IYDM Trip #6 – Up Ya Crack Canyon & Yarramun Creek

YARRAMUN CREEK – 11 – 13 September 2020
Anna has been reminding me over the past year that almost 12 months ago I said “that’s it for me, never doing another overnight canyoning trip, too hard!” And yet, here I am back again, out in the wilderness on another John G trip.  I have always wanted to do this trip and I just knew I’d have major FOMO if I didn’t go.  

John is getting quite a following for his trips, no-one wants to miss out, so it was a large group, John, Jeff B, Mule, Murray N, Anna O-B, Louise K and me … apart from me a very strong group.

The plan was to walk from Mount Wilson to Yarramun Creek, drop our packs at a spot directly across from the camp cave that we’d use for the weekend, then take our abseil gear and go do Up Ya Crack.  We’d then go back, pick up our gear, find a route down to the creek and cross over to the camp cave.  Next morning we’d go up Captains Canyon (you can reverse it), do a bit of photography, then make our way to Rory’s Canyon, thence back to camp and walk out the next day.  We’d be avoiding any big swims (and getting we if at all possible).  Didn’t go to plan (exactly), but it was a great three days!  An epic trip, lots of photos.

Starting down the Wollangambe 1/Serendipity exit track.

The climb-down, which I wasn’t looking forward to, but nowadays, there is a fixed rope so you feel a lot safer, I didn’t go down with my heavy pack though, John lowered it down to me.

We took our boots off for the crossing of the Wollangambe (where the water level was mercifully at normal level), we weren’t that fussy on the way back on Sunday.

Our route took us up onto a ridge which we followed all the way over to Yarramun. The whole area was smashed by the fires back in Dec/Jan, but made for easy walking. Occasionally though, there were pockets of green trees were the fire didn’t get into the crowns of the trees.

Making our way to the end of the ridge where we’d drop our packs, Yarramun Creek is now below us and our camp cave in the distance below a small knoll. We’d be traversing around the base of this knoll to get to Rory’s the next day.

Packs dropped now and making our way down into the headwaters of Up Ya Crack. John and Mule had actually done a day walk out to the creek a month ago, sussing out a pass up from the creek … they got to the first pitch and considered doing the canyon since they were there, but fortuitously decided not to – you’ll find out why later!

Lots of dead trees and scorched vegetation to negotiate through.

In the creek proper now.

And at the first abseil. Mule was to go first, mainly because he was using a figure 8 (which twists the sheath of the rope), so when we went after him, we’d untwist it. Turned out that going first wasn’t the best cab off the rank.

Mule heading down, wearing his sunglasses might not have been his best idea either.

Louise at the abseil, she’s so exited to be out on a trip with us, I’ve told her so many stories about great trips with John!

Jeff on the abseil, the trick was to stay out of the crack to Jeff’s right.

Murray right at the top of the abseil. It was a great abseil!

We left the 60m rope in place (to be retrieved when we used the exit pass which crossed over the creek at the abseil). Then we had to climb up this log, and across to the rh side (a nasty climb – if you slipped you’d fall into a crack and it would be difficult to get out), and then wait for the next abseil (still using the 60m rope)

As the abseil was very narrow, we elected to lower the packs to Mule using the tail end of the 60m rope.

Louise on the abseil, standing on a small chock-stone (which actually moved a bit, but I don’t think it would fall, too narrow below it). We were all fortunate, when Mule abseiled down, he pendulum-ed into the crack and a deep pool which he had to swim. The rest of us were pulled across the pool, although Louise did get wet.

Once down the second abseil and across the pool, there was another crack, quite narrow to start, with a ledge either side, but there was a deep pool at the bottom. It was very dark and you couldn’t quite see where to put your feet, so we elected to set up a bit of a hand-line (using a convenient rock and Murray as a meat anchor), then made our way across.

Mule looking up the crack as Murray negotiates across (he didn’t have the advantage of the hand-line).

And yet another abseil! Little did we know that there were so many. 12 months ago when we looked up this canyon from below, it looked like it was just one drop in the slot! This abseil has a small overhang below, but was ok. It’s a good idea when John and Mule were sussing out the canyon that they didn’t actually do it, as they wouldn’t have finished in daylight and it would have been an incredibly tedious walk back to Mount Wilson in the dark.

Finally, we’re at the end of the canyon, and this was interesting, we’re on Yarramun creek, and it’s flowing INTO the canyon. The rain event back in February must have scoured the sand out of the canyon and now the level of the canyon is lower than the creek.

It’s very late by this time, somewhere between 4 and 5, not quite sure but I know we were running out of daylight.  The canyon was very sporty and challenging and took way longer than we expected – probably because we were being super cautious and making sure that we weren’t complacent.  Our pass was just at the side of the canyon, everyone scrambled up the cliff face, I did a 4m prussic to get myself up safely (and that took more time).  Murray and John stayed at the back with me as we made our way back to the start of the canyon.  The others by this time had retrieved the rope and made their way back to where our overnight packs were.  We got to the packs just on dusk, but by the time we packed our bags again, it was full-on dark.  Fortunately, before we went to do Up Ya Crack, Louise and Murray had found a good pass and had made their way down to where they could see it “went”.  So, we followed them down, using our head torches.  There was one spot that was a “traverse of death” everyone did it but I wasn’t going to risk it, so I used the rope that Louise was using to drop packs down and did an easy abseil down 3m.

We’re past the traverse of death now, and it was difficult to see the cliff-line, so we often set up hand-lines to get down safely.

Whilst we knew the camp cave was just across the creek, there seemed to be a drop in front of us, and we couldn’t tell exactly where we should get down, or exactly where the camp cave was.  When we came to a drop, rather than abseil down into a void and possible deep pool, we traversed downstream.  John was amazing he knew intuitively where the camp cave was and we eventually found a ramp down to the creek (what a relief).  The bush bash up looking for the cave was challenging in the dark, but finally we heard a cheer from in front as John came to the camp cave cliff-line.  It was now 7.30pm and we’d had a BIG 11.5 hour day!

9am start next morning so we relaxed round the camp fire.

Then we headed into Captains Canyon (which you can reverse). John’s goal was to take some photos of the Captains Tunnel and then find a pass out to do Rory’s canyon, he’d spotted a likely pass on the last trip (how does he do that?). Photo – Anna making her way up the creek.

We came to a pool, no-one wanted to get wet, so Mule and Murray jumped down off this ledge, Louise, Anna and I gave it the thumbs down (how would they get back up?)

John elected to wade across (keeping his shirt dry), holding his camera and tripod out of the water.

Cool stalactites (maybe even cave coral) on the wall of the small overhang near the pool.

Whilst the guys were up photographing the tunnel, Anna and I lazed around (I needed a bit of a lazy day after yesterday), and Louise went off to suss out a pass out of the canyon.  She returned elated that she’d found a great route that only involved one small climb.

The guys are back now, Mule admitted that when he jumped down, he hadn’t thought about how he’d get back.

A very dodgy log walk, if it had broken he would have been impaled on some sticks below, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when he made it safely across.

Not wanting to do the swim, Murray tried the koala route (unsuccessfully).

John did the wade, and Murray climbed up the rock where Mule is standing.

Heading up Louise’s pass, Murray on the small climb  which I managed with more than a little effort.

We traversed around at the base of a cliff-line and John unerringly led us to the spot in the creek with the least amount of dead logs and not far from the first abseil (also avoiding a small swim).

Looking up the creek, not a pretty sight with all the dead logs and burned bush.

Walking around at the top of the creek to avoid the scrub.

We come to a waterfall with a pool that we want to avoid (didn’t want to get too wet!)

Looking down the canyon.

Louise abseiling down, the creek itself is another 5m down from what looks like the creek (it closes in).

Anna on the abseil (nice easy start).

Looking up at the creek, there’s a small waterfall, I would have walked further up but the pool was a bit deep.

Looking upstream to where we landed. Murray trying to keep his boots dry (lol).

A small drop, probably could have downclimbed, but abseiling enabled us to stay out of the pool of water.

A crawl through a tunnel quickly followed the 2nd abseil.

Murray coming out of the tunnel, so much for keeping dry.

More tunneling.

Mule on our 3rd abseil, we set up here to avoid a pool.

Louise on the abseil.

Anna on the abseil and the view from below with the small waterfall.

The 4th abseil, again to avoid a waterfall and pool. This was a really dodgy approach to the abseil. Louise set up a handline attached to this small tree-fern but when you got to where Mule is standing (in the sun), there’s a nasty 1m drop with a slot on one side and a 5m drop beyond. Mule and Louise made sure I landed safely.

The pool at the bottom of the waterfall, looked deep.

Louise on the abseil, the slot is on her left, if you had abseiled down that you would have been able to land on the rock but it would have been tricky – and it would have been a difficult climb out of the slot if you missed the rock.

Slippery log down into a pool which was about thigh-deep (if you were careful).

Anna on the 4th abseil.

Looking up the slot as John negotiates down the log.

Another tunnel section followed the slippery log downclimb/wade.

Another waterfall, possibly the last.

Another dodgy approach to the 5th abseil (which Anna is on), Louise negotiating down a dirt slope with nothing to hold onto.

Louise on the abseil.

Murray on the abseil and the waterfall on the right.

After the 5th abseil it was a short walk down to Yarramun Creek.  We had to walk a few hundred metres to where we had crossed the creek the night before.  The couple of hundred metres was very good/easy walking on the bank.  We passed a great camp cave on the way which prompted plans for another trip (lol).  And, we’d managed to do the whole trip with no swims!

This MSS rope was fluro yellow at the start of the trip, it will never be the same again. Washed it when I got home, but it’s not as pretty as it was.

It was so good to get into camp at a reasonable time (around 3.30pm), and a luxury to be able to clean up and then sit around the campfire for the rest of the afternoon.  Jeff (who had stayed in camp due to his little toe – fractured two weeks ago), had collected lots of wood, so we had a great fire.

On Sunday morning we retraced the route we’d taken on Friday night, I still don’t know how we got through all this scrub and how John seemed to take us straight to the cave!

Dropping down into the creek.

Negotiating our way down a small drop.

And crossing the creek, again, don’t know how we managed all this in the dark.

Before we went up our pass, we dropped packs and took a look at what was immediately below the pass, and why it wasn’t a good idea to abseil down on Friday night.

How nice is this? So, as Anna, Louise and I sat watching Murray head upstream, we came up with the next epic trip … a multi day Yarramun Exploration (Photo:  Louise).

Louise and me (photo: Anna)

Climbing the first stage of the pass, small drop below Mule.

Second stage of the pass.

And the  Traverse of Death that everyone else did, but I abseiled (way left off -camera), it was a tricky climb for short people, you had to chimney yourself up the corner.

Looking down from the top of the pass, over to the top rh corner is the camp cave.

Finally up the top and looking upstream.

And back to the Wollangambe, not bothering with keeping the shoes dry now.

Our fearless leader, John, almost at the top of the long spur up to the fire-trail.

I had long looked at the entry in the canyon guide for Up Ya Crack and Up Ya Bum, and finally I’ve done both – a huge achievement for someone my age, thank you so much to the whole team for helping me where I needed a hand and a huge thank you to John for putting the trip on the calendar.

And, as is always the case when you do a trip with this group, lots of trips planned for the future … watch this space!

This entry was posted in Bushwalking, Canyoning, MSS. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to IYDM Trip #6 – Up Ya Crack Canyon & Yarramun Creek

  1. Trish Morrow says:

    Crikey!

  2. John L'Estrange says:

    What a splendid trip!
    I know that it sounds daft but a lot of the terrain looks familiar even though I haven’t been there. I suppose that after a certain point, there is much resemblance between one canyon content and another.

  3. Mule says:

    Fantastic report and photos. Thanks Marilyn

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