Canyons South East of Newnes: 
Twilight and Firefly

Dec 13/14 2003


Jim I, Jenny T, Clinton T, Tania K, Jim S, Dug F.

“We must be mad thinking of going into a river in this weather” - my parting comment to Brian, as we drove off to go to Newnes on a thundery Friday evening.   The trip was ok really, a bit of rain on the way to Richmond for Pizza at the usual eatery.  In the Wolgan Valley we hit patches of fog and the road showed much evidence of heavy rain.  The camping ground was more like a fair ground with brightly lit camps dotted round the paddock but Tania and Jim had a welcoming fire at the designated meeting spot.  They had arrived separately form Sydney and Mittagong before dark.  It didn’t take Jenny, Clinton and I long to set up camp and get to bed, after the longish drive down (after all we couldn’t see much of the beautiful valley or high cliffs because of the fog).

Saturday morning heralded with the usual dawn chorus from the natural bird life of the area,  very pleasant to my ear.  The whole valley is shrouded in mist so you cannot see the imposing cliffs around you.  A leisurely breakfast and we're away by 8am it has been decided to chose a canyon, Looking Glass or Twilight depending on the time we reach the ridge line that will lead us in.  As we leave I look back and see a bright colourful mountain top spotlighted by bright sunshine, hanging in the sky above the mist.  A most magical looking place, makes me wish I was there because such a beautiful place must have magical properties and be inhabited by wonderful people.

About an hour track walk, looking at the oil-shale works ruins as we passed, brought us to a minor creek crossing and up on the right three creeks cut the cliff-lines.  We took the left hand creek.  Near the top, Jim who is leading came to cliffs all around but there was a bit of a ramp up on the right, “I thought you were having a lend of me when you said up there”.  Particularly as the only way on, was through was a narrow squeeze where a “very large boulder” was leaning against the cliff.  It was necessary to take off packs and squeeze through and up to stand on the boulder, then the cliff top was only 1.3m high with enough hand and foot hold but the gap below us is a bit off putting. 

Morning tea in the sun on the ridge top above the cliff looking along the Wolgan and away into the distance all around.  It is quite a few years since I was here last and we can't find the way down we used previously; necessitating an abseiled into Firefly Creek.  Then up the ridge on the other side to a high spot.  Scrubby and pagodary all the way up.  As we scaled a pagoda on the summit for lunch Jenny said to Tania “where’s the rope?”.  Oh oh; Tania and I dropped packs and backtracked but couldn’t find it.  What to do?  We have a 27m rope and a few meters of tape plus several sets of prussic loops and 7 hours of daylight.  Well “improvise,  adapt and overcome”  is a Shep saying, so we'll do Looking Glass.  A quick sandwich for Tania and I and we're away along the ridge top, time is getting away from us if we want to be out of the canyon before dark.  At last we come to a part that doesn’t look right with the map and we mess around for a short time then decide to drop down a gentle ridge into a creek which since it is heading east must be Firefly – wrong it is Twilight at 472 244 (not as alarming as may sound since I know all creeks “go”).

My first reaction is that this should be called “leaf litter canyon” due to the high build up of litter  along the creek system.  Apart from this increased difficulty of walking this is a pretty little blue Mountain type creek system, lots of semi rain forest trees but not a canyon at this stage.  Eventually we reach an abseil down a water fall beside a big chock stone, we move further along to the left to find a tree with 2 very old looking slings but still with a pool of water to be avoided below, after briefly checking further along we return and use this tree because concerns of the rope length.  The pool proves to be only calf deep, so not such a worry at all.  The canyon continues fairly narrow with lots of recently fallen timber which prompts Jim to ask if we found that canyons often change there nature and I have to agree.  That is why you need to be prepared to deal with what you are presented, rather than what you remember or have been told to expect.  The water flowing is probably less than a “normal flow" but it is much more than any canyons that I have seen in the past couple of years (due to drought).  We have several abseils often splashed by waterfalls and wades no more than waist deep.  Eventually we come to a waterfall abseil with a short swim pool at the bottom, no avoiding getting wet this time (none of us have bothered with wet suits because the water temperature is reasonably ok). 

We continue on, I am getting more concerned by the time but by 6pm we can see bluffs about 1/2k ahead which we assume is the Wolgan.  Correct, and we have passed our last abseil so we are on the track by 7.10pm.  This track is north south at this point showing we are at Twilight and have a long track bash ahead.  We get out of harnesses and wet gear for those with a change and set off in the gathering twilight.  Very pretty along the Wolgan with the cliffs on either side merging with the gathering gloom and occasionally splashed with colour.  The fireflies appear as if to taunted us for the mistake all the way home to camp.  I really do like to see fireflies in the wild their light is so bright and white as they dart quickly up and down and around, then vanish, willow the wisps!  Eventually after 9pm we need torches as there isn’t much moon at this time of night.  A long enough walk on the fire trail, listening to the bush animal noises and night bird calls, sees us in camp by 10:20pm.  Our final crossing of the Wolgan beaconed by one of the camps bright lights.  A rather startled camper is greeted by giday from a bedraggled group stumbling up the steep bank and over the top.  Tania asks if he has a satellite phone or if he knows wether the homestead has a phone, he seems to become a little agitated at this. Tania has told her parents she will be home tonight, I would have preferred here to stay and rest but she must go.

In the morning Jim S drives in to join us.  Jenny  and Jim indicated last night they may not come as they were expecting to become a little stiff as the day wore on,  “but it’s only half as long as yesterday” I say.  I had expected Clinton to be up and with us but he would not leave his bed.   As Jim S. and I head off at 8:30, the man from last night comes over to enquire if everything is ok, he thought we must have had difficulties and was expecting the place to be buzzing with helicopters.

We're to the saddle on top of the ridge for morning tea by 10:30. This ridge system is wonderful to behold with all the pagoda shaped rocks glimpsed above the dense vegetation.  We tried a couple of different ways down to Firefly but ended up doing the same abseil as yesterday.  No navigation here, we're in the canyon creek and so just walk on down.  About 700m of nice little creek before it narrows and there are a number of small abseils/climb downs.  A pretty little canyon with a pleasant water flow.  We come to the water-fall abseil with the deep round pool in front, there is a fallen tree across it.  That will do me to keep dry, and I walk across, I can see that it is cracked underwater near the lip of the pool and it is creaking, still nothing ventured nothing gained.  Jim burst in laughter as I suddenly dropped into a bubbly green cool place, totally immersed.  We continue on and still enjoining the scenic rout with the many coloured sandstone cliffs and strands of rainforest trees.  Out to the Wolgan track by 5:10 we are in camp about 6pm  Everything has been packed up by the fairies so we're in Lithgow eating hamburgers by 7:30.

A good trip, I overdid it choosing Twilight, for those who haven’t walked much recently but the all managed very well.  Thank you for your company, I hope you all join me again sometime soon.  © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd

Footnote: Dave D (that's him  in the photo scrambling up) and I retrieved the rope and did Looking Glass the next weekend.  The rope had unravelled slightly and the centre had snagged a twig on the ground and then un-flaked from Tania’s pack laying a straight line through the bush,  just 100m from the pagoda we lunched on.  Good find thanks Dave.