another dry abseil off to the right again (see pic at the left), but not really sure, it was definitely before the big waterfall and was about 20m.
It looked like we were now at the final “100ft waterfall”. Andre found another route around to the right where we could abseil down a nice dry wall, landing just to the left of the deep pool. We were finally down at the bottom. The pool was about thigh deep, the waterfall was covered with moss. I couldn’t see evidence where other abseilers had dislodged the moss, but Heather and Beth thought that they could.
We didn’t find any fixed anchors through the canyon and we left none behind so it is still pretty pristine, plus in our effort to stay dry, we’d used different natural anchors than others would have used.
Twice I’d walked past this waterfall, once about five years ago and then two years ago, and at both times I’d noted that it was bone dry, not even a pool at the bottom. I’d been looking for a spot to camp (with water nearby), which is why I’d taken note of the waterfall. So much for our “dry” canyon and evidence of the wet winter!
Our exit was a route that I’d done two years ago. To approach it we walked through a lovely coachwood forest which was very open, no scrub bashing whatsoever. We had to walk a few hundred metres to the point where I figured I could pick up the route which was on a ledge between two cliff-lines. We were soon up on the ledge and eventually up on top and then it was a matter of following our noses back to the well-trodden track and the old dis-used fire trail which would lead us to our cars. On the walk out the rain spat on us (enough to get out rain jackets), and although it was still very windy, all in all, the weather had been kind to us.
Car to car it was a 7 hour trip, we didn’t stuff around with much route finding and the navigation was straight forward plus we’d picked up a bit of time not doing a couple of the possible abseils but it was still a lot longer than my estimated 1/2 day.
We were all pretty stoked that we’d finally nailed the canyon, but decided that we’d have to go back in the summer and do it again so that we could walk through the constriction and abseil the waterfalls, and then that would be it, we wouldn’t do it again and it would have time to recover a little before the next explorers came along. Thanks everyone for joining me on this expedition!
(NB: If this were social media, I wouldn’t name the canyon that we did, but, the name has been used in a You Tube video so there’s no need to be secretive about it now, although if I spell it out, I’ll have people asking me where it is! I wasn’t specific about how we got to where we went, or how we got out. We visited what we call an “unpublished” canyon and it is a canyoning ethic that we don’t publish these canyons or how to get to them on social media or the internet. Plus, giving more details takes all the fun out of it for the true explorers!)