Canyoning in Ovens Creek IYDM Trip #11

NORTHERN WOLLEMI – 15 – 18 April 2022
I’ve been visiting this area quite a few times over the past seven years, but it’s hard to get there.  There are a couple of locked gates which means driving in is a bit of a problem, and to get to the canyons that are either unpublished or worth exploring, it’s a 20k walk.  So, it’s always been a dream of mine to get out there before I hung up my canyoning gear.  Louise came up with a plan to do her “dream trip”, and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

We were a small group, the Legendary Louise, Onni E and Anna O-B. The trip didn’t start off well, Louise had pulled some “all-nighters” in order to get Easer off and he’d arrived at Anna’s at 4am on Friday morning.  Then we started off in three cars (two 4WD vehicles) heading for the bakery to pick up hot cross buns (it was after all Easter).  Bakery is closed, at which time Louise realised she didn’t have her phone.  Anna turned around in her 4WD to go back to the house to get it, unbeknown to her, there was a police car nearby who noticed that Anna didn’t have a front number plate (what were the odds of a police vehicle being in Wallerawang?).  Police followed her (lights flashing and sirens on) all the way into the driveway where she jumped out of her car and started to run inside – “don’t you run away from me” calls the police officer!  “what have I done” cries Anna – the police were very understanding, but Anna couldn’t take her 4WD with only one number plate so I drove back to pick her and her gear up.  So, with a rocky start we’re off on our adventure.

The rest of the trip to Dunn’s Swamp was uneventful, but then we encountered a “road closed” sign.  Perhaps they’d had washouts on the road, I thought we’d investigate so continued on through, after all, there were 3 or 4 properties up the road and it had been a couple of weeks since the rain event so the road couldn’t be that bad.  We headed on through – there was a sign that said “except Questers”, so we figured we were on a quest and could go through.  Road was a bit washed out in places, but nothing extreme.

We eventually arrived at our destination after a few barriers were overcome, nothing that the A-team couldn’t handle.

We then unpacked all our gear and Louise and Onni loaded up their e-bikes, yep, they were going to ride in with all our heavy gear – ropes, abseiling gear, small camping chairs (very light weight), 4l of red wine and 10l of water for our first night which would be a dry camp.  The problem of carrying in the ropes and abseil gear was the barrier that I hadn’t been able to overcome but the e-bikes solved that. Lots of laughing and giggles when they passed me on the track

We were a bit behind schedule but have to say the fire trail was in excellent condition, once you got past the massive fallen tree on the first 100m of Mount Darcy – and the washed away road!  The first 300m up to the top of Mount Darcy was tedious but once at the top, it was easy walking, although longer than I usually like to walk. Before long we were at our first night’s camp, near Mount Boonboury (not sure if the spelling on the topo map is right!).

We took ourselves up to the lookout and sat enjoying the sunset and a glass (mug) of wine sitting in our Helinox chairs (all except poor Onni, he didn’t have one!).  Then after we’d started up the fire, Louise brought out our first treat, Tacos – she’s found TVP and it’s made all the difference to bringing in all the fixings for Tacos, absolutely delicious!

Next morning we headed off to our base camp, I did consider not continuing, it was another 10k to the base camp and I wasn’t sure I’d be up to the walk out at the end of our trip, but I decided that I’d rather walk with the other three and enjoy the camp in the bush than trek back to the car(s).

The fire trail – excellent condition, there was only one spot that was overgrown with weeds, the rest of the trail (on the tops of the ridge) were in great condition.

So, 9k later we were at the base camp.  There was a good source of water about a k away (but after 3 days the flow was almost a non-existent trickle so it’s a good thing we weren’t staying longer).

After dinner we watched movies (i-pad on a shelf above the fire). What a way to end the day.

Next morning (Easter Sunday), Louise, Anna & Onni went off to do Hot Cross Bun canyon.  All they had was a grid reference, but it was pretty straight forward, they ate lots of hot cross buns in the canyon.

Lots of spider webs around kissed by the drew, great photos!

I didn’t have a watch with me so I set up a sun dial, I was able to tell what time of day it was – up until the time when the sun went down behind some trees and I lost the shadow! The dial is showing 9am!

The team arrived back around 5pm, full of excitement as they’d achieved their goal and found some good canyon sections.  Another night around the fire, and another movie, life doesn’t get much better than that.

So, Monday was the day for Cricket and Nude canyons, or as much of them as we could do.  We set off bright and early – perfect weather.  Cricket Canyon was one of Louise’s dreams she’d seen what looked like a slot in this creek, and had wanted to do it for many, many years.

Louise and Onni led the way … “That way Onni”.

The second knoll that we had to climb (not much of a climb).

MMBA “Miles and miles of Bloody Australia)”, you can see a long way. Usually when we come out here there’s no-one else in the area, but we were here on a 4-day weekend so we knew of two other groups in the vicinity, nowhere where we were though (not sure I’ve been able to get that many w’s in a sentence before).

Morning tea, top spot and how about that weather?

Heading off the knoll we came to a small camp cave (for 2 close friends).

We’re heading down the spur into the creek now. Felix had given us a “heat map” which instead of showing 10m contours indicated the contours in 2m increments (that’s me trying to make it easy to understand), in any event the map showed us where there were NO cliff lines, so we could pick a route where we wouldn’t run into a cliff.

Very easy gradient and no scrub (best of all).

In the creek, we did a short abseil but in reality we could probably have down-climbed it, but it was safer to abseil.

The first of many swims – most of which we sent Onni first to determine how deep the pool was. Not that it would make any difference, we still had to do the swim, no way around it.

This one was only waist deep. The water was very cloudy, we think it is because of all the run off from the big rain event. The fire trail in seemed to be hard-packed clay and my guess is this is what has caused the water to be cloudy. When we got to Ovens Creek, that was clear, not sure why it was clear and Cricket was cloudy.

There were a few sections of indetermined depth which we were able to skirt around (with some help from Onni).

The last section of where we skirted around wasn’t easy to step down (without falling in).

Really good ferny section (with Anna in pic).

Small climb down.

This part of the canyon was quite constricted and straight as an arrow.

Walking the (convenient) log.

Another swim that we could skirt around.

Louise is soooo happy to be in this canyon.

Nice dark section of canyon.

We think we’re almost at the end.

Getting to the end of the narrow section – you can see the creek opening out.

But no, there’s another swim (or wade).

Deeper than most of the other swims/wades, we weren’t ready for this and by now we’re getting a bit cold.

And another swim, this one we had to negotiate down a bit of a slot.

But thankfully turns out there were logs that we could walk on so that the water wasn’t that deep.

Our last challenge, a slippery slope down the water, luckily Onni was there to give us a hand.

Was a relief when everyone was down safely.

Towards the end of the canyon we came across the most amazing feature in the sand. Apparently the sand was much deeper than it is now, and there were pebbles and small rocks on the sand. With the water retreating, after a rain event, small castles of sand with a rock or pebble on the top remained, the largest were about 10 – 15cm high! (photo Onni)

Finally we’re at the junction of Cricket and Ovens, we stopped in a bit of dappled sun to warm up and have some lunch.

We suspected (from Felix’s map) that there was a negotiable route out just downstream in Ovens, but we decided to check out the next creek up (Nude Canyon), as we also thought we’d be able to exit there too. We decided that if within an hour we didn’t find a route out, we’d return to the one downstream. Ovens looks like a nice creek. I’ve been in it further upstream where it was much more open than this.

A bit of rock scrambling.

And then our first real obstacle. We sent Onni ahead to check it out.

Big swim ahead! But over to our right was another way where we could potentially avoid the swim, so we took that.  Just beyond this challenge was Nude Canyon creek, so we headed upstream.

Skirted around the obstacle and avoided the big swim by a bit of rock scrambling (photo: Onni)

A few more rock scrambles, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Then we came to a barrier, big rocks and a pool that we’d have to swim through. So, again, we sent Onni ahead to see if we could climb around the pool. He came back and sure enough there was a way around. This climb was a bit sketchy, so we rigged a handline and Louise, Anna and I pulled ourselves up the slippery slope. If we’d fallen, we would only have fallen into a deep pool.

We’re all up now, on a ledge overlooking Nude Canyon. We decided that we would go up a side creek as the map showed that there were no cliff lines in our way, so we headed up.

Anna climbing up on of the pagodas at the creek.

Tuned out to be a dream run up the spur to the ridge!

A eucalypt with it’s trunk covered with burls!

We were up on the ridge before we knew it.  Had to have a few stops because we’re all tired by this time.  We made it to the fire trail well before dark and headed back to camp – Louise backtracked though to fill up our water bladders.

Another great night, good food, we finished off all the wine (and Port and Baileys – no-one wanted to carry it out), and watched another movie.  Every one was relaxed and content, it had been a great weekend canyoning and Louise had achieved all her goals.

Next morning we made the long trek out, made more difficult by batteries on the e-bikes giving up the ghost and being pushed most of the way!

Back at the cars late afternoon – was a great Easter weekend Louise and thanks to Onni and Anna for making up the rest of the team, fabulous weather and another IYDM trip knocked over!

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