NEWNES VALLLEY – 10 April 2022
I’ve come to the conclusion, that any statement (made by me or any one else for that matter), that refers to a trip or route, like “we’ll just go up that pass and over to there then we’ll just go down into the creek”, will end up being an epic, or a bash through impenetrable scrub. I’m not being negative, just realistic! Keep on the lookout for these statements and you’ll see that “we’ll just” makes the trip sound “easy”, not that we intentionally make the undertaking sound like a piece of cake – in our minds it will be – that’s positive thinking for you!
And so, on Sunday morning John G, Kavita and I sat around over breakfast and talked about what we’d do for the day. We were actually supposed to be over near Crayfish Creek looking at a new canyon, but extensive rain (and flood events) had closed the Blue Mountains NP so we headed over to Newnes Valley. Kavita had chosen Timber Shute or Log-slide Canyon for the day, she’d never done it before, although John and I both had done it about 7 years ago. Someone had told one of us (we’re not that sure who), that the abseil that we’d done 7 years ago wasn’t necessary as you could “just walk around it”. So, we only took 1 set of abseil gear (Kavita’s) and a 20m hand-line.
We debated the route. I had suggested going up Solo Pass (a rock climbers pass at the back of Old Baldy – more about that later) but we decided against that. John suggested a “bounce trip”, going in from the bottom (avoiding the possible abseil) and seeing the best part of the canyon and then retracing our steps. But Kavita hadn’t done the canyon, and she was after all the leader so we agreed to do the full trip, we’d “just go up Cathedral pass” at the back of the campground and “just walk over to the head of the creek” and “Bob’s your Uncle” do the canyon, then we’d go down to the bridle track in Pietries Gully and we’d be back at the cars around 2pm! Piece of cake.
So, how much more had we remembered. We both said “we’ll just use the Solo Pass off Old Baldy”. It had been 25 years since John had done it (in his climbing days), and about 10+ years since I’d done it, although I do recall using the pass at least 3 times over the course of 2 years. My memory was a bit more recent than John’s and I vividly recall (going down the pass), taking a bit of a ramp (wide) off the top of Old Baldy and going down to a slot which was perpendicular to the ramp. The most memorable thing about the slot, apart from it being very, very constricted, was a climb down over a rock in the middle of the slot, it was challenging with an overnight pack if you didn’t have someone to hand the pack up to. Other than those two things, I didn’t recall much more – however, the vegetation was way different to the last time I was here – and at that time there was a “cairned route” that you could follow.
So, from the top of Old Baldy, I wandered down a slope (ramp), and scouted around. John went in another direction. I found a slot, but it didn’t really look like the one I remembered. Nevertheless, the three of us decided that it was going in the right direction, down and heading towards Petries Gully.
John looked left at the bottom and there was a mega cliff, not our route! Northing looked familiar to me, and I wasn’t planning on going back up that slot, so I said I’d look around again as there was a ramp up to my right (heading back up to Old Baldy), maybe this was the ramp we were meant to come down and we’d just found a bonus slot!
Well, the good news is we’re at the bottom of this slot, but we’re not down to the creek bed yet. All sign of cairns were gone and the Devil’s vine was abundant making the going very slow. We knew we had to get lower, and knew we were far too close to Petries Gully (with another drop we had to do), so spent the next hour looking for the way down.
Eventually we came to a spot that I remembered, yet another slot, which we took and popped out right at the Solo Gully creek.
A big sign of relief for us all as we knew it was “just a walk along the cliff base” to get out!
And then my camera battery died, but no big deal. My recollection of the exit from the cliff base was sketchy, I just recalled walking along a little ways and then finding an easy track down, after all, it was a climbers track and it was well worn.
Memory’s a funny thing, we actually walked along the base of the cliff line for a considerable distance (well, it was late in the day and it felt like we were at the base for ages), and then we decided that we should get down into the scrub to find the Petries Gully tack. That was easier said than done, the route was much more difficult than when I’d last done it and we ended up nowhere near the place I thought we should be (the old climbers track).
So, our day’s walking that was just going up a pass and into the canyon suffered a series case of scope creek – ending up way more adventurous than we’d anticipated and we didn’t get back to the cars until around4.30/5pm – a much bigger day than expected.
However, the big take-away from the day was the overriding thought “what was I thinking taking people up Solo Pass and over Old Baldy with overnight packs, on two occasions” and that was just the start of the walks! The pass is brilliant but not as easy as I remembered it and doesn’t look like anyone’s been up (or down) it in many years. It was a well worn route when I did it, are people just not as adventurous as we were back then? I’ve half a mind to go out one weekend and do some track maintenance, but what’s the point if no-one’s going to use it?
The bonuses of the day were, I got to go up to the natural arch and the cave (always wanted to do it, but usually didn’t have the energy), and I was really surprised how good my memory is! And in the future I’ll be a little more circumspect when I say “yeah, we’ll just go up that pass!”
It was a great day out (other than the periods of scrub and unattractive vegetation), thanks Kavita for putting the trip on and to John for your boundless encouragement I’d just about go anywhere with you (lol).
Another excellent adventure. Good to see your memory is so good must be the bridge.
Thanks Roy, yes it must be the bridge!
Well you had me on the edge of my seat with that one. I did not think you would make it back before dark!!!!! but you always do, so I guess I should not have worried so much !
Haha, I didn’t think we would either – I was hopeful but the longer it took getting down from the base of the cliff, the more I dreaded walking down that uneven ground in the dark. John had confidence that we’d make it, but I’ve walked out in the dark so much recently that I wasn’t so confident!