Devils Pinch and Nightmare Canyons. (24th 25th March 2012)


Mt Morgan 1:25000


Marilyn, Marion, Jeff, Rod, Theo, Dug

Above 1st abseil Devils Pinch.  Pic bt Dug

Devils Pinch Creek, above the first abseil

Thursday night and I still haven't found a weekend walk, NBC has two long trips on at Green Gully and down the Murray by canoe, so there are not many others to go out. At the local pub for "originals night" (musos playing there own music live - I like it), Kate the bar manager asked what adventures I had coming up "rogaine in Sydney last Sunday, but I need to find an activity for this weekend". At home my computer was still on, so I checked emails before turning it off. An email from Shane asking if I wanted to join BWOC for a canyoning trip. Of course I do , where are you going and when? Newnes for Devils Pinch and Nightmare and Theo is going . Beaudy, Devils Pinch is a great canyon and I have been trying to get to Nightmare for some time!

Friday, do my chores, pack, out to Theos garage by the appointed time. We pick up Marion on the way and stop at Richmond for pizza at the usual Macquarie Pizza Palace. Wakoh they have added gourmet pizzas to their already extensive authentic Italian range. The Blue Seas looks good and is - very good, that is. We arrive at Newnes just after dark and find Marilyn and Jeff set up before the Little Capertee camp site, they said it was a bit busy and noisy down there.

A magnificent clear starry night in the deep Walgan Valley. Tall sandstone cliffs silhouetted in the darkness against one of those magnificent clear starry skies, so dear to my heart. We soon set up tents as there is likelihood of a dewy morning. I would have preferred to sleep out and enjoy the sky, but wet sleeping bags tend to become cold inside and I prefer to keep out of the cold.

A pleasant night, dawning to a clear day with a delightful dawn bird chorus. All up packed breakfasted and away by 8am. The walk along the Walgan Valley beside the river is a joy. The clear shining water, whirling, tumbling, rumbling, gurgling its way along beside us as we wend our way along the foot track, past the historic shale Mining ruins, to the Pipe Line Track sidling up the steep valley side to the little steep gulley that breaks the cliff line for us. I have done this walk many times and it is always a pleasure. The Australian eucalypt forest reclaiming what would have been a hell on earth moonscape during the mining years. The grove of silver birch beside the old tank farm is all dying back. I guess NPWS can't leave non native trees in a wilderness area.

The Pipeline track starts at a stone wall with steps set in the middle to start our climb of 300m in about 1km. The track sidles up and up through the lovely forest trees, paralleling the river which we can glimpse below. Tall sandstone cliffs tower above us on both sides of the river. A wonderful rugged wilderness feel, on a wonderful autumn morning. After about 100m up the track makes a right angle left turn, into a green treefern and fern filled forested gulley which takes us through the higher cliff line. The way is steep in places but always beautiful and we frequently pass relics of the old pipe line which brought oil and petrol from Glenn Davis to the tank farm we passed on the way. The old railway line took the products up out of the valley through Glowworm Tunnel to Lithgow and the rest of Australia. (This plant was closed in 1949 when Bob Menzies had it shut down saying "the miners can stay down the mine as long as they like. The petrol sells for less than 2 shillings a gallon and it's costing over 2 pounds a gallon to make" (such a cost difference may have been viable during war time, but this was peacetime reconstruction).

Mrilyn watches Jeff setup the first abseil.  Pic by Dug

Marilyn watches as Jeff sets up the first abseil.

The path then took us across the saddle between the cliffs and beside the creek which is Pipeline Canyon, to the far side where the path descends into lovely Green Gulley. We turned off to the right and followed the Starlight Canyon footpad, north east then east beside the ridge line. At an appropriate place Marilyn and Jeff turned up to the ridge top, along and then into the creek which forms Devils Pinch Canyon. The trees up here on the dryer less fertile soil sandstone ridge top are stunted and gnarled compared with the tall, straight trees of the valleys. Pleasant views of undulating forest as far as we can see!

The first abseil into the canyon is from a small ledge on the left of the drop. About 15m into a long chamber with a narrow slot leading down further, at the far end. The slot is a tight climb-down (chimney down) or difficult abseil, but get down 5m somehow. I like this start to the canyon. Jeff is first down and reports that the water flow down the waterfall beside the abseil point suggests we don wetsuits. As it turned out these were not really needed at this stage, only a few splashes here and there. We soon pass out of the constriction into a normal sandstone creek valley. Tall eucalypt trees on the slopes, taller cliffs beyond that, very pleasant walking.

A nice sunny place in the open creek recommends its self as a lunch spot. Comfortable rocks and banks to sit on and soak up the ambience as we munch all manner of good food. Not all that further along the creek cuts down into the sandstone, leaving pools to bridge or wade knee deep through. On a warmer day we would have all been making sure to use the pools to add to the enjoyment. Eventually we came to a place with a, too me, rather chancy place to scramble up and around. I know we will be getting wet further along so why not start here. I bridge down to the black looking water in the pool and gingerly lower my self in. Not to bad really and I am only waist deep here. I like this lower constricted area with it's pools, slides, and jumps, quite narrow and dark in places. The cliff faces each side are fantastic to see as we pass. The water has carved a smooth wavy way down through the rocks over the millennia. I have seen magnificent sculptures by humans but none can compare with this natural formation. The surface is generally smooth despite the rock being composed of sand and pebbles which would normally have a lumpy surface. The changing colours add to the reverential awe created here in the canyon. Yellows, browns, reds, whites, blacks, blues, greens. Too green mosses, lichen, ferns, long straight beams of light search from the reflective water towards the sky a wavy narrow blue strip way up there, silhouetting the odd gum tree a long way up.

Jeff Maryon Theo wait in the narrors.  Pic by dug

A narrow section near the start of the canyon - Jeff, Marion, Theo.

The book reports the next abseil as 15m but the present day anchor is 5m back so we need one of the 60m ropes (and there was only 12m single strand left over:~). By this stage we are into some of the deeper pools that mandate swimming a few meters in each. Although I must admit that most of us bridge and stretch to avoid the water where possible.

Eventually the descending canyon leveled out so that we were walking on a sandy bottom between very tall straight cliffs. Another of those areas I always love. Gradually the sides widen, although cliffs are still very tall either side, as we are emerging from the side canyon into the Walgan River valley. Now we can see the huge yellow and grey sandstone bluff on the opposite side of the river and we are wandering down the scree slope towards the river.

Our obstacles aren't over yet though, we have a 50m waterfall to get down. Jeff throws the ropes down as far as he can see and Rod goes first to sort things out. My memory is that this is a 2 tier waterfall with a flat ledge between, all very slippery. Rod takes a long time before he calls off rope as he had lots of catches and tangles to sort out. I went next and the rock is indeed slippery and its slope tends to direct you to a narrow cleft off to one side, which opend a little into a small window (definatly get stuck rope if we tried that way). The rope below creates quite a drag on the descender, so we need to haul it up to feed it through the descender. A spectacular place to look up to the waterfall above, with the steep forested slope leading up to the top cliffs behind. This abseil proved slow for all of us probably 3 to 4 minutes on rope each, and we are all good abseilers!

From here, just out of the bouldery creek bed and up on to the scrubby bank and down to the Walgan. A handy log gives us a dry way across. But, why bother we are all still wet from the canyon. Then it's up the other bank to the road, where most change out of wet gear. I am feeling the cold a bit so decide to walk on to help dry my wet suit and pack as much as possible.

Oh what a sky.  Pic by Dug

Oh what a sky, lunch time Saturday.

Back into camp about 6:45 where we soon have a rope up as a clothes line to dry our gear. Not long after we have fires and stoves going for warmth, cups of tea, and dinner. Most pleasant still. There are some grumbles about the young people being quite noisy down at the camping ground, but I always like to hear people enjoying themselves (certainly more than grumbles). As the light faded the noise died down and we were able to comfortably settle down to, chatting, drinking, and eating.

A clear starry dark sky again, which turned cool enough for me to put on thermals later in the night. Just before dawn there was the pitter patter of a light shower and the kookaburras laughed, to start the dawn bird chorus. Luckily that was it and by the time we got up the sky was clear. Another efficient breakfasting, packing and awaying by 8:30.

Our initial track the same as yesterday and just as scenic, pleasing and pleasant. At our sit down spot on top of the climb there was quite a cold wind and looking to the south east quite a build up of cloud, mmmmm. At the turn off from the track at the other side of the saddle I decided it was too cold for me to canyon today, especially as we will be getting wet. The others headed on and I returned to the lookout above the Walgan to study the magnificent scenery and compare with the map.  A great place to visit at any time but particularly lovely today, with the blue, blue sky overhead.  In the south east distance there were lots of darkish looking cloud, looking a little ominous, hope it doesn't come this way, although that is where this chilly wind is blowing from.  Sitting on a rock sheltered from the wind by another, an enjoyable place to study moves for another day.  The cliff face on the opposite side of the river is in two layers with a wide forested shelf between.  The top cliff line is cut by many "interesting" looking splits, mini canyons down to the shelf, I rather suspect.  I would think worth an exploration trip one day, perhaps.  But we would have to work out a way to get down the lower cliff line without very long ropes.  One of the gulley that I can't see properly, would be worth checking out from below.  Another possibility would be to scramble up one of the upper slits again, but you wouldn't know before you tried :-)

I wandered on back down the Pipeline Track to the Walgan River where I found some boulders to sit on and watch and listen to the water swirl past.  Warm in the midday sun with very little breeze down here, a great place to take lunch, enjoy the ambience and commune with nature.  Eventually time to wander on back to camp and pack up gear, for me and Theo.  I did consider packing up the two ladies camps but only as a passing thought, I would have been sure to get things out of sequence.  I wandered around the area just strolling and enjoying as I filled in time.  About 5pm I lit a fire as it was getting much cooler and I expected the others to be cold when they returned. 

Thank you, Marilyn, Jeff, Rod, Theo, a great outing.  It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time. Copyright Dug Floyd March 27th 2012.


Dug abseiling in Devils Pinch canyon.

Marion on abseil in Devils Pinch Canyon.

Jeff preparing for the first abseil into Devils Pinch Canyon

Lunch stop in the sun, Devils Pinch Canyon

Dug at base of an abseil faced with a pool swim!

Dug bridging to avoid the swim!

Marilyn coiling rope after an abseil

The Devils Pinch Creek opens out after the first constriction!

lunch time in the sun - an open section of Devils Pinch Canyon

Sorting the ropes for the pull down last abseil Devils Pinch Canyon

Rod negotiating the tight squeeze near the head of the Devils Pinch Canyon

Theo, Marion, Jeff in a constricted part of the Devils Pinch Canyon

Jeff on top drop of final 50m abseil

Jeff on second drop of final abseil

Pictures of the others Nightmare Canyon journey

Marilyn Watches Jeff on way in.  Pic by Theo

Marilyn watches Jeff on way in.

Rod using log to slide dow.  Pic by Theo

Rod uses a slippery log to get down.

Slot in.  Pic by Theo

Jeff on way down

Marilyn going in.  Pic by Theo

Marilyn abseils

Rod and Jeff.  Pic by Theo

Rod keeps an eye on Jeff.

Marion.  Pic by Theo

Marions turn

Marilyn.  Pic by Theo

Marilyn smiling up

Slot.  Pic by Theo

Long narrow slot, but where does it go?

Marilyn uses the log to slide in.  Pic by Theo.

Marilyn can slide down the log too.