BLUE MOUNTAINS CANYONING – 15 & 16 December 2018
Trish M says that in addition to the “In Your Dreams M” trips I should have another category “What was I thinking?” trips as so often after (or during a trip) I mutter these words. The plan for the weekend seemed so simple (and easy), I’d done these canyons before, so should be a piece of cake right?
The plan was to do Bell Creek on Saturday, entering via DuFaurs Creek (with a sketchy climb down and sketchy ledges up out of the other side of the creek), go over and find Little Bell Canyon which I hadn’t done, use Little Bell (with a rope assisted climb down) to access Belfry, then with another rope assisted climb down enter Bell creek, then follow Bell down to DuFaurs and thence Wollangambe River. I’d done the full Bell Creek Complete trip (down to the Wollangambe 2 exit) over 4 days in 1998 and then done Little Bell/Bell in 2009 – sadly my body is way older than I think I am and I’m not as tall as I should be for these sporty canyons.
Sunday’s plan was to do Ranon Brook Canyon, one I’ve done four times over 11 years, so I wasn’t expecting that to be an issue, except for the climbs to get out (which I always struggle with due to my height), but I had a plan for that!
The weather for the previous week had been dicey, lots of rain and rain forecast for Thursday and Friday, and maybe some on Saturday. When I first started canyoning, 25 years ago, the weather forecast was, at best, synopsis charts in the daily newspaper, we just went out and did it. Of course, when we got to the track head if it was bucketing down, we didn’t go, but a shower or two the day before for most canyons wasn’t a deal breaker. These days though with the internet and everyone and their brother talking about high water, and FB comments such as “if you have to ask if it’s been raining too much then don’t go”, I have to admit I was less than confident of the water levels, but with only 7mm on Thursday and 7mm on Friday and bugger all on Friday night, I started to think all would be ok. Of course, it didn’t help that my usual wing-man Jeff B, decided he was going to have the day off (I think his comment might have been “what are you thinking, it’s a really long day!” … grrrr!
But, I did have a strong team, Jason S, Trish M, Heather R and Coop, all of whom I’d canyoned with before and newcomers Alissa and Jon, both of which I’d quizzed and was confident that they’d both be fine. When we got to the parking lot, I told them all that I expected it would be a 10 hour day, and that whilst I would get them to the canyon(s) the aim of the day was to get the little old lady through the canyons without hurting herself … and they took this instruction on board, helping me out whenever I needed it!
We followed the well worn track for about 2k (someone had recently been along the track with secateurs), intermittently checking it against the compass to make sure it was going the right way. There was supposed to be a fork in the track (one arm going to Little Bell and the other arm going to Belfry) but we didn’t find it, my concern and why I was using the compass was that I didn’t want to miss Little Bell. The track petered out on the ridge above the creek, and we probably entered the creek too high up (it was scrubby), but eventually we came to what was the first climb-down and some of my stress level went down (I always stress when I’m navigating).
From this point on I didn’t take any photos, probably just focussed on getting to the end and saying to myself “what was I thinking this is a big day”. After 2.5 – 3k of Bell, we eventually got to the DuFaurs junction, we were all really pleased to see the junction as by this time we’re all pretty stuffed, so much rock scrambling, far more than I remembered. We had a k of DuFaurs and whilst sections were easy going, there were a lot of scrubby parts … and then we had a thunderstorm, you could hear the thunder for a while and then it poured. I think some of the party were concerned about the storm in the canyon, if it had been Bell I would have been concerned, but DuFaurs is quite wide and open, with quite a few places to climb onto high ground and we’d only be in it for an hour, not long enough for the level to rise significantly.
Before long we were at the Wollangambe junction with DuFaurs and then it was only 300m to the exit track. Trish and I were so over walking in the creek that we floated most of the way down to the end. The water level in the Wollangambe was no higher than I’m used to so if it had risen with the rain from the week before, it had gone down quickly.
At the exit, I sent the kids (all the young ‘uns) ahead as some of them had a long drive ahead of them and Jason knew the way out. Heather and Trish stayed back to keep me company. For the kids it was a 10+ hour day, for Heather, Trish and me it was closer to 11, a very long day, I was well and truly stuffed – a big day for a little old lady! I was lucky, Jeff who’d had a relaxing day cooked dinner for me so I could just sit there and recover (and wonder why the hell I was doing a canyon the next day).
On Sunday, Trish M, Jeff B, Jason S and Cat and Garth McL joined me for Ranon Brook on a beautiful sunny day.
Once we were finished with the third climb, it was just a few hundred metres to the exit point and we started the climb up. Trish very kindly waited behind to walk with me (and make sure the little old lady got out!) always nice to have company at the back.
Thanks everyone for coming with me on this weekend’s adventures, I’ve definitely got to lift my game, was absolutely stuffed by the end of Sunday!
Big thanks to Jason too for his photos, much better than mine, must get a better camera!