WOTTA & BIRRABANG CANYONS – 25 February 2017
Only “true believers” according to Steve R would go out canyoning on a day like Saturday but mist and drizzle weren’t going to deter Steve, Trish M and me from checking out Wotta. It wasn’t on our wish lists but was “tacked onto” a canyon that we were going to do on Sunday, seeing we were going to be up at Mt Wilson, to justify the drive up there.
The weather forecast wasn’t all that great, but sitting on the Central Coast you can’t be certain what the weather will really be like up at Mt Wilson. The forecast though was right on.
Before we started, I went to my pack to get out the camera to record the trip for posterity, only to discover the camera wasn’t there, so I took along my iPhone (with only 30% battery left) to take photos, therefore there aren’t many, I was too leery of getting the damned thing wet!
We did a car shuffle so we’d have a car at the end (and save a 2k walk on the highway). Then we donned raincoats (Steve put on his wetsuit at the car), and walked through the wet bush. Steve was probably the only one who felt warm.
At the start of the walk down. There’s a faint footpad here, I’d always assumed it was people going to Yileen and walking out onto this point to check out the view, turns out they were probably going down into Wotta.
The trip notes in the guide are a little vague, just a grid reference really, but we didn’t have any trouble going down to where the start of the canyon was, other than getting into a hanging swamp which we had to get out of.
Trish just dropping into the creek.
Looking down the creek, you can see the start, where two pagodas are side by side and the creek drops down about 4 or 5m into a pool. There are no anchors close by, so we used a log.
Steve about to drop over the edge.
Once we got down, we could see that this was probably a climb-down, but given the wet rock after the rain, it was probably better to abseil it anyway. At least if our rope got stuck in the pull down, then we could climb back up and retrieve it.
The next abseil down into a pool and a compulsory swim. The anchor was a tree growing on the side of the rock, it did have roots snaking back but was decidedly dodgy, plus the anchor itself was very untidy, if I ever go back to do this I’d replace this anchor, and maybe look for a better one higher up.
Steve deploying the rope, the pool was quite deep and it’s possible some could have jumped it, but a bit of a dodgy jump.
The next abseil after the swim was the dodgiest of all! An anchor around two tree ferns that were growing off the side of a pagoda. It’s possible that some brought enough rope to do the previous abseil and this one at the same time, we had enough rope (2 x 40m) but the pulldown would have been very difficult. It would probably also be possible, with dry rock, to climb down just using the rope as a hand line. Both Trish and I actually did this, although we had the rope through our descenders, we sat on the rock and inched down so as not to put any weight on the tree ferns, then we stepped around to the right, and down-climbed a bit further.
Down-climbing after getting off the rope, plenty of hand and foot holds.
Steve elected to put his trust in the tree-ferns, making sure though not to shock load them.
The next abseil used some roots of a coachwood as the anchor and it was a tricky start, no-where to put your feet and not a tidy overhang, we all managed but it wasn’t too graceful and from the amount of gouges in the sandstone at the lip, looked like everyone had had the same issues that we had.
Steve and Trish at the bottom of the last abseil, we got off our rope here and climbed down the small rock-face, probably could have abseiled it easier.
After the last abseil, we were at the junction of the creek, not really thinking it through, I thought we were at Birrabang Creek (hello! it was a very short canyon and we were at least 750m from Birrabang). In the side creek, there were a few sections where we had to down-climb, this one harder for me than it looked!
And numerous times the creek opened out and there was scrub … lots of scrub. However, there were heaps of yabbies including the enormous one that is at the top of the post, the side creek and Birrabang had heaps and heaps of them.
Despite the untidy creek and our impatience with the scrub, we did find another side creek which we’ve put on the wish list, at the end is what looks like a 40 or 50m abseil, so we’re going to have to go back and explore that!
Followed by log jams – lots of logs to climb over.
There were still nice sections, this one in particular with the small pool.
Eventually we arrived at Birrabang, and because I’d done it a few times, we just turned right and headed up stream. It just didn’t look right though, like nothing that I remembered at all, but we persevered, had some lunch (at an overhang that I didn’t recall) then set off again.
It was so unfamiliar, that eventually around 1pm I got out the GPS to see just where we were, this was about the time that Steve came to a pool and a small waterfall that I just knew I hadn’t been down before. Trish and I consulted the GPS and map and yes, we were definitely in Birrabang and definitely downstream to the “usual entry”, so we persevered. Eventually we came to a spot I recognised. It seems that we accessed Birrabang way down-stream, once we were in known country though it was pretty straight forward and we were soon on the usual entry track to Birrabang.
It was probably 500m from the cars that I heard a faint cry from Trish, one of those good news/bad news things. Trish thought she might have left the key to her car (at the exit point), in my car, 2k along the freeway!
Trish searching her bag in hopes of finding the keys!
So, after a last ditch effort to find the keys miraculously in the backpack, we headed off to get my car, was a nice walk at the end of the day anyway.
We had intended to do Kamarah Gully on the same day, but by the time we got back to the cars it was 2pm so we figured it would be better to dry off (we were soaked) and get set up at Mt Wilson for the night. Trish drove home after a cuppa and Steve and I set in for an early night. Steve lit a great fire and we sat around it in the drizzle until finally the drizzle was more like rain so I headed for the tent.
Great trip Steve and Trish, a canyon none of us had done, another possible canyon found and hopes for good weather on Sunday … which didn’t happen, we pulled the pin and drove home!
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