NEWNES PLATEAU – 22 – 23 January 2022
Everything seemed to be under control for the weekend of canyoning – everyone turned up, Louise provided a 4WD to get those without one to the HITW carpark, the week of rain seemed to be clearing … and then when we got to the HITW carpark and were unpacking our vehicles, Anna asked “what about the ropes?” … me: “Ah, f%#k, they’re back in my car at the Zig Zag Railway! And I don’t usually swear!
I was gob-smacked, after 25 years of canyoning, I’ve never forgotten the ropes. All I could do was stand there and curse myself. Luckily, Felix came up with a solution to the fact that it was 45 minute there and back to pick up said ropes, so we’d just forego today’s canyon and go straight to the Luna Park campsite. This would eliminate a 2.5k walk upstream from the end of what would have been Saturday’s canyon. So, Andrew & Jim offered to go back to pick up the ropes and the rest of us had a leisurely stroll along the track, hunting for terrestrial orchids.
I was joined on this trip by the Legendary Louise, Miss Anna, Felix O-B, Jim C, Omar Sharief (yes, that is his name) and Andrew B – a great team.
Once we’d all joined up at the designated spot, we headed off to find Hailstorm Retreat which would be our access down to the Bunglebori. None of us had approached it from the top for quite a while and there was a lot of “suggestions” of the best route – that must have been a bit frustrating for Louise who was navigating for me! We did look into a big creek system in the area, but it just didn’t look right.
Louise went off and scouted around for a bit and then gave the call that she’d “found it” and off we went!
I think I’d said the entry will be between two pagodas and, there it was, right ahead of us.
Everyone enjoyed the descent, it’s such a great slot, just goes down and down and down, with a wall on either side.
Great shot of the constriction – Lou straddling a pool. (Photo: Felix)
Anna getting some helpful hints on foot placement from Lou (photo: Felix)
And then it got narrower.
You know you’re in the right slot when you get to an inconvenient tree. You can crawl down through a hole at the base, but packs have to be man-handled over the top.
There was quite a bit of water in the slot due to all the rain we’ve had, so we played “water is Lava” – the aim being not to step into the lava for the whole way – Felix showing how it’s done. I just dropped down into it, no point in my trying to bridge it!
Louise made it across dry-footed too!
Once you’re out of the slot, there is quite a bit of rock hopping and scrub bashing to get down to the river, it’s not interesting so I didn’t bother with any photos.
Looking up the pass for Hailstorm Retreat, from this level, you’d never know there’s such a pretty canyon upstream. (Photo: Felix)
We headed downstream – it was relatively easy going – some crossings – Omar on this convenient log, I didn’t use the log, looked too much like hard work, I just waded across.
A better shot of Anna crossing on the log (photo: Felix)
Many sections were wading on the sandy base.
Or, crossing over to a bank where you could move a lot quicker.
We came to some big boulders which the others used to cross the river, Jim and I took a different route (hard getting through the branches), but we were a lot quicker than the others.
And then we spied out campsite, Felix decided that this dodgy log was a better route than swimming.
Anna and Louise thought that they’d give it a go but sans-packs so Felix came back to help them out.
Anna & Louise before taking their chances with the log.
Not sure whether Louise meant to almost fall off (photo opportunity?) but it was a heart stopping moment for me.
I chose to swim around the log rather than straddle it, water was a bit deeper than expected. (photo: Felix)
So, Silver Lining #1 – if we had stuck to our plan (and I hadn’t forgotten the ropes), we would have had 2.5k of walking upstream in the river, and the water was much higher than the last time I did this. So, unintentionally we had dodged a bullet as it would have taken us 3 – 4 hours to do the 2.5k of river walking/wading/swimming/boulder hopping.
Once we got into camp, we hunted around for wood, mainly because it would be wet after all the rain and we needed to start drying the wood, amazingly, it started with only one fire-starter! (photo Felix)
Silver Lining #2 – After we’d all set up tents etc, Jim, Anna and I sat around the campfire and relaxed, Felix, Omar, Andrew and Lou set off to explore. If we’d done the first canyon, we wouldn’t have gotten into camp until dark!
Nice waterfall beside our camp (photo: Felix)
They explored the creek between our pass and Luna Park Creek, they’d taken a rope so took advantage of some drops (they didn’t do all of them, but looks like a good creek to explore on another day (photo: Felix)
Toxic looking fungus (photo Felix)
Andrew beside one of the waterfalls on their exploration. (Photo: Felix)
Next morning we started up our pass, there was a small traverse over a very slippery rock, so Felix went up first and set up a hand-line for us – much safer, if one of us had fallen it wouldn’t have been pretty.
After the steep part of the gully, it was an easy walk up, not much scrub.
Big cobweb with dew.
Heading down into the headwaters of Luna Park Canyon.
Better shot of Omar on the first pitch (photo: Felix)
Andrew photo-phaffing and Felix watching where Omar is going (what’s the best route).
Jim on the first pitch.
from the first pitch to the next one we went through a series of boulder scrambles, slides and down-climbs.
This down-climb for those of us who are vertically challenged, it was tricky, definitely there was more water in the creek than the last time I did it, we didn’t have to use a handline here before.
A few of us decided to abseil the small drop rather than hand-line it.
Anna on the next abseil.
A bit of creek walking.
Me on one of the log crossings (this weekend had more than its fair share of logs) (Photo: Felix)
Omar & Anna on yet another log (in the water this time) (Photo Felix).
Jim walking the log to avoid a swim.
The waterfall that often causes people to come to grief. There’s definitely more water in it than there was 3 years ago. (Photo: Felix)
Jim where he came to grief. I’d lent him my Pit-Stop because I knew that a Rack (which he uses), can get stuck on this pitch, right at the top. Unfortunately, Jim’s left handed which meant that the top of the Pit-Stop caught on the rock edge and Jim couldn’t move. It took forever for him to extricate himself, and when he did he used his knees and scraped most of the skin off them.
The base of the problematic abseil (Felix belaying someone) – photo Omar.
By now, despite my you-beaut wetsuit I was freezing cold and couldn’t stop shivering. I remember doing this on a much colder day 3 years ago (without a wetsuit) and Trish told me that I was shivering then too. Not sure why the canyon is cold at the end, maybe the couple of swims, but by this time I’d had enough and just wanted to get into the sun.
Jim on the next abseil with his bloody knees.
Anna with Jim and me at the back – I think the conversation was something like this “yes, you being left handed made that abseil more difficult”. (photo: Felix)
I think I’ve got this image in the right order, if you’re reading this and you’re going to do Luna park, before the first person goes over this pitch, make sure you attach some slings to the rope, it hangs out too far to reach it without a long stick, and if we hadn’t had a tall person with us, we would have been in trouble! (Photo: Louise)
With this pitch, you abseil down to a pool and then have to swim across, not easy, particularly as I was using a bloody stupid Squirrel with double rope (too much friction).
Andrew on (what might or might not be) the second last abseil. We rigged this single rope because we didn’t know how long it was. Then, when we decided that we needed the second rope, we rigged that too, then I went down with the second rope and ran into a big jumble of rope on a log, took far too long to untangle.
This photo is probably out of turn but it’s such a nice shot of one person up the top looking down and Jim on the abseil. (photo: Felix)
Another great shot by Omar of the canyon formation.
Lovely canyon formation (photo: Omar)
Another great canyon shot looking up (thanks Omar).
Me on the last pitch – and the one where the canyon gets its name of Luna Park. (Photo Omar)
Silver Lining #3 – our fall back camp site if we found the going tough making our way up the Bunglebori was a “camp cave” that others had found. They said it would comfortably sleep 4 – and there were 7 of us. I’m pretty sure that if we’d got this far on day 1, that we would have used this camp cave – and we would have struggled to sleep everyone in it. (photo: Louise)
The sleeping area (photo: Louise)
Nice fire site, but again, fitting 7 around the fire would have been challenging.
Silver Lining #4- if we had slept at this camp cave, we would have had to take all our gear upstream twice on the day we did Luna park, once to get to the pass, and then the second time to exit. This would have added an extra hour onto our day and as it was, from the time we started (at 8am) until we got to our vehicles was a 10 hour day as it was – we did phaff around a lot (lol).
For the most part a nice walk up the river back to our campsite.
This was either a swim, or Felix’s way. Omar followed Felix.
Then Lou figured if the guys could do it, so could she.
Took a bit of coaxing and coaching but she made it.
Lots of tiny red fungus, this lot on a log was so good to photograph (Photo: Felix)
On the walk upstream to our camp – I’d mentioned to everyone that you would know when you were close to camp because of the flat-as rockface – unlike anything else you’ve ever seen, how did this part of the cliff form? Very Unusual. (photo: Omar)
We arrived at the campsite around 1pm, most of us had already packed up our gear, but we sat around and had a leisurely lunch – Silver Lining #5, we had enough time to boil the billy and have some hot drinks.
We were at the start of Hailstorm Retreat by around 3pm and started the long slog up hill. It took about 2 hours from bottom to the top and then an hour on the track back to our cars.
So, now we have some “unfinished business” with John’s new canyon still not visited, we do have plans afoot though to do it, watch this space.
A big thanks to my pragmatic team, Anna, Felix, Andrew, Louise, Omar and Jim you all took the change in plans without the blink of an eye. Was great to canyon with you all.
Will I do Luna Park again, probably not, it is a big day regardless of how you do it (lol).
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