BLUE MOUNTAINS – 24 March 2018
Trish M and I had a Saturday free and Trish wanted to do Bell Canyon as she hadn’t done it before, it sounded like a good idea at the time. But then there was a week of rain, and I wasn’t feeling in top form on the day so I hijacked her trip and suggested doing an exploratory canyon instead (sorry Trish), Alan G joined us for the day. I’ve changed the name slightly and will explain that later.
As it was a day trip, Trish and I had to get up around 4.30am for the 2.5 hour drive to Mt Wilson, where we were to meet up with Alan. Fortunately for us, Alan had brought along his 4WD ute. We could have done the trip without the 4WD capability, but it cut a couple of ks of fire trail off the trip. At Mt Wilson you wouldn’t have thought the good weather forecast was accurate, but by the time we got over to the Bunglebori area, the weather was perfect.
After a particularly rocky section of a well known fire trail, we easily found the side trail marked on the map. Thanks to the 4WD Ute, we made our way about 500m down the trail until it started to have very deep erosion channels.
Then we decided to turn the ute around in the only wide section of the trail and walk the rest of the way – Trish likes to give directions.
As we expected this to be a short day, Alan got out the drone to take a look around (you can just see it on the ground, the smallest drone I’ve ever seen, not that I’ve seen many).
The drone on its way.
We were on the track by 10am, a very civilised start (well apart from getting up at 4.30 that is). Surprisingly, the old fire trail went all the way down to our creek and even crossed it and there was evidence of it continuing down the creek for maybe 50m (if you used your imagination).
Initially the creek was very scrubby and it was better on the sides.
Then you just had to be in the creek again.
We came to what we thought was our first abseil. There wasn’t a man-made anchor around so we used a tree. The pitch went down to a deep clear pool, then dropped again to another clear pool. It was obvious how the canyon got its name.
Actually it was a bonus abseil, we think it could have been easily walked around, but the ground was wet and slippery so better to be safe.
Alan got the Go-Pro out and finished the drop with a slide into the pool.
This was followed by another slide.
Again, the next abseil didn’t have an anchor. It was very slippery and Trish initially tried to set it up (under my garbled instructions). When it was my turn I tried a better method which worked. We used the dead tree, looping the rope around it, putting a couple of alpine butterflies and a carabiner in them and then setting a small hand line to pull it back to you so you weren’t sitting on the slippery edge trying to reach the rope.
Reflections in the pool below the abseil. The pool itself was filled with sticks and leaf litter so wasn’t as crystalline as all the other pools. The banner shot at the top is the same pic (rotated) you’d never know it was just a reflection in the water.
The abseil was followed by a section of rocky creek-bed, here you can see how the creek’s eroded the rock-face.
The pools just kept on coming.
And another one.
And another one!
And into the scrub – there was no evidence of anyone being in the canyon for a long time. Not surprising, it wasn’t published in the 4th edition of Canyons Near Sydney, but did appear in the 5th edition, but only with a 2 line description.
Eventually we came to the piece de resistance, here’s Alan jumping into the pool.
We used a convenient log as an anchor. I abseiled all the way into the pool, ending on a rock in the pool and then swam across. Trish (and Alan) abseiled to the ledge.
And then jumped.
The pool was crystal-clear, and sandy, no leaf litter at all.
Shortly after the last abseil, we came to a creek junction. I was uncertain as to whether we’d reached the Bunglebori or not the junction was like a T intersection and the map showed that it could be one of two places. There was another abseil about 50m downstream and I was reluctant to do the abseil without being sure we weren’t in the Bunglebori (if we were it would be a pain to exit as the cliffs surrounding us were impassable) and I didn’t want this trip to turn into an epic. We scouted around for about 20 minutes and then decided to continue down. When I got to the bottom of the abseil there was a small creek coming in from the right and it was obvious from the map that we were definitely still in our canyon’s creek (whew, I didn’t have to prussic back up).
Trish put a sling around some small saplings (this was the only sling that we left in place) and we abseiled into another small pool.
This was the third of the published number of abseils, we did the bonus 4th one at the beginning.
The creek then became really untidy and scrubby, we persevered for about 50m and then saw a nice ramp on the left. We figured there wasn’t any canyon section for the next 100m down to the Bunglebori, so cut our losses and climbed out. The other side (pictured) didn’t offer any options to climb out!
Alan led the way. Whilst the initial climb out was a little scrubby, eventually it opened up into nice forest. We got to the top of the spur we climbed out on and set a bearing to head a small creek. Alan found the (very narrow) saddle at the head of the creek and then found a good ramp up between some pagodas, popping out on the top of the ridge.
And found a fire trail of all things (not marked on the map).
Looking down the fire trail towards the Bunglebori. We stayed on it for about 200m (maybe less),
And then could see across the valley to the fire trail where our car was parked. The route down to the valley (our canyon’s creek), was dead easy, really open at the beginning.
And then light forest at the end.
When we got to the creek it was a 10 climb up out of the creek to the old fire trail which we followed back to the car. We changed and then Alan fired up the drone again to send it over to that old fire trail we saw to see where it went. On the way back to Zig Zag Railway, we spotted where the fire trail went in. On Oliver’s map, there’s a pass marked close by to this fire trail down into the Bunglebori, so, there’s a day trip for the future.
Car to car the trip was 5 hours, this included about 20min for lunch, 20min for stuffing around with the rope around the log and 20min stuffing around deciding that we were in the right spot with the final abseil. John G had said that he’d done it a long time ago (he was probably the one that gave Rick Jamieson the GR for the canyon) and didn’t feel the need to go back. Whilst we all agreed that it was a sweet little canyon (and the crystalline pools were really lovely), we agreed with John, was well worth doing once but wasn’t worth a return trip.
So why have I changed the name? I really don’t want this post to come up in a Google search and hardly anyone that reads my posts are canyoners, and those that are don’t like scrub! I think part of the canyon’s appeal on the day was the fact that there were no fixed anchors in place (yes I know, we left one behind) and it looks like no-one’s done it for a long, long time. It was scrubby but if too many groups go through it, a route will be formed and it will no longer be scrubby, but all the broken sticks etc, will end up in those lovely sandy-bottomed c#$%al pools and they’ll no longer be so beautiful and inviting.
Thanks Trish and Alan for sharing this adventure with me, and putting up with all that scrub!