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Easter 2007

Railmotor Ridge, Walk Down Canyon, Bungleboori Nth Branch.

Map:-

Rock Hill 1:25000

Party:-

Steve, Dug.

Introduction

Many features on many maps intrigue me and one of these is on the Rock Hill map.† Two very straight creeks that run from Rail Motor Ridge to the Bungleboori about 4 km.† They are shown as relatively wide with cliffs just about the whole length.†

I donít know anything about them but make some educated guesses.† They are in a noted canyon area and are not named so this suggests they are not narrow enough to be canyons.† Being a bit wider I expect to find wonderful forest areas, probably some boulder jambs, and even short canyon sections.† I expect that any abseils can be bypassed, but am prepared with tape, karabiners and rope just in case.† Swims are likely so we take wet suits Ė bit late in the year not to, and the forecast is for cool weather (besides I intend to use mine as a sleeping mat to save weight and space).† I have been on Rail Motor ridge only a couple of times in 40 years.† Once to Cricky Canyon many years ago and once to Banks 15 or so years ago, so I feel the need to broaden my horizons.

Thursday night.

The drive up was a bit slow along the Cumberland Highway from the freeway exit at Hornsby, but good up through Windsor and Richmond.† The usual Pizza place in Richmond was closed so we tried the Gourmet Food place at North Richmond, I donít think we will bother again.† We wound our way on up the Bell Line Of Road enjoying the Easter moon night sky silhouette of the mountains along the way, Sydney lights made a glow in the east quite pretty in its own way.† A beautiful way to go although it is a bit twisty and turny and you are zoomed passed by the highway rally drivers in their hot cars.† The turn of onto the gravel forest road at the Zig Zag railway tourist siding is pitch black and deserted at this time of night.†

The forest gravel road passes through natural eucalypt then pine plantations created by the Lithgow prison farm years and years ago.† There arenít many camping in the Bungleboori camp area now, the motorbike enthusiasts have trashed that place and moved on into the forest, until that is trashed too I guess.† Years ago we canyoners would stop here on the way in and often for the whole weekend, but we have been persuaded to move on due to the late night partying and early morning roar of motorcycles, now it seems that fraternity cannot take it either.† The roads have been graded since last time and are in fact good to drive on, not the rough bumpy trip we endured then. †Recent rain has left some puddles but a lot fewer than I expected, The moisture just vanishes due to the dry soil of the long drought.† One good thing about the rain is that there must be enough feed away from the roads so we donít see kangaroos or wombats with the real risk of hitting them.† We do pass large home made signs that indicate that there is some sort of large gathering here for Easter but the initials donít mean anything to either of us.† Then we turn onto the Deep Pass track and are soon winding through the eucalypt forests again and trying to anticipate all the speed humps put in on these side roads by national Parks.† Just past the next Deep Pass turn of we find a large clearing that looks like an ideal camp for the night.† Steve sets up his ancient Paddy Tent, while I sleep in the car seat.† We both have a good night sleep, very quiet here just the night insects and the occasional night bird.

Friday

A most pleasant day breaks clear skies, no wind, and nice temperature.† We backtrack a km or so and drive down to the southern Deep Pass car park, there is one other vehicle here already, not many for a long weekend.† We park out of the way, I try to set a waypoint on the borrowed GPS but the reading doesnít make sense, a different map grid all together, I check all the settings and datumís, turn off and on then re-check the settings and datumís several times more (utm, AGD66 both correct) give up leave the machine in the car who needs extra ballast anyway? †Set out to wander down the track to the pass.† In the past this has been a 4wd rout into the Deep Pass Valley which is a great camping spot. †However now this very steep track is eroded with deep gutters and washaways that would stymie any attempt to drive down in control and you would have trouble even winching out.† Still a pleasant morning for a stroll with the sun shining down through the silver grey bark of the Sydney Blue Gums of the forest and the bush birds calling to let us know that they like it too.† Nearby, lyrebirds rip out their repertoire of mimicked bird calls.† Is that why they are called liar birds, because they pretend to be other birds?

At the bottom of the track we are in Deep Pass valley, here there are cliffs either side about 30m wide.† We head to the right and across to the other cliff on a vestige track through the bracken ferns.† Here we come to a fallen tree leaning against the cliff that affords us footholds up to a ledge (luckily).† A few meters along we come to a more substantial fallen log dangling down the cliff, someone has place another log for a foothold and a piece of snatch strap as a hand line.† With all these aids we scramble up passing packs as we go.† Then we have a steep sandstone rock face with the ironstone protrusions, typical of this area which make excellent hand and foot holds.† I guess you would say this is the very beginnings of the development of a watercourse down. †There are a series of slight gullies and water falls.† Whatever it does afford us a way up, but I will say I am a little apprehensive about the return trip, taking comfort in the fact we have tape to make a harness and rope to abseil if must be for me.† Of course being in a major drought this is dry now although you can see that it is normally moist.

Atop the ridge is typical of this area, dry sclerophyll forest with stunted trees and robust woody (often prickly) shrubs.† A fire has been through in the past few years so the going is generally easy.† Just as well in some ways, as the ridge line wanders as it will with other ridges running off into places we donít aim to be today and we must find our way by staying on the curved top part, estimating distance and keeping an eye on compass bearings.† We both enjoy the passing scene, lovely plants, rock formations and boulder, near us, forest and deep valleys in the distance, caught as glimpses through gaps in the vegetation.† Of course some of the ridge is narrow and easy to find our way, other parts are broader, flatter and less defined a little harder to tell where you are.† Eventually around lunch time at one of these less defined places we are standing looking down a steep slope with a ridge on our right, for sure not where we intended to be.† Interesting in its own way though with a small cliff line to one side with caves and one place where you can go through a split in the rock to investigate and out the other side (if that is your wish, of course).† We walk back up onto the ridge on the right find a high spot and sit down for lunch.† A good spot for lunch anyway.† The wether has become overcast with the hint of drizzle every now and then and occasionally we get a cold bracing breeze.

After lunch we study the maps and try and align with the terrain that we can see. †Our conclusion is that any of 4 ridges with a spread of 4 km fits, if we have taken an earlier wrong turn or two.† I decide to back track 400 m on a bearing that should bring us to a knoll if we are in the vicinity of where we expected to be.† And it works out, so we take a more careful bearing and bypass the spur that sucked us in last time.† Soon we are at the saddle we desire to leave the ridges and start down our target creek.

Fairly steep at first, we easily by pass waterfalls and cliffs.† Vegetation is as you would expect for a creek Ė too thick for comfort Ė bracken fern, coral fern with vines and lots of fallen sticks of course, lush succulents, many flowers and flowering shrubs.† In this deep V valley the trees are much bigger and seem to glow with vitality compared with the drier ridge trees.† As we descend we come to patches of tree ferns and rainforest tree such as coachwood and sassafras.† Now the valley is fairly wide V so that we only occasionally catch glimpses of the main cliff walls.† The creek is flowing through a winding narrow channel down the centre of the V, sometimes a mini canyon, others just a creek with a bank. †Only small waterfalls, some pools, both easy to by pass.† The vegetation we have to force through still a bit thick for good walking.†

Just after 3 we come to another mini canyon section with a couple of ledges one above the other each with itís own small cliffs, both seem to have small overhangs so I explore the first lot while Steve explores those higher up.† Steveís choice is best so we set up camp for the night.† Probably only a 6 out of 10 in merit of camping caves, just big enough for two of us, water down below, just enough room to stand but only just wide enough to miss the drip line, the fire will have to be outside on the slope though.† We do a quick reci down stream but nothing worthwhile so this is it.† We take our time setting up a cooking fire and preparing our meal, there is a lot of bird life around here to be heard and seen.† A couple of gangly, great, black cockatoos lurch in their own way through the sky to roost high in the branch of a tree just in front of us, damn tall tree too but.

Saturday

A pleasant night although it did rain off and on, so we needed to cover our sleeping bags with part of the ground sheets.† Not raining now but we take our time getting ready, to try and give the leaves time to shed some water.† We head off about 9:00 wearing rain coats and we need them.†

The valley is much deeper here and quite dark in the overcast, the vegetation is more luxuriant with many tree ferns and rain forest groves.† Gradually the canyon sections become deeper with more pools, we bypass a number of good abseils and continue to manage to avoid the pools.† The sandy banks I was expecting are here but still covered in ferns interwoven with vines.† Eventually we came to the boulder jamb I was expecting and ahead the opening suggested the Bungleboori junction, there were several good abseils but again we managed to avoid them.† The junction it is indeed, very pleasant and would you believe a 10 of 10 camp cave, about 12 noon so too soon for camp.† Steve is feeling unwell so we stop for lunch and to consider our options.†

I took a quick look down stream but need to get my feet wet to continue.† The river here is extremely beautiful with the dark green rainforest foliage the golden yellow river sand and the multi coloured sandstone cliffs either side.† The shapes and patterns of the rocks and boulders need to be seen not described.† We decide to forego the other creek until another day and turn upstream as we know this goes with little problem.† Steve knows of a camping cave halfway to the exit, past Crikey Creek, that will just do, so we head that way.† Still keeping out feet out of the water by sticking to the banks and crossing where the rock hopping is easy.† Some of the banks are much vegetated and it would have been easier to wade ankle deep Ė but our aim is no wet feet.†

As we move along we pass a number of excellent camping caves but keep on to the selected place arriving just after 3 pm.† A tall narrow overhang in a small side creek with space for the fire where we could still lean against the rock, another 6 out of 10.† We explored the side creek up a 100 Ė 150 m or so to a 5 m waterfall.† On the way I find a boulder with ironstone stalactites and a small flow stone in black iron, similar to deposits in a cave off Corricudgy Creek in the Wolomi NP, that some friends are visiting ANZAC week.† We have a pleasant tea sitting listening to the falling water one side and the tinkling water of the stream the other.† As it becomes darker the glow worms display everywhere, particularly pleasing in the damp cracks of the cliff where they take on pattern shapes in the appearance of streets or cities or you imagine strange animals.

Sunday

A reasonable enough night but it did rain quite heavily for a while.† Where I was the cave was wide enough to keep completely dry but Steve need to rearrange his ground sheet again to cover his sleeping bag, at least the fly was still dry, only being used as a pillow.†

Only ĺ km to the exit now so no rush, but would you believe it we are obliged to wade in the last 200 m, Steve strips off but I just get wet (I donít feel it as cold today).† At the exit creek we find 3 camp caves all 10 out of 10, oh well we were not to know.† This exit creek is directly opposite Bubble Bath Canyon exit which is a pass through the cliffs on that side.† This exit proves very simple and we are soon on a ridge high point enjoying the views of the rugged terrain.† Still overcast but no cold winds, temperature is comfortable even with incompletely dry clothes.† We follow this ridge to join Rail Motor Ridge passing the spur that lead us astray on the first day.† The flowers are quite prolific even one spray of delicate rock orchids.† The Waratah bloom display must have been magnificent last spring judging from the number of open seed pods we pass.

The way back is no problem as I take more care this time.† The way down through the cliffs at the end is not as bad as I dreaded and we make it easily.† Then just up the hill to the car and back to civilisation a day early.† Of course Steve is feeling ok now and wants to camp over night and do Deep Pass and River Caves Canyons tomorrow.† But I feel like an early mark so we head home.† On the way we pass hordes of groups of young people traipsing along the roads, our guess some sort of scout jamboree.† There are large camps set-up in various places well off the main roads as we drive through.

Conclusion

A great trip, in magnificent country, even though Walk Down Canyon scrub was a bit thick and trying. †Thank you Steve for your company.† The wet suite made a make do sleeping mat but I did find the zip.† Iím glad that we didnít have the GPS when we were lost because in a lot of ways it would have de-skilled us, I need that assurance that I can find my own way all the time.† During a search the GPS is convenient as you need to be within 100 m grid square every time you report a location and some areas can be so vague itís difficult to be that precise.† Till next time.† © Copyright 2007 Dug Floyd.

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