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Bungleboori South Canyons - Canons. (27th - 31st December 2011)

Map:-

Wollangambe 1:25000

Party:-

Theo, Steve, Damian, Hanya, Dug

Dug and Steve by cooking fire.  Pic by Theo

Tuesday

I was lucky Theo and Steve invited me to join their trip at short notice. A trip helping a mate fell through at the last minute.

Theo picked me up about 9am and then Steve so that we arrived at Kermode Pub past Richmond on the Bell Line Of Road, in time for lunch. My companions gave rave reviews of the food, but of course I picked the pizza and that was terrible, (they told me after I ordered). Oh well I wasn't hungry anymore! The drive along the Bell Line of Road is always interesting following a ridge system all that is left from the old plateau, which has eroded to deep river Valleys (Canyons) to leave the deeply incised landscape of eucalyptus forest. There are many canyons in this area, deep chasms that we see only as line depressions along the forest, and we are constantly in sight of tall colourful sandstone cliffs too. Today is overcast with the odd splash of drizzle, too cool to be contemplating wet canyons I think. At Bell the road splits one way continuing south to Mt Victoria the other west towards Zig Zag Railway and further on Lithgow.

At Zig Zag we turn onto a gravel/dirt forest road that takes us to the Glow-worm Tunnel Road. I like the passing forest scenery although the road is a trifle rough in places. The Glow-worm Tunnel Road leads us through a flat landscape firstly dry eucalypt forest, then pine plantations (planted by the Lithgow Prison Farm in the 1960s and 70s). Further along the pines have been harvested leaving a flat bare ground with the remnants of unwanted trees. Barren featureless desert. I hope the native bush regenerates soon but having seen other clear felled areas that is unlikely as there are no remnant seeds after all these years. It would take a lot of money to reseed and this is poor soil hence the pine plantation failure. We pass the now empty Bungleboori Camp Ground where we all used to stay in the 70s, 89s, early 90s, before the bush motor bike groups took it over and destroyed the amenities. Nowadays the motor cycles have moved on to better places so that they can destroy those too.

Tents in the car park

We turn off onto the Waratah Ridge road and thread our way through the maize of plantation roads to the canyons Car Park, just before the steel barricade that delimits this side of the Wollemi Wilderness. We are back in the natural forest again a good tree cover of stunted dry forest trees with moderate scrub under-story. It is about 3pm now. Steve likes a little side track to camp in so we park our car at one end to block it. Damian and Hanya parked their car at the other end when they arrive at 5pm after their drive up from Melbourne. There was plenty of room for 4 tents for us to camp between. I must admit I found the ground a little lumpy with stones for my self inflating mat - or was that self deflating mat nowadays, it is getting a little long in the tooth. A party of Melbourne University Canyoners walked out after doing Hole In The Wall Canyon most as their first canyon. Lucky things, I rate this canyon very highly. Another party drove up and camped nearby, a group from University of Technology Sydney waiting for others to arrive in the morning. They plan to do Nose Dive Canyon, which is on the northern side of the northern branch of the Bungleboori, another good canyon but a fairly long day.

We built a cooking fire in a handy place and had a pleasant campfire meal seated on stones, logs, a chair or the ground, under the cloudy sky. Very pleasant, chatting, drinking hot drinks and eating open fire prepared food. We all retire early to our tents. Normally I sleep out but it has been drizzling off and on all day and I don't wish damp sleeping gear.

Wednesday

A pleasant enough night a little cool for summer and my summer weight sleeping bag. No sign of rain all night but it is still cloudy in the morning - "all the better to walk you with". It didn't take long to breakfast and pack ready to leave at about 7:30. The first kilometre or so is over a road bulldozed to fight fires in the late 1990s, but barricaded off by a steel fence and further impeded by big trees pulled across, leaving only just enough room for a windy walking track between fallen logs and bush. Then the next couple of kilometres is, just overgrowing road to the original car park. Pleasant walking as only gentle undulations and very green luxurious vegetation after all the rain in the past year. Of course pleasant temperatures for walking. The are many different types of wild flowers this sandstone plateau country is typical of.

Bungleboori Camp.  Pic by Theo

Theo is doing a good job of navigating along the tracks until we came to a fork that he didn't notice, but he soon picked up that we were going the wrong way down to a saddle and corrected our path again. The roads we were following by now have overgrown to leave just a narrow foot track, so we are walking touching the prickly scrub. Every now and again we need to cast about for the best track, as the path splits divides and then reconnects. Lovely to look at forest except when the scrub along the track is head high, then we need to watch our faces and protect our eyes. Eventually Theo and Steve stop for a conflab, where they decide this is the place to leave the main west/east ridge and find a southerly spur which will take us to the pass into the Bungleboori Creek South Arm.

Quite thick vegetation at first were we head a creek system to pickup the spur. Big pagoda rocks to our east seem to have a high over hang suitable for camping (I will investigate this at some later time). On top of the spur relatively easy going by now. Many clear rocky areas affording excellent views into the deep watercourse valleys on either side and directly ahead. The colour of the sandstone cliffs magnificent in the odd patch of sunshine, (still mainly overcast). As we near the nose of the spur the ground becomes steeper with many cliffs and bluffs to find our way round and through. Eventually Theo finds what looks like the pass down to the creek. A steep V slot that he scuttles down to prove it goes and returns to retrieve his pack. We decide to set a hand-line for we mere mortals, and leave it there for tomorrow. Well done Theo good rout finding. At the base of the cliff we are in a thick jungle on a very steep slope, lovely place. At the bottom we find the beautiful sandy bedded stream I remember from past trips in different parts of the creek.

Theo wanders down stream looking for a camping cave, I wandered up stream while the others rested, taking in the beauty. I wandered up passed the entry for Deep Throat Canyon and found a few overhangs which would just do if really required, because of rain. But the beach were came down to at our entry point looks inviting with no sign of rain now. Theo came back having been down to the entry point for Canons Canyon , there was a cave there but the walk down and back was very slow over boulder jumbles forming waterfalls in the creek.

Huge Overhang at Bungleboori Camp Site.  Pic by Theo.

Cliffs tower above steep banks of black soil, covered in leaf litter, from the rainforest trees, such as coachwood decked with vines, a dark protected sacred place. The sandy creek bed gold flecked with brown, tan, yellow, black, brown , occasional black leaf litter or sunken wood/logs, glows in sunlight. Coachwood trees straight and tall, smooth bark, dark grey mottled with light grey, dark green leaves lovely to see.

Above this camping beach just a little upstream the cliff overhangs the creek right across probably 20 meters or so out, but 70 or 80 meters above. Theo and Steve have the 60 meter ropes and want to try and abseil from above to here. They are sure the ropes are long enough (I was not so sure). Off they went to set up and Damian and Hanya followed. I stayed to advise if the rope reached the bottom, (and rest). I could hear then shouting above but have no hope of seeing them. Then I heard something in the trees on this side of the bank and eventually spotted the ropes hanging down But tangled in the trees. Communications are a bit hit and miss due to the height and the sounds of the creek. Eventually the ropes disappear up again but don't reappear. A little later the would be adventures return, down the steep bank opposite.

By now the cooking fire is going - just - because the timber is so wet, a lot of the heat is required to just dry the wood. Still we manage to cook dinner on a combination of cooking fire and stove. Another very pleasant meal this time with the sounds of the creek mumbling and jumbling along past us intermingled with the call of late birds and shirrr of insects. We settled back using the sand as a seat (on a space blanket cushion) and the bank as a backrest enjoying the gradual change of light from day to sunset to black night (remember we are in a creek with 200m high banks mostly cliff so it gets very dark all of a sudden. Only a slim line of overcast night sky for light.

But as it darkened the fireflies come out and please us all with there erratic darting flight. Because it is so dark they look very bright. Not long after the glow-worms start to try and compete with the firelight to attract mates or pray (not sure which). An altogether pleasing display of glistening and darting light, points in our chasm of dark.

Hanya, Damein beow first drop.  pic by Theo

Steve and I sleep out on the beach, Hanya and Damian have their Luxor tent, a Palace we think. Theo disappeared up the bank above us to sleep in the small overhang at the cliff base. I felt confident no rain tonight (that was the forecast). Those of us who could see enjoyed the surrounding lights display, even the odd star way up above between the cliffs and tree branches. I loved the continuous sounds of the passing creek water. A pleasant pleasing night.

Thursday

We have decided to come back to this camp tonight as the logistics look better for doing Bridge Canyon tomorrow. Away about 8:30 as we can see no need to hurry today. A nicer looking day with patchy sunshine and cloud. We cross the stream slog up the steep bank to the cliff line, scramble up onto the ledge (much easier than I had anticipated, but then the others pioneered the way yesterday afternoon). The scramble up the slot using the hand line is no problem, after all we only have lighter packs with only our canyoning gear.

Pleasant walking up the spur onto and along the same ridge as yesterday afternoon. At the appropriate place Theo and Steve lead us in the nearest creek to our east. At first we have one of those typical hanging swamps you find in the headwaters of many canyon creeks. One might say a pain to bash through. Soon we came to a short slot canyon that lead to a 10m waterfall with no obvious anchor points. We fossick about on the cliff edge and eventually come back to our first choice with a 20m drop. Unfortunately we cannot see the dark dank pool that the first has to land in and swim out of. Steve set the rope so he goes first. Luckily Steve is in a good mood and pulls us clear of the water so we only get a little damp on the derriere.

Theo near base of big drop.  Pic by Theo

The creek continues as a wide valley and shallow windy watercourse but with steep cliffy banks back a bit, leading up to broken cliff lines above. Lovely to look at but a bit of a pain to push through. We pass a few short sections where the water course has cut through rock ledges to form small waterfalls to abseil or hand line down. Eventually we came to a more continuous sustained rock water course with consecutive, abseils scrambles. We can see that we are nearing a critical area as there is lots of air ahead of us visible through the trees. Theo, Steve, and Damian drop down the next couple of abseils, leaving the ropes in place while they explore to make sure we can continue safely. Hanya and I wait at the top to save the prussic if the way forward is blocked. Hanya became a bit cold while waiting so climbed up to find the sun. Eventually we get the call come-on down. The explorers have worked out a way to continue - different to that described in Jamison's Book but it looks good.

We have come to a wide semicircular amphitheatre ahead of us, with tall vertical cliffs leading to an hidden forested area below. The creek falls as a noisy waterfall into the green void, to our left. Bungleboori Creek is just visible here and there probably 100 -120m down. We estimate the top cliffs at around 50m or so and there are probably another cliff lines below that, bit hard to judge really. The "book" mentions a 60m abseil to the left of the top of the main waterfall along a ledge. We can see a sling from a small tree on a dickey, slippery, looking ledge, sloping down at 45 degrees or more. No one is over impressed with that as a way down, from here it looks difficult to set a safety line if required and especially as we will get wet in other shorter waterfalls getting down to the ledge. It would require at least one small abseil possibly others. The rock shute is just a rock shute nothing special about it.

The amphitheatre from ledge below drop.  Pic by Dug

We abseil from a tree on the cliff edge 20 meters to the right of the creek. The boys have the 60m rope out , hope it's enough, but we won't be able to tell until over the edge. The boys have viewed this face from the other side and they think it is fine. Steve goes first and we can hear nothing, no voice or whistle blasts, only the falling water or odd bird call. Eventually as the rope is slack I go over. A big airy drop with lots of little caves to get below and free fall briefly, I can't see Steve or the bottom from here. Eventually I see Steve standing on a ledged under the overhanging cliff. There is about 12m of rope on the ground so the abseil was around 46/48m. Below us is a sloping dirt face above a cliff face covered in trees. To our left is a much bigger overhang where the water fall passes toppling on and hit the broken rocks 20 or so meters below. A very pleasing airy place. We manage to get a system of whistle calls more or less working and soon we are all together again.

Theo sets one of the 60 m ropes from a nearby tree and disappears into the foliage below. Again we don't seem to be able to communicate, so eventually I go over. 15m down I came to a ledge with a drop below. I still cannot see or hear Theo or even know if the rope reaches the ground. I go on ready to prussic back up but eventually see Theo on the ground behind a tree, Not much spare rope this time so a 25m plus face. Below is a steep vegetated slope down to the creeks. To our right is another much bigger overhang under the waterfall. A really beautiful location. Again we get the whistles going and soon everyone is down.

Only about 300m upstream to our camping site. But as Theo found yesterday rather slow going, on the banks where you could use them or in the boulder strewn creek. The creek drops significantly around this bend probably 20 to 40 m over all, so there are some interesting cascades, waterfalls and under ground passages. On the way I passed a large flat topped rock with a good number of axe grinding grooves from our aboriginal past. Notable because most of the rock here is rather bony and unsuitable for shaping tools. By Bony I mean lots of discreet stones imbedded in the rock.

It took probably 3/4 hour to get back to camp, no talk tonight about doing the big abseil just above us! I soon had the cooking fire going, much easier tonight as the fire site is warm and the wood has dried out. Everyone disappeared down stream at different times to rinse off, in the for me cold water, but at least it reduced our bushwalking stink. The forecast was for possible rain tonight and tomorrow so Steve talks me into putting up my fly in case we need to shift during the night. It is too nice a night to go undercover unless we really need to, so we intend to sleep out while we can.

Again a pleasing evening turning to dark night. As we laze about sitting on the soft sand with a bank for a backrest, as we chat, prepare dinner or just lie back. The fire flies come out again but only a very few of them and they didn't stay long, then the glow-worms began their display, all over the banks and lower cliffs, lots of them. Even just above water level in fallen partly sand covered logs or river rocks. A most pleasing night enjoying the silhouette of cliffs, trees, cliff tops, with stars emerging and disappearing with the cloud.

Friday

By morning defiantly overcast as we breakfast and pack ready to leave our idyllic camping place. Ready to leave about 7:15 and not a moment too soon as we receive a spit of the first drizzle. Up the becoming familiar steep slope, onto the ledge then up the V slot. I feel the need to have my pack hauled up here, rather than attempt the scramble with the extra weight of camping gear. No problems again and we were soon up on the ridge that, will take us up to where we can cross over to the next spur and get to the start of Bridge canyon. We get sprinkles of drizzle every now and then and a little further off we see heavier rain.

Back at the track we walked in by, everyone stacks there camping gear to lighten pack. I decided that since it is cold and there is a likelihood of rain I will forego Bridge Canyon and walk out from here. I tend to stay away from cold nowadays if I can, and a canyon can be a cold place on a hot day, let alone on a cold drizzly day. The others only take canyoning requirements as they have a big day ahead. They will come past this way on the way out, so picking up the stacked equipment will be easy.

The walk out is pleasant, through the same bush we came in by 2 days ago. One thing I have noted is that this scrub is much thicker and hardier that in the past. Is that a consequence of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere? Natures way of returning things to "normal" "equilibrium" "natural"? Back at the cars by 1:00 so I have been walking for 6 hours, a good hit out. I prepare cooking fire and tent site for the others return. A couple of walkers from Central Coast Outdoor Club walk in, they have been reconnoitring the track into and out of Scatter Canyon for a club trip in a week or so. The rest of the club is canyoning from Mt Wilson, this pair decided it was too cold and did the recie instead. The other four from Bridge Canyon return about 8:00 they are exhausted after the big day. Ready for a cuppa, something to eat and bed.

We will camp here tonight and we three from Newcastle will go to Robinson in the Southern Highlands. Steve and Theo have two nearly new 100m ropes and are determined to get me down Bellmore falls, an about 80m drop into a deep rain forested river gorge. The Melbourne couple intend to drive to Newnes and do Pipeline Canyon and Firefly canyon.

Thank you, Theo, Steve, Hanya, Damian, a great outing. It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time. Copyright Dug Floyd January 2012.

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Post Script

Monday 9th, Tuesday 10th Jan.

Jim (as in Jungle) and I walked into check out the overhang. A pleasant stroll repeating the walk with Theo and company a week or so earlier. We found the two pagoda rocks without problem. A rather nice spot to be, with views of forest and heath out into the distance. The scattered sandstone cliffs, bluffs and outcrops adding their own colour and beauty. We located 3 small overhangs suitable to camp in.

The first at ground level just where you round the foot of the first pagoda. This had a sand floor, that would need a bit of a tidy, probably ok for three or four people to sleep.

The second more elevated in the far corner of the same pagoda. We slept in this one as it offered better views, even though the floor was mostly rock and a bit sloped. A good night to sleep with a cool south west wind ruffling my hair and kissing the skin of my face. Bright moonligh so that I could watch the nearby forest. Probably sleep 3 ok.

The third was 100m or so further on at the far corner of the second pagoda, down at ground level. Probably sleep 3 or 4. This overhang had a flat sand floor which suggested that it had been used by aboriginals in the past.

I searched the creek bed running past these pagodas for fresh water but it was all dry, despite recent rain. This is the head waters of Canons Canyon, so we know there is water a few 100m further down, however I found it rather scrubby and not all that pleasant to search any further down stream. I checked on top of the pagodas and found a couple of small pools of water where I collected a couple of liters but left plenty for the wild life. I have often seen pools of water on top of exposed rocks in many places. In the past aboriginal elders would camp near such places and by studying the smoke of cooking fires, work out where each of the mobs of the trib would be, so that they could be called together for a coroboree at apropriate times. Steve told me that there is running water in the tributaries running into Bridge Canyon, just to our east on the other side of the spur. We started to check that out in the morning but again found it rather scrubby so gave up and headed for home.

In Summary:- Overhangs not as big as expected but adequate for a small party, water would need to be brought in

View from the spur leading down to the Bungleboori Creek.

Seeking a way down the spur.

Bungleboori Creek near Deep Throat Exit

Bungleboori Creek overhang and coachwood trees at camp.

Bungleboori way down there below the Canons big abseil.

From the Canons Amphitheatre.

First drop in Canons Canyon.

Dug about to be saved from wet - first drop.

One of the awkward waterfalls Canons Canyon.

Damien on scrubby abseil Canons Canyon.

Dug not very wet, first drop Canons Canyon.

Steve checking out big abseil, Canons Canyon.

Steve, Hanya, Damien check out waterfall from the ledge.

Steve and Damien base of big abseil Canons Canyon.

Theo on big abseil Canons Canyon.

Base of the big abseil in Canons Canyon.

Theo abseils big drop, Canons Canyon Bungleboori Creek.  Pic by Dug

Bungleboori Creek.

That should be "Canons"

Boulder jumble Bungleboori Creek going back to camp.

Damien Through the tres on last 30m abseil.  Pic by Dug The last drop.  Pic by Dug

Ledge under last abseil, Theo and Hanya, lovely place.

End of a great trip.