BLUE MOUNTAINS – Canyoning – 8 – 10 February 2019
Finally took Aine & Colin G to M***m canyon (the one they’d helped me find); followed it up with a run through South Bowen (always a favourite), and then sussed out some of the upper section of Bowen Creek (for a bit off off-track exploratory canyoning – lawyer vine optional). A great weekend, although three canyons in three days, what was I thinking?
Aine, Colin, Anna and I met up at the Zig Zag railway on Friday at 10.30am. Everyone was on time and we left my car (with it’s new Sat Nav setup) at the Zig Zag railway as I didn’t think it would like the almost-4WD tracks. Well, that was a big mistake! As Anna and I are driving up the road I though we were one, she says “isn’t this the fire trail to *** Canyon”. “Nah”, I said, “I’m sure we’re on the right fire trail”. Five minutes later “You’re right Anna, this is the fire trail to ***”. Poor Aine and Colin must have thought I was hopeless when I said we’d better turn around. It was only a 30min detour and before long we were on the right fire trail, which was sort of too bad as it was really eroded and rough, thank goodness we were in Anna’s 4WD vehicle. Anyway, eventually we were at the end of the trail so to speak and headed off for our adventure, albeit an hour behind schedule!
We stopped for lunch on this lovely rock shelf, and it was a mere 10m into the canyon.
Aine half way down the first abseil
Colin on the first abseil – love the moss covered walls in this canyon.
We sent Anna over to cut down this manky old sling, it was moss-covered (had been there a long while) and around a sandstone bollard that looked unsafe.
Aine on the second part of the 45m abseil (we did it in 3 stages just for the fun of it)
Colin on the 2nd stage of the abseil.
This pool is just too wide for me to straddle, so I find it easier just to lay across the pool and inch my way over, it’s about waist deep, so I didn’t want to fall in (photo: Aine)
A rare nice shot of me in the canyon, maybe the camera is far enough away not to pick up the wrinkles (Photo: Aine)
The last stage which ends at a small waterfall/pool in an amphitheatre. Aine, Colin and Anna all agreed that it was a delightful little canyon, probably about 45m of abseiling and 20m of horizontal canyon!
We climbed around to the exit and then with the aid of Aine’s waypoint, Anna and I made our way back into the canyon to retrieve the 2 x 60m ropes, carrying them up the hill to our backpacks. Do I look hot and sweaty? That’s because I was, very hot day and by this time it’s about 4.30pm. Was good to get back to the vehicles.
Anna and I assured Aine and Colin that we wouldn’t get them lost on the way out, we had it nailed! It was great to catch up with Aine and Colin and with Anna too after her six months away in the US. I waved them all off at the Zig Zag and headed over to Mt Wilson.
On Friday night I met up with Heather (who’ll go anywhere with me) and Trish, (who’ll also go anywhere with me but can’t always make it). It was a quiet night at Cathedral of Ferns campground, where were all the canyoners? I was stuffed so went to bed early as I knew Saturday was going to be a big day.
We headed out at 8.15 to meet up with the rest of the crew, Jon F, Alissa M, Marcia K and Alan G and they were all on time at the car park, so we quickly set up the car shuffle for the end of the canyon. The first time I did South Bowen Canyon was back in 2002, and there wasn’t so much as a footpad to the start. Now there’s a track like a super highway, no way can you get lost going in! When we came to a small water slide, we suited up and were on our way.
Marcia on the first water slide (not much water)
Jon on an awkward climb around, the rock was very, very slippery, so we ended up putting in a handline to control the sliding (why we didn’t want to slide into the water was beyond me, it was a hot day!
Another slippery slide that we used a hand line for.
And finally we’re there, the first abseil (Marcia on rope).
A tricky downclimb – ok for tall people but not short people. There is a fixed tape but it wasn’t long enough for the shorties so we also used our rope. Some downclimbed, some did a (bonus) abseil.
Alissa making the downclimb look easy.
Heather going down the 20m abseil, Heather was kind enough to go down first each time, this meant that I could stay up top till the end with the back-up “rescue” rope.
Jon on the 20m abseil.
Alissa on the 3rd abseil.
Trish on the abseil, you can just see Marcia down at the bottom.
After the abseil, you walk along a beautiful stream-way.
Love the ferns in this section. You can see ahead that the canyon is opening out.
And then you’re walking through a Coachwood Forest, with lovely ferns on the ground. This canyon is so popular that a track has formed.
Streamway beside the coachwood forest.
We came across a lot of this fungus, absolutely beautiful snow-white.
The 4th abseil, this one was particularly hard to start, most went to the left of the tree, some of us tried the right, I think the right was better.
We all walked around this boulder, Heather found a caver’s way through!
There is a nasty drop into the creek, a horrible abseil or downclimb – but the track notes say “walk back 2m and look for a tunnel”, so, Jon scouted around for it, and voila there it was (very dark).
The best part of the canyon for me is the log slide, I got there and said “you slide down” they all looked at me like I was crazy, and there was some muttering about abseiling it. So, I mounted the log at the top and slid down until I got to where the log touches the wall and then balanced to get my leg around the wall … all without falling. Once I’d done it they must have decided if the little old lady could do it, so could they! Everyone managed it except for one, can’t remember who, who fell in!
Alan on the slide.
Before long we were at the end, and started the climb out, but the challenges weren’t over yet. I walked right past the first challenge the tunnel climb, but we soon realised we were in the wrong place and back-tracked.
Marcia at the tunnel climb, sort of like caving, you make your way up through the rocks (photo: Alan G)
And then you get to the pagoda climb. The climbers in the group had no trouble getting up, Marcia rigged up a rope for me though, what is it about me and climbing? (photo: Alan)
Looking down at those of us still waiting to climb up (Photo: Alan G)
The lookout just before we hit the fire trail, most of the group l-r Marcia, me, Trish, Jon, Heather and Alan (photo: Alissa)
We said our good-byes to Marcia, John and Alissa and the rest of us headed back to Mt Wilson. Alan camped with us at the campground on Saturday night and Heather, Trish and Alan plied me with wine and cooked dinner for me, how good was that? I must have looked tired! Another early night and we were off to meet up with Anna and her friend Glen to do a section of North Bowen Creek.
I had heard about this trip and had it on my wish list for some time. Someone told me that the exit that I wanted to do was “hard to find”, then someone else told me that it wasn’t a good idea to do that exit because “it was pretty much guaranteed to have a lot of lawyer vine”. So, it was with some trepidation (after all it was the 3rd day, a Sunday, and I didn’t want to do an epic trip!) that we set off. Well, the exit just about jumped out and bit me, and over the 2k walk out there was maybe a 50m section that had a bit of lawyer vine, AND, there was a footpad the whole way from the creek to our cars, how good is that?
The walk in was dead easy, although I wasn’t overly impressed by the 1.5m wide “track” down to the creek, huge potential for erosion. Once in the creek though it was lovely and easy walking.
Bit of a footpad has formed.
Very slippery on the climb-downs due to slippery rock. The canyon hasn’t been done enough to wear away all the mosses.
The overall impression was one of “green-ness”.
Heather on a small slide.
We felt that the canyon walls were starting to close in.
But then there was more creek walking.
This was our first challenge. A drop, that was quite narrow so we lowered the packs down.
There aren’t supposed to be any abseils in this creek, but we decided to abseil this one. I guess those with long legs could have used the log as foot holds (and then stepped across to a ledge), but it was quite slippery, so we opted to abseil it. I had stripped down my harness (to save weight) and only had 2 carabiners, so I rigged up so that I could use a munter hitch to abseil on one single strand. A lot of friction, but I suspect the munter twists the rope. Here’s Trish abseiling.
After the abseil, there was a short tunnel section.
And then we’re out again with a climb down, trying to avoid the deep pool.
The canyon walls closing in again.
Anna took the “dry” route as she hadn’t put the top half of her wet suit on yet, the rest of us had a small wade.
The next climb down, here you had to straddle the log, then swing around to the right, get in a bit of a cave, then make your way down the log. Again, you could have done this just with the hand line for safety but some of us decided to abseil it, rope was there, why not use it, so we had bonus abseil #2.
Trish doing the abseil.
And, then we had a log slide, this canyon had something for everyone.
Glen and Alan on the log slide.
A nasty little climb down where we all used the hand-line.
Followed by a water slide, Heather liked it so much she went up for a second go. My new camera, has a contrast wheel, maybe a bit too much or not enough contrast on this image!
And then quite a long section of wading. Anna still hadn’t done up her wetsuit and declared that “you could do this without a wetsuit”, I’d heard it was really cold which is why we all carried them in.
Heather in the wade, doing a rendition of the Sound of Music.
A section of bouldering.
Followed by a cold wade (Trish does look like it was a surprise).
Nice canyon section.
And then we’re at the walk out, all up hill for a while, then reasonably flat. Heather and Trish brought their fans to combat the heat (I was cursing myself for not bringing mine).
We’re on the home stretch now, this is where we had to go. Seemed like a long way up!
We did come across a large rock platform. “Must be aboriginal art here” we all said, and sure enough there were axe or spear sharpening groves (2 spots I believe).
The type of terrain, vegetation we encountered, quite open and not too scrubby, apart from the lawyer vine a little further on.
Another rock shelf and we were so close to the end that we took the opportunity for a group shot, well, it would have been if we’d all looked at the camera!
Alan fanning Heather, that’s the life!
There were a couple of small climbs to get up through the cliff line but nothing that wasn’t do-able with a handline if we needed it. Anna didn’t but I sure did.
Finally we’re out and looking back on where we’d been.
Thanks so much team for coming with me on this canyon adventure, it was a great day out, not too long and some opportunities to try out some new skills. We’ll definitely have to go back and do the second half.
So, was I officially stuffed after 3 days, not really, so I must be getting a little fitter, or I chose canyons that weren’t going to be epics!
Thumbnail: More fungus out of South Bowen
Banner shot: Looking down the first abseil in South Bowen