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Bridge Canyon as an overnighter- 22, 23, 24 March 2013

Map:-

Wollangambe 1:25000

Party:-

Shane, Theo, Dug

The Bridge in Bridge Canyon.  Pic by Theo

The "Bridge" in Bridge Canyon, bit tight for someone of my bulk. Glad that isn't a big tree that washed down here!

Friday Night

I had hoped to walk into the Camping Cave three hours walk in from the car park, to get a more comfortable start on Saturday.  Shane and Theo couldn't get away so we ended up camping at the car park on Waratah Ridge and leaving about 8am in morning.

Saturday

A comfortable night and pleasant morning to start walking, one advantage of these arrangements is that we are travelling a little lighter (No breakfast and less water).  For those who haven't walked this area, Waratah Ridge used to have an extensive fire trail network but National Parks blocked these off a few years ago after a big fire and an argument with RFS.  The first 300m or so of "use to be fire trail" is blocked by felled trees.  A rather sad way to start a walk in a National Park, (This is the Wollemi Wilderness, and wilderness areas are supposed to be road less).  The old fire roads are now largely overgrown and all that remains is a footpad with often head tall scrub keeping you alert to avoid  eyes/head scratches.

It took about 1/2 hour to reach the old car park for Hole In The Wall Canyon.  Didn't the Canyoners whinge when it was blocked off 20 years ago, so they had to do a bushwalk (it is about one and half hour walk to that canyon, which is one of what I regard as the three definitive canyons, with Starlight and Claustral the others).  Another 1/2 hour brought us to the turn off to HITW Canyon.  So far quite pleasant walking on a well defined track.  From here the track is often less distinct and does tend to wander about a bit following the ridge system from knoll to knoll with the occasional dip into a swampy saddle.  Theo is out to demonstrate his improving navigational skills and leads us easily to our initial destination.  Well done Theo, we didn't lose the footpad once and it can be easy to lose as it winds over rocky barren patches or drives through thick quick growing parts in swampy areas. 
Lovely Scene.  Pic by Theo.

Lovely Rugged scenery, but those shadows below us look a bit scary. Haven't a clue what formed them, in the setting sun.

When I first came to the Waratah Ridge area 30 to 40 years ago the scrub was much lighter and much more pleasant walking.  The main reason there were more frequent small fires  500 - 4000 acres, this meant the scrub never built up and the fires were small not all that hot and manageable.  Unfortunately as the scrub has become thicker the fires have become hotter, bigger and very hard to manage, resulting is some of the huge fires we get now.  Unfortunately these kill the trees because they are hotter and with less tree cover the understorey becomes thicker - and so on.

At an appropriate place we leave the main ridge and head down a side spur for a couple of 100m to a rocky pagoda outcrops.  The base of these have the three camping overhangs that Jim and I investigated last January 2012.  Shane and Theo like the same slightly elevated cave Jim and I camped in, so we drop our camping gear packs here before heading into Bridge Canyon at about 11.30.  I did notice that someone else has had a fire here but not cleared the mess away.  I make a point of leaving no trace where I camp in a wilderness area, so that others may have the same unique "no sign of people before experience".  I did give this location to a few other bushwalkers who asked.  So now someone has used the cave without taking the same care I would prefer.

The start of the Bridge canyon I have marked from someone else's notes is at a creek junction in what the map show's to be a low-lying area.  Theo and Steve did this canyon on a trip we did after Christmas 2011 and came back with stories of hard going through thick swamp vegetation!  And would you believe it, there hasn't been a change since, still bloody uncomfortable walking.  We came to the first canyon section about 300m further down stream but this was only a short section with two awkward climb downs with no anchor for a hand line.  I did the meat anchor trick and then down climbed with extreme difficulty even with willing help and assistance.  

One of the early abseils, moss ferns and a landing pool.

Next we had another 300-400m of open creek walking with medium dense scrub before the canyon proper started.  Next time I will follow the ridge for  600m before coming in via a side spur and miss the first short section, nice but not value for effort IMHO.  Probably need to do a short abseil into the canyon. 

We have been told that this canyon has 13 abseils some a little awkward and likewise some awkward climb-downs.  We have also heard of old slings and due to the recent rains an floods, missing anchors.  I didn't count the abseils/climb-downs but there were quite a few and I will agree some awkward.  In fact at one, I watched Shane get his hand caught under the rope after a slip and then promptly did the same thing when it was my turn.  I will add that it is a long time since I have done that.

Interesting little canyon very pretty in places and beautiful in others.  A number of pools to swim through with acceptably cool water, We were shivering a little by the time we reached the end.  A very mixed bag of anchors to help the mix. Many of these required study before we committed to them, meaning slower than usual progress.  One would have interested Reed Thorn, a long anchor (about 4m)  of 11mm static rope ties around a tree with an inside bowline finished with a double overhand stopper knot.  From the look of it there had been wear through the sheath at some time in the past and this had been repaired with a double Becket bend with retrace finished with a double overhand stopper knot.  I must add that this anchor seemed to have been there long  enough for the sheath to become a moss green colour.  I did ponder over using it for quite a while due to it's apparent age but the rope was still seemed sound and felt ok with a hard pull tests.  We all abseiled very gingerly on this one and I should add some others anchors as well.

In two other places there were no signes of anchors, on one we simply set a sling around a convenient rock, on the other I became the meat anchor again.  I attached to the rope with a munter hitch so that I could lower the rope, if things became too heavy.  In the end no problem and Theo was able to pass up a tree branch to form an, only just adequate anchor, for Shane and I.  Another long anchor made of 25mm tube tape was anchored by a rock wedged into a crack in the rock.  This seemed to have been there a long time and was as solid as (others have mentioned it to me).  Theo expressed concerns about the sling having been shortened some time, fairly recently, resulting in a long pull over the rock floor and down over an edge.  I agreed with him, so we made extra sure to do a test pull-down (we always do any way).  Sure enough the rope was stuck, but Theo was able add more tape to lengthen the anchor shorten the pull, no problems then.   I can only assume that some made this change to make the abseil start easier members of their party.  But who knows now?

Shane abseiling down deeper into the slot.

With the current water levels there were several nice jumps, if you cared to take them.  None of us did, partly from the cold aspect (already shivering) and in my case the consequences of injury quite dire in this little canyon.  Not easy to get to or get through, no helicopter winching out of here either.

The second last abseil was about 23m down into an amphitheatre beside a pool.  Theo said the pool water level was lower, about 3m down, when he was here last year.  Leaving a cell to prusik out of if you missed the ledge ( a doomsday scenario for those without prusiks).   There was a ledge we could crawl around and then through the "bridge" the canyon is named for, to continue into the sunshine.  As we were setting up the abseil we were getting warm drafts of air from the Bunglboorie not all that far to go now.  The next abseil took us through under a much taller bridge into the Bunglboorie South arm.  A  sudden transformation from dark stained rock coated in moss algae and lichen and just the odd tree fern to a lush creek jungle of trees vines and scrubs.  Air temperature gone from less than 20c to around 30c.  4pm, mmm an hour later than I would have preferred, still nothing to do but keep on going.

A nibble to eat and sip to drink while preparing for the walk out.  Theo and I choose to wear our wetsuits to help dry them out, and besides dry clothes would soon get wet from the wet pack on our back. 

I love the Bunglboorie to walk along enormous cliffs either side steep heavily vegetated banks and boulder strewn watercourse.  The sounds of the river clinking along beside us through the waterfalls/cascades created by the boulder jamb, augmented by the bird calls, bell birds tinkling, lyre birds lying, parrots shrilling and with airs wafting the gentle rustle of leaves.   I find the sun pleasant after 3 hours mostly in the gloom.  Only a couple of 100m down stream we find our pass up a long-time ago land slip.  Steep at first, then very steep, gradually flattening out before the scramble up through the cliff lines above.  On the way up I notice a similar pass on the other side, suggesting to me this would have been part of an aboriginal trading path.

Ground light rising through the pool to beam up into the air, only in special locations.

At the top first cliff line on a relatively level area,  time for a rest for me and an opportunity to take off the bit dryer wet suit.  Of course I have warmed up and my pack is no longer dripping, although still damp.  Theo and Steve had problems with the next cliff line last time here they couldn't find a pass and wandered along the base of the cliffs on the eastern side for a long way before forcing a way up via an old rickety bush ladder.  The rule I always follow is "the nose always goes, sometimes" so we scrambled up the nose past an overhang, on the left hand side and found an easy pass to the top (mind you this is also my vague memory from probably 15 years ago).  In general the going isn't too bad with lots of rocky outcrops between the thick prickly scrub.  I'm afraid that I was slowing Shane and Theo, they had a tendency to charge ahead which meant I had to find a new way through scrubby bits without the freshly broken path to follow.

The views from the top of this spur are spectacular in all directions.  In particular the very tall,  vertical, straight, colourful, sandstone cliffs of Bjelkies Mind Canyon (long straight and narrow) immediately to our east.  Named after a well known Queensland Premier of the 1960's and 70's, although I have heard unkindly asked "shouldn't that mindset be attribute of the namer of the canyon?"  

We keep on going but I am slowing things down, starting to run out of petrol after such a long day.  We do keep eying off the direct rout across the valley to our west, much shorter distance but the collective opinion scrub too thick and will slow us down, even more.  Daylight starting to wain as we cross the saddle to the other ridge line, Theo and Shane have torches on before we reach the knoll, whitch is the start point for the rout to the camping cave.  Shane decides to use the goto function of his gps.  Not long after that I need a torch too.  Shane mentions 380m to go, after about 10 mins he says "380m to go, oh the wrong waypoint is set and I don't know how to change it".  Hang on, stop, all re-group here, please get a map out and give me the compass bearing from knoll to cave, "154º" Thank you Theo.   "Oh I've got the right waypoint, 100m to the cave", from Shane.  The tree cover is too thick for me to pick up the Rocky Pagodas for the cave.  So we wander on using the go-too, but Theo also keeping an eye on the compass bearing.  The other two disappear at a gallop.  And I blunder on until I see the outcrop.   Easy now to  follow the base around to the cave. Then I can see the head torches, up above me.  I dump the firewood I have collected on the way and then collect more nearby.  Theo lights the fire, for cooking and light.  8pm, a late enough finish me thinkit.

Getting into narrow deep slot here, don't you love that water smoothed rock?

Soon more fire wood is collected, the fire burning well and the stoves going for a brew (thank you Shane, I had left my stove back at the car to save weight and because it wasn't really needed).  All three stretched out drinking hot brew, admiring the scene, cave glowing red in the fire light, scrubby forest all around out front of the overhang, bathed in near full moon light.  Not many stars glistening in this night sky, not sure if there is some cloud cover or wether the moonlight is out shining them all, or a bit of both. 

Soon teas are cooking, mine on hot coals scraped to one side.  Very pleasant sitting here, chatting, sipping and eating.  One conversation is what to do tomorrow.  I'll wait till the morning to decide wether to do Bjelkies Mind or not.  The other two can do it easily without me slowing them down.  It isn't all that late before we role out the groundsheets, inflate the exped's, spread the sleeping bags, and change to sleeping attire, to retire.

Sunday

A pleasant night here in our little shelter, not even that much aircraft noise, which often detracts from the wilderness experience nowadays.  I did waken a couple of times with leg cramps which were cursed repeatedly, to the worry of the others who thought I was sleep talking.

Shane and Theo have decided that two of them is not enough to do the canyon so the plan is to head back to the cars.  No real hurry then so we take our time breakfasting , packing, tidying our camping space.  Hopefully hopefully leaving less indication someone has been here for the next party.

Away walking by 7:30.  Pleasant walking today too, at around 10 we stop to chat with a party of three going into do Deep Throat Canyon.  They started about 7:30 so are doing about the pace we were yesterday.  As the day warms up I slow down again so we didn't reach the cars till about 11.  We have to gain 100m or so of height so this tends to slow me a bit too,

Camp Cave, dinner cooking, feeling good again.

Theo is discussing doing an unnamed short canyon off Bell line Of Road, but by the time we reach there Shane has lost interest, so we drive on for lunch at the Kurrajong hotel on the way home.  The pub is still crowded as we arrive with the usual mob of bikers and day trippers, but they soon thinned out, and we ate our rather nice lunch in peace.

Thank you, Theo and Shane, for your great company and interesting interactions.  Only a short canyon but very busy while you were in it.   Some thought was required  to complete safely.  Till next time. © March 2013 Dug Floyd.

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Theo by a dark mysterious Grotto, in Bridge Canyon.

 

Shane on the other   side of the Bridge of Bridge Canyon.

Hand over hand through and under boulder jamb.

 

Cascade of tinkling clear water.

 

The hole of the bridge is not all that roomy.

 

Can get a little darkish in these holes, sometimes.

 

A swim coming up for Shane.

 

Sorting out ready for what's down there, unseen so far.

 

Be "INTERESTING" in a big water flow!

 

Down into the waiting pool!

 

Shane taking care, possibly dodgy anchor.

 

Chaining rope ready for next abseil, some where on from here.

Pretty spot to sit and wait your turn, while others sort the anchor.

 

Down through the hole.

 

Definite swim down there, in another place we would jump this.

 

Just a wade coming up, as we go down.