IYDM Trip #12 – Canyoning with the Dream Team

MOUNT WILSON – Gobsmacker Exit >  > Waterfall Creek > Happy Valley Exit – 13 January 2024
When planning this trip, I sure that it wouldn’t be a “we’ll just” trip, so I measured out the distances, 3k on fire trail, 1k on a footpad, 3.5k down a creek, 4k up another creek and 1k on a track.  I researched the sunrise and sunset times … we’d have 12 hours of daylight.  I estimated that in the creeks we’d be doing about 1k/hour.  So, I put out the feelers to see if anyone else was interested in an “epic trip”.

Yep, those were my words “epic trip”.  Muzza, Liz, Nicole, Andrew, Jim and Onni all put their hands up straight away.  There were comments like “YES! YES! YES!” and “Yep, I’m in” which considering the epic-ness of the walk was surprising.  Unfortunately, Onni had to pull out with a neck problem, but the rest of what then became known as my Dream Team didn’t falter.  When I explained the trip to my family (they do like to know where I’m going from time to time), my sons were reassured by the fact that I would have the Dream Team with me.

So, what’s the back story to this trip, and why was it going to be an epic?  Three years ago, Phil C, a canyoning acquaintance told me of his trip down the lower part of North Bowen Creek, and how he exited the creek. And then a year or so later he posted photos of a trip down Waterfall Creek.  I put both trips on my wish list, always nice to go to canyons that don’t appeal to the rank-and-file canyoners.

The years went by and there was never the right time to do them individually.  When MSS had the Christmas Canyoning Extravaganza at Mount Wilson, I thought that I’d do one of these trips, and even sussed out a possible exit up Boggy Bend Trail (never to be repeated). But then it rained, and rained, and rained, it was looking like I might never do either of the Phil trips.

Then the planned Etrema trip for the weekend with Muzza wasn’t looking feasible as there were only two of us, so I floated the idea to Muzza of doing the two Phil trips but joining them together.  Who would be silly enough to do the two trips as one?

My rational was that Phil’s exit route (he’d given me a track trace) was off-track up through a cliff-line (we all know how unappealing that is to me), then we’d be navigating through scrub for 2k (even less appealing), and then finally 4-5k of fire trail to get to the cars.  If I joined the two creek trips into one trip, I’d avoid all that.  So, with the Dream Team it was “game on!”

Liz, Murray & I went up to Mt Wilson the night before and then when Nicole arrived, we set up the car shuffle.  We set off only 10 minutes later than the planned departure down the fire trail of 8am.

The timing for the 3k walk to the Gobsmacker exit track was “right on” and the timing to get down to the creek was also accurate. Me on the approach to the first big downclimb. I have to say the walk down the exit track was probably as hard as the walk out, very steep. (photo: Nicole).

Me on the downclimb, this would have been a bit tricky if it wasn’t for the steel staples that the “bolting fairies” had installed a few months ago. Nice hand-holds. (photo Nicole).

Liz on the next challenge, a two-stage descent down very slippery rocks – made easier with the fixed hand-line.

Nicole on the second stage of the climb-down, again, the hand-line came in handy. Jim watched as all get over the log safely.

And then we were at the creek, where we all put our wetsuits on, assuming that the water would be really cold. You can just see Liz making her way across to the rockface.

After we suited up, the first obstacle was a small downclimb .  Didn’t look too bad from the top. Andrew said it was almost the point of no return, because once you got down these rocks, it was a bit hard to reverse. (Photo Nicole)

You can see what Andrew was talking about, although he had done it in the past, it wasn’t easy – you’d need a really tall person and a hand line.  We decided that we weren’t going back so in we went.

You had to jump at the end, neither Liz or Nicole like jumping!  The jump was followed but at least one, if not two 100m swims.

After the jump there was a small swim and then this ledge, it actually went quite a way along the cliff face.

Beautiful shot of the canyon walls (Photo:  Andrew B)

I just swam right past them (another 100m swim) (Photo Andrew B). Nice canyon though.

Shortly after, we came across this waterfall on the left. Looked nice, but based on the terrain, there would only be one abseil, a long walk to do for just 1 abseil.

Yet another 100m swim, but the canyon is still going.

A morning tea spot. At this point we reviewed our progress. We were right on task down to the creek, and then instead of the 1k/hour I’d estimated it was more like 500m/hour – bummer! We were committed now, there was no going back, we’d just have to deal with the slow pace! (photo: Nicole).

The end of yet another swim.

This was pretty cool, a waterfall coming in on the right (photo: Nicole). Most of us tried to take a photo but it was only Nicole’s really good camera that captured it.

We were far enough down in the creek now that the banks were getting more defined. Prior to this I’d walked for about 100m through a nice Coachwood forest, and then we came along this huge overhang. (Photo: Nicole).

Towards the end of the sandy bank, we could see that over the last week or so, the water level was up about 1m after the rain. From the ferns and moss on rocks in the creek, we estimated that the water was still around 30cm higher than normal.  You could actually do this trip as an overnighter and camp on this great sandy bank … good firewood there!

Another swim after the sandy bank. (photo: Nicole)

And yet another swim.

We’re out of the canyon now and the boulders are getting bigger, but we can see that we’re close to the junction with Waterfall. We check the map and find that we’re about 750m away … and it’s 3pm, we’re way behind schedule!

Another challenge, either scramble down (really difficult), or jump in. This would be the last of our challenges in North Bowen though (Photo:  Andrew B).

We get to the junction at 4pm, wash the sand out of our shoes and then start up Waterfall Creek. Not sure where this was in the creek, but this is the type of vegetation we were now encountering. (Photo Nicole).

Around about now, I stopped taking photos, I was really tired, had to constantly concentrate on not tripping up on sticks/rocks, I was in “survival mode”.

Everyone’s really tired now, and the downside is that we are having to go upstream (against any flood debris), AND we were having to gain elevation, mostly by scrambling over and up rocks and waterfalls. (photo: Nicole)

Occasionally quite nice creek walking! (photo: Nicole).

The rainforest is beautiful though, we seem to be quicker in Waterfall Creek than we were in North Bowen, so we’ve picked up a bit of time, which is good because, it’s now pretty late, like around 7pm! (Photo:  Andrew B)

At 7.30pm we get to “known country” where the pink tape starts so we know that we have only 500m of creek walking to do.  Nicole and Liz get their 2nd (or is it 3rd or 4th) wind and they’re soon out of sight.  Murray held back with me and we caught up to Jim and Andrew around 8pm at the bottom of the exit track.

I handed my keys over to Jim so that those who were quicker could get up to my car and then go and retrieve the car shuffle cars at the Wynnes Rocks Road.  We all had head torches and so everyone set off, with Murray and me taking it easy up the hill.  We weren’t that far behind them, but I took a lot of rests, and we were having a good chat anyway.  Big thanks to Murray for walking me to the end and taking a lot of my gear out of my backpack.

We met up back at the Mt Wilson camp ground – Liz, Jim and I had prepared dinner for everyone (nibbles, wine, bread and hot food & dessert) all we had to do is heat it up and finally sit down.

Big thanks to the Dream Team for coming on the trip with me. Thanks to Andrew and Murray for keeping an eye on the time, we needed that.  I didn’t hear any grumbling, you all took the difficulty of the trip in stride  It was punishingly hard, but the amazing feeling of achievement that I had in doing such a difficult walk was worth it (I hope everyone else felt that way too).

In hindsight, it was obvious that my estimated 1k/hour was way off, it was more like 500m/hour, and once we realised that we were so slow, I sort of remembered that in the past I’d gone by the 500m/hour timing for creek walking.  Mind you, if I’d used that timing in my planning, we would never have done the trip the way we did it, so, really it was a bonus that I forgot about the 500m part (sorry guys).

Would I recommend this trip?

  • The canyon section of North Bowen was really worthwhile seeing.  Although the swims were between 50 and 100m each.
  • The rainforest walk up Waterfall creek was really, really nice and the exit is a piece of cake.
  • I’d definitely recommend it as an overnight trip (you don’t need a rope or abseiling gear – even though we carried it), the campsites towards the end of North Bowen were definitely well worth the trip and cut in two each day would be relaxing.
  • I don’t think I’d like to do either creek on its own with that awful walk out on the ridge from the junction of the two creeks.

Again, thanks Team for coming on the trip with me!

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

2 Responses to IYDM Trip #12 – Canyoning with the Dream Team

  1. Jim Crockett says:

    Need this sort of walk to prepare myself for future trips like the Proposed Western Arthurs Traverse in Tasmania.
    This trip gave me a good shake down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.