Back to the 80s Canyoning

BUNGLEBORI CREEK – Waratah Ridge > Dead Log Canyon > Bunglebori > Luna Park Canyon > Bunglebori > Hailstorm Retreat Canyon > Waratah Ridge – 23 – 25 November 2018
Luna Park was always an IYDM (in your dreams M) canyon – a 10 – 12 hour day, easy for the young and fit but a killer for someone my age, so, I came up with a solution, camp on the ‘Bori, and then another bright idea … go down Dead Log to get there (with overnight packs).

The concept was a good one, but the execution proved harder than expected.  The legendary John G, Trish (who’ll go pretty much anywhere with me) and Jeff (who’ll support any hair-brained idea of mine) joined me.

To save weight, we decided to do the “one short swim” canyons without wetsuits, only wearing thermals and rain shells if needed – they used to canyon this way in the early days, shouldn’t be a problem!

Friday – Dead Log (aka Buttock’s and Dead Tree) Canyon – according to the Jamieson Guide book “1 long day, about 6 abseils, one short swim, most abseil starts are tricky”, John said when he first did it, they only did maybe 4 abseils, using convenient logs to walk down for a lot of the other drops; my guess is that some of the logs have either moved or been washed downstream.  I counted possibly 10 spots where we used ropes, 2 for handlines, and at least 8 abseils.

John checking the map on the spur above Dead Log, we walked quite a ways down the spur, hopefully missing a lot of the dead trees in the creek.

Eventually we started down to access the creek, this was a slide down a 2m drop.

Then about a 100m traverse through scrub with lots of dead fallen trees, eventually finding a good ramp into the creek itself – no need for the “abseil at a convenient point” described in the guide.

We didn’t have to go far before we were in the canyon section of the creek.

There was a short rock to slide down into a black void, I went first (foolishly) and the rock was so slippery that I had an uncontrolled slide, thankfully not damaging myself, although for a moment there I thought I had as I was laying in the dark hole!

Me on one of the hand-line logs, very slippery just needed the hand-line to control the slide (Photo: John G).

The first abseil was a doozy – down two logs, one on top of the other and a notch that you had to put the rope in so you wouldn’t swing uncontrollably.  The guys had much more trouble with the top log (getting over it), than Trish and I had.

Trish on the log, after getting down onto the second one, you had to slide yourself over to the right, making sure that the rope was in the notch of the top log so you didn’t swing in under both logs and crash into rock!

John on the next abseil, not too difficult, and now you can see the canyon walls closing in – love the Bunglebori slot canyons.

John took his shirt off for the compulsory swim.

Jeff getting ready to start the swim, like John, he took his shirt off (Photo: John G)

Trish and I did the abseil differently from the guys, much easier.

Jeff doing the same abseil but out over the log.

John at the next abseil, it was difficult getting down beside the log with the big pack on.

Trish on the abseil.

The next abseil, John climbed up to rig a different anchor which made the abseil easier.  I went down first and the rockface was very slippery, couldn’t get a foot hold and ended up in the waist deep water.  I was then able to pull the next person over towards the logs so they didn’t get as wet.  By now I’m really cold, have my thermals and rain shell on but it’s not helping much!

Photo out of focus because I’m shivering.  John’s at the bottom of the “shit pit”, a difficult start from the rock I’m leaning on here; the anchor is around the rock in the bottom left corner, but you have to abseil from the far right and swing down, wasn’t easy, but I managed to nail it, and was pretty chuffed with myself until I got to the thick brown slime that went all the way down from the rock, me and my pack were covered in the slime when I got to the bottom, the guys didn’t warn us about the slime until we were in it, but there was no avoiding it!

Next abseil was a log too slippery to walk on so you sort of slid on it.

Trish on the final abseil which is really nice (Photo: John G)

We then had a walk of about 2k upstream to get to our campsite.  There were some swims, lots of scrambling through scrub, rock and boulder scrambling and a few short sections walking on the bank in amongst coachwood trees.

Looking upstream at one of the boulder fields, it’s like a maze that you have to negotiate yourself through (Photo: John G).

John, having done this section of creek a few weeks ago, knew how far we were from the proposed camp site, but the rest of us, after almost 2 hours making our way upstream were pretty much done for, and still cold and wet because there were some swims that you just couldn’t avoid, we were so happy when John stopped and said “the campsite’s over there”.

We’ve got dry clothes on, the fire’s lit, all’s good with the world – and it’s a fabulous campsite.

Saturday – Luna Park – according to the guide book “Grade 5 (out of 6), about 7 abseils, one of them difficult, several short swims, a great canyon but hard to get to – 1 very, very long day”.  Well not hard to get to any more and not a long day for us!  We decided that we wouldn’t knock ourselves out with an early start on Saturday (seeing we were all shattered after Friday’s canyon) so started from the campsite at 9.30am.  In a previous trip, John had sussed out a pass which would cut a lot of time off the walk in to the canyon, it’s now forever known as John’s Pass.

The start of the pass, our campsite is directly below us. (Photo: John G.)

It then developed into a scramble with the odd climb up, but all things considered, one of the best passes out of the ‘Bori that I’ve done.

We got up to the top and over these pagodas then stopped for a quick break and to admire the view of the creek system of Luna Park.

We then headed down into the creek.

To cut out some of the scrubby creek, we abseiled in a fair way down.  It wasn’t the best abseil, if you weren’t careful you got a load of dirt and dead leaves rain down on you.

We dropped into the creek, didn’t like the drop ahead of us so went high and skirted around a swim, was a bit of a sketchy traverse.

As we were now too high, we had to do a controlled slide down a log back down into the creek, ok with the rope to use as a hand-line.

The trick was to sit on the log for most of the way down without toppling over sideways!

Followed by another slide down a log.

And another log slide and you had to dismount into a pool at the bottom.

Long legged John managed to walk the log on the left, we all thought it was dodgy as it was moving all over the place, but he managed not to fall in.

We’re now at the abseil that everyone’s had trouble with.  On his last trip Jeff E got his rack stuck in the notch of an overhang and it took forever to get it out.  John decided that if he climbed up this rock and abseiled over the rock he’d avoid the notch (which he did), we all took a look at him climbing up and decided that we’d take our chances with the notch.

Trish and I had no trouble at all, we must have used a different technique, Jeff, using a Hydrobot, had a slight amount of catching on the edge but he was able to get off the rock easily.  Jo (on my caving trip to NZ) said that she’d hurt her left hand badly on this abseil and to beware of it!

At the bottom of the last abseil, another lovely hole in the rock (Photo: John G)

Into the good canyon formation now.

Trish about to go down, we’re not sure if there’s a swim at the bottom or not.

Looking ahead down the canyon.

A slide down, Jeff and Trish went straight down into the water, I managed to sidle over to the left and avoided getting wet.

Another slippery descent.

Trish about to abseil, I think Jeff and John both jumped into this pool, I wasn’t willing to get my hair wet (I was already cold enough) although once on the rope, you couldn’t help getting wet from the waterfall!

The bottom of the abseil, with the waterfall. After getting off the rope, you had to wade over to this ledge and go around1.5m to the next abseil.

This is the abseil from the ledge.

Followed by yet another abseil, this must be down into a pool as John’s taken his shirt off again! Or maybe he hasn’t put it back on yet after the last wade.

The same abseil from below, tricky with the slippery rock and log.

And the next abseil.  This maybe the one that Luna Park gets its name from, it’s sort of a big mouth that you abseil through.

We were at the end at about 1.30 and sat in the sun trying to warm up and have a bite to eat for lunch.  We didn’t dilly dally too long as we were all pretty cold (me more than anyone else I think), so set off upstream to the campsite.

Fairly easy walking upstream, we’d already done this section before, so knew it would be a quick trip back to our campsite.

Only one section of bouldering!

You know you’re close to the campsite when you get to this amazing flat wall of rock.

Back in camp at about 2.30pm, not bad considering that we started at 9.30am.  We set up clothes lines to try to dry out our stuff so it wouldn’t be too heavy for the walk out next day.

Sunday – Hailstorm Retreat – We knew that we only had to walk a few hundred metres upstream to Hailstorm Retreat so we decided to have another late start, but we were just too efficient and were all ready to leave at 8.30am and we were at the cars at 12.30pm.

This section of the ‘Bori is really nice to walk up, lots of sand banks and the water’s not too deep. (Photo John G)

We were soon at the bottom of the gully that we had to climb up. There was what looked like it might be a canyon just across the creek, so John went off to explore, lovely shot he got with the tree fern (Photo: John G)

The gully that you have to go up is horrible, lots of downed trees, rocks to climb over and very scrubby, so once we’d gotten above the first set of rocks, we went over to the rh side where Jeff went the last time we climbed the gully and he had a much better run than the rest of us did (in the gully).  It was much easier this time and we were soon at the canyon section, which is a straight as an arrow cleft in the rock, some climbs but they’re all small enough to get up without a rope.

Me on a small climb-up (Photo: John G)

This is the hardest part, getting through the roots of this Coachwood, and then trying to get your pack through.

Trish, just after the big tree.

Jeff at the same spot … got to get myself a camera like John’s much better than mine (same camera but his is the new model). Photo: John G.

The start of the climb out of the canyon section.

We were soon on top of the ridge and then it was just a matter of following a faint footpad, when there was one until we got to the well worn track that would take us back to the cars.

Getting back to the cars at 12.30pm was a bonus (we had a 3.5 hour trip ahead of us to get back home, lucky John lives in the mountains, so only has a 1.5 trip).

We all agreed that whilst we could have walked out after Luna Park yesterday, we wouldn’t have enjoyed ourselves half as much as we would have been very tired … well, at least I would have been.  It was great splitting the weekend up as we did.

Thank you so much Trish, Jeff and John for coming with me on this trip.  I had written off Luna Park as it was just too long a day, but the three of you made it a reality for me.  Thanks John for coming and doing the recce a few weeks ago, and thanks to the three of you for carrying ropes all weekend and not expecting the little old lady to carry them!

Can’t wait for the next adventure with the 3 of you!



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6 Responses to Back to the 80s Canyoning

  1. Doug says:

    Hi Marilyn.
    Sounds good but I didn’t think anyone would do Dead Log a second time!

    • marilyn says:

      Haha, I actually like it, hadn’t done it before cause Lindsay gave it the thumbs down, would have been much better without the heavy pack, and if the weather had been kinder to us! I’d do it again!

  2. Aine Gliddon says:

    I was really pleasantly surprised when we did Dead Log a few years back.

    Luna Park … in a day took 13 hours and I did not think was enough reward for effort. Your way much better🙂🙂

    • marilyn says:

      Hi Aine,
      Yes, I too was pleasantly surprised with Dead Log, particularly as one of the guys who did it many years ago said “never again”, but I suspect they went into the creek way, way higher than we did.
      Would definitely do Luna Park again from our campsite (if there weren’t so many other canyons on my Wish List lol) M

  3. Jeff says:

    3 easy days no need for a wet suit!! Will I ever learn (I doubt it)!
    Well I guess 2 out of the 3 days were easy and if the weather was better I probably wouldn’t have frozen all in all another great trip Thanks Marilyn for making it Happen Thanks John for the Reccy and Thanks Trish for carry the rope and making a great fire.

    Guess Ill see you all on the next adventure.


    • marilyn says:

      Ah Jeff, one of the two people who would just about go anywhere that I suggested, on any adventure! And you make them great adventures, they’d be boring without you!

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