Upper South Bowen Creek and Yileen Canyons

29th 30th April 2006

Map: -

 Mt Wilson 1:25000


Tania, Paul, Jim, Steve, Dug.

Friday evening

Paul, Steve and Dug left Newcastle about 7:20 and drove up to Mt Wilson Via Richmond (for Kebab) and Bell Line Of Road, to arrive about 10:45.  Jim was already in bed and of course didn’t stir but the fire suggested he wasn’t long gone.  Clear mild night for a change in this area.  The forecasts varied by source but BOM promised rain in the early morning with a change.  By 3:30am it was overcast and a faint drizzle, by 9am when Tania arrived sun starting to show, vegetation hardly even dewy.

Autumn colours have arrived to the immigrant trees of Mt Wilson, brilliant reds, yellows and many hues of brown.  Some trees are already losing there leaves so as you drive down the avenues a swirl of colour follows.  Prolific growth along the roads mean the verges are softened by the hanging ferns and other greenery.

A quick car shuffle saw us walking down the ridge 400 m from Pearce’s Pass car park, at 9:30.  A very defined track most of the way now, made for easy walking, with ample opportunity to watch the scenery, see the flowers and watch the birds. 

Jamison’s book mentions two ways into the canyon we chose the right side, with abseils.   Near the end of the ridge we drop into the creek on the right.  Follow it down stream skirting around above the short, wet, scrubby, canyony section onto the first abseil.  About 10 m, to a small ledge to bypass the pool (except Tania that is, who tipped in).  The second abseil, again about 10 m into the creek junction with Bowen’s but we need a 40 m rope because the anchor is a tree back up on the right.

This junction is delightful, high narrow cliffy section with flat sandy/pebbly floor that winds away down stream.  Black waterworn cliffs, covered here and there by patches of green moss or ferns.  We soon come to a broader section of creek with sand banks covered in, tree-ferns and vine amongst the typical coachwood and sassafras trees.  We walk on down a creek with tree vegetation on both banks, pass lots of ferns and moss, wade through short shallow pools, negotiate boulder jambs, over, round, down, through, under any which way.  An altogether delightful walk, pleasant temperatures, fascinating lighting due to the autumn sun and the most unbelievable scenery and little creatures.  Enough obstacles to make things interesting and enjoyable, without being difficult.

We come to a place where an abseil can pass a waterfall tumbling down through a boulder jamb and over rock slabs.  But Steve has been here before, he takes his pack off and disappears through a small hole in the rocks, he emerge below us and wriggle over the next couple of drops to the sand beside the pool below.  We all follow and continue our journey down through an area where, long ago past, the walls of the canyon above caved in forming a chock-stone roof.  The narrow section continues passed the chock-stones. Some short waist deep wades now, more challenging obstacles but still well within our capabilities.  A few 2 + m jumps onto soft sand, narrow slots to chimney down, narrow ledges to walk around to save a swim, one person hangs and dropped down a 3 + m jump and then wedges a small log for the others to scramble down.  We slide down a sloping log across a pool, one by one, each in turn sliding off into the water unable to negotiate the obstacle where the log touches the wall under a slight overhang, Dug is lucky and finds a hand grip that enables him to pass, the only one still dry. 

We pass side canyons, some difficult to notice unless you look back at the right moment.  The walls are quite high now and much of the cliff-face in this area is a hanging garden of ferns and bright green mosses.  Eventually the creek widens a little and we can see the gap in the skyline that indicates a junction on the left.  This section is more overgrown than last time I was here, I wonder if we have passed the exit. 

The others ahead of me do but I sight the dead branch propped from the bank up to a convenient tree 3 or 4 m up.  We all scramble up and have lunch in a sunny spot at the foot of the cliff line above.  We follow the well defined foot track around the series of short cliff-lines to the top.  The only tricky bits are seeing the small hole scramble through the fallen bolder to break one cliff-line and later scrambling up at the place where there used to be a length of rope to steady you.

We recover our cars, Tania returns to Sydney, the rest of us head back to Cathedral of Ferns Camping area again, for a laid back tea and talk around the fire.  Sydney Uni Astrological Society is having a field trip with many people arriving all through the night to peer through telescopes at the planets in this clear sky.  Steve and Paul invite themselves to look through a 12” telescope at Saturn and Jupiter, where they can see the rings but are disappointed by the small image size, about as big as a 1 cent piece.  This is the highest magnification because any higher the atmospherics cause fuzziness.

Saturday evening

A pleasant warm night with clear starry skies and the call of night birds.  Again a lazy start as we pack-up camps and ready to drive to Yileen by 9 am.  We do the car shuffle to Pearce’s Pass car park and are walking along the ridge by 9:30.  Very nice day for a stroll views of the huge cliffs in the Gross Valley and beyond the rolling hills to Sydney skyline in the far distance.

We soon reach the end of the ridge and drop into the creek.  40 minutes later we are in the start of the real canyon section, markedly different to yesterday, mostly rocky with not much vegetation.  A number of shallow wades, many climb downs some a little tricky, then we reach the 6 m jump into a pool of clear water.  Everyone jumps and the water temperature is very tolerable – about 17 degrees. 

A short swim and a few more wades brings us to a more open part of canyon with tree-ferns and coachwood trees.  Huge slab cliff walls towering all round, every now and again we catch a glimpse of the Gross Valley ahead.  A 15 – 20 m abseil down a clean face amongst the huge square blocks of stone.  We are soon at the main event - the 55 m abseil.  From the abseil hook in point you can’t see the landing immediately below, just the valley centre way way down below (probably 700 m down).  We have brought 2 x 60 m ropes to do the whole face in one go.  

I show a different knot for this abseil, one that will not pull through the chain link added to the anchor slings.  Doing things this way would enable you to descend on one rope and use a light line to recover the rope.  

  It is an impressive abseil and everyone enjoys it, especially first timers Paul and Steve, the scenery whichever way you look, up, down, left right and behind is unbelievable.  Paul in particular is stoked that he has managed this face so well.

The two canyons we have done this weekend are particularly enjoyable, each markedly different to the other.  We are all pleased that water temperatures and air temperatures are still not that cold we experienced in November.  The lighting is different to summer much gentler giving the whole scene a particularly pleasant feel.  The section of Bowen’s Creek we did would make an excellent bushwalk since it is possible to do it without abseils, you will not find a more beautiful place.  Thank you all for your company.  Till next time.  © Copyright 2006 Dug Floyd

Overhanging cliff on a bend in Bowen’s Creek

Steve disappeared down a hole beneath our feet at a waterfall

Narrow Wade in Bowen's Creek Canyon

Autumn colours have arrived to the immigrant trees of Mt Wilson


Dug bypass a pool on a tiny ledge in Yileen

Top of Yileen abseil

 Gross Valley from top of Yileen