IYDM Trip #8 – Fireball Canyon

NEWNES VALLEY – 4 February 2022
I’d always thought this canyon was one that I’d never visit.  Also known as False Teeth or False Tooth canyon, I’d not seen any other details other than a two line entry in the Guide Book.  There were no details of how to get to it and looking on the topo map, it looked like a really, really long walk.  So, I’d written it off as “in your dreams M”. 

So, when John G suggested this canyon for one of his annual Birthday Canyon trips, I was interested, mainly because it was a 3 day trip where we’d walk in, drop our overnight packs in a convenient camp cave, then do the canyon.  Next day we’d then drop down to the Wolgan River and meet up with the rest of our group and go and do Twilight, another IYDM canyon.  As it turned out, with uncertain weather and water levels in the river, we decided to do False Teeth as a day trip.  All I can say is Thank God!  I was absolutely stuffed by the time I got up to said camp cave with a day pack, God only knows how long it would have taken me with overnight gear!

Everyone knows this canyon as False Teeth (a member of the first party had his teeth taken out of his volleys in the night by a wombat whilst they were sleeping) but apparently, according to Anna, it’s also known as False Tooth and Fireball – I sort of like the name Fireball better!

We were a small group, just John G, Andrew B and me.  When we drove across the causeway on the Wolgan River, the water was way up the tires of John & Andrew’s cars, it was not too bad further down stream, just knee deep.

The walk up hill seemed endless, and the scrub and regrowth after the fires was awful, you couldn’t see where to put your feet and vines covered all the rocks.. Mind you, I’d already walked a considerable distance on a fire trail – no wonder I was tired.

Finally we reached the camp cave (or overhang). It was nice, but I was pleased that I didn’t have that overnight pack. Apparently in the early days of canyoning, when you were able to drive down the fire trail, this route was used as an easy way to get to the Freshwater Creek system (over in Glen Davis).

When John said there was an easy Grade 6 climb. He told me it was 10 metres but I really didn’t think about how high that was. close to the top you can see Andrew who was doing the climb without “protection”. He got this far and I think his words were “I don’t like this”, John answered “it seemed easier 20 years ago”. Anyway, Andrew took one for the team and continued on – no other option really, it would have been a nasty downclimb! (that’s me sitting in the bottom LH corner, not watching!

Up at the part that he didn’t like!

Once Andrew  got up to the first ledge, he made himself safe and then hauled our packs up. I was next to do the climb, and by now I’d talked myself out of it, so I prussiked up to the first ledge – somehow I felt more secure on my prussik loops.

Andrew belaying John on the climb.

Andrew had had enough of lead climbing now, so John did the next bit, not half as high as Andrew had to go and a much easier route.

John hauling the packs up.

And John belaying Andrew.

The climb was followed by a dodgy traverse. There were a lot of dead branches across the traverse, so I cleared the way for the guys, it was still a bit daunting for me.

Now we’re in the creek system, we traversed along to look for a relatively easy route down into the creek itself.

Bit of a bum slide to get down.

Once in the creek it was quite pretty. and before long we were at the anchor.

There is only one abseil in this canyon, and Anna who’d done it fairly recently didn’t come on the trip with us because she said it “wasn’t worth the effort, she didn’t want to do the climb (which she didn’t like), and the canyon wasn’t much”.

Down at the bottom, there’s a waterfall at the back, very dark rock and the right hand wall is covered by the greenest moss I’ve ever seen, the photo just doesn’t do it justice.  And there was not a mark on the wall from other canyoners wearing away the moss.  It was stunning!

John on the abseil (and it was a lovely abseil!).

Andrew on the abseil.

This photo of John’s shows the full length of the abseil (Andrew in the middle), was a great abseil (photo: John G)

Looking upstream with John in the distance, gives you an idea of how constricted the canyon is.

Andrew, just down from the waterfall (photo: John G)

Look at the size of that tree in the canyon, imagine the number of floods that tree survived! (Photo: John G).

In the canyon (photo: John G).

And then it had this lovely flat section of sandy creek bed, with the ferns on the wall.

Bit of a log jam from trees falling in and being washed down in heavy rain.

A short section of boulders to negotiate.

And then the creek opens out again.

A coachwood forest, it’s dark because the coachwood trees create a canopy.

Very easy walking.

And then you come into more Coachwood forest. It’s a very short canyon, maybe 100m+ and I guest that, and the fact that it’s a rock climb to get to it, protects it from a hoard of canyoners going through it and wearing away all the moss.

Towards the end there’s a huge sandstone overhang, and another drop, which you don’t need to abseil as you can walk around it.

Walking around the overhang and 100m further on we came to our camp cave.

On the walk out, rather than going down the spur to the river, we found a bit of a footpad and followed that. We were up at the cliff base, and the going was relatively easy and would eliminate a couple of steep climbs on the fire trail.

Descending down into the River wasn’t easy though, again, very scrubby and every step you took you had to be aware that you might be stepping into an ankle breaking hole. We’ve determined that it would have been easier going down the spur we’d come up earlier in the morning.

Once down and across the river, we stayed on the river bank until the fire trail dropped down to creek level, then we climbed up to it and used it to get back to the cars.

Towards the end of the fire trail, there are the remnants of a number of coke ovens left behind when the Newnes Shale Oil refinery was shut down – I’ve walked past these many times but haven’t photographed them.

We were back at the cars by 5 or 6pm – well the guys were there earlier, I took a little longer (lol).

So, given Anna’s less than effusive grading of the canyon, what did I think?  Maybe it was the very wet summer we’ve had, but I thought the canyon section was stunning, particularly the wall of moss.  Even though I prussiked up the climb, I enjoyed the sporty-ness of the entry (not the scrub bashing though).  If I had an infinite number of canyoning years ahead of me, hell yes, I’d do it again.  Thanks John and Andrew for taking me to this canyon – it’s been one of the highlights of this year and thanks John for use of your photos!

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2 Responses to IYDM Trip #8 – Fireball Canyon

  1. Kathy Leslie says:

    Marilyn, I am binge- watching your adventures on this snowy evening . Once again your adventures amaze me!!!

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