Horseshoe Canyon. (11th February 2011)


Wollangambe 1:25000


Ken, Dug

Thursday night and Friday

We finished our walk to the ridge behind the start of the Wollangambe One lilo trip about 5:30 and drove to th Mt Wilson Cathedral Camping area, to pitch tents. A big bus load of young people were already set up on the hill behind the shelter shed and they were having a wonderful time. We presume a school group based on the apparent age differences. The wet gear laid out to dry suggested they had done Wollangambe One. A similar bas was parked at the fire station when we arrived there about noon today.

Wollangambe River, crystal clear water, white sand.  Pic by Dug

Wollangambe River, clear water, white sand, smooth river stones

We soon pitched tents and had dinner cooking in one bay of the shelter shed. I had brought snags at the Aldi Store in Richmond, assuming the Germans knew how to make snags. Surprise, surprise there was no fat in them so they were dry fried and tended to burn. Still my vegies cooked well in the billy, so overall a satisfying meal. Mental note don't by Aldi mystery bags. I had a couple of spares for Ken. I rather think he came to a similar conclusion.

Another surprise was that the noise from the school party quietened early, tired out from the day's activity I expect. We retired to our tents at a respectable hour for a pleasant night's sleep. The usual dawn bird chorus eased us awake to a pleasant looking sunny day. We breakfasted and were up to the fire station car parking area by 8:00 am, ready to start walking.

We started down the same track as yesterday. A rough track following the broad ridge down through tall rain forest with lots of tree ferns at first, gradually changing to the more stunted dry Sclerophyll forest of the sandstone soil. At the rocky outcrop, we found the track south east following the foot of the rocks along the valley, back to the saddle and across to the other broad ridge. A shady easy grade along this ridge, then down to the Wollangambe River, near the exit for Du Faur and Bell Creek Canyons. A lovely spot just on a big bend in the river. Wide sandy beaches, crystal clear flowing water, high sandstone cliffs form the bend, tall mostly sydney blue gum trees, lots of other typical creek vegetation. Our way ahead here is to cross the river and find our way up the spur to the ridge on the other side. This rout leads to Geronimo Canyon, the creek on the west side of the ridge, and there is a well formed foot pad to follow. I have been told that this is also the best way to Whirlpool Canyon, the creek system to the west of Geronimo.

At a rocky out-crop on the ridge I judge we have come far enough and the gps confirms this, so we head east and down. We came to a low cliff line, so we haven't picked the exact entry spot, as I was told that other party just walked into the creek. Still a very old sling round a nearby tree shows that others have used this way in, maybe in the distant past. The sling is so old we elect not to use it and find another anchor. Only about 10m down, but it is another abseil. A scrub/creek bash of 300m or so tells us we came up too far up at the start. Still we both like bushwalking, don't we?

The start of the canyon section is where the creek ducks down through a jumble of chock-stone rocks. Similar in some ways to the start of Contradiction Canyon, I visited in late December. The cliff faces each side become taller as we rock-hop/walk along. The first canyon abseil is 10m or so down an overhung waterfall into a waist deep pool. The way ahead is easy enough with a few pools to wade and a few rocks to hop between. Very pretty with smooth water worn sand stone rock, tree ferns and bracken and corral fern.

Start of the Canyon in Horseshoe creek, through chock-stones.  pic by Dug

Dug dropping through the chock-stone block-up that mark the start of Horseshoe Canyon.

The next abseil about 15m is into a sump, again a la Contradiction. This sump has been formed by jumbled rock fall that completely blocks the narrow space between the tall cliffs, 10m or so along.

We have a choice of abseil anchors:-

  • From a wedged log here, down over the river bed rock, this will require careful rope positioning to prevent a rope jamb;
  • From a tree perched at the edge of the canyon by a chock stone, a little further along, this will drop us straight into the sump but will have a difficult start and we will need to add a sling to prevent rope damage to the tree and aid rope recovery;
  • There are indications that people have scrambled further along on the right-hand side from here, probably abseiling in past the blockup. The footing along there looks very suspect to me.

We opted for the first mentioned choice from the handy log. This block-up has a walk through gap on the left hand side. Past the blockup the canyon form changes to a smooth bare walled chute with a rounded base. Ahead is a smooth walled right angle bend. Around the bare smooth corner, the base of the chute becomes, a narrow pool with a lip at the end, above a 20m waterfall. The narrow waterfall chute typical of some canyons, ends in a pool. We cannot tell how big or deep from here. The reason I have been stressing the smooth nature of this sandstone rock chute, just here, is that I cannot see any way to make an anchor! The abseil is about 20m, too long to jump safely, and the waterfall path is too narrow to slide down comfortably, the pool at the bottom an unknown quantity. It doesn't look all that deep. YyIiiiii!!!

I suppose that I can wedge myself in somehow, as a meat anchor and send Ken down to find a log, to pass back up, to make an anchor, somehow. Mmmmm. I have one piton but no obvious holes to belt it into, nothing around to belt it with anyway. Perhaps at the bottom of the pool?

Then I move a little further along towards the edge and see a white sling wrapped around a bolt in the wall, on the right, above the waterfall. A second smaller diameter bolt has been rigged to tension the sling in a way I haven't seen before. Not much choice really, I don't like abseiling off a single bolt, but this seems solid enough. A very pretty abseil in a wonderful deep narrow chamber. Not enough light for a good photo, darn it.

Colourful Wollangambe sandstone cliffs.  Pic by Dug

Wonderful coloured sand stone cliffs line the Wollangambe bend

Past the narrow tall long chamber the canyon opens out a little to a passage down to the sunlit Wollangambe river. A short but very pretty canyon well worth the trip. I have been told others combine it with Geronimo, which would make a good day of canyoning.

The walk in the Wollangambe around the horseshoe bend back to our exit path is very spectacular. Beautiful green vegetation, especially the hanging gardens of ferns that line the ledges along the cliff faces. Magnificent high sandstone cliffs in wonderful varied colours, reds, creams, pinks, greys, black, gold, highlighted by the bright sunshine. The water is clear and the sandy stream bed glistens through. Every now and then a typical orange yabby amongst the occasional black leaf litter on the stream bed. A small round bird, grey back magnificent yellow breast, hops from twig to twig eyeing us of, before flitting away to another small tree.

Back at the beach by the exit track, we get out of wetsuits and abseil harnesses. Then try and dry this wet gear a little while eating lunch and lazing in the sun. All good things do end and we need to walk the 3km back up the track to the car park. Most of the grade is easy walking and we take our time on the steeper places. On the way our progress alarms a black cockatoo, which lumbers ungainly into the air and flaps awkwardly between the threes. These black cockies are big birds, black over most of their body but with yellow flashes on the tail. The ancient Australian lore is that, you get a wet day for each one you see, and we saw two!

Back at the cars by 2pm, we head back to break camp and head for the Long Paddock on th Newnes Plateau. At Lithgow I ring in to Trevor to let him know we are out safe. It seemed a good idea to eat in Lithgow rather than cook later at camp. We both chose a noodle combination sweet and sour, very filling it was too. Our aim for tomorrow is Bull Ant Canyon (the upper reaches of Rocky Creek), with an early finish, so we can get to Chris's Party at Duns Swamp camping area, at a reasonable time.

The Glow-worm Tunnel road is still in poor condition, after poor quality road base was used on the last road repair job. So much so that we eventually we cross over to the twin road, which while still rough is much better condition. At the Long Paddock we are alone and soon set up camp. Where have all the Canyoners gone, Long Time Ago? Normally this place is a bustling thriving canyoning camp site.

A pleasant relaxed evening to make cups of tea before retiring early after a pleasing day. A sunset chorus of Laughing Jack Asses, amuse us to sleep. Are they laughing at us? Do they know something we don't?

Thank you, Ken, a great Walk/Canyon It is a pleasure to share this experience with you. Till next time Dug Floyd Copyright February 2011.


Wollangambe beach by the exit point.  Pic by Dug

Wollangambe River beach by the exit point.

Ken by Wollangambe beach  near exit.  Pic by Dug

Ken resting after our walk down the ridge in.

Scene from the ridge north of Wollangambe.  Pic by Dug

Rolling forested hills seen from the ridge to Horseshoe Canyon.

Rock formations on the ridge to Horseshoe.  Pic by Dug

Strange ironstone rock formations and rolling forest hills, going to Horseshoe Canyon.

Horseshoe canyon start.  Pic by Dug.

Block-up at start to Horseshoe Canyon.

Start of canyon section.  Pic by Dug

Just see Ken coming through the chock-stone at the start of the Canyon section.

Start to Canyon its self.  Pic by Dug.

Looking through the boulder block-up to see the continuing canyon.

In Horseshoe Canyon.  Pic by Dug

Because the canyon is so narrow and dark the sunbeams stand out.

Horseshoe Canyon.  Pic by Dug

Another sunbeam in a narrow section.

Don't you wish that cameras could see in the dull light as we can see.

Horseshoe Canyon. Pic by Dug

Gradually widening out as we near the Wollangambe, still more sunbeams.

Wollangambe Horseshoe Bend.  Pic by Dug

Sculptured cliffs upstream form Canyon exit.

Wollangambe River. Pic by Dug

Wollangambe River looking downstream from the Canyon exit.

Wollangambe River cliff colours. Pic by Dug

More coloured sand stone cliffs and vegetation, Wollangambe River.

Coloured cliffs Wollangambe River. Pic by Ken

More sculptured cliffs on a horseshoe bend in Wollangambe River.

Horseshoe bend in Wollangambe. Pic by Dug.

Wollangambe, clear water, green vegetation, tall coloured cliffs.

Wollangambe River. Pic by Dug.

This cliff on a horseshoe bend is sculptured for speed.

Horseshoe canyon.  Pic by Ken

Ken ready for the walk out, cross the log in the background to keep feet dry (but, but, we have been swimming in a canyon! :-).

Ken in the Wollangambe. Pic by Dug.

Ken heads off into the sunset.