Yileen Canyon

Mandy, Tal, Garry, Tom and me

Yileen is a traditional aboriginal boys name that means either ‘dream like’, ‘to dream’, or, ‘a dream’. Yileen Canyon, on the other hand, is a dreamy little canyon on the northern rim of the Grose valley accessed off the Bells Line of rd.

 

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Crystal clear water and lush green moss

The canyons in this part of the Grose tend to be less sustained, deep or adventurous as those found a little closer to Sydney in the Claustral/Thunder group or just over the road near Mt Wilson/Wollangambe area so they tend to be a bit less popular. With this in mind I was a little surprised at how well worn the trail in to Yileen was, but I get ahead of myself.

Edwin couldn’t make this one. Meggs and Ben were coming but had been struck down with some form of pox or plague or black death or something and Bryson’s knee had swollen to the size of a small planet from chasing chicks around the playground or somesuch. A couple of others failed to commit. With them dropping out and the late inclusion of Tom we went from having a group bordering on too big to a good size canyon party.

It was another lazy trip to help encourage Mandy back into it.We left town at 8:30 and headed up to meet up with Tom at the drop off point at 9am.

It was good to meet finally meet Tom in person. We knew each other through the old ozcanyons forum and I’d stalked him on facebook in the years where I hadn’t done a great deal of canyoning. He, on the other hand, had done a heap and he’d also built a nice little webpage ( ozultimate ) with photos, reports and trip details which has become the go to site for canyoners looking for information on the more popular canyons and bush walks.

Anyhoo, after a quick meet and greet we organise the car shuffle by dropping my car at the Pierces Pass car park to save on a  deal of walking at the end.

Between us I think we had enough rope to span the Grose valley and set a zip line to Blackheath so we rationalise, taking my 2 50ms, as they were in the bottom of our packs, for the big drop at the end and Gaz’s 30m for the smaller drops, leaving Tom to have a break from being rope hauler for a trip.

As I started saying earlier the canyons in this part of the world tend to be more creeks with short, shallow canyon sections along them and as such they tend to be over looked a bit. I think Yileen gets a little more attention because of the allure of the long abseil out the end but it is a nice little canyon in it’s own right.

The walk in was quiet pleasant, some nice views over the cliff lines of the Grose as you wind your way along the ridges before dropping down into Yileen crk. I’d read a report where the group had trouble navigating in and so I had pretty much memorised the map. The trail matched what I was expecting so without fuss we found our way in with out pausing to check map and compass.

The first canyon section starts not far in and I have to say it is quiet pretty.

 

 

A couple of tricky climb downs break up some easier walk-through chambers

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And then we get to the first listed abseil. The water is so clear it’s hard to describe and with such a good view of the bottom that is clear of obstacles we opt to leave the ropes in the bags and jump. Scrambling down a bit it is only a drop of 4 or 5m but its a bit of fun.

More canyon formation follows. The canyon sections in Yileen certainly arn’t as patchy as it’s near by neighbors, it’s reasonably sustained with some nice dark sections

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©Garry Dukes
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©Garry Dukes
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© Garry Dukes

 

There was some discussion on whether the next abseil could be down climbed, the first bits looked easy enough but then it disappeared from view under a chock stone and it was hard to tell. We decide to rope up. It’s a nice little drop into a darkish slot. Looking back up stream it’s still hard to say whether or not it would go as a down climb. It’s fairly dark and looks slippery…. I think it could be possible. A single glowworm was seen in the darkness.

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Belaying Tal down the 8m drop

Any way we continue down and just around the corner the canyon opens out.

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©Garry Dukes

A short boulder hop brings us to the bit Yileen is renown for, a 50m drop beside a small water fall into the the Grose Valley. There are a couple of anchors obvious. One is a complicated set up that looks to put you down through the falls themselves. It has the look of a commercial set up. The other puts you beside the falls but looks to have an easier start and looks less likely to cause trouble when we pull the ropes down, I opt for that one.

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Explaining the set up to Tal. ©Garry Dukes
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And Tal is away  ©Garry Dukes

The idea of a big abseil is always more romantic than the practicality of a big abseil. The weight of the ropes below you adds friction to the system so you tend to fight your way down the first half, lifting the weight of the rope and feeding it through your device. By the time you can run a bit freer your arms and shoulders are feeling the burn.

This one was no exception. Still the views were a little bit nice.

 

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Mandy about half way down
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Tal near the bottom
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Again the pool at the bottom was so clear. Soooooo clear

There was one more small drop. Someone had installed rap bolts but it was an odd spot to put them, made the start plain awkward and nearly every one had a bit of a slip going over the edge. From there is was an easy walk across to Pierces Pass and hence up to the car.

A quick 1/2 day trip but one I’d happily do again.

Party size: 5

Time: 4.5hr car to car. plenty of photo faffing and a stop for lunch.

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Did I say clear water?

This ones video is a bit ruff and ready but….

 

 

External Link: Tom’s photos of the trip

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Whungee Wheengee, Greg, Waterfall of Moss

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Tal, Edwin, me

Whungee Wheengee was named by Tony Norman to be deliberately confusing with the, at the time, better known Wheengee Whungee creek out at the Kanangra area.

Wheengee Whungee, in turn, was named after the daughter of Goondel, the head of a Gangangara tribe who was befriended by Barrallier  and assisted him in his 1802 attempt at crossing the Blue Mts. Wheengeewhungee was promised to one of Barralliers men as a sign of good will. On learning this she promptly pissed off in to the rugged terrain.. See ya!

Ironically Whungee Wheengee is now the better known and more popular of the 2 canyons.

Ed had ear marked this trip as a must do this season. Whungee Wheenge was another canyon I’d heard a lot about but somehow had never got around to doing before. I’d hadn’t heard much about Waterfall of Moss so I was looking forward to it.

We met Ed at the camp ground early. It was crowded, little tents every where and lots of wetsuits hanging on make shift clothes lines. I’ve never seen that many people there. “Might get a little crowded in there today.” Says I. But once again we encountered relatively few people once in the canyons.

We walk in the usual Wollengambe 1 exit track. Heading down it seems a lot shorter, though I found the steeper bits harsh on knees and ankles. It’s already very muggy but we make short work of it and scramble down the last bit to reach the ‘Gambe.

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A quick wade across and then straight up the other side, regaining all the elevation we had just lost.

By the time we get to the top I’m coated in sweat, the views over the ‘Gambe and back up to Mt Wilson are grand. Ed disturbs a tiny copperhead. Only about 12cm long it had a gleaming copper body and grey head. It quickly disappears into the scrub. Next up its a small  dragon, either Mountain or Jacky it was too small for me to tell. It evades me and Ed by running up Tallis’ shoe and into his hand

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The trail out along the ridge is well defined and it doesn’t take long before we scramble back down to the cliffline for our first abseil. We suit up and another group arrive just as I rope up and head down.

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Ed on the first drop

The guys behind seem to be moving quick, says Ed, they had the wetties on for the walk up. Might need to let them pass.

Sure enough they catch us as we are contemplating which anchor to use to drop into the first of the tight constrictions. They thank us for letting them through but choose to bypass this abseil  by scrambling along ledges above the waterline as they pass I see a familiar face, while I’d never met him before Richard’s videos have been a source of inspiration and extra trip knowledge since getting back into this canyoning craze.

We have a quick chat, the reason they are traveling fast is they set a goal of doing all the Mt Wilson canyons starting with W in one weekend. Even if you class the  the different sections of the ‘Gambe as one that’s 6 or 7 canyons in 2 days… I’m stuffed after 2  canyons and half a ‘Gambe section in one day. More power to them.

Anyhoo, they continue on and we opt to drop into the depths. The upper section of Whungee Wheenge has several tight, tunnel-like sections. All of them can be bypassed by following the ledges above but unless you’ve done them before you’d be mad to miss any of them. The constriction might not be as deep and consistent as, say, Claustral or Rocky Crk but is made up for it in the number  of “wow” moments.

We’re greeted almost straightway by one of the infamous “duck-unders”. Spots where chock stones hang down almost to water level and you have to ‘duck under’ water to get past them. A narrow tunnel section follows.

Chock stones form a low roof and occasional wider chambers are home to constellations of glowworms.

There are some drier cave like squeezes, up, over and down chock stones inter-spaced with some wider creek walking.

We must nearly be back to the Wollangambe, says Tal as the canyon opens out into a wider gorge. There’s another constriction yet, says I.

And what a constriction.

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Ed and Tal making there way down

The lower constriction is deep and narrow and sustained right through to the Wollangambe. We pass a large party (10 or more) exploring up the lower reachs from the Wollangambe. Luckily the stinking dead roo reported a couple of weeks ago has either been flushed out or eaten. No stink today.

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Tal and Edwin in the lower constriction

A flotilla of lilos line the banks where Whungee meets the wider Wollangambe a bit over halfway through the Greg Section, more commonly referred to as Wollangambe 2 or the ‘Lower tourist section’.

Tal in the “Greg” section

It’s about 11.30 and both the air and water temps are much higher now we are out of the confines of Whungee Wheegee. We swim, wade and scramble about 1km down stream to the usual “Greg” exit.

After a quick lunch we cross back over the ‘Gambe and head up a steep pass towards the top of Waterfall of Moss. The original plan was to ditch the wetuits here and leave them out to dry but we reconsider, opting to keep them on as abrasion resistance on the abseils/slides.

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Tal hauling himself up the fixed handline with Ed in the back ground

We gain the ridge top quickly. The trail peters out at the base of the cliff line but it’s fairly straight forward once you spy the break in the cliffs. Someone has placed the occasional bit orange tape  to guide the way. This wasn’t really needed but was very handy when looking for the anchor to the first abseil, a black tape around a blackened tree… We didn’t seem to be very far back from the ‘Gambe so we’re expecting a lot of small drops close together

I hadn’t heard much about WoM except it was short. I think it was the old Jameson guide that gave a grid reference with a comment along the lines of more an abseil trip in a gully than a proper canyon so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of a constriction.

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Tal on the 2nd/3rd abseil in WoM

We rapped into a scrubbie creek and it wasn’t promising much.  Scrambling around the side a second drop we opted to abseil of a tree to the right. In hindsight this would have been an easy down climb to the next anchor point, though the creek bed was very slippery.

Next 2 drops were done as one and the second stage went down through a nice sandstone arch. On the bottom of this one I decided to display my grace by sliding backward off a little ledge where by the weight of my pack caused me to do nice a 360 spin on the rope. All style me.

And the next down a slippery dip into a shallow pool

A short walk and the walls closed in to a nice constricted section, made all the nicer as I wasn’t expecting it.

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Edwin on a tricky start into a nice narrow section

Not to be out done by my acrobatics under the arch Tal decided to go inverted off the start of this one when his foot slipped up as he was looking for his next foot placement. He recovered well and continued down.

Several drops occur one after the other in a very nice, if short, section of canyon.

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I think this is a Blue Mts tree frog. Bright red flanking under it’s legs was very striking.

And then it was one final sloping abseil down the Waterfall of Moss to the Wollangambe. Even at the top of this drop you could feel the heat emanating up from the wider Wollangambe, it was going to be a hot walk out

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Tal on the final short drop

It was good to reach the deeper water of the ‘Gambe. 200m back down to the exit point where we hung wetsuits and ropes out to dry while we cooled off in the water, had a bit more to eat and then packed up all the gear and began the walk out.

Party Size: 3 all experienced and capable abseilers

Time: 9.5hrs car to car fairly steady pace.

It’s a little rough but video footage

A Lazy Koombanda Day

Koombanda canyon: A long write up of a short canyon

Mandy, Tal and I

My original plans for the weekend had fallen through. A back up plan never got off the ground so come Friday morning when the boss asked what I was doing on the weekend I smiled and said “I have bugger all on. I might have one of those rare weekends where I don’t do anything at all.”

It sounded pretty good….

Who am I kidding not half an hour later I’m texting Mandy “You up for Yileen this weekend?” I’ll admit at this stage I’m 3/4 joking but Mandy texts back “Not sure I’m up for the big abseil. Sunday looks like its the pick of the days what other options have we got for a small trip” “What about Koombanda? and what about doing it Saturday, leaving Sunday for an even lazier swim somewhere.” The idea was planted.

We’d never done Koombanda Canyon before. I’d heard it was short but OK plus it’s an easy walk out up old abandoned colliery haul road.

Saturday dawns wet and drizzly. We had a nice 7:30 sleep in. We still hadn’t committed to the idea but, What do you reckon? says I over breakfast. Want to get the gear packed?

Why not, says she.

We let Tal sleep while we get stuff ready. Finally waking him up around 9:45. We tell Beth our plans and ask if she wants to come. I didn’t think she would as she does like abseiling that much. Declines does she

So it was about 10:30 before we even drive out of town. Talk about a lazy canyon trip. To be even lazier we take 2 cars to do a bit of a car shuffle and reduce the walking even further.

The weather was miserable. I’m thinking of pulling the pin, say Mandy as she climbs in the ute after dropping her car at the locked gate at the top of the Colliery. They predicted 1-5mil and I’m pretty sure that’s running down my forehead just from dashing between cars, says she

’tis a mere heavying of the mist, says I.

To keep an explorational type feel I’d only read the basics about the trip. Where to park, how much rope we needed. But I gave Tal a copy of Tom’s track notes. It says to contour around the hill. Says he. But it doesn’t say which side of the hill, left or right. We check the map, take a bearing and split the difference. Straight over the top

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Sure it looks like the Scottish moors but, honestly, it’s the Aussie bush in high summer

Despite the vigorous regrowth after the State Mine fire that had ripped through a couple of years ago it was fairly easy going, if damp. We dropped into a tributary and it only got scrubby towards the junction with the main creek. Even then it was more ferns then anything else

We soon reach Koombanda crk. It sounds like it has a bit of water flowing through it so we decide to put the wetsuits on. We had done a bit of  humming and haing as to whether to bother taking wetties, especially after not using them in Pipeline last weekend but with the weather having a piss weak attempt at summer I’m glad we took them. The swims were short but the water was chilly.

We come to a spot where the water disappears down a drop and under a rock. Is there a tunnel through Tal, asks I. Not Sure, says he. From here I can’t see light coming through from the other side. Best have a better look, says I.

There was an easy path around but under looked like a bit of fun, we were in no hurry, the big arse cave crickets didn’t look that scary and, we might as well make use of the wetsuits

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It was a tight squeeze in the middle  but the water is crystal clear. It was a bit of fun

There followed a bit of crk walking. Did we come down the same tributary the note mention? Does it mater? The canyon eventually closed in and we scramble down a little chute to a beautiful, if somewhat cold, pool for our first deep swim.

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Hmmm pretty but chilly

A little more crk walking and we come to our first abseil. It looks like it would be easy enough to down climb to save getting the ropes out but instead I ask Tal if he’d like to try going first? Alright, says he.

Not sure if it was because he really wanted to or just he wanted to freak his mother out a little. He ropes up and down he goes. Fully pro.

 

I can’t remember the last time Mandy abseiled, it must be 17 years since she had done one in a canyon as I’m sure it was before Beth was born but she handled it like she hadn’t had a break at all. Only problem she had was scrambling out of the deep pool at the bottom onto a ledge in a tight squeeze.

A really gorgeous bit of canyon follows. Not overly deep or narrow but As the great R Smith once sang it was so wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty.    (He may sang that more than once, who knows. Not I)

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And just around the corner is our next drop. Once again it’s down a cool little hole dropping into the narrows below. The notes says 15m but I don’t think it’s that high. A 20m rope would be very close to reaching so long as the anchor is on a long sling.

Tal offers to go first again

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Tallis on rope
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Mandy in the depths
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Me on rope with Tal on Belay
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The chamber of Awesomeness

The water here has a reddish brown tinge suggesting high levels of manganese and iron and stuff usually associated with mine disturbance but we are a fair was up stream of the coal seem so maybe its just tannins leaching to the water, there was a lot of vegetation in a couple of the pools up stream. One I may have compared to Yodas swamp on Dagobah. Down stream it  seemed much clearer again.

 

Anyhoo, a couple of twists in the narrow section and we come to a final drop.

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The notes say it’s an abseil, says Tal. But it looks like a down climb. They say that it might be able to be jumped. He looked hopeful. I think he wanted to jump

The drop is about 2.5-3m it looks like an easy scramble so I offer to slip down and check the depth. Swinging in under a chock stone I notice there is a hand line set up. Definitely wouldn’t bother setting up an abseil, even without the hand line its a relatively easy scramble. Water is deep and clear of hazards I point out where the rock ledge ends and Tal takes the leap.

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From here the creek opens out a bit. A stunning waterfall comes in on the right then things degenerate to a choice of boulder hopping in the creek or picking our way over, through, around and under dead fall on the banks or sometime both together. One of the legacies of the intense fire that ripped across the ridge above, followed by some big gully rakers up rooting trees and washing branches and stuff down to jam up in the gullies. It’s not too bad but it does sap a bit of energy

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It seems to take a fair bit of time to get from the waterfall down to our next point of interest. One of the more unique finishes to a canyon trip in the Bluies. You round a corner and suddenly the creek bed is concreted… After carefully working your way down the slipper concrete cascade and around another corner  the walls of the canyon look more like a man made breakwall… and there is a bridge spanning them.

We have arrived at the old Grose Valley/Canyon colliery. Dad worked here as a truck and loader driver on the surface in the 70s and 80s and I still look back fondly on the pit Christmas parties that took place over at Glenroy, on the Junction of the River Lett and Coxes River, a bunch of kids high on sugar running through the bush and finding spots to swim, jump and rope swing into the rivers.

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It’s an interesting industrial relic in a very beautiful setting, I remember dad bringing me down here when I was young but don’t remember much except getting to ride around in the loader for a bit. We took our time having a bite to eat and a look around.

The cliff lines are stunning and some artists have added a splash of colour to the drab concrete wall.

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And then for the walk out…  Up the old haulage road. It’s a gentle grade, the only difficult bit is a spot where the road disappears into a land slide but with a bit of care it is soon crossed.

There was a slight threat of summer heat at the bottom but not far up the rain set back in which made for a pleasant stroll back to the car.

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Party Size: 3

Time: 4hrs 50min, car to car (with the second car saving us maybe 2km walking) Taking it easy with lots of faffing about with photos and stuff plus a relaxed lunch and look around the colliery site.