NORTHERN WOLLEMI – 20 – 22 October 2017
A chance to go on a trip with John G should never be passed up, so when he said he was doing some exploratory bushwalks looking for “slots” in the Coorongooba area, I was “in like Flynn” (an Aussie expression). Little did I know rock climbing would be involved!
DAY 1 – Friday – exploring the ledges on the southern side of camp-ground
Coorongooba is too far to go for one day, so I said I’d be going up Friday and what do you know, seems like almost everyone on the trip liked the idea. As it turned out, there were six of us (John, Jeff B, Cat & Garth McL and Anna O-B) and the intention was to do Coin Slot but the forecast rain started early in the morning so we decided to do one of John’s exploratory day walks (in the rain) instead, looking at a creek to see if there were any canyon sections in it.
We set off across Coorongooba Camp Ground at 9am, it was just drizzle at this stage.
There was one tricky climb on the way up (this was John’s usual route to Doomsday Canyon), John made it look easy.
Cat’s turn was next and she made it look easy, in fact everyone did except me, eventually I got up the last climb but it wasn’t pretty.
A cool arch that John had seen before from above, we sheltered for a while here.
By now we’re up to the mid-level cliff line and overlooking the ruins of the Glen Davis mining town.
John on a finger of cliff overlooking Glen Davis
The whole group on the finger.
Me, getting ready to head up into the side creek. (photo: Cat)
We walked upstream, looking for a way in that didn’t involve an abseil and eventually came to this slight down-climb, John put in a rope for us to get back up.
In the creek, with canyon-like formation on one side.
Walking downstream, it’s more canyon-like now, Cat getting down a small climb.
About 50m from the end there’s an abseil into a pool, followed by a slippery slope down to another level, all up would need a 40m rope. This was followed by another pitch which was too difficult to get down (and up) so we don’t know how high it would be, and at the end we anticipated that there’d be a massive drop over the cliff-line.
By now the rain has really settled in and we’re all soaking, so we took the quickest way back down the route we took up, using a handline on all the sketchy drops. We managed to skirt around the section that we’d climbed up at the start, good to know that you don’t have to do that climb to get into Doomsday.
The final last climb down, very slippery in the rain.
We decided to call the creek we visited “Drowned Rats Canyon” as we all looked like drowned rats when we got back to the tents. My tent had leaked a little in the rain (what can you expect from an Aldi tent), and Jeff’s Macpack Olympus also leaked a little. Thankfully, John had brought along his camper trailer so after we all cleaned up we huddled in there out of the rain for happy hour. Heather R and Rod S turned up during the night.
Day 2 – Saturday – Coin Slot Canyon
The rain had eased off during the night and the rock would be dry, so we were off to do Coin Slot – I knew there were some climbs in it, but we were going a way where the climbs were “easier”, so I was happy about that!
Looking from the campsite and where we camped, this is Coin Slot canyon, how close is that!
The “easier” route up through the cliff-line that we took – I am sooooo pleased we didn’t take the harder route!
The first challenge – crossing Capertee Creek without getting shoes wet and not falling off the log into ankle deep water!
We’ve climbed up a nicely graded slope to the base of the cliff-line, good views out towards the Capertee Valley.
Now it’s time to make our way up through the cliff-line, first a 1m climb then a sloping rock.
Followed by a nice walk along the cliff-face, a bit of a drop off to the left.
Our next challenge, and this was a doosey, go up to the rock jutting out from the rock-face (middle of pic) and climb up that, and then across a ledge to a sloping rock.
Here’s the climb up – not the ledge which was only foot width and about 3m along to where you could make your way further up, all with a 5m drop off the edge, very exposed.
The climbs just came one after the other, this one everyone went up on the nose, I didn’t like the exposure so went up the cleft in the rock to the right, made it up there, that was the main thing.
The next climb, Heather explained that you put your right foot in the hole over to your left and then swing your left let up over the log – easier said than done, I provided mild entertainment by pole dancing with the log, but eventually made my way up (thank God no-one had a camera!) John didn’t need to do it Heather’s way with his long legs.
The final climb, here’s Cat nimbly making her way up.
Heather making her way up. I got stuck at the last shear face of rock, just couldn’t get my foot anywhere to give me some grip, I already had a safety prussic loop attached to my harness, so just pulled out the foot loop and prussiked up! And, that was the end of the climbs – thank God.
We by-passed two old anchors around a tree which Anna’s used in the past to abseil in and went in the way John usually goes, down a couple of convenient ramps. We’re now in the creek and walking along this dodgy foot wide ledge (to keep our feet dry and not slip down the rockface!).
Abseil #1 (or #2 if you used the tree), and Jeff B trying to annoy me when I say, “stop there while I take a photo”
Cat on the heart-shaped rock that everyone photographss in Coin Slot.
Abseil #2 – There are two anchors here, one on the right and one on the left, which goes down to give you a caving experience. John’s always done the right one but this time we thought we’d do the left, one, turned out to be not such a good idea as the rope got stuck when we pulled it down.
Cat at the end of Abseil #3 – Jeff and John are still up at the bottom of Abseil #2 with a stuck rope. Eventually they decided to leave it there, it just wasn’t budging, good thing we had 2 x 60m ropes.
Rod at the top of Abseil #3 and me pulling some rope down. (Image – Cat O’M)
At the top of Abseil #4, John was setting up the rope, with me standing close by and when he picked up his pack he said “what’s this”, and there was a Death Adder curled up in the leaf litter. Those of you who know I’m snake-phobic will be able to imagine how quickly I moved away. After a few of us had gone over the pitch, the Adder moved out where it could be photographed, about thumb thickness and 30 – 40cm long, probably a juvenile. I didn’t stick around for the photo opportunity. (Photo: Cat O’M)
Anna at the top of Abseil #4.
Heather on abseil #4 – a beautiful abseil down a slot (where Coin Slot gets its name) and then out into the open.
Cat on the abseil.
Rod at the top of the abseil.
We put our spray jackets on for the final abseil, here’s Jeff and John, John looking like he’s going out into the snow in the Antarctic!
Jeff getting around to the start of Abseil #5 – a pool, followed by another pool – I made it ok past the first pool, but it was just too hard to get past the 2nd one, so I got wet.
Rod at the top of Abseil #5 – if you went down the way the rope is laying, you went under the waterfall, I went a little to the left and managed to avoid the first part of the waterfall, but you couldn’t help getting wet in the end.
John on Abseil #5.
In the overhang below Abseil #5 – lovely swirls of red rock, would love to know how they were formed.
We were down having lunch at the bottom of Abseil #5 by 2.30, and John decided that he’d go back and do the canyon again to retrieve the rope we’d left behind. He called for volunteers and Cat (seen here limbering up for the task ahead), agreed to go with him. Both are excellent climbers so they would go up the climbs much quicker than the rest of us.
They set off at 3pm, they only took one pack between the two of them and scaled down all the gear that they were carrying to make them lighter and faster.
Incredibly, they were back at the campsite 2 1/2 hours later with both ropes. Cat not looking any worse for wear except for maybe being a little dirty!
Day 3 – Route finding through a cliff-line
Catherine and Garth left on Sunday morning for a family reunion and Jeff stayed in camp to pack up for an early departure in the afternoon, so that left John, Rod, Heather, Anna and me to do a little exploring.
John’s target was to get to the top of the cliff-line NW of the junction of Coorongooba and Capertee River. I think his words were “we’ll look for a way up through the cliff line if there is one”. I didn’t realise how much rock climbing would be involved, and most of you know how much I don’t like rock climbing! I vowed after the last time that I’d get in some practice at a climbing gym but that didn’t ever happen!
We set off from the campsite at 9am and were walking up the creek roughly north, traversing the spur (about 60m in elevation) and getting to the base of the cliff-line by about 10am. We had 70m more to climb to get to the “mid-level” which was the base of the top cliff-face.
Really easy walk up to the base of the cliff, John walking through a field of Burragwang ferns.
The first climb, John and Anna (the mountain goat) went up first to see if it the route went any further.
We got the call to proceed, Heather half way and Rod climbing the first 1m ledge (that was the easy part).
The first part of the climb was committing, unlike the others, I had on my harness and a safety, and even then I still wasn’t comfortable. I think bad words were uttered as I did the first part of the climb, and it didn’t get any better!
I’m now at the top, photographing Heather, from where I’m sitting it’s a fairly easy route up to where the rope’s tied off.
Anna starting the next climb, she stopped at the mid-point and then we hauled packs up to the top. I decided that I didn’t like this climb at all so prussicked the whole way.
The second section of this climb involved getting over to the right of Anna into a slot, but you lost the security of the rope if you went that way. I just prussicked up to the tree where the rope was tied on, but that created a problem in itself, it was awkward to get off the rope from there! John was very patient with my lack of climbing skills, I took WAY longer than everyone else, but at least I felt safe.
Heather now off the security of the rope, I didn’t stick around to see how she went (wanted to get away from the edge) but she said that she didn’t like that part.
The rock climbing’s over (thank God), and we’ve walked around the mid-level of the cliff to a side creek which we walked up to get to the highest point. After climbing the creek we were pretty much stuffed (well, except for John who’s like the Every-Ready Bunny), but it was easy walking on the top.
We made our target, the high point from where we could see the campground. John and Rod made us very nervous at the edge, although they assured us it wasn’t right on the edge! We coo-ed and Jeff walked into the middle of the camp ground (by this time everyone else had left) and found us with his binoculars.
We left the lookout at 1.15pm and walked back to the creek, looking for an “easy” way down. We got to the end of the creek where it went over the cliff-line and amazingly to the left there were two short drops (we only had 25m of rope) which would get us down to what looked like an easy route (Rod going over the edge).
Heather on the abseil, the rope only just made it!
There was what looked like a tree that we used for the next abseil, on closer inspection though it was dead and was really just a big dead branch sitting on the ground. John went over first testing it, none of us were thrilled with the anchor but there wasn’t another choice and in point of fact it was more a down-climb.
Anna looking at the tree to see if it moved, she doesn’t look convinced.
Rod, the heaviest went last, as you can see it’s more a down-climb.
Straight away there was a nice ramp, Anna and I slid down which meant that we cleared the leaf litter for the next person.
John and Rod walked down but Heather gave the slide a go, there wasn’t as much friction for her so she barrelled down, laughing the whole way. After that it was a walk in the park back down to the river.
On the way we found this amazing obelisk which positively called out to be climbed, so Anna obliged. Rod, Heather and I sat back and watched.
Eventually John decided that he had to climb it too!
It took us 4 hours to get to the top in the morning, but only 2 hours to get back down. We were back at the cars at 3.30pm.
A great weekend, lots of climbing for me and more resolutions to (a) get fitter – too slow going up the hills and (b) do some climbing practice to gain a bit of confidence. A big thanks to John (and the rest of the party) for putting up with my swear words on the climbs and their patience waiting for me to get to the top!