The First Canyons after 29th Oct Rope Skills Training

Starlight and Tiger Snake – 12/13 November 2005


  Theo, Shane, Dug, Jim and non canyoner Yanna.

The Newcastle contingent arrived at the Newnes Camping area about 10:30 pm after the usual pizza stop in Richmond.  Traffic had tended to be heavy, going our way from Hornsby to Richmond.  A beautiful clear night, with a 2/3 moon to light the way and highlight the wonderful cliffs that surround us.  I slept out under the stars (amongst the trees to keep the dew at bay).

A wonderful sunny morning lazing around waiting for Jim and Yanna to drive up from Berrima with a 5 am start.  While waiting a blue ute arrived in a cloud of dust and a juddering stop.  At least one occupant got out and kissed the ground.  The rushed around donning day packs, arranging clothing and were soon away.  Yanna reported they had first seen their ute in the rear vision mirror coming round a corner sideways and trying not to shunt into them.  We took out time and were away about half an hour later, about 8 am.  No rush for us today this was planned as a beginners trip (normally we do two or three canyons in the day).

This is a great area to walk with the tall cliffs and sandy Walgan River and regenerating forest of the slopes, interspersed with the ruins of the oil shale refinery from the 19th and early 20th century.  We were surprised to catch up with the other party at the top of the climb on the pipeline track.  They are also doing Starlight Canyon and as we have plenty of time sit round on the lookout at the top of the cliffs for half an hour or more.  The warm spring sun making the scenic value all that more enjoyable. 

Shane does the honours as navigator for the first time and we are eventually wandering down the open creek that becomes the Starlight Canyon.  I always enjoy this top part of the creek as a prelude to the joys of the canyon sections.  There is running water in the creek this time, so a number of the normally empty pools are full, still we can avoid them.  Eventually we reach the pool you can’t avoid in the creek so backtrack a few meters and scramble easily up and round the pools.  Back in the creek we are soon at the place where a 10 m x 4 m hole gapes 20 m down in the creek bed, we also catch up with the last couple of the other group doing the abseil.  The sandy creek continues on past here but this is the entrance to the striking starlight section, way down below.  A major change here from last time is the tangle of 3 or 4 big tree trunks in the creek bed atop the waterfall we usually use to abseil down.  No worries we pick another tree on the side and are soon all down below.  Jim can’t really believe this place it is so special.

Jim is even more surprised when we enter the underground Starlight section.  The other creek bed continues above us 40 – 60 m up.  I have been told that there are a number of log jambs and a lot of silt in this slot now but even I am surprised by the changes.  Because the silting we are much higher up in the chamber and there are some quite tight squeezes now.  Then we have wedge ourselves and wriggle down 2 or 3 m to a convenient log going our way.  Jim who is going first cannot dip the light down enough to see where his feet are going, so I have to oblige from above – sort of.  The other thing that catches me by surprise is the constant rain of water from above where the creek bed is still flowing; of course the walls are wet – since it is so narrow soon we are damp also.  So much for a dry canyon.  The glow-worms are a treat as usual when we turn our torches off – the starlight for the name.  Eventually we can smell the bats so the exit is near.  Only 300 – 400 m long it seems much further today.  In one place we get on our hands and knees in calf deep water to get under a chock stone that is usually 2 or 3 m up above.  One other usual chock stone we don’t see at all it must be under the sand and sticks.

Back in the sunlight again we are soon at the usual place for lunch – guessed it the other party is there.  Luckily they are about to depart so we pick our usual sunny spot for a leisurely lunch and dry off our shirts in the warm sun.  I always enjoy this slightly more open canyon section with tall straight square golden sandstone cliffs, tall straight Coachwood Trees, thick hanging “monkey rope” vines and wonderful prehistoric tree ferns.  Of course the creek bed some of the  10,000 waratahs Gala Mountain is easy walking sand with the occasional “interesting” scramble down.  All too soon we are at the bolder jamb and water fall that mark the end of the canyon.  We wander round to the left and abseil from a ledge with a convenient big coachwood tree.  Then it’s keep to bank right and find our way through and past the bolder jamb in the creek bed back to the Walgan River.    On the way out we pass the other group resting and back to the cars by 4 pm. 

The plan is to pack up drive into Lithgow for a counter tea, at the first pub that boasted of their good meals.  I head for the station after a good tea (have a BWRS AGM in Sydney on Sunday).  The others drive up to the track head for Tiger Snake canyon to camp for the night. 

I am told that they all enjoyed Tiger Snake but they got lost looking for the 10,000’s of Waratahs down Galah Mountain Road – probably didn’t drive far enough.  However they did see some good waratahs on the way out from the Glow-worm Tunnel Road.

A good trip, thank you for your company, until next time.  © Copyright 2005 Dug Floyd