FreezeFest – Sil’s introduction to canyoning

NEWNES PLATEAU 22 – 23 June 2019
Yes, I know, it’s the Winter Solstice, what was I thinking going canyoning? The idea for the trip was circulated three weeks ago, when the weather was amazingly mild, but then, a week out Marcia said it could snow and I started to get cold feet (literally and figuratively).  I wasn’t going to go ahead with snow forecast (I had a reason for that), then the threat of snow went (whew!) but the forecast low temperatures didn’t improve.  What to do?I checked with Sil (a caving friend from Victoria who was flying up for her first ever canyoning weekend), asking would she rather do an overnight walk, given the low temperatures.  Mis-communication there, she thought I meant walking all night, so said “no, she’d rather stick with canyoning”.  So, I checked around with the dozen or so others who seemed keen for a bit of winter canyoning, and no-one thought it was a bad idea (shades of the Abilene Paradox) – so, the trip was on.

I packed as much warm clothing and bedding as I could and picked up Sil from Sydney Airport on Friday afternoon.  As we’re driving along to the campsite, the outside temperature hit -2°C, neither Sil nor I were keen to get out of the car, it was at this point that Sil said, had she known what an overnight walk was, she might have opted for that (lol).  When we got to camp Heather and Trish had a good fire going and we met up with a couple of Fat Canyoners (a canyoning off-shoot of SUBW).  Everyone was huddled around the fire!

Co-incidentally, the FreezeFest weekend was on this weekend so we all camped at the one campsite, which meant that we were able to do some good networking.

Saturday’s canyon was Tiger Snake which is “dry” and a fairly easy short day.

The full group met up at the Tiger Snake car park at 9am and set off – l-r Alissa, Sil, Alan, Trish, Bill (Mule), Marcia and Rob. There were a couple of others, I wasn’t sure whether to split the group in two and carry two sets of ropes, or carry enough ropes for the whole trip and have a large group (probably against the “rules”!).

The weather was glorious, except for the cold of course.  Heather and Bill at one of the lookouts on the walk in.

As it was the first time for a few people through Tiger Snake, I opted for the first abseil anchor at the top of the pagoda, only problem was the biting wind, I’d suggested everyone gear-up down in the creek to stay out of the cold (and so I could check their gear), it was bitterly cold up at the anchor.

Alan abseiling, Alan’s producing a video to hopefully recruit members to caving clubs, he’s abseiling here with the bloody big “selfie stick” that he uses with his go pro to get close ups, we had to warn everyone not to be below him when he abseiled as the stick could fall out!

We opted to join up the first abseil with this little drop which can be climbed down, but with the cold water, no-one wanted to fall in, so we continued the abseil past the logs.  Up above I was wondering what the hell was taking so much time, when I got down the bottom I realised that everyone was super slow negotiating the logs (lol).

We did a test pull then Rob came down last, it wasn’t a nice pull down, but it made it easier to negotiate the cold pool of water!

The next challenge was another climb-down and a pool, we elected to abseil it because the rock was slippery, and again, we didn’t want to end up in the pool, which was only calf deep – but was cold.  There was a log there, but it had moved, so the last few people ended up in the water.  This is followed by a squeezy bit around to the left.

Which is followed by this climb down a poor tree’s roots (sorry about out of focus photo). It’s been five years since I did this canyon, I struggled more with the climb down the roots than I have in the past, maybe next time I’ll just abseil it!

The climb down is followed shortly thereafter by a 17m abseil from a tree.  Here’s Sil on the abseil, she wasn’t impressed with the anchor around the poor tree, there were a lot of reasons, but I can’t remember them all.

Heather on the abseil with Alan doing some footage with his big-a selfie stick (lol).

After the abseil there’s a nice walk through some open creek, lots of ferns, very pretty with towering cliffs around us.

We got to a section of the track that went up, for the life of me I can’t remember the track here but it was well trodden.  When I got to the abseil I remembered it though (lol).

Looking down at the anchor, it reminds me of the big abseil in Heart Attack.

Sil on the abseil, she had a heart-stopping moment when the rope twisted in the Rack that she was using for the first time (the rope twisting makes you stop and you have to sort of load it to make it move through the bars), she handled it well though and breathed a sigh of relief when she started moving again.

Young Matthew on the abseil, he handled all the abseils like a pro!

At the bottom of the last abseil is a nice tunnel section which is very dark, and it has a bit of a climb that you can go up (and down), I think this is Matthew on the climb down.

And Sil in the tunnel section

Once out of the tunnel section, there’s a bit of bouldering, I managed to get stuck on the top one though (legs not long enough), Rob helped me out, I do remember always having trouble on this rockpile.

On the walk out, great views from a pagoda (photo:  Alan G).

Alan brought along (Tiger) snakes to share.

We had a couple hours of daylight left, so I asked who wanted to do a short walk through canyon Wolgan View (aka Nobles or Dry Canyon).  Only Heather and Bill had the energy, so we set off to do the canyon, Rob, Matthew, Marcia and Alissa headed off home (to warm beds), and Alan, Sil and Trish headed back to camp to build the campfire.

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I last visited Wolgan View, some of the sections take your breath away, and many of the pagodas are covered in moss and native orchids.

Looking back to the start, constricted with nice flat floor, moss and orchids everywhere.

There’s a well trodden footpad through the canyon and it bypasses this little climb-down which is a bit of a challenge for those that aren’t that tall, adds a bit more interest to the canyon I think.

The deepest part of the canyon, it must get some flow through it when it rains heavily, or maybe the water just pools on the floor and that’s why it’s so flat.

Tree ferns in one section.

Then more constriction.

As Heather and Bill said, it’s a canyon that just keeps on giving, so close to the fire trail, and so easy to get to, why don’t we do it more often?

On the walk in/out there’s this rock formation that people have put “teeth” into its mouth, Heather recalled on our last trip that she had her photo taken with her head in the mouth, she tried to use Bill to climb up and recreate the photo, to no avail.

Finally got the shot with Bill’s help.

The round trip took us 1.5 hours (how easy is that), with enough time at the end to sit on a pagoda and enjoy the beautiful sunset before driving back to camp.

By now, a number of the Fat Canyoners had turned up and were just waiting for T2 (Tim) and Rebecca to return from their run through Hole in the Wall (a wet canyon), they were way braver than us! We also discovered that John and Kathy G had arrived in their caravan with their two daughters and two friends, it was shaping up to be a big group around the campfire.

With Alan’s grill, sausages and kebabs cooked well over the fire.

Heather followed this up with Rack of Lamb and bbq-d vegies (thank you so much for feeding Sil and me Heather, the lamb was delicious).

Then the kids roasted marshmellows.

Fat Canyoners (they’re not really fat) around the campfire.

Dinner was followed by desserts that we’d brought to share – strawberries & blue berries drenched in Cointreau and topped with cream (thanks Heather), and chocolate mud cake in celebration of Sil’s 40th birthday. The fire was great, kept the cold away and we had enough wood that we didn’t have to skimp on how big it was.  Conversation flowed and (surprisingly) we all went to bed much later than we usually do – maybe it was the copious quantities of red wine and Dom (thanks Rahul).

On Sunday morning we broke camp, leaving the Fat Canyoners behind and five of us set off to do Deep Pass. We’d get wet feet but with some care, that’s all that we’d get wet (fingers crossed).

Again, it’s been five years since I did Deep Pass, and I’d forgotten how pretty it is.  There’s a well-worn path these days avoiding most of the pools, so we managed to keep our feet fairly dry

The first of our challenges for the day, negotiating down this slippery slope to the log, that you then walk across to avoid the deep pool.

Bill on the second log section, unfortunately, the log wasn’t out of the water so you did get wet shoes. It’s also a challenge as you’re on the wrong side of the hand-line and you have to drop under it at the end.

I think Sil thought we were crazy, Alan photographed the whole thing for his video.

The deep pool is followed by a traverse around the edge.  Years ago, there wasn’t half the infrastructure that others have put in, lots of ropes, logs etc, sort of takes a lot of the fun out of the trip.  Haven’t seen so much dodgy rope, and dodgy anchors in a canyon before.

The next challenge, negotiating your way down a dodgy slippery rock-face with a hand-line.

Lovely cliff-faces.

Challenge #4 another slippery rock.  Sil did well wearing her Scarpas, the tread on them really isn’t suited to slippery wet rock.

Challenge #5 in the effort to stay dry, a slot that you have to chimney.

Followed by a step across a deep pool.

Challenge #6 another log walk.

Then there’s a slot that you sort of have to walk through at a 60 Degree angle.

Followed by challenge #7 another slippery rockface with a hand-line.

Another slippery slope, this time without a hand-line.

And the penultimate challenge, climbing down beside a 7m waterfall (that’s a guess) using handline and footholds that are hard to see.

Alan about to go down.

Sil climbing down with instructions from Alan.

At the bottom, maybe it’s not 7m, maybe it’s only 4, but it seems like 7 when you are at the top ready to jump in the pool.

The last challenge beside another deep pool.  In summer you get heaps of people and lots of kids going through Deep Pass, it’s loads of fun with lots of jumps and slides, we were really fortunate to have the place to ourselves on this trip, and most of us remained fairly dry.

From the creek we went over to The Slot, a pagoda that has split in two, and then one side has split again, forming these amazing deep slots that you can walk through.

They’re very narrow.

There’s a small climb down to get through to the end (and then you turn around and return).

Sil, almost at the end.

Sil exiting, you wouldn’t even know the slot was there if you approached from this side.

I was going to show them the cave (it’s tagged), but wasn’t going to send them through it, then at the last minute I said “go on in, I’ll meet you at the end”.

From my perspective this wasn’t my best decision, only 2 had helmets and they had a camera ad a mobile phone between them for light.  I walked to the end (maybe 30m) and waited to see if I could hear them – nothing.  Then I walked back to the beginning, called out – nothing.  It was a Picnic at Hanging Rock moment! Back to the start “Miranda where are you” (that’s a line out of Picnic at Hanging Rock) – nothing – walked back to the end – nothing.  This is the stuff that makes headlines!  I went back to the beginning and could hear a faint sound – “OK guys, come on out!”

Was never so pleased to see them coming back up to the surface. It’s no wonder that I’m not a cave leader!

Walking back through a lovely ferny glen – we surprised a wombat near his hole, first wombat Sil had seen in the wild.

Pagoda lookout on the walk out (photo: Alan G).

As we were driving in, I told Sil that I believed that Deep Pass was an aboriginal meeting place, she said “that figures” as she’d seen a few scarred trees on the drive in.  We stopped at one on the drive out, she’s not certain, but she thinks that this is a scarred tree, the bark is cut out for use in making bowls or vessels, the cut is usually just above the root system (at about waist height), and a “scar” is formed.  She wasn’t 100% sure this was one, but looks promising. I’ve seen these many times in the bush but always thought it was a branch that had fallen off, but Sil says if they’re at this height on the tree, then it isn’t a branch.  Interesting.

We were back on the road at 2.30, said goodbye to the others and then Sil and I were headed to the airport to drop her off (made it by 5.30). Unfortunately her flight was cancelled, as was another one, and she didn’t get out of Sydney until way light, having to go home to Geelong via Melbourne, getting home around mid-night.  She still thinks the late night was worth it though.

Thanks everyone who joined me on this weekend.

Snakes: 0 (of course it’s winter)
Temperatures:  I’m guessing that the low temps were somewhere around -5°C, but we were fortunate, no snow.

Banner:  roasted marshmellows
Thumbnail:  Rob in Tiger Snake



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4 Responses to FreezeFest – Sil’s introduction to canyoning

  1. Graham Groves says:

    Great pics as usual M.
    I don’t think I would like Deep Pass when it is as wet as when you did it. Went twice last summer and on the second occasion, I took my eye off the ball, slipped and landed on my tailbone. Ouch! Web advice said it would take 18 days to come good if nothing was broken and that is exactly how long it took!

    • marilyn says:

      Yes Graham, poor Sil took a slip too (but she was wearing Scarpas so not surprising), hope she wasn’t bruised too badly. I took a hit on my tailbone when tobogganing 30 years ago, mine was sore for about 3 months!

  2. Kathy LESLIE says:

    Glad to see that a little cold weather and potential for snow did not deter you!
    Your time spent living in Minnesota must have been good training!!!!
    Beautiful scenery. As always, I love hearing about your adventures!
    Thanks for sharing!

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