Autumn in at Mount Wilson

two good canyons, Thunder and Koombanda


Anita, Theo, Dug.

On the way in.  Pic by Dug

The leaves are just starting to turn now at Mt Wilson and this is only the first day of autumn – are we in for an early winter?  Friday night is still warm enough for me to sleep out under the stars with my sleeping bag open and just thrown over. Still only a few campers, this has been a very slow year for Mt Wilson (is the for sale sign on the Post Office related?)

We take our time getting ready in the morning and still manage to be at the starting point and walking by 8:50.  Anita who has the new map case, new canyons book and the Mt Wilson map, is navigating and choose the parking spot for Ranon Canyon to save some of the road bash on the way back.  This requires a bit further traversing across the side of Mt Charles, to Lightning Ridge, which leads off to the SE.  All pleasant easy to walk bush, lots of native flowering shrubs, birds, scenic views and sky to please the senses.  A vestige pad along the top of the ridge to make for even easier walking.  I have mentioned before that these ridges are worth walking for there own sake.  Nice bush, not too rugged or steep but best of all magnificent scenery that gradually opens up to reveal more and more and then changes again to begin opening again.  Multi coloured sandstone Cliffs that glow as the day light changes striking them from different directions, rolling forest in all directions, those strange pagoda formations dot the sky line and the edges of the gullies, this one looks like a well maintained roman aqua duct, this one looks like the back scales of an enormous dinosaur, that one looks like a Buddhist pagoda in the mountains, that one I cant describe in this way, a collection of interesting shapes and indents and protrusions. Above us the summer sky has a rare deep blue hue, palling as your eye nears the horizon by which time it has a pinkie tinge.  Eventually we strike off on a southerly ridge to lead us to Carmarthen Brook, quite a build up of coral fern here and there which can cause a momentary struggle to progress.

Anita at a pool.  Pic by Dug.

This goes (just) with a bit of a wriggle and slide (Anita has the new edition of the “book”, this refers to 15m abseils).  The creek is a very nice flowing brook, clear sweet water, not scrubby by usual standards.  We have morning tea admiring this great location, before walking on down stream.  Pleasant with no surprises, lots of moss in the sheltered places, tree ferns, the odd paddle through but we can avoid the swims.  We walk on and on and on by 12:30 Anita and Theo are looking and sounding most concerned, The “book” talks of only 200-300m this is more like 1.5km, are we in the right creek?  A rationalisation with the map suggests we took a ridge too early, we hope!  (I wanted to explore a bit of the Carmarthen Brook so that is good for me).  Eventually we come to yet another narrow canyony bit with the creek following under a low overhang.  Then we see a newish looking red sling on a tree beside an impressively deep and quite narrow slot.  (not what the “new book” describes at all, are we in the right place:~ ~:).  This abseil take nearly all of the doubled over 50m rope, down a straight wall, a waterfall on our right, landing in the sand and smooth rock bed of the stream.  Very impressive, dark and cool, hang-on a minute what's this, 30m along is a boulder jamb blocking the way.  We scramble up to find a belay made from rope, WHEW!  Another 10m abseil into a pool with another boulder jamb like the one were on and this one doesn’t looked walked on!  Is this one of those places where the stream goes underground for us to swim through? I’m right, after dog paddling along the too narrow to pool, there is no easy way out from the top of the boulders.  But, I had passed an awkward looking passage and rock jamb on my right to get here.  Remember this is all in that half light dark and cool.  The only bright sun light is from a small narrow slot way, way, way up there above and its very quiet.  Anita disappears along the passage, as Theo recovers the rope and she doesn’t come back – good that is the way out then.  This is the  Glow-worm cave accessible from Claustral, if my memory is reliable.  We see the first footprints for the day and are soon at the junction in the bright sun.  Another party of 9 (having done Claustral) is lunching in the shade we select a nice sunny spot to warm up as we enjoy lunch and quietly think back to the narrow beautiful canyon where we have just been.

After a leisurely lunch were off down the rest of Claustral Canyon, no abseils now just a few, climb-downs, jumps into pools and swims, the bigger party lets us get ahead.  This section of Claustral is very beautiful with the water sculptured sandstone cliffs, water sculptured boulders and the unique canyon vegetation.  The “tunnel swim” is always interesting, narrow and dark and very tall.  At the exit point we meet a party of 4 who have done Ranon Canyon (another beautiful way into Claustral that enters upstream from Thunder.

The exit up Rainbow Ravine (one day I’ll abseil back down the waterfall into Claustral, just for fun) is an interesting way out in its own right.  You follow the gully up and along, through narrow gorges, scramble up waterfalls, scramble up handy tree roots and in one place wonder “what the hell am I doing here”, past groves of tree ferns, beside clear sweet pools of water, beside the Camels hump, over the Camels saddle and eventually to Mt Tomah South.  I might mention that it is now quite breezy from the south up here.

I’m not going to dwell on the walk back to the car along the narrow windy road, except to say it was a long way.  But, as we skirted the highway trying to stay whole, we found a well-worn track leading beside the road at a narrow place.  We took it hopping it would lead to the wider place up there further, we came to a good camping cave with views in both directions a perfect place for our ancestors to hold there parties (corroberees).  The track led onto top of the rocky outcrop where we find the expected axe sharpening grooves.  We stop here on the way home to look properly, the cave has countless incision of convict arrows, on other flat rock faces nearby more arrows and what look like indigenous carvings of people, kangaroos? and other unidentified animals.  It would seem, a very important place in our longer a go past.  I have noticed that locations with views of distinctive high spots often have identifiable relics of our older heritage, but this one has signs of the coming together of two cultures.

Back at Mt Wilson by 6:30, we soon had the tea on, in an area protected from the wind in a picnic shelter.  A very pleasant evening meal discussing, the day, righting the wrongs of the world and enjoying the rights of the world.  On point to come out is that a “book” is the second most dangerous thing in the bush for the unwary. The most dangerous thing of course is the "track" (we don’t want to leave it even if it is going in the wrong direction or worse, we don’t even know it’s going in the wrong direction).  The only way to travel the bush is to decide where you’re going and then let the terrain take you, so you deal with what you see, not with what you expect or wish for. 

A pleasant enough night even if a little breezy (I elected to sleep in the picnic shelter more protected from falling limbs (that didn’t fall that I could hear)).  In the morning the others have opted for a shorter day so they decide on Koombanda Canyon near Bell.

A good choice it is indeed, not a long walk in or out but a very splendid little stream that has burrowed itself into the sandstone in the approved way.  The way in is via a 10m abseil from a tree overlooking a waterfall.  As usual in these places delightful, cool, tree ferns, stands of tall straight coachwoods, narrow mossy sections, scrambely rocky sections, short wades, great.  Our next obstacle is a 7m abseil into a pool with a short swim (water a lot cooler than yesterday).  Then we come to a place with a very narrow groove in the rock down about 8m. 
The way on is to drop a rope down into a hole made by a chock-stone, belay from an old log, clip on and slide freefall into the chamber.  Another short swim and were out as the canyon opens out, still very tall cliffs either side, no way up unless you’re a climber.  We wander on through the typical Blue Mountains creeks system, absolutely beautiful, until we come to the junction with Kamarah Creek the Kamarah ridge is a possible exit.  This is our lunch spot not quite time yet but beautiful and delightfully warm sunshine. 

We then continue on to Grosse Valley Colliery (also called Canyon Colliery).  Largely dismantled now a number of concrete areas, blocked off shafts and the concrete road out through the cliff line.  An easy quick way back to the car.  Theo naming the bird life particularly the crimson and red robins and flame tail finches, Anita naming the rock and trees.

A great weekend thank you all. © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd