Wollangambe Crater. (8/9th January 2011)


Wollangambe 1:25000


Jenny, Trevor, Dug

Pagoda cliffs, and overhang caves, west of the ridge out.  Pic by T Henderson

Some of the pagodas, cliffs, caves, scene from the starting ridge.

This is the second time I have tried to get to Wollangambe Crater. Last time I had some first time walkers who packed too heavy and couldn't make it. We camped near the big bend on the Wollangambe River then, while the rest of the party went on to the Crater. When the others returned next day we all walked out together. Story can be found [here]. This time I was planning to go down the Wollangambe River to Mt Wilson, after camping at the Crater, provided the weather was right. Jenny and Trevor joined me for their first overnight walk in about 18 months, but they didn't want the river trip in case it was too cold.

We met near the Mt Wilson RFS fire station, 10am Saturday morning, on a pleasant sunny day. Lots of cars and people about, going into the local canyon. We drove on to the starting point at the top of a long narrow ridge, gr 497 950, via the Zig Zag Railway Siding. Pleasant sunny day with puffy white clouds, not too hot and lots of shady trees.

The walk down the track along the ridge very pleasant, with magnificent views whichever way you looked. Generally rolling forested hills, often with rock formations called pagodas jutting through. The scene to the east very spectacular and rugged with very tall cliffs and a couple of extensive overhanging caves. Not at all what you would expect from studying the map.

We stopped at the end of the ridge just above the unmarked cliff line for lunch at 1:30, a rather pleasant place and time. Afterwards we found a simple way past the top cliff line on the western side of the ridge. Then followed the base of the cliff line around the nose of the spur, to the eastern side. Where we scrambled down the steep vegetated slope to the gully below. This gully leads us through some, fairly thick in places scrub, to the Wollangambe River, just at the big bend shown on the map. A lovely spot in a deep narrow valley, tall cliffs everywhere. Beautiful forest on the steep slopes above. We are standing by a pool, formed at boulder jamb. A couple of convenient logs, fallen right across the river, serve as a diving platform or walk-way for the brave. The river nice clean sandy bottom, clear sparkling water, not very wide but we will get wet feet crossing.

Jenny by Wollangambe River at the big bend.  Pic by T Henderson.

Jenny by the pool at our first bend in the Wollangambe.

Our way ahead is, across the river, then force a way through the coral fern, past the huge rock which forms the inside of the bend. The other side of the river at this bend is where the gully flows into the river. Thickly vegetated as you would expect in such a wet place, open to sky and sunlight. Big rocks and cliffs line the gully. Just past the bend we duck into the overhang mentioned in the last story. The floor has been somewhat washed out by recent flooding. There is flood debris 3 - 4 m up in the trees along the creek.

Across the river, then a few metres downstream, up a steep narrow gully through the cliff lines up to the top of the ridge. Quite good walking though reasonable scrub. Trevor wants to take the most direct route to the crater but I think the gully between us and the crater, will be too deep and steep. I would have preferred trying to head the gully somewhat hoping it was shallower up that end. We take the direct rout down the steep slope and find ourselves blocked by cliffs. We sidled around to the northeast, through fairly thick scrub on the steep slopes. We had to head the first side gully before we found a way down the second side gully.

The gully we have to cross is a surprise how deep and cliffy it is compared with the map representation. Very pleasant for all that. The slope up to the ridge on the other side very benign in comparison.

Craters in the Blue Mountains are often formed by volcanic plugs (or diatreme), that welled up through the sandstone millions of years ago. The basalt plugs formed are softer than the surrounding rock and weather away much more quickly. The resulting volcanic soil is much richer than the sandstone soils, so you see lush vegetation and huge tall straight trees. Wollangambe Crater is about 2km across, with gently sloping sides and a narrower passage to the River. The base of the crater is a swamp with thick prickly scrub hard to walk through. The squiggly bark trees around the edges look as if they have had a hard time growing. A short narrow valley connects the Crater to the Wollangambe River. The area around the junction of the Wollangambe River and the creek from the Crater is wide with tall trees and a good ground cover of bracken fern and leaf litter. A handy log fallen across the River saves getting wet feet to cross, to the flat good-looking camping area on the other side.

Wollangambe Crater.  Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater through the trees,  from the north west, our way in.

The researched I have done into the origins of this crater haven't lead me to any conclusion. It doesn't seem to be a diatreme because the walls of the crater are just a gentle slope (diatreme usually have cliffs of hardened sandstone) and the vegetation is not as lush as I would expect. Some people refer to it being formed by erosion by several small streams, I'm not convinced although the base of the crater is a swamp. Other people refer to a meteor impact crater, but again I'm not convinced.

We arrived about 5:30 and wandered about to find a good place to camp. We saw a couple of tents on the other bank of the river and I crossed the log to explore. I saw a big log in an open depression with a line of people sitting facing away from me. A number were reading newspapers, others just sitting, no one talking. I said good day and they all looked up. I'm surprised they didn't hear me walking over. A group of CMW who have walked in from Bell. A quite big party with tents spread all through the bush, that's why we only saw the two. I walked on explored downstream towards a big overhang. When I got near I found a boulder block-up and deep pool blocking my progress. There wasn't a simple way to cross so I walked back to the log and set about setting up camp. In the end we found the best place near the river bank, nice and flat but it did need some gardening to improve the sleeping spot. We soon had a fire going and water boiling for tea, to combine blue vein brie with crackers for the evening treat. Jenny and Trevor don't like blue vein, damn, I'll have to eat it all myself (-:

A most pleasant location to sit and while-away the evening, all leaning back comfortably against the same big Sydney Blue tree, warmed by the fire before us. Lots of bird life indicated by the number of calls and song, surprising to me perhaps no lyre birds within earshot. We were pleasantly surprised that there were no mosquitoes (even though we found some a various places during the day. No leeches or ticks either beaudy.

As we lay back and dinned under the tall canopy of trees, we noted that it was clouding over a little. The forecast for Sunday was general rain but we had been hoping that it wouldn't eventuate. Still a pleasant night as we turned in.

Camp site by Wollangambe River.  Pic by Dug

Our camp site amongst the tall trees and bracken fern, beside the Wollangambe River

I had a lilo for the trip down the Wollangambe so didn't need to worry about any rough ground. To save weight I had brought a poncho/tarp with me instead of a fly and raincoat. Not a huge cover but just adequate for the light drizzle and drips from the trees, during the night. The morning was ok just a mist with occasional light drizzle while we breakfasted and packed. Last night we had discussed whether I would go back with Trevor and Jenny or go down stream as planned. It was thought that we should stay together in view of some of the rough ground we had to cover on the way back. The drizzle in the morning made that decision easy, narrow rivers can be dangerous in heavy rain.

We left about 8:30 and soon we were in constant drizzle as we walked back through the Crater, then sidled up to the ridge top to avoid the worst of the scrub. The ridge top was reasonable walking, interesting to watch the cliffs opposite disappear then re-emerge from the mist. Crossing the gully past the crater was easy enough and we found a good way up to one side of the side gully. Once above the cliff lines we followed what seemed a good way through the jumbled pagoda rocks, until we emerged on top of a pagoda with no way down, in the direction we wished to go. Navigation, was not a simple matter, in the constricted area of narrow gullies between rock formations, hampered further by mist and rain and thick scrub. After a good deal of fussing about, getting up on top of rocks pagodas, then having to go back a different way, eventually we came across a large slab of rock leaning out from a cliff face, big enough to give us shelter, while we had morning tea / early lunch including a hot drink. We had managed to get below the troublesome upper pagoda cliff lines now and were able to traverse to the ridge we needed to get back into the Wollangambe.

Back in the cave by the Wollangambe River we stopped for a hot drink and started a small fire to ward off the creeping hypothermia. While there Trevor spied a large red yabby nearby in the river peeping out from under some logs. Of course the sun came out as we set off to cross the river and sidle along the east side of the long ridge to the road, that we walked down to get here. We were soon at the base of the upper cliff line which eventually petered out so we simply walked up to the road. Trevor said this had only taken 24 minutes. Back at the car by 5:30, making a much longer trip than I would have supposed, still we were messing around sorting out the pagodas for a couple of hours and took two longer breaks to warm up in the cold wet conditions. Jenny and Trevor stood up well, after their lay off from overnight walks, to what had proved a much more difficult walk than I/we expected.

Thank you, Jenny, Trevor, a great walk. I hope it wasn't too difficult for a first overnight walk for a while, I must admit it was rougher than I expected in parts. It is a pleasure to share this experience with you. Till next time. Copyright Dug Floyd January 2011.


Jenny at National Park Sign at top of walk in.  Pic by T Henderson.

Jenny by the National Parks sign at the start of the walk in. Pic by T. Henderson

Cliffs and pagodas to the east of the ridge walking in.  Pic by T Henderson.

Cliffs and pagodas east from the ridge as we walk in.Pic by T. Henderson

Easy walking up the ridge.  Pic by Dug.

Easy walking on this ridge going up to the Crater. Pic by Dug.

Top of ridge above the Crater.  Pic by Dug.

Top of ridge above Crater. Pic by Dug.

Starting to Drop into the Crater.  Pic by Dug

Starting to drop into the Crater. Pic by Dug.

Crater through the trees, nice gentle slope.  Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater through the trees. Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater.  Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater northern end. Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater Southern end. Pic by T Henderson.

Wollangambe Crater southern end. Pic by T. Henderson..

Camping area.  Pic by Dug.

Trevor in camping area northern side of Wollangambe River. Pic by Dug.

Jenny in camping site.  Pic by T Henderson.

Jenny in camp area, northern side of Wollangambe River. Pic by T. Henderson

Camp site.  pic by Dug.

Camping site northern side Wollangambe River. Pic by Dug.

Looking from camp site north to Crater.  Pic by Dug.

Looking north into the Wollangambe Crater from the camp site. Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater looking north east.  Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe Crater looking north east. Pic by Dug.

Dug at Wollangambe Crater.  Pic by T Henderson.

Dug overlooking southern end of Wollangambe Crater. Pic by T. Henderson..

Jenny by Wollangambe Crater Pic by T Henderson.

Jenny by Wollangambe Crater in the rain. Pic by T. Henderson..

Trevor by Wollangambe Crater.  Pic by T Henderson.

Trevor by Wollangambe Crater. Pic by T. Henderson..

Trevor and Jenny in Pagodas on way back. Pic by Dug

Jenny and Trevor, bedraggled wet and cold in the pagoda country on the way back. Pic by Dug.

Photo of the rain.  Pic by T Henderson.

Base of the cliff in the rain. Pic by T. Henderson..

Split rock big enough to shelter us for morning tea.  Pic by Dug.

Split rock shelter for morning tea. Pic by Dug.

A bit of shelter.  Pic by Dug.

Shelter from the rain and cold. Pic by Dug.

Second shelter from rain.  Pic by T Henderson.

Second shelter, small fire to keep hypothermia at bay. Pic by T. Henderson

Red yabby in Wollangambe River.  Pic by T Henderson.

Red yabby in Wollangambe River by Cave. Pic by T. Henderson..

Flood debris in trees outside cave,  pic by T Henderson.

Flood debris in trees outside cave. Pic by T. Henderson..

Crossing Wollangambe River.  Pic by T Henderson.

Crossing Wollangambe River. Pic by T. Henderson..

Wollangambe River crossing.  Pic by Dug.

Trevor and Jenny crossing the Wollangambe. Pic by Dug.

Looking for the spectacular pic.  Pic by T Henderson.

Waiting for that spectacular photo. Pic by T. Henderson..

Part of the pagoda country.  Pic by T Henderson.

This pagoda country looks deceptively easy. Pic by T. Henderson..

Pagoda country.  Pic by T Henderson.

Pagoda country we passed through. Pic by T. Henderson..