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Canyon Extravaganza Jan 2006

Galah, Breakfast Creek, Rocky Creek, HIW, Deep Throat, Sheep Dip

Party:-

Newcastle:- Trevor, Jenny, Bob, Robyn, Paul, Theo, Jenny, Clinton, Neil, Sharon, Steve, Ken.
Springwood:- Tanya, Canberra:- Monika, Jacquie, Scott, Tali.
BWRS/VRA:- Robyn, Thais, Paul, Barbara, (plus 2 friends), Caro, Jim, Dave, Dug.

Maps: -

Rock Hill, Wollangambe, Mount Morgan, Ben Bullen, Cullen Bullen.

Thursday:

Those who drove up Wednesday night travelled through thick fog and light rain to get there.  Theo and I waited out by the Galah Mountain turn off till after 11 pm to help mark the turn in the mist.  We woke to a misty morning amongst the trees, with muted bird song and little activity.  I had expected lots of other canyon parties but we were the only ones so far.  Some of our party expected to arrive before 9 am today to go canyoning while others would arrive later in the day and do there own thing. 

The first party set out to Galah Canyon about 8:30 am;  Monika, Steve, Ken, Robyn, Theo and Tania.  Paul arrived about 8:45 am with his party of four, they were joined by Thais to do Breakfast Creek Canyon and back track Rocky Creek Canyon.  Jenny, Clinton, Neil, Caro, Dug waited for Helen till near 10 am and then set off to do Breakfast Creek Canyon with the beginners and hopefully backtrack Rocky Canyon and then Sheep Dip Canyon. 

Breakfast creek is a good canyon for first timers 4 or 5 abseils, 3 down waterfalls (only a very light flow today).  Jenny had fun navigating here for the first time and we had to find a way across the steep button grass swamp to the first abseil from a tree into a wide amphitheatre formed by several short creeks converging.  The second abseil down a small waterfall beside a bigger fall took us into a wide cool overhang complete with tree-ferns and ferns. 

We wandered down stream along the beautiful open wooded creek, wide here with cliffs well back, narrowing gradually to the long slippery entry to the Cathedral, a wide long overhung section of canyon.  Then on down stream to the biggest abseil from a tree beside the stream, tall canyon walls either side.  We caught up with another party here and chatted while we donned wetsuits (because of the waterfalls) and harnesses.  Jenny abseiled from the tree down to a short section of rock river bed walked along on the rope and then disappeared down the vertical waterfall.  Dug showed a way through the jumble of rocks on the right for an easier start at the lower level for the others. A nice narrow waterfall abseil into a darkish chamber, the last bit requires a scramble down a tree as the doubled over 50 m rope only just reaches a ledge 3 m above the floor.  A lovely introduction to your first canyon section, tall dark cliffs each side of the narrow creek bed, cool on this warming up day.  We wondered on down the narrow canyon past log jambs, remnants from a past flood, down two more short waterfall abseils, then out over the squeeze and short scramble to the right into Rocky Creek.  The new canyoners all did well and enjoy themselves.

Rocky Creek is a wonderful place no mater how many times you have been there before.  Tall broken cliffs covered with trees and other greenery, either side of this pretty brook bubbling along, some times over rounded, sculptured river rocks, sometimes through boulders jambs we have to scramble up, over, under, any which way and through, sometimes over golden sandy bottom where the red yabbies lurk, sometimes on the sandbanks between the sandy bottomed water and the steep vegetated bank, sometimes through shady overhangs carved from the orange sandstone cliffs.  Water so clear that it’s not there or glistening and shinning in the bright sun light, splashed drops fall as pearls in a curved ark to become a ripple on the water mirror.  Not a bad place to have lunch either.

We stroll on down stream for an hour and half. Sometimes on the banks amongst the tree-ferns and tall Coachwood and Sassafras trees and mossy rocks; sometimes rock-hopping above the stream; sometimes striding on the sand either in the or beside the water and of course sometimes wriggling through the boulder jambs. It is after 4 pm at the first exit on a sharp bend – a bit late in the day to backtrack Rocky Canyon so we do exit here.  A pleasant enough scramble up through the rainforest gully.  In two places we need to set a rope to help Neil who has one arm.  On the second taller scramble he impresses us using an ascender on the rope as a hand grip and just walks up the rock slope, well done!  We are back to the camp by 6 pm to greet Thais, Paul CA had to return to work Friday, Jim also.  Trevor, Jenny, Bob, Robyn and Paul B have also found us, unfortunately Helen has sent word she has pulled out.  Monika and the Galah Canyon team arrive not much later.  I detect some trepidation amongst the group and am relieved to find out that they have only jammed a rope and some one will need to retrieve it tomorrow. 

Everyone has enjoyed their day and is looking forward to the morrow.  A good group around the cooking/camp fire for a lot of talk with splendid gourmet meals.  It does become misty again and we congregate under the big tarp, before retiring for the night.

Friday:

We wake to a clear morning promising a warm sunny day.  Steve, Ken and Theo have decided to retrieve the rope and hopefully do another canyon.  Bob and Robyn Mc are to do Rocky Canyon (no abseil).  Jenny T, Clinton, Neil, Sharon, Caro, Trevor and Jenny H, are to do Glow-worm Tunnel, Lost City, Tree-fern Gully as a number of separate and combined trips.  Monika, Robyn M, Thais, Paul B and Dug are to do Hole In The Wall Canyon, one of my favourites and a good one for first timer Paul B. 

We depart at 8 am and arrive with the hordes at Waratah Ridge car-park about 8:45 am.  We quickly get walking but fortunately only one other group is doing HITW and they are behind us.  It is an hour plus walk out over the ridge tops, enjoyable in the cooler morning.  Only Tania and I have done this canyon before.  This is Paul’s first canyon and he finds the first narrow section most “interesting” and dark.  Then we walk through another beautiful section of open creek, before we start the next narrow section with a 3 m jump into a crystal clear pool.  Water so clear that I don’t even send someone down on a rope to test the depth (I have jumped it a number of times before).  Then an abseil down a narrow water fall before the stream disappears into a narrow cleft, so narrow we have to duck (crawl) under a low overhang to get inside.  We are now in a dark chamber the walls and above sparkling with glow-worms, very lovely.  You need a torch to continue and are soon standing before a dark, deep pool with rocks seemingly blocking the way.  There are two exits, one to the left where you need to duck your head underwater to squeeze through and up, the other to the right where you have to chimney up through a squeeze.  Everyone picks the left this time.

Now we are in a narrow constricted area with the only way on – down into the pussy in the well abseil.  Made easier now by anchors on the side, still a small hole to get through but.  Once trough the hole you free-fall straight down the rope, a fantastic place, of cathedral lighting and feel.  Every one has done well with the abseils and are loving every minute of it.  There is a final hand over hand and we can see the right angle intersection with the Nth Bunglboorie.  The colouring of the rock, the water and the sky is fantastic.  This canyon is named after the exit into the Bunglboorie where you duck down and slide through a hole into the broader canyon. 

I can remember the first time I saw this exit, 10 – 15 years ago, we had done Banks Canyon and wondered upstream to find the exit, sometimes swimming long pools, sometimes walking along the flat rock ledges on one bank or the other, sometimes rock hopping, until we found a convenient rock ledge to sit and have lunch in the sun.  I did not know about HITW then and was amazed to hear voices and then eventually canyoners emerge through the small hole/slide in the cliff just down stream on the other side.  From this side all you could see was high straight sandstone cliff.

This is a classic Blue Mountains exit, a T intersection, most river systems do not have streams joining at right angles.  From here we wade, swim and rock hope 400 m to the rock platform beside the exit up a steep narrow, only just defined gully.  We catch up with two other canyoners here and the party behind us also arrive but return down stream round the bend to stop out of sight.  This rock platform is the place to change from our wet gear and take a leisurely lunch.  The water dragons know this place for a feed and there are several. Then the hour or so walk back to the cars.

We are back in camp by 4 pm with firm talk of doing Sheep Dip after a cuppa.  Sloth sets in and we sit around talking until the others arrive back from their respective trips.  A good day has been had by all with all challenges met.

Again an excellent evening with meals and chatter around the fire.  To night is clear warm and starry.

Saturday

Paul B, Caro, Robyn M and Bob have left us to go their various ways, Steve and Ken have ankle and toe injuries.  I have decided to do a canyon new to me, Deep Throat, out on Waratah Ridge (one I intended to go down on a BWRS training exercise in November but didn’t make).  I expected a long day 12 – 14 hours, so a 7 am start was needed.  Tania, Monika, Theo join me.  I suggest Steve Ken and Jenny T lead Tiger Snake Canyon with Thais and Neil, with possibly Penrose Gully as a second trip.  Trevor and Jenny H with Sharon and Robyn Mc plan to visit the sites they haven’t seen yet.

We are away on time for the long walk in with tricky navigation.  The navigators to busy chatting manage to walk past turns in the indistinct foot track a couple of times but we make it to the right gully in the end.  Not, you would have to say, an interesting walk along the indistinct broad ridges amongst the stunted trees, but you do see vistas of cliffs and deep gullies cut by the canyons in the wooded plateau, here and there from clear high points.

The Canyon near Sydney book is noted for the occasional “joke canyons” unfortunately this is one of them.  “A scunge filled gully” as I have heard them called.  We struggle through corral fern, vines and sword grass for an hour or so till we find a waterfall with no anchor points in the stream.  A backtrack and scramble through the cliff lines sees us find an abseil from bank left.  Another hour or so of corral fern brings us to the abseil that this canyon is named for.  A 20 m abseil down a water fall with a deep pool at the base that you can’t bypass and are sucked into.  A large tree has fallen across the waterfall descent necessitating a “gardening” effort from me so that we can all get down safely.  Fortunately the tree itself is stable and I only need to break some branches.  A good abseil.

100 m down stream we find the second abseil, 20 m down to a pool we must swim before going down a second abseil (the book says 40 m in all) but we have no way of seeing.  A fallen tree makes a slight obstacle here too, but doesn’t require pruning.  Monika goes first, then Tania and Theo; I go last because I can see possible problems with the rope pull down.  At the top I stand on a small ledge to reposition the knot below a tree root by threading the rope though my descender.  I find the weight of the rope caused by the second abseil a nuisance.  I wedge my self at the lip of the pool before the second abseil; unclip from the rope then those below pull the rope down till the knot is just above me.  The start of the second bit of abseil is made interesting by the stretch in the rope but I’m soon at the bottom.  Rope recovery is ok. 

50 m down stream under, through, round, the boulder jamb we are in the Bunglboorie South Arm.  A good place for lunch in the sun sitting on a sand bank.  We can see the exit for Dope Canyon just 50 m upstream from us. In Dope we can see a long straight section of canyon, with very tall straight black cliffs (a quite good canyon).  We wander upstream in the Bunglboorie for an hour or so to the exit where Arch Canyon joins the river, I would rate this section even lovelier than the nth arm.  A pleasant walk and scramble up through the pagodary cliff lines sees us on the exit ridge.  There are good views of the big natural arch that the canyon is named for.  We are back in camp by 6 pm but I still don’t have starters for Sheep Dip.

All parties are back after an enjoyable day.  Luckily Paul CA had arrived at 8:30 this morning and lead Tiger Snake because the other leaders were not feeling sure enough of them selves to lead it.  Another pleasant night but a southerly has blown though, much cooler now.  Dave arrives with his family to do Sheep Dip Canyon tomorrow, planning a nice lazy day and he has lots of starters.

Sunday

Party of Dave, Scott (11), Theo, Tania, Robyn Mc, Ken, Steve, Monika, Thais, Dug.  We make the short drive to the start about 10 am kit up and are soon in the canyon.  Only Steve, Ken, Dave and I have done this before so the others go out, explore and enjoy.  I always like this short canyon with its slippery dips, jumps and hand over hands, so does everyone today.  A couple of the 2 m jumps prove cause of a pause for a couple of first timers but they all go and have fun.  Scotty looks about 10 ft tall as we come out the other end.  We are back to the camp by 1 pm.  I was planning Penrose Gully this afternoon but no starters, so we drive home, with a gourmet mid afternoon lunch at Kurmond. 

Conclusion

A successful Canyon Extravaganza, 27 participants (some for only one or two days), 5 canyon first timers, everyone down canyons new to then, 5 who didn’t abseil this time but found some very beautiful places to visit.  All new canyoners did well and their techniques were good.  An excellent camping place only a few other groups during the weekend.  The fog and mist on Wednesday night may have put people off.  I enjoyed my self and believe everyone else did as well.  Thank you all for contributing to a great 4 days.  Till next time. © Copyright 2006 Dug Floyd

p.s. At 11:45 pm Sunday night I received a phone call.  I was on standby of a search at Nymboida (near Grafton), for a lady with dementia missing in an area of farm land and bush.  At 1 am the call-out was confirmed and two of us were driving by 2 am.  We arrived at 9 am, the lady was located at 11:30 and we were on our way back by 1 pm, home by 7 pm (traffic delay at Karuah).

Some pic follow:

Tania in Sth Bunglboorie near exit at Arch Canyon (Photo Dug F)

Lunch in the Sth Bunglboorie after Deep Throat Canyon (Tania, Theo, Monika) (photo Dug F)

Jim I in Galah Canyon (photo Robyn M)

Bunglboorie Sth Creek looking at Deep Throat Canyon exit (photo Dug F)

Scramble exit from Galah Canyon (Steve straining) (photo Robyn M)

Hole in the Wall exit upstream in Nth Bunglboorie, also lunch and change spot (photo Dug F)

Theo in pool Galah Canyon (photo Robyn M)

First waterfall into Galah Canyon-  35 m abseil (photo Robyn M)

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