A “we’ll just” trip with John

GLEN DAVIS, NSW – 2-3 February 2024
It was John G’s birthday weekend, and he always puts on some exploratory canyoning, it’s sort of a tradition.  This year it would be a car camp at Glen Davis and a couple of canyons.  On the drive up through the Hunter Valley on Friday afternoon to get to Glen Davis (a 4.5 hour drive) the car temperature gauge was reading 40ºC, I didn’t even want to get out of the car to have a rest break! 

I’d checked the temps at Glen Davis for the weekend and Saturday was supposed to be around 32ºC and Sunday around 35ºC.  I was hoping that our canyons with John would be wet ones.

When I arrived, the camp sites near the trees were in full sun, but where I chose to camp was in the shade, still it was very hot. Good spot to catch the setting sun on the cliffs though.

John and Kathy turned up around 8pm on Friday night and everyone else (Andrew B, Omar S, Cat & Garth McL and Anna O-B) would be arriving next morning at 8am.  Everyone turned up on time, ready to go!

When John briefed us with the words, “we’ll park our cars at the NP gate and we’ll just walk up the road, and then up an old fire trail to the cliff-line” I should have known that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.  It sounded quite easy and with an 8am start it would be cool enough.  I think I’ve mentioned before to watch out when people put the words “we’ll just” in the description of the walk.  In all honesty it wasn’t that the walk was hard, it was the conditions, too hot to be walking in the heat of the day.

The walk along the road was more like a k or a k and a half (might be exaggerating there) and the walk up the old fire trail was a steady slog up-hill and then through some scrub.  Arrow pointing to the spur.

Eventually, we’d reach the top of the spur and head around the knoll … looks a long way but it was probably only 750m!

And then we changed direction, still following the cliff line way around until we came to Tam O’Shaunters Creek. All in all it was a solid walk, taking what felt like 3 hours.

Close to the cliff-line we found this nice rock to climb with a “cave” in it, mind you we were all pretty hot and bothered by this time, so only John climbed the rock.

Walking around the top of the spur was unrelenting, lots of rocks to avoid or scramble up or down.

And rocks to climb up when there was no other way (well we could have gone down and avoid the scramble, but then we would have had to climb up again).

This short downclimb proved problematic as the only hand hold was a dead branch, and pretty small to boot. Most of us did the downclimb, then three of the group found that you could just go to the right and there was a nice easy way.

As we climbed up the small ramp here, we came to a stunning orange cliff-face.

It seemed to continue for a few hundred metres (at least it felt like that), there was a lot of fallen debris at the bottom showing where slabs had just fallen away – fairly recently too.

More of the orange cliff.

And yet more, Anna and I were pleased to find this nice cliff line, and it was easy, often you get to the bottom of a cliff and it’s too much like hard work.

We’re about to go around the edge of the cliff now into the creek. It’s taken us about 3 hours to get to this point, I’m pretty sure it was 3 hours as we stopped somewhere here to have an 11am morning tea.  Really, when you think that we’d really only walked around 2k so far, we were pretty slow, but in our defense, it was very hot.

Getting into the creek.

We’re in the creek now, a rather ill-placed log to get around and not be stabbed by it.

Once in the creek, the walking’s pretty easy with no need (yet) to get wet feet.  This part of the creek is called Tam O’Shanters Glen.

I did say wet. We’re now in the canyon proper and we’re having to walk in the creek, which was full of dead leaves, consequently, the small wasn’t that good.

Huge overhang that we came across.

More creek walking, but the creek is very pretty now.

And then we get into the canyon proper, walking along, sometimes in water up to your thighs.

It’s hard being the last person, everyone else has stirred up the mud and debris and you can’t see where the hidden trip hazards are, plus the water is smelly.

Not sure if this image is in context, but there was a bit of a climb up that wasn’t all that easy. A lot easier to get back down (photo: Omar)

And every once in a while, the water disappears underground.

Another nice overhang.

More constriction in the canyon, followed by another open section.

And then we came to the “end of the road”. Garth is making his way back downstream after getting to the end for us, a 3m waterfall that we couldn’t get up. To get to it you had to get wet up to your neck, but we all went to the end, just because. Anna, Cath, John, Omar and Andrew all climbed a ramp to get up above the canyon and make their way further upstream, then came back down and abseiled the small waterfall – effectively “doing” the whole canyon. I didn’t think in the heat it was worth getting so hot, so I just swam to the end and touched the waterfall … no need to go back.

Me negotiating my way out of the small canyon section with the swim. (Photo: Omar)

Nice reflections in the water while Anna gets the sand out of her Volleys.

When the others went to do the canyon abseil, Kathy, Garth and I leisurely walked down the creek back to Tam O’Shaunters Glen and lazed around waiting for them (probably for 45 minutes).  They came back and said it was “good” but no one was “over the moon about it” so don’t feel like I missed out.

We started the walk back retracing our incoming route.  By now the cliff-face is in full sun and the heat was punishing.  We stopped a lot so going back to the cars was very, very slow.  We were back on the road at around 4.30pm (I think – or maybe 5pm), and it was awful walking in full sun along this dirt road.  I’d hitched a ride with Andrew to where we parked the cars and, bless his heart, when there was still about 500m of road to walk he came along in his ute and picked up Cat and me so we didn’t have to walk that last 500m!

Once back at camp I set up the shower tent and Kathy and John hooked up their caravan shower.  So we all got to have showers and cleaned up so that we felt human before dinner and the birthday celebrations.

In honour of John’s birthday, Kathy brought out cake, rum soaked berries, jello, meringues, cheesecake and ice cream. Everyone descended on the table to get their sugar fix and then some went in for seconds and thirds! Well done Kathy, such a great birthday (well, it was actually the day before).

And the party didn’t end there, Kathy set up a screen and projector so we could watch The Italian Job, one of John’s favourite movies. Most of us bailed halfway through it, we were so tired, but there were some who got through to the end.

The next day, there had been another dry canyon planned, but it would have been way too hot for that one, so, with the exception of Kathy and me, they all went off to do Coin Slot.  Kathy and I chilled out for a couple of hours and then I decided to head home before it got much hotter.  Again, the temps outside in the Hunter Valley were around 40C!  I arrived home by 4pm, in time to unpack the car in daylight.

Thanks for a great weekend Kathy and John, can’t wait to see what next year’s canyon weekend will be like!

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