Koombanda Canyon, New Year's Day 2010
(great way to start the New Year)

Map: -

Mt Wilson 1:25000

Party: -

Jim, Rod, Beth, Dug

Build up

I had been Christmasing in Mt Mee Q with most of my family for the couple of weeks before and drove home on 29th.  On New Year eave early morning, feeling fine but a little stiffish, after the long drive, took my usual walk down to the beach, to breathe the air and do some stretches.  Bit drizzly, so cut walk short.  On the way back was feeling as if my spine was out of whack.  It was because my right leg had become 50mm short (due to an old injury, but this has not happened for a few of years or so).  Nothing I can point too that caused the damage :~( 

Anyway, damn it, I'm still going to New Year's at Lyn's Penthouse in Redfern to watch the fireworks then up into the Blue Mountains to Canyon on New Year's day.

New Year's eve was great, roof top patio good place to watch the fireworks, thanks Lyn and everyone. 

New Year's day

Lazy start, with just a drive up to Mt Victoria to meet the others by noon.  Cloudy in Sydney, short, sharp, heavy showers on the way up through the mountains.  Just cloud and mist and cool at Mt Vic.  Jim had been waiting an hour, having misjudged the drive from Bundanoon, almost no traffic this time on New Year's Day.  Beth and Rod soon arrive.  Beth feeling doughy, would like to visit the pub across the road to look at the maps etc, but no go :-)

Flowers on Koombanda Ridge The turn off to Koombanda Canyon is only a few km along Darling Causeway, at Bell, just over the rail line on the right.  Two of the cars were parked out of sight of the road.  Packs, with canyon gear, were readied.  Blow, I have left my wet suit at home.  No probs, Rod has a spare medium/large but I'm large/large, still it will stretch, won't it?  We all climb into the CRV for the short drive to the jump off point.  Just before the sweeping right hand bend where the ridge starts to drop.  It is easy to find a way through the light scrub and avoid the rough.  The views from the ridge top are of distant forest vistas, misted by rain patches, possibly not ideal scene for a canyon day.

We drop into Koombanda main creek directly so that I can see Rod abseil, but he finds his own way down a very steep section, before we're set up.  The rest of us abseil 15m or so.  This part of the creek is okish walking with a few fallen trees and some scrub in places.  Very pretty with open creek forest and short cliff faces.  Tall blue gums, tall tree ferns, many smaller ferns, lots of moss, flowering shrubs in the slightly drier places, dull grey sky above, with patches of misty rain.  We pass the side creek that is the normal entry and follow the much better, worn foot track.

Soon we came to a knee-deep pool (or as some may say “frog pool”, where we zip up wet suits and waterproof packs.  The cliffs are becoming continuous and the whole system narrowing, forming up into the typical canyon.  As the water wore its way through this hard sandstone the rock, it has been sculptured into fantastic shapes and forms.  We pass under low overhangs where the water is still carving away the rock, leaving a sandy bed.  In other places we walk, over, round, through, under, boulder jambs, with the water underground, out of sight. 

The next abseil is down a hole into a pool, Jim goes first and reports the plunge pool is hard to climb out of, so we need to sidle along slightly, to land on the narrow slippery water race past the pool.  Beth manages to talk herself into having difficulties here, but gets sorted out.  Rod, used to slippery rock at surf places, makes it look easy, by straddle walking across.  I show a different technique with my back on one wall and feet across on the other, lot less likely to slip and do a face plant, if I barnyard door swing back into the cliff face.  The first swim past here, I find it cold in the water, but luckily soon warm up out of it.

We are in canyon proper now with solid cliffs each side, an amazing place with the water worn rock shapes, mosses and ferns.  The next abseil starts as a narrow slot down into a pool, quite awkward start really.  Everyone manages without drama, but again the 20m swim is cold.  A lovely section of tall, narrow canyon follows with some swims and some places where we can straddle the pools.  On a hot day we would all be in the water as much as possible (but this is not a hot day).  The last challenge is a 2m jump into a pool, or and abseil from a long sling, or a hand over hand from the same sling.  We all choose the hand over hand, in the end, although some were tempted to jump.  I always prefer for someone to test the water before anyone jumps.

Flowers on Koombanda Ridge Soon the canyon opens out and joins a side creek.  This is a very spectacular place, with very tall trees, mostly coachwood and sassafras, the tree ferns also seem taller than usual.  The streambed and scree-slopes either side are littered with huge moss covered boulders; interesting place to find our way along.  We check out a couple of side gullies on the left for a way out, but in the end opt for the normal exit up Kamarah Gully.  The beauty of place continues up this gully as we gradually gain height, to best the cliff lines.  Eventually we gain the top of Koombanda Ridge, it is a simple walk out from now on.  The flowers on this ridge, particularly lovely, matching past experiences here.

Back at the cars by 6pm we soon pack up, Beth and Rod back to Sydney, Jim and I on to Newns Plateau to camp ready for a trip to Window Canyon extended from last time we did it.  A great way to spend New Year's Day, out in the bush visiting a wonderful place, again for me, first time for Beth, Jim and Rod.  This is Rods first canyon, a good one, for today, after late nights.

Day after New Year's Day

Jim and I decided to camp at the Tiger Snake Canyon/Old Coach Road car park to save a drive in the morning.  We set up camp in the mist and cook tea, to eat just after dark.  We have this to ourselves and didn't see many people on our way here.  Surprising for a holiday period, this whole area is usually crowded, probably the cold weather has put them off.  A pleasant enough place to camp under leaden skies with patches of mist wafting through the forest around us.  No lingering late night tonight, we soon retire to tents.

During the night the mist really set in and every time a breeze blew, the drips shaken from the trees canopy thundered onto our tents, there were a couple of short sharp showers as well.  A dull morning but still pleasant really, with bird song entertaining us. 

Jim said to me "The bush will be wet".  I agreed, "How about we give it the miss today.  It is not all that nice being wet all day, till we get back to the cars.  We do this for pleasure, wet all day isn't pleasure".   "Is Glow-worm Tunnel far?".  "Good idea".

We soon breakfasted, and pack away sodden tents and canyon gear.  The drive to Glow-worm Tunnel is along the disused Newnes - Lithgow railway line.  It is a most spectacular drive through pagoda country, with cuttings, tunnels and washed away bridges along the way.  The car park is situated a km or so from the tunnel, because it is no longer drivable due to washaways where the track passed over streams. 

This railway was abandoned in the late 40's early 50's when the oil shale workings at Glen Davis were abandoned, because the oil was too expensive (2 pounds a gallon, at a time when petrol was only 2 bob a gallon).  I have memories of news reports at the time, describing the miners locking themselves in the mines, trying to keep them open and being supplied by their wives.  Heroic but futile stuff.

Pagoda country, so named for the sandstone rock formations reminiscent of the shape of  Buddhist pagodas of India and Nepal, has a particular appeal to many people who see it.  I always delight in being here, it is so special to me (then again much of the bush is special to me).

The tunnel is about ¾ km long and has an S bend so in the middle it is pitch dark, the only lighting is the millions of glow-worms aligned in rows along seams in the rock where moisture penetrates.  I like a more adventurous journey through here, so walk along by the side of the tunnel in the dark, touching the wall to keep orientated, none of this torch light for me.  The ground is quite rough, so I need to shuffle, to keep from stumbling (each time I stumble my back hurts).  Another kind obstacle is created by the "duck a ways" cut into the side of the tunnel at regular intervals, for the emergency safety of rail workers, working inside the tunnel, your reference disappears for a short while. 

The far end of the tunnel opens out into a creek, full of tree ferns.  The rail line used to continue straight along above this creek hugging the cut away cliff line to where the creek continues on down into the Wolgan Valley, while the rail veered right following the cliff line.  The old railway has now largely been washed away just here, but we found our way along, to join up with the remaining track round the corner overlooking the lovely Wolgan Valley.  We walked on admiring the views and cliffs, until we could see the greeny, green, hidden, side valley off the Wolgan, which is the Emirates 7 star luxury resort.  Much lusher green, than the other hidden side valleys! :~) 

We back track to the tunnel entrance, then follow the creek left, through the tree ferns, then the stand of huge Sydney blue gums, in a “hole”.  Soon this stream closes in to become a very nice canyon, before opening back up to a creek again.  We scramble up the bank to join the track we came in on.  A beautiful way to complete a delightful trip, everyone I have introduced this walk to has been enthralled.  Jim talked of bringing Janna here for a walk to prepare for a trip to Tasmania next Easter.

Thank you, Rod, Beth, Jim for your great company and interesting interactions.  A special way for me to welcome the new year.  Till next time. © 2010 Dug Floyd.