WOLLEMI NATIONAL PARK – Part 1 – 17 – 18 May 2019
The Legendary Louise and Cool Tim invited me on an exploratory canyoning trip to visit an area that was new for them. This was to be a recce for a summer trip, we’d avoid the really wet canyons, but would suss out entries and exits for the future. We ended up taking exploratory canyoning to a whole new level!
We met up on Friday morning and set out for a camp cave that has fresh water nearby. This would allow us to explore a number of branches of a well-known but unpublished creek system.
The route we took looked like it was a taped track. I was thinking that canyoners had recently taped it to make life easier, but it actually took us to a very rocky area that we think was habitat for rock wallabies, and we were quite a long way from the spur that would have been the more direct route.
Interesting rocks – this route enabled us to see more of the area.
We arrived at the camp cave (overhang) which would be our home for the next two nights; we had lunch and set up camp, then headed out to do some exploring. (Photo: Tim O)
I had used the pass out of the creek a long time ago, and wasn’t 100% sure where it was, but it actually was the only option so it was a no-brainer.
It’s a really easy pass, up one level, then traversing around to another ramp (photo: Tim O).
Nice views up the valley from half-way up the pass.
Louise sussing out where we would go. We also wanted to check out the vegetation to see how scrubby it was. A fire had obviously passed through the area and therefore it was quite open. We walked up to a high point, then decided we’d seen enough.
And headed back down the pass.
Louise and Tim really spoiled me, they catered the dinners for the whole weekend, and carried in a chair for me – how good was that!
Louise has invented the “campfire tacos”, the shell goes on a stick and is heated to a certain point (she gave us very precise instructions on how to determine when the shell was cooked).
Then you add all the fixings! Best tacos I’ve ever had!
Followed by either Tiramisu or Crème Brule carried in by Tim!
The Crème Brule even had crunchy caramel topping on the top!
Far too much wine was consumed as we chatted about what we would do the next day. We decided that we would go and do one of the branches of the main creek, but instead of guessing where to “drop in”, we’d go right to the top of the branch and “do the whole thing” and WE’D NEVER HAVE TO RETURN because we’d know exactly what was there, we’d never be thinking “was there anything further up?”
Louise asked us to wake her for an 8am start. But she was sleeping so soundly (and she works long hours), so Tim and I were reluctant to wake her (mistake #1) – we ended up leaving camp at 9am! By the end of the day we were regretting our thoughtfulness!
Louise was sure that there would be a “highway” or rock shelves on the top, and there were, sort of, but pretty dense scrub when there weren’t any rock shelves!
We arrived at a great lookout which enabled us to see the main creek system and one of the side branches.
Louise and Tim checking out where they wanted to go in the future.
Back into the scrub.
And then back out to another lookout, we decided to do an Instagram photoshoot here just for the hell of it! (Photo: Louise)
Louise is keen for me to get some “money shots” for Instagram, this was to be one of them (Photo: Tim).
Photo: Louise; looks like we have all the time in the world doesn’t it!
A bit more scrub and we came across this nice looking ramp down into our creek. We decided against going down, still keen to “go right to the top to make sure we didn’t miss anything”.
We’re in some pretty good country now, heath, and good rock slabs, making pretty good time.
We then decided that we were as far upstream as we’d need to go and dropped down into this nice open ramp.
Pretty easy going.
When we got to the creek itself, we were pulled up by this 1m+ Red Bellied Black snake at a pool having a drink. We tried to make him move off (so we could see which way he’d go), but he didn’t want to budge, then he hid in the pile of leaves. For the next hour or so, Louise poked every pile of leaves with a big stick! (Photo: Louise)
In the creek itself now with occasional pools of (manky looking) water.
The occasional drop that was too big for Louise and me to jump.
We came to our first substantial pool at lunch-time and decided that we’d avoid it by abseiling in after the pool.
Tim on the nice abseil (abseil #1).
Bit of an overhang at the bottom.
A short while after the abseil, we spotted an overhang up above the creek, so scrambled up to check it out.
Looking back to where we’d climbed up (Photo: Tim)
This has to be one of the biggest overhangs I’ve come across, easily 100m+ long (it went around the corner)
The end of the overhang had vertical walls at the back, a good spot for aboriginal art, but we didn’t find anything (too hard to get to I’d say).
Back in the creek and we’re still avoiding getting wet feet, we were playing the OzCanyons FB “water is lava” game.
Really big tree that had fallen down and its bark had fallen off in a sheet (would have been good to make a shelter).
The creek isn’t as scrubby as it first was, so we’re now enjoying the experience.
Another pool to avoid, Tim moved this log over so we could use it for a controlled slide.
Louise did it much more gracefully than me.
Still playing the water is lava game and we all have dry shoes (you can see abseil #2 in the background).
Nice mossy walls in the creek.
We’re starting to get some nice constriction now.
Another pool to cross.
And another pool, this one I couldn’t avoid stepping into, so the game was over.
We then came to 3 compulsory swims, none of us wanted to swim, so we decided to go high and traverse around. This took up a lot of time, probably wasted an hour, Tim and Louise had no trouble climbing up but I didn’t like the look of it (and would have struggled with the first 2m) so I prussiked up, but when I got to the lip (that you have to pass), dirt clogged my prussik knots and I had to use a third loop, which thankfully Louise was able to place for me, this all took up valuable time.
Once up on the ledge, there was a 30m “traverse of death”, I stayed on the rope (never a good idea as if you slip, you fall the length of the rope AND pendulum). Thankfully I didn’t slip.
Once off the rope, there was another 20m of traversing on a very slippery slope, then a crevasse to step over and another 10m of skinny ledge. Thankfully Tim had already set up the rope so as soon as I got there I abseiled down, was so pleased to get off that traverse!
Louise on abseil #3, it was a lovely abseil, but Louise and I decided that that was it with the traverses of death, from this point on if we encountered a pool, we’d just get wet.
This was one of the pools we’d avoided by traversing.
Fairly recently there’d been a massive rock fall. A tree at the top of the cliff had fallen over and dislodged all this rock (we had to walk under the big chock-stone).
A knee-deep pool for 2m and then you could clamber out to avoid the deep part.
Our first compulsory swim.
Louise in the pool. I stuffed around for the first 2m trying to find foot holds to avoid the swim but there was no way to avoid it.
And another swim (photo Louise)
By now it’s getting late and we were still a long way from the end (which you can see in the distance), and there’s another abseil.
And then it got dark very quickly – although Louise is having a ball making her way through the ferns. My camera battery went flat at this point, and I didn’t change it until it got really dark!
Abseil #6 or 7, I’d lost count by this time. Louise has now changed into her cashmere cardigan to stay warm, she was exposing a lot of cleavage though that we had to keep reminding her about.
We got to the bottom of this pitch and there were glow worms, Louise stopped to admire them (there were only 10 or so), and it was at this point I uttered the words “forget the f-ing glow worms” – now those who know me know that I rarely swear, and I’m not even sure why I did, but they said those words should be the title for the blog post. I guess I just wanted to keep moving ahead and get out of this side branch, I’ve walked in a creek in the dark before (too many times!), and even with a head torch it can be treacherous.
And then Tim uttered the words “another abseil” and Louise and I both cried “Noooooo!”, we’d had enough by then.
According to Louise, we were only 100m (or less) from the main creek. Canyoning in the dark isn’t a big deal, it’s just like caving (without a roof). The main problem in the dark is that you can’t see alternative routes, with a well-used canyon like Juggler, you can see the compacted route that everyone takes, but with a relatively unpopular canyon, there’s no obvious route, so you’re constantly going back and forth looking for the easiest (and safest) way through the boulders. I was concerned that we’d accidentally trend around to the right and get in a section of the main creek with house sized boulders (that I knew were there). We made the conscious effort to trend left and found an easy slope down and then we were in the main creek, and only 50m from our camp. That last 150m in the dark probably took us 1.5 hours as we didn’t get back to the overhang until 7pm – a 10 hour day!
AND because we probably did half the constriction in the dark, now we’re going to have to go back and do it again to see what we couldn’t see! Next time though, we’ll drop in right where the canyon section starts! So much for seeing the whole creek “so we don’t have to go back!” Could we have shaved any time off? Probably, we’d all made the decision not to rush through the whole day, we didn’t want to be time-keeping and it wasn’t a race to see how quickly we could do it – and I guess that came back to bite us – although none of us were stressed about the last dark section.
We changed into dry clothes, built a roaring fire and Louise got to work making macaroni and cheese and baked potatoes as we finished off all the left-over alcohol.
On Sunday morning, Tim couldn’t resist climbing up the cliff-face of the camp cave.
We had a cruisy Sunday morning and then headed off for Part 2 of our adventure … To Be Continued!
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