Whungee Wheengee Canyon in a Thunder Storm

Party: -

Dave D, Dave S, Monica B, Steve R, Rob T, Dug F.

We arrive from Newcastle about 10pm, set up camp and are in sleeping bags before anyone else arrives.  The next party, who parked near us were from Newcastle Uni MC.  By morning the campground is nearly full, a big change from the past few weeks when only two or three parties made a full company.  The Canberra contingent arrived about 11pm but we were all asleep by then.  A pleasant night, a little cloudy and with the normal Mt Wilson mist dampening the tents and the grass but I’m nice and dry under the picnic shelter.

Over breakfast we decided to “do” “Water Dragon” and “Whungee Wheengee” canyons today – “a fairly full plan” is my thought.  Down to the “Wollangambe One” exit by nine, then straight up the other side to follow the track up the steep ridge and then down the steep slope to Water Dragon canyon.  A good bush walk on track to start the day, very pleasant at that.  Dave S and I came here a few weeks ago and described it in a report {Five in a Kelvinator on a very hot day}.  A nice canyon well worth another visit.  Not much water despite the recent heavy rains.  Again the Wollangambe leg is a highlight (this is the third time for me in about 3 weeks and I still like it and would go again).  Lunch in the sun at the “Wollangambe One” exit.

A delightful place to sit and talk, perched on a comfortable bolder in the sun, with cool deep pools to splash in as one wished, tall cliffs to admire, blue sky above, towering cumulous clouds to the south, red yabbies under water, birds flying though the air, canyon vegetation all around, wow!  During lunch we are joined by the NUMC group who have just completed Serendipity canyon. Two or three groups doing various parts of the Wollangambe stop for a word.  The NUMC group are doing Water Dragon Canyon so we all set off up the steep ridge together, they drop of to the left we go further on and drop off to the right.  The parting advice from Dave D is “look for a safe place if the thunder storm pelts rain for ľ hour”. 

Whungee Wheengee canyon is great.  A short abseil into a lovely relatively open treed section, then meander down stream, to where the even more enclosed tall cliffy part starts.  We skirt around above a very narrow section that starts from a waterfall.  Eventually scramble/abseil down a short drop between chock stones, to enter the first of several caverns formed by boulders falling and blocking the top of the narrow slit were moving through.  The water here is only waist deep- but it is cold.  We keep on going down stream, as the canyon variously, forms pools to swim, opens out, closes in, ducks under, climes over, scrambles down, wriggles through or goes round boulder jambs, any which way. 

We can hear thunder getting closer, the air is getting darker and electric, even a little bit scary.  All too soon the sky overhead is so black, it’s hard to see even in the open, but deep down here between the cliffs it’s more like a starlit night.  Under the boulder jambs, in the pools, swimming, its pitch black, no glimmer of light at all.   You swim along touching the walls in the narrow space to feel the way, until you stop, that’s when you know you have to duck under the rock blocking the way and swim underwater water for a few metres; eventually a patch of black not quite as dark materialises and you know your nearly out again.  Down here the starlight you see is created by glow worms attracted by our heat and trying to attract us in return (randy little devils).  (Normally, on a sunlit day, there is one pitch black under ground swim but mostly you can see a little reflected light).  None of us wish to use a torch, I’m not sure why but it just wouldn’t be right?.  The rain is teeming down now and the thunder overhead very loud, even shaking the very ground.  You feel the vibration in the rock as you feel your way.  One or two faces are a little white by now and the banter is a little brittle.  Dave and I are keeping a wary eye on the increase in water level and increasing flow – still ok at this stage.  All dangers come to pass and gradually the sky lighten as the black cloud moves away, the rain eases, we keep going.  By now were in the green room and then all to soon back at the Wollangambe.

Another delightful swim for a few 100m back to the “Wollangambe number two” exit.  I for one am feeling that I’ve been in the water long enough and that a rest will be most welcome.  Some of us walk out in our wet suits, to change back at the camping ground about 6:30pm. 

A very pleasing evening meal and talk.  A few retire early, while others socialise with the NUMC trio, round their campfire until much later.  Another pleasant night in paradise and we wake to the pleasant bird calls in the morning.  Many of the campers and canyoners this weekend are Uni groups out for their first outing for the year. 

Today we debate long and hard until the decision is to “do” “Wotta canyon” followed by “Better Offer” (if possible).  We follow the ridge as for Yilleen canyon but keep going right where that track turns off.  A couple of 100m further on we drop off into the creek system, out target is a small side creek.  I have mentioned before how beautiful these ridge systems off the Bell Line of Road are.  What a way to start the day yet again. Views of cliffs and forest and interesting rock formations.

 An easy enough rout that ends with a two-tier waterfall into the main creek.  No problem we abseil from a tree on the right down the first tier, where I test a log across our path.  I think that it is stable enough (at least it will take a lot of effort to push out of the way).  I continue on with the rope under this log.  When I’m over the second lip the rope angle changes, it lifts and so does the log – hang on a minute.  Monica checks that it still doesn’t want to shift and as I’m getting wet from the small amount of water coming down the waterfall, decide to keep going.  Dave joins Monica and ties of the log so that Monica can join me out of harms way below.  Then with a huge effort Dave manages to break the log and push it over the edge.  The rest of the party soon slips down the rope to join us in the creek system.

A delightful Blue Mountains creek, a few scrambles, a few wades, mostly easy going but no canyon section.  At Birrabang Creek we turn up stream, and a few 100m on, take a side creek, to get up the left-hand very steep very high slope to the ridge top.  Lunch stop is a convenient rock slab with lots of sunshine and views of the system way below.  (A comparison of maps suggests that we may have gone too far down stream in Wotta to “got in”, I’m using an inch to the mile and it shows different details to Dave’s 1:25000).  Still who cares it is pleasant enough anyway.  After reaching the top of the ridge by 2pm ish we decide that it may take too long to “do” Better Offer, considering the long drives home.  It still there for another day.

Thank you all for your company on yet another great canyoning weekend, (even if mutters of  “Wattf Canyon” could be heard when we reached the cars at 2:30pm ish). © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd.