Canyoning – Newnes Valley, Looking Glass Canyon 18 January 2017
John G put Looking Glass plus a “mystery” canyon on the MSS calendar last November. I’d always wanted to do Looking Glass but had never gotten around to it and the thought of a mystery canyon where we wouldn’t know what we were doing until half way through the trip was intriguing.
It was a good roll-up, John, Beth L and Andre M, Josette (Jo), Catherine (Cat), Tim G and me and we all arrived on Friday night so that we’d have an early start at 7.00am. We sat around after setting up the tents and Beth asked me whether the walk in would be as long as C—–r Canyon (an epic 12 hour day). When I said that the walk in was much shorter than C—–r, I was referring to the part of the walk on the fire trail! Beth reminded me of my “much shorter” comment, quite a bit the next day.
Fortunately, John’s starting time was “just a target” as, other than me, everyone else had disturbed sleep due to some loud music that could be heard way past 2am! We actually didn’t get away until closer to 8, which was still early enough to beat the heat … we thought!
We set off from the camp crossed the Wolgan River and headed for the Firefly Canyon entry creek. We walked up on the lh side of the creek which was fairly easy going, although it was punishing in the heat (around 30+C). I’ve done this entry three times before, but my memory must be way off because when we got to the first cliff-line I thought we were home and hosed, only to discover there was another 100+m of boulders to negotiate that I’d totally forgotten about (comment from Beth “I thought you said this was shorter?”). Eventually though we were at the base of the cliff-line ready for the climb up which was new for everyone other than John and me.
Tim, Cat and Jo starting the climb up to access the top of the cliff-line
Andre (you can just make him out) at the top of the slot, Tim at the bottom
Andre and Tim for the pack hauling
John, followed by Cat and Jo in the slot. Neither John or I remember it being this narrow, you have to climb both across the slot and up at almost the same time, there are convenient logs for your feet (because there’s nothing under them that you could put your feet on), it’s really, really awkward and a relief to get to the top.
Once at the top you have to step across the chasm (probably only about 50cm but to me looks like 5m) and at the same time climb up the 1.5m. Andre, Tim and Beth made it look easy!
Cat, in her usual way, just stepped across and up making it look sooo easy, although you can see Beth there ready to stop her if she fell back, it’s a long way to the bottom and quite exposed which is what freaks me out!
Jo climbing up. In actual fact, even though the step over freaks me out, it’s been easier each time I’ve done it, although I don’t think I’ll be doing it again!
The final climb up pagodas to the top of the cliff-line.
We took the time to enjoy the view on such a magnificent day
The view across the Wolgan River with the Pipeline Track valley just to the right of centre.
Once at the top, we then had to find a route down through the pagodas, Andre scouted around for us and found this chute.
The chute was followed by some scouting around in the bush for an easy way off the pagodas.
We got to a small drop down, which Beth slid/jumped and landed heavily, exacerbating an ankle condition she has, after that we put up a hand line and everyone used that, there were numerous ways that it was negotiated.
Tim made it look so easy
Andre reset the rope around a large rock (which looked dodgy to me) so we could retrieve it, rock didn’t move so we could probably all have used it!
We set up another hand-line so that we could get down this slippery waterfall, the handline only made it easier to control your descent.
Then there was another small climb down, Cat managed to hold onto the tree AND step onto the rock, I thought she was shorter than me, I couldn’t even touch the rock, Andre kindly lifted me down!
We had a break in the Firefly creek and then headed up the other side to look for a way onto the ridge between the Firefly creek system and our side creek (Looking Glass Canyon). Andre found a Ledge of Death (very narrow) that got us out of the creek and there was a route up onto the ridge.
Wasn’t easy to get onto the Ledge of Death, you had to chimney up and then somehow get yourself onto the ledge without falling back down.
By now the heat is really having an effect on us and it’s now officially a “long walk in” and a “big day”. We took many rests in the shade and drank lots of water, but we were still suffering. We had about a 2k walk across the ridge to our creek and it seemed to take forever. It was easier once we got onto flat ground but we were all hanging out for water in the creek, to both drink and cool off in!
Finally we were heading down into the Looking Glass creek and not a moment too soon!
Jo, negotiating her way down our first small waterfall (with hardly any water)
And into a manky (smelly) pool!
The creek opened out and the water disappeared and we were walking in nice coachwood forest.
Followed by lots of ferns, overhanging rocks and dead logs!
Abseil #1 – this was off a dodgy log, care needed to be taken that the anchor didn’t slip off the end of the log.
Jo on Abseil #2, this went down into a hole, but apparently you could climb down the other side of it. Bear with me if I’ve mis-numbered the abseils, they all sort of melded into each other!
John and Cat at the bottom of a climb down
Abseil # 3 – we looped the rope around a rock and abseiled down it, until we decided that it would be better to put up a rope anchor further back as we couldn’t pull down the rope around the rock.
Beth on Abseil #3 after we’d re-rigged it
John on Abseil #3 with Beth in the distance checking out the dodgy anchor for the next abseil. I think the words were “wait till you see this!”
The “dodgy anchor” (Photo: John G). A small rock wedged into a crack with another rock 15cm away as a (worthless) “back up”, instilling the ultimate in a false sense of security! Not the dodgiest anchor though, Beth and I agree that that was in the first Bells Folly exploratory trip!
John on Abseil #4 – with the dodgy anchor, it was a lovely abseil despite the anchor
Tim kissing terra firma after abseiling on that dodgy anchor!
Jo on Abseil #5 – down into a pool
John on Abseil #5, was sort of slippery and if you landed in the right spot, only thigh deep, I stepped off into the wrong spot and was in chest deep water.
Sussing out Abseil #6 – down a crevasse.
Andre entering the crevasse
Jo on Abseil #6
Cat on the last abseil (#7) in Looking Glass, this was from a ledge on the right and was quite scrubby to start, then very slippery on the log.
We were now at the junction with Firefly Canyon creek looking downstream, much more water in it than Looking Glass. We crossed the creek and walked on the lh side to avoid the swim beyond this first pool.
The way down off the ledge was a couple of steps down to the creek level, unfortunately there was a small brown snake in the ferns, Beth managed to flick it into the water where it swam around till it settled on the other side of the pool. We all then quickly got down and set off downstream away from it.
Cat on Abseil #8 down into the creek again.
Abseil #8 from the bottom
Abseil #9 – obviously I’ve got the numbering wrong as there are only supposed to be 8 abseils!
Beth on abseil #9
John on Abseil #9 – looking at it from the bottom.
From here we crossed the creek and negotiated a way down on the lh side, down a spur, it was pretty easy going, except for the steepness, was like skiing down on leaf litter. Once on the fire trail, we took the longer “flatter” route beside the river, I’d never used this track before, and whilst it is definitely flatter, is slightly longer. It appears that it’s not used much now as it was a little overgrown, but I’d definitely use it again, only one small climb (a bit of grumbling with this) up a slag heap, and flat as – only downside were the stinging nettles (a bit more grumbling).
Car to car it was an 11hour day, bigger than what we all expected, but a great day nevertheless and another canyon to cross off the list.
We cooled off in the Wolgan (clothes and all) and then made our way back to the campsite where John spoiled us with ice cream cones (he’s really lifted the bar with after-trip treats now, how can you compete with ice cream cones!). We were all pretty stuffed and didn’t even bother with a campfire and were in bed by 9!
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