YARRAMUN CREEK – Wollangambe Fire Trail > Unnamed Ridges > Captains Canyon > Up Ya Bum Canyon > Captains Canyon and return – 7 – 10 March 2019. An “In Your Dreams M” trip proposed by John G … the walk in and out would be 5 – 6 hours. We would camp on Thursday night to get an early start. I wasn’t at all confident, particularly as my backpack weighed in at 15k – way too heavy for me!
John G, Heather R, Jo & Ed S, Jeff B and I met up at Zig Zag railway for the drive in late on Thursday night. It was very misty with occasional patches of drizzle – not a good start.
Jeff and I were sharing my Aldi tent, Heather heard us having some wine so joined us – how many people can you fit in an Aldi tent? Wasn’t easy taking a “selfie” with my camera!
Anna O-B joined us at 6am on Friday morning and we all piled into the 4WD vehicles and headed out to the end of the fire trail. We didn’t achieve the 7am start (was very misty and dark) but managed to head out around 8am. Not many photos on the start of the walk, I was too busy trying to survive the small up-hill section right at the beginning to take photos. Once on the ridges though, it was easier going.
Morning tea break – we’d been walking about 2 hours by now and had just come off the hill in the distance, crossed the saddle and climbed up a rocky outcrop.
Our lunch spot with a view, looking down into the valley with our destination (Captains Canyon) in the middle distance.
After lunch we headed over to a rocky outcrop hoping to find an overhang to use as our base camp, no luck there although there was a very nice flat campsite. We all agreed that it was too far from water, so decided to head down to do Captains Canyon and sort out a place to camp afterwards (or return to the campsite we just left with some water).
We were down at the Captains creek by around 2pm, Jo decided to stay with our packs (we left all our overnight gear with Jo), a decision she later regretted as the flies were very annoying!
The walk downstream in the creek started out ok, not too scrubby. Occasionally we’d have to get out of the creek-bed to avoid fallen trees/scrub, but overall it wasn’t too bad.
Ed had done Captains before – he’d reversed it from Yarramun all the way up to the “tunnel” section, so we had a bit of an idea from Ed as to what to expect.
We eventually came to a climb-down into a dark section. Ed didn’t recall this, but that’s not surprising, canyons tend to merge together. John went down first, we set up a handline because it was quite a deep hole we’d be descending into.
Jeff going down, it was very dark, you couldn’t see where to put your feet, was a bit harder for me being so short! Anna showed us the “Angel” method of “no descender abseiling” with the rope behind your back and holding on with both hands. We left the rope in place as we’d need it to climb up here when we reversed the canyon to get gack to Jo.
Me in the tunnel – Ed said that he didn’t do this particular tunnel, so it appears that there’s more than one tunnel in Captains. The joke of the trip though was that Ed said that there weren’t any swims, it was all wading. (Photo: John G).
And what do you know, we’re in the tunnel for the blink of an eye and there’s a bloody cold swim, in really manky water.
Another photo of Jeff at the swim, it was pitch black, all lighting is from our head torches (Photo: John G).
At the end of the tunnel, you can see how much debris was in the water, and it didn’t smell great either – but it was a GREAT tunnel section.
Once out of the tunnel, Ed could see that you could walk around this section, so he went back to retrieve the rope, we wouldn’t need to swim through that water again.
A short walk through an open section and there’s another swim.
Not all that long though, but quite cold.
The swim was followed by another swim in another tunnel, this time the walls were very close together and it was challenging to squeeze through. I think it was in this section that a water dragon tried to hitch-hike on John’s pack, when he brushed it off, it tried to hitch-hike on Heather, much squealing ensued and it was with trepidation that I ventured into the slot, not sure whether the water dragon was still lurking around for a ride.
The canyon opened out again, and there were a lot of fallen trees, just after this section of creek, we came to what looked like a swim.
There was good drinking water at this point so we filled up all our water bladders and decided that it was getting a bit late to continue down to the end. We’d passed an easy climb out of the creek about 50m back, so we decided to set aside the rest of Captains until Saturday (we’d reverse up it from Yarramun Creek).
We scrambled up 30m or so and came to a nice looking campsite – flat, plenty of fire wood, and relatively close to good water, so we dropped the water and headed over to Jo – probably only 200m away, picked up all our gear and headed back to set up camp.
Around the campfire, looking forward to the next day. As we were all feeling pretty good, we decided on a very ambitious next day … Up Ya Bum, drop into Yarramun Creek (Canyon), then up a pass to do Up Ya Crack and then head up to Captains and reverse it back to camp … FOUR canyons in one day!
We crossed over the Captains creek and found a really easy pass up to the ridge on the other side. It was hot, but didn’t take us all that long to get to the top, it was then a matter of navigating past one creek system over to the Up Ya Bum creek. Needless to say, the word of the day was “bum”, from sliding on our bums to bummer of an abseil, we were in good spirits and four canyons seemed achievable.
We’re in the Up Ya creek now, and came to a climb down, doesn’t look like much but behind Jo, there’s a nasty 3m drop and to the right of Ed there’s another nasty 3m drop, a handline was the safest way to do this – I know I was freaked out when I slid down to put my foot on firm rock.
Abseil #1 – We walked around a few scrubby sections of creek and then decided that it was time to drop down, so we set up a very scrubby abseil (Jeff on rope).
Just to the right was a big amphitheatre, if it wasn’t so dry there would have been a small waterfall here.
Once in the creek, it became quite boulder – on this there were two ways down.
Walking through one boulder section.
Another downclimb – note Jeff’s tights and red helmet – which he wore for John’s benefit as he likes bright colours in his photos!
Abseil #2 – you could probably downclimb this but the moss was slippery-as, so most of us abseiled it, there wasn’t a fixed anchor here so we used the log.
John was the last person down and as we thought the rope would get stuck he free climbed it.
Abseil #3 – into a pool
Bit of a difficult start but Jo nailed it!
Anna on Abseil #4 – again, no fixed anchor so we used this log, there was a bit of movement but the force was down-wards so it was ok to use.
John decided that he wanted to take some photos from above so abseiled down to a convenient ledge and sent Jeff over next.
John’s photo with Anna down the bottom. (Photo: John G)
Me on the abseil, was a really nice one. I’m wearing my brother’s wetsuit with shortened legs and arms, he wore it in his 20s for surfing, it’s got to be 40+ years old!
Abseil #5 – not sure about this one, it may have been 2-stage, with the anchor up above and a scramble across the pool – Jo managed to keep out of the water.
Heather on the continuation of Abseil #5 – I do recall that the anchor was iffy showing some wear on the tape, should probably be replaced in the near future.
Ed on the continuation of Abseil #5 (I think).
The pull-down on this was always going to be an issue as there was a hole behind the log, and the log had a lot of catch spots on it, and sure enough, our rope dropped into one of these catch spots and held tight. Ed helped Jo climb up the log to release the rope. This abseil was followed by an option abseil #6 (4m) but if you wanted you could crawl around on a ledge
Jo on Abseil #7.
We then came to a large fallen tree, took a lot of time to get through all the branches (you can just see Jo who’s belaying someone in amongst the fallen tree).
Now here’s where things got interesting. Ed had trip notes that said 2 x 20m ropes would do the canyon, if on the last abseil, you went down to the ledge. We’d taken 1 x 40m and 2 x 20m ropes, so we definitely had enough rope! I’m guessing that the note taker’s 20m ropes were a little longer than 20! As John couldn’t see the bottom, Jeff went down first on the single 40m rope and could then let John know whether the 40m rope (doubled) would do the job.
Jeff abseiling into the crack, on a single 9mm rope, he wasn’t too keen on abseiling on the single 9 particularly using his Hydrobot! Bummer, when they reset the rope (and it’s definitely 40m as we measured it 2 months ago), it was about 3m too short.
So, we tied one of our 20s onto the end of the 40 and set the length, then isolated the ropes with 2 alpine butterflies, joined the loops in the butterflies, and everyone abseiled on the end of the 40 without the knot in it. Wasn’t a nice abseil as you had to slide over the ledge and no-one was all that confident of the speed of the single 40, given that it was a new rope. Everyone except Anna came down that way, and then when I got to the bottom, Anna untied the alpine butterflies and we attached the side of the rope with the knot into it to John’s harness with a figure 8 on the bite and John was Anna’s Meat Anchor. Worked well, Anna and I had both used this system before so weren’t concerned, but it was a new set-up for everyone else.
Anna (and John tucked into a hole) at the bottom of the abseil, it was a really, really nice abseil!
The abseil was followed by a short swim and when I got to the end of it and decided to take the above photo of Anna, I noticed that one of the compartments in my camera had opened – probably before I did the swim. How this happened is beyond me, there’s a double locking system and there’s no way that I unlocked it. Anyway, it worked for a few more photos and then stopped. The retailer that I bought it from advised that it’s “terminal”, so has gone back to Olympus to see if it’s covered under warranty, fingers crossed. So, not that many photos of the rest of the trip!
Everyone was really chilled after Up Ya Bum, particularly Jeff who had to stand in water the whole time we were setting the rope on the last abseil. So we lit a small fire once we got on a sandbank in Yarramun Creek. There would be 2 compulsory swims in Yarramun so we wanted to warm up a little before we started.
Initially there was a sandbank but eventually we came to the first boulder field that we had to negotiate our way through.
Nice canyon sections where the walking was easier.
The first compulsory swim and the longest.
Looking back at the swimmers!
More boulders (Photo: John G)
The second compulsory swim, this time there was a very small opening that you had to turn your head side-ways to get through. (Photo: John G)
It was about a 1k walk upstream from Up Ya Bum to Captains. We had decided that we had run out of time to do Up Ya Crack but we did stop at the end of it and walk up it, it looks truly spectacular but not for anyone carrying a bit of weight, it is very, very narrow.
John said he didn’t remember as many boulder fields in this section of Yarramun, there were a lot and some of the scrambles were quite difficult. We found one really good overhang on the creek and then another one almost at the end of Captains, John noted them for a future trip.
Ed showed us the route out of Yarramun up to the overhang he’d camped in before and then it was a simple walk along the cliff-line to get into Captains.
Initially we walked on the left hand side of Captains up at the cliff-line, it was easy walking and avoided the scrubbiness of the creek. We were walking through lovely coachwood forest and it was very pretty. Before long we were at the tunnel, and it was really good, we turned our head torches off from time to time to enjoy the glow worms.
Anna, Heather & Jo in the Tunnel (Photo: John G).
The tunnel was quite sustained, definitely had a dark section, so theoretically we got Jeff into a cave (he has always said he’d never cave!). It wasn’t long after the tunnel that we were back at our water collection spot, so filled up and climbed back up to our camp. Sadly, mist and drizzle had set in. We built up a big fire to dry stuff off and warm up but by 8.30pm the drizzle had turned to intermittent rain. This meant that all my gear (wetsuit, harness, volleys, sox, shorts) were wet and would not dry out for the walk out so my hopes for <15k in my pack were dashed!
We were up and ready to start walking by 8.15am – not looking for the 6 hour walk out. The sun came out and at least dried off my wetsuit (which I had out of the pack), but this meant that it was really hot for the hills that we had to climb. I struggled on the hills, the ridges were fine. We were back at the vehicles by 3pm (had a long lunch and lots of breaks). Surprisingly, I still thought I had another couple of hour’s walking left in me (but no more hills – lol).
Thanks so much John for putting this trip on, had always wanted to do these remote canyons but didn’t ever think that I would. Both were really good canyons, and in a perfect world if I had it in me, I’d definitely do these canyons again, highly recommended.
Thanks everyone for the great team work through the canyons, and Jeff for carrying in the tarp that he shared with me so I didn’t have to carry in my tent. Finally, some flora/fauna that we found …
We saw lots of these spider webs on the walk, particularly in the morning when they were covered with dew. The web had a funnel section at the top and then a flat section at the bottom. The bottom section was amazing, it was almost like fly screen (small square meshing of web). (Photo: John G).
Fruit found whilst waiting at the top of the final abseil in Up Ya Bum. Billardiera scadens aka Appleberry or Apple Dumpling (and Snotberry). Yes Jo, we could have eaten it! Fruit can be eaten raw when it’s fallen to the ground or roasted if still green.
Banner: Heather at the lunch spot with a view.
Thumbnail: Coral fern (photo: John G.)