Canyoning – Boudoir and M’s Folly

NEWNES PLATEAU – 14 September 2019
I had six people signed up to do Tuglow Main Cave – I’d never done it before and it was a case of do it now – or forget about it.  I’d put on a few SRT training days so everyone would be up to speed for the prussik out (especially me), and I’d applied for the permit six months ago and been given verbal confirmation that it was approved.  And then disaster struck!I still hadn’t received the hard copy of the permit so called up NPWS (a week before the date for the trip) and was informed that our permit was being withdrawn.  Apparently, photos had recently been taken of the bolts (“what bolts” says David the leader “we don’t use them”) and someone had put in a handline that NPWS felt looked suss.

Not much we could do about it so I put some thought into a Plan B before I told everyone that Tuglow was off.

I came up with a weekend of canyoning, knocking off two known canyons and one exploration of a creek, all of which were on my Wish List.  I sent out the email, some dropped out and then some others who weren’t on the original list of six booked in, and I ended up with a group of five, including me … Anna and Heather (both of whom will go anywhere with me), Alan (who’s only ever canyoned with me – I’m not looking forward to the day he finds a better leader), and Bill (who’s just getting used to my eccentricities).  The question is, after this trip, will they canyon with me again?

I drove to the Plateau from Abercrombie, arriving at the campsite at 5.30pm.  No-one else was there, which was a little freaky, but I settled down with a glass of wine (finishing off the dregs of one bottle) and my book.  Finished off the book, thought I’d have another glass of wine and bugger me, couldn’t get the screw top off.  I eventually had to attack it with a steak knife, getting a little panicky that I’d cut myself badly, this trip just wasn’t going well at all, and it was only 7pm on Friday night!  Eventually Bill and Heather turned up and at least I had company (and Bill lit a fire which was good).

We all met up on the Wollangambe Fire Trail at 8am on Saturday morning to attack our first canyon Budoir (not it’s real name as it’s sort of unpublished).  I had no beta data on this canyon, although I’d walked into the bottom of it many years ago.  It ends in a large amphitheatre and I (mistakenly) thought you abseiled in from the top.  Looked like a great abseil and couldn’t wait to see what was above.  We took all our abseil gear and a couple of ropes and set off.

We left the cars and followed first a fire trail and then a footpad, I was thinking “this is great, track all the way to the start”, and then it disappeared. So, we walked a compass bearing and after a slight adjustment eventually came out on a nice pagoda area where we could see the way forward. (photo: Alan)

I decided on one of two “creeks” to go down, picked the wrong one and had to go up and over a small ridge, then we were heading down into the right creek in fairly nice open country.

Eventually we were in the creek proper and the canyon walls closed in.

And then it got a bit scrubby.  There was little or no evidence of a track through this part of the canyon, had me wondering if I was in the right place.

A small rockfall that we had to negotiate …

and then we’re in the canyon proper.  And what a beautiful green canyon it was.

Very constricted, and it made quite a few turns.

When we came to a big amphitheatre, and I knew I was in the right place, but WTF, where was the abseil … there wasn’t one! You could walk in from the bottom.  Major bummer, particularly as I’d told everyone to bring their abseil gear and ropes!

We climbed up out of the amphitheatre onto a pagoda outcrop.

This is Alan’s photo of the amphitheatre from the top of a pagoda that we climbed.

We were able to walk along for about 100m on the top section, returning to the amphitheatre, to the left of Anna is the canyon, to the right is a major creek and in the middle is the junction where the two meet – would actually be nice camping up here on the top.

Walking down the pagodas back into the amphitheatre.

We then made our way down to the junction and explored down the creek for 50m or so.

There was little or no water in the creek.  Last time I was here, where Anna is coming out of a small cave/tunnel, it was full of water and we would have gotten really wet going downstream.

This section of the creek is really pretty too.  Last time, there was considerable water flowing in the creek.

Once the canyon opened out, it was quite scrubby and I decided that we’d get out of the creek and do a bearing back to the vehicles.  Bill set up a handline so that I could get up this small climb with ease.

Getting out of the creek early was a big mistake, added another k onto our walk back to the cars through scrub, but eventually we came across a dirt bike trail which we were able to follow to the fire trail and then it was a fast trip to the cars, arriving at them at 1.15pm.

I asked everyone if they still wanted to do Part 2 of the trip.  I’d been down Lucid Pools Canyon a few years ago and looked up a side creek and there was what I thought was an abseil, “would be interesting to see what’s above this if there’s another canyon” says me, and I became obsessed with the possibility, just had to check it out.  I showed everyone the map and the creek which was adjacent to Lucid Pools Canyon, 500m from where we would park the cars, then 1k in the creek and a very easy exit, about a k, then a k up a fire trail.  Piece of cake – right? and everyone decided that they’d do it.  Honestly, I was a bit hot and tired and the off track route back to the vehicles from Boudoir had tired me out.  If anyone had said they didn’t want to do this creek, I would have happily pulled the pin.  Talk about revisiting the Abilene Paradox (shades of my Freezfest trip back in June).

The walk started out really well, lovely weather, scrub not too unfriendly, and a slow decline down to the creek.

As soon as we got into the creek we got into some tree ferns, initially we all thought they were lovely, but then the ferns turned on us, couldn’t see hidden logs, the creek got deeper and it was treacherous, so we got out of the creek. The side wasn’t much better!

The cliff line on each side started to close in and I was hopeful that there’d be “something” here.  But no, just more ferns.

We came to a great camp cave though, pity it was only 1/2 an hour from the cars (and no water nearby).

I’m still pretty positive at this stage, took a nice shot of the sun through tree ferns and the cliffs.

But now the scrub is unrelenting, first Bill was pushing his way through it, then Alan, then Anna.  I checked the GPS and the map and we were only half way down the creek.  It’s hot and tiring and there was muttering about another dodgy M trip (why do they only remember the dodgy ones!)

Nice cliffs though! AND we hadn’t encountered any snakes – Brown Snakes make a nuisance of themselves in September, so I was a bit wary.

We decided that it was somewhat easier in the creek and at least we were only 100m from the abseil down into Lucid Pools. We did hit a nice section of sandy creek bed, but that soon ended.

We scrambled over a couple of rocks and dropped down into a nice sandy spot and what do you know, we’re at the Lucid Pools abseil! Where was the abseil coming into the creek (that I remembered from my trip down Lucid Pools), we’d carried the bloody ropes and abseil gear for nothing (twice in one day!).

The team at the base of Lucid Pools – not happy campers, the only thing that was positive is that there was nice clear water in the pool. It remains to be seen if they’ll book into my next trip. I’ve christened the creek M’s Folly – what was I thinking?

Walking down Lucid Pools creek, very pretty.

Going up the exit to get out of the creek – I told them it was easy and it was.

I think here Heather’s saying “really?”, both Heather and Bill were pretty much over this creek.

It was a fairly easy trip back to our exit fire trail, as I’d promised them, up a spur, along a ridge, down to the creek through a few ferns and onto the fire trail.

We’re finally there and they’ve given the creek the thumbs down.  Never to be repeated.

Easy half hour walk up the fire trail, if you liked 4 wheel driving, you could probably drive all the way down to the creek, there’s only one or two spots that were a bit dodgy. (Photo: Alan)

The one thing about my blog is that you get the good with the bad, not every trip turns out to be a great adventure, some are epics or just plain horrible – but at least I’m honest about them.  The team did suggest that we gild the lily so others would venture into this creek, but I’m here to say DON’T! definitely not worth the effort.

It was a 10 hour day, I was stuffed.  Luckily Bill, Heather and Alan were feeding me tonight and after we built up the fire, I’d cleaned myself up and had a beer, all was well with the world, and the afternoon didn’t seem half as bad as it was … and the good news was the team had stopped complaining!  Thanks everyone for enabling me to fulfil one of my Wish List trips, I’ll try to do better next time!

Thumbnail:  Bill, waist deep in ferns

 

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