One of those days. A bush bash to no where. Almost

22-5-16

Edwin, Ethan, Garry, Jodie and I

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You wont get views like this on the telly

Sometimes things don’t go to plan and it’s a fine line between pushing on and deciding to abort the trip.

Myself and Ed had been discussing a dry trip to a relatively little known canyon all season, it seemed. Between us we had gathered bits of information from various sources and were confident enough that we set a date and invited the others.

Jodie was a newbie with just 1 canyon trip under her belt and Ethan, while having climbing and canyoning experience, had been out of the game for a while. We were keen to show them something special

We were all in good spirits as we met up at the car park.

The car park should have been my first hunch things weren’t going to plan. We were further along the road than I thought we should be. A check of the GPS said we were a little out but not by as much as I thought.

We’d simply walk back along the creek and look for our first marker, a fallen tree acting as a bridge across the water. Lo and behold, a fallen tree across the stream gives us access to the other side not 20m up stream. OK we’re not as far out as I thought. all good, thinks I. Silly me.

We follow the other bank upstream looking for a gully with a break in the cliffline. Lo and behold just after the allotted kms a gully heads up the hill toward a break in the cliff line.

Silly thing is I know the gully we were meant to head up and looking back it’s obvious this isn’t it. But in good spirits and with the timing matching our rough track notes up we go without too much thought.

We head on up. Along the way we stumble across a diamond python, Morelia spilota spilota, hidden in a crevice. My all time favourite reptile, and despite me spending a lot of time wandering around the bush in their range it’s the first time I’ve seen one in the wild. At this stage I’m stoked on how the day is progressing.

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That bulge is about twice as thick as my arm
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It’s not to fussed by us. It’s the apex predator around here. It’s well fed and snug in it’s crevice. A flick of the tongue to check us out and back to dozing

But we don’t quiet reach the base of the cliff before being  stopped by a overhanging ledge 4 or 5 meters below the break in the main cliff. I consult the map. You know what this isn’t our gully we should be further around.

It’s not an adventure unless you get a little lost, Says I. Without a mishap it’s just a trip not and adventure, agrees Jodie

 

Rather than head back down we begin traversing around the base of the cliff line to see what we could find. it’s little scrubby in spots but nothing too bad. Negotiating the boulders, ledges, angles and scree is slow going and saps a bit of energy but eventually after about 500m or so we follow a rough ramp upwards through the lower cliff line.

A few scrambles and a bit of hauling has us at the base of a big break. I head up to check it out. I think it’s going to go, calls I.

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The haul up through lower cliffline on convenient ramp
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Sometimes the ramp wasn’t as convenient

I continue up as the others start to follow. Except just a little further on is a boulder choke and each option that looked passable from a distance is blocked by overhanging chock stones. The others are still making their way up to me and I decide to see what I could do to get up. Reversing back down a bit I find a small alcove in the left wall that looks to give access to a ledge that might work it’s way past the over hangs. A big step up and a few balancey moves and I’m on the ledge and while there will be a few more scrambles and a tight squeeze I can see it will go all the way to the top.

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Pass up through the top cliff line

I drop a handline down for the others.

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It had a bit of squeeze
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Jodie keeps saying she has a fear of tight spaces

We’re on top. A little behind schedule, more knackered than necessary but the views are outstanding so we are still on a bit of a high.

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Ed and Gaz contemplate the view, Ethan revels in his perfect sitting stool

Now it was just a matter of gaining the top of the ridge where, if notes were correct, we’d pick up a faint trail for a bit.

This is where we experience the first of the heavier scrub. It’s not too bad, I’ve been through worse but it is scratchy. Spikey tea tree and sharp razor grass and dead wood. Gaz and Jodie had skins on which saved them from all but the worst of it but the rest of us…

I fire up the GPS again it it points straight ahead, up along the ridge to our next destination. It seems to be scrub all the way.

It’s unseasonably warm and with the traverse along the base of the cliffs we’ve taken much longer and spent more energy than I had anticipated. Ed starts cramping…

We gain the ridge and there is a faint trail but it fades in and out, we were expecting this but it is still easy to miss the next bit of trail. Suddenly we are at the end of the ridge looking down on a major gully either side of us.

Maps were consulted. you know what? Garry points out. That’s the main ridge over there, we’ve wandered onto a spur. No dramas we have only just passed the head of the gully we need to cross so traversing around a low saddle was fairly simple.

Back on the main ridge and we stumble onto the trail again. The under growth is next to non existent for a bit and the walking is much easier. The trail does disappear but we stick to the ridge line and the GSP is pointing straight ahead. It gets a little scrubby before we pop out on to a rock out crop and lo and behold there’s a cairn.

It wasn’t in the track notes but obviously a group came through recently and decided to mark it. the GPS wants us to go a further but there is a big gully down to the left which matches what I have been assuming is our  descent route so we make our way down through a small pagoda cliff line into a small wooded area and work our way over towards the main cliff.

This wooded area is very scrubby and scratchy. Very.

While I use the words scrub bash often I usually like to be more a weaverer aroundererer rather than  bash a trail througherer. Not much option here. It was thick and cutty… legs are getting less and less skin.

We find a little drain that looks like it might give access through the cliff line. That can’t be right why would everyone do a big abseil in if you could just walk. We slip across and climb a pagoda to see if it gives us a better idea if the lie of the land.  We find we are on a big cliff line, bigger than our ropes will handle and no obvious abseil points anyway. I’m starting to doubt myself. What if it was that next big gully we could see from the top.

There is a tall pagoda just to our right which I think will give us a look at the gullies to either side. Problem is we need to descend back into the scrub to get across to it.

Hang about I’ll head across and see what I can see, says I. I’ll join you said Ed.

We descend into the thickest, scratchiest, clingiest scrub I have ever tried to push through. It was only 10 meters but it seemed to take 10mins or more to find our way through.

And it was tall too, well over head height. My arms are joining my legs in being scratched to bits. Death by 1000 cuts…

We reach the base of the pagoda and pull ourselves out of the scrub. But the view from top didn’t offer much help. Reluctant to go back into the scrub and not wanting the others to need to come through after us we call for a bit of a retreat. Make your way back up to the ridge the easiest way you can, we’ll meet you up there.

Energy levels were low, disappointment levels were creeping up.

I need to reengerise. We meet back up on the ridge top and decide to have lunch before consulting over the maps. From our vantage point we can see an obvious slot in the next gully across.

GPS, google earth and good old fashion paper map were discussed in length. Could it be that gully over there? I was 100% sure it is that gully back there. But my navigation has been off all day and I’m now doubting myself.

Looking down over the cliff lines, you know what we did park too far down stream. That log and the gully the right distance away, pure coincidence… I just stuffed up and am no longer confident.

Gaz is on google maps he thinks we need to explore upstream of where we were a bit. Ed is pointing to the other gully. Look there’s a slot there. That could be it…

I’m torn between the two. The more I look at the paper map the more I regain confidence that we are in the right spot and the gully further along is wrong.

So many conflicting inputs

Ok it’s later than we had planned we need to consider sun down. If we can’t find the absiel point within 30min we have to abort and head back the way we came.

Through all that scrub? The canyon is going to be the easiest way down from here. Yep but if we absiel  into the wrong gully and there is another 1oo m of cliff to get through.. besides without the detours and the traverse along the cliff base it wont be such an ordeal

Truth be told my energy levels were sapped and the thought of leading less experienced people down long tricky abseils late in the day was loosing it’s appeal. We agree to do  a quick search. Standing up, lo and behold a cairn!

There’s another over there. And there’s the first one we saw earlier! We should be following them the other way. I honestly think we’re too far north as it is. They must mark out something else.

The urge to push on is strong but that’s also how people end up on a news story. I make the call to abort.

We make way way back along the ridge, the trail seems clearer and we make good time until spearing off. We could continue along the trail to the gully we were suppose to come up but our pass was interesting and we decide to go back that way. This meant more scrub. legs were very tender by now. Belatedly Ethan remembers he has pants in his bag…

We head towards the top of out pass and notice right beside it a stunning hole dropping down into a slot. I wonder if it’s negotiable.  We check it out but decide not to abseil in as you really couldn’t tell if you’d be able to fit through the crack.

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Gaz peering down

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We drop down the pass and then slip around the base of the cliff to explore the slot from the bottom. It is stunning. Short, but stunning. Finding it certainly boosted the spirits and we spend a bit of time in there taking snap shots and enjoying the natural cooling convection breeze that flows up towards the top.

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The cool breeze coming up was luxurious

All to soon we need to start heading down the hill. We decide to abseil the hairier bit but make good progress with the rest of it, getting back to the cars just after dark.

A 6hr round trip with 400m elevation gain has taken us 8hrs with over 650m elevation and we’ve had one of those U2 moments. ie we still haven’t found what we are looking for…

Putting our GPS trace on google earth and confirming the location of our missed abseil point with those in the know we were agonisingly close. Within 100m at most, maybe just 10m the wrong side of 1 pagoda.

On the way back down off the escarpment I had half joked that we should never ever speak of this trip ever again.

I’m exhausted. My legs are a crosshatch of cuts. My shoulders ache and I’m disappointed and a bit embarrassed that I didn’t find our mark. No one sets out to fail.

But you know what? We got back safely, we live to try another day and the strange thing is, despite the effort, despite the disappointment, despite the cuts and bruises, despite the embarrassment of promising a grand day out and delivering a pursuit of untamed geese we are all keen to have another crack.

Failure is a learning experience and while it is drummed into us over an over as we grow up that you should never quit, knowing when to err on the side of caution is the difference between ending up on the news as a cautionary tale and succeeding on another day.

And looking back it actually was a grand day out. We explored terrain and saw views few others ever have. I got see a wild Diamond python. We found a pass and slot maybe no one else had ever visited…

Still I’m glad Mandy and Meggsie never came. i doubt either would be talking to me….

Postscript. I was using a new GPS and had plotted a route,but being a bloke hadn’t read the instruction manual and thus hadn’t actually started the route. I think the GPS was pointing back to the car the whole way along the ridge top… That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Technology is all well and good but sometimes you should just trust your gut

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Smoke for back burns elsewhere caused a bit of haze
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I’m a little surprised they are still smiling and talking to me

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Its a hard to tell if that narrow bit is negotiable

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It is an easy walk up from the bottom to where we would have abseiled in
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Large nest

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The mark of Zorro

15-05-16

Mandy Tal and myself

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The slash of the Z, ‘Cept it’s upside down miss Jane

Neither Mandy nor Tallis came with us last year when we did Zorro and I thought it was one they’d both enjoy, I’m not 100% sure they did but anyhoo we had a spare weekend and organised a trip.

The drive out was uneventful and this time I had no dramas negotiating our way through the scrub to the start of the canyon. I had it in mind to go back around the top to see if the magnetic anomaly we encountered last time was an actual thing and not just a figment of my imagination but I still get excited about canyoning and forgot all about it.

Anyhoo. I skirt across the top of the canyon a little way to get a shot of Tal and Mandy as they enter

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It doesn’t look that promising at the start
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Mandy and Tal starting down the unassuming canyon

The canyon formations in Zorro still blow me away. Straight and narrow, it’s just got a different feel to it.

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The straight walls give it a unique feel
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It gets nice pretty quick

 

So it was all going fine until Tal was down climbing a little drop. Hey Tal, calls I. Trying to get a surprise photo. Photos of him looking at a camera are a tad rare. I almost got 1 at the expense of him loosing his hand hold and almost falling. Bad dad!

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The first abseil comes soon after. It’s a nice drop down a narrow cleft, though it’s a little awkward with a sloping ledge coaxing you out a little before running out and having you swing back in under the over hang

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More narrow canyon follows

 

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Mandy and Tal making their way along the canyon

Near the bottom of this drop there are two short, shallow, stagnant pools (this was 1 pool last time) I opted to walk through the smelly water. Mandy Reluctantly followed. Tal showed us up by climbing around it on a narrow ledge about shoulder height.

The pool at the bottom of the next little drop is a bit more awkward. Deeper (still only about knee deep) and shorter but the walls are wider there arn’t too many convenient ledges to bridge it.

Now I don’t like jumping across things in canyons, and people who do jump across things in canyons tend to get put on the “lets not go with them again” list as slight slips can have big consequences in these remote, hard to access places and the heavy packs make it easy to get over balanced. But the thought of wading through is pongy water had me willing to jump this one.

I jump, just make it to the other side with a little splash. Mandy decides to roll her pants up and wade. Tal decides to jump.

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Tal contemplating the leap

But as he goes to launch his foot slips sending him pretty much face first into the cold, smelly, horrid water…

Luckily its a soft sandy floor so no harm done but he is now soaked and a little shook up by the ordeal.

Next up is a tricky down climb. There is an anchor set up but I assure Mandy we got down fine without rope last time. She looks dubious. How about I set the cord as a handline to assist? I think it hindered more than helped to be honest but we slid our way down and the canyon narrows even more

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Mandy in the squeeze, bridging across a pool of unknown depth

I have no idea when we last used the cord but it was full of twists and took a bit of careful rope management to avoid it getting stuck on the pull down.

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Mandy and Tal unknotting the rope and coiling it back up

Next we come to the Z chamber. The light in here is awesome and you wouldn’t pick it for the dark hole we were looking down into in the top picture

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The Z chamber from the bottom
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The same chamber from the top, doesn’t look so light and airy here

From here the canyon runs straight and narrow to the end.

Some careful bridging is needed to stay out of a long pool of unknown depth just before the canyon opens out

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Mandy between the nether worlds of water and sky
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Mandy almost at the end of the canyon
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Looking back up the slot

1 more abseil and then we scramble around to the base of the cliff and follow this a short distance to the fern filled exit slot.

Tal lead the way as I check out a higher ledge back toward the entrance for a view over the Eremites Wolgan resort. Suddenly there is a crash and a bang and the sound of tumbling.

Shit! Tal are you OK. I call? It wasn’t me, replies Tal. There’s a Wallaby up here. It just bounced it’s way up that crack

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Looking back down the exit slot, Mandy is in amongst that greenery somewhere
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Mandy hauling herself up the same exit slot the wallaby took

Once out of the exit slot its a short stroll back out to the cliff edge with staggering views over the Wolgan Valley and Donkey mountain.

With extreme care the ridge between the two slots give great perspectives back long the full length of Zorro from the top

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Group size: 3 All experienced

Time: I really didn’t pay attention but I think it was around 3hrs car to car with a bit of time photo faffing on the cliff edges

Twister and Rocky Crk Canyon

The Twister/Rocky Crk double is another favourite of ours.In fact I’d go as far to say it’s my all time favourite.

While Twister itself is not all that deep, dark or sustained it is like natures own water park with slides and jumps and cool stuff around every corner. It’s a lot of fun and when combined with Rocky Creek Canyon provides a great, shortish day of diverse canyoning without the need to abseil

Twister was one of the first canyons we took the kids through (Wollangambe was the first, then possibly River Caves). It’s is relatively short and easy, that said it has caught a lot of people out and there have been many rescues from lost parties, injuries and even fatalities so don’t get complacent.

I’ve done this trip many, many times and I always down climb the drops to check the water levels before allowing anyone to jump, even if I had only just done it the day before. All the drops can be down climbed and then reversed back up fairly easily so why risk getting impaled on a tree branch that has fallen in over night?

Rocky crk Canyon was the first canyon we ever did with the intention of “going canyoning” We’d been swimming at Deep Pass and followed the canyon up but this time we were “going canyoning.” My little brother and his mates had gotten into it somehow and  while it all sounded great it hadn’t really sparked my interest enough to do it myself.

It was Mandy who convinced me to get Scott to take us out. I remember that trip well, it was new years day and I was hung over as all get up. Mandy was bored and frustrated with me. It’s a great day out there, said she. Give Scott a call and see if we can do that canyon. Ahh, said I. Come on, said she. I’m not sitting around here all day.

 

Off we went. We didn’t do Twister, we went in via the scramble down to the left of the ridge( the long way). I thought the walk in was nice. Then we got to the canyon.

Mind Blown!

Rocky crk is every thing a canyon should be. Deep, narrow, dark, sustained. Unfit, hung over and dehydrated I thought the walk out, with the scramble up the exposed rocks (not the usual entry/exit), would kill me but I was hooked.

Because of the spectacular nature of Rocky crk and the absence of abseils it is now probably the most popular canyon out there after the Wollangambe. This means you need to do it mid week or go very early or late (in the day or in the season) to miss the crowds, even then you have to be lucky not to run into other parties. And so it has lost a bit of it’s wilderness appeal but every single time we get to that bottom chamber it reminds me of how awestruck I was on that very first trip.

Twister and Rocky Crk

3 hrs or so car to car with a reasonable sized group.

Unfortunately I’ve seen groups of 20 or more in there which just causes bottlenecks and delays for every one else so allow extra time.

https://vimeo.com/85645092

and an older video of a trip we did when the kids were little

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7e0pbacoGc

 

 

I guess some comment should be made about the name Twister or Sheep Dip.

The first recorded group down Twister, lead by the younger Dave Noble (NP Rnager and discoverer of the Wollemi Pine) thought they were in another canyon done previously by a group that included the older David Noble (Canyoning stalwart from the 60(?) and70s- through to now, having been on so many first descents it’s hard to count. No relation) and while they preferred the name Twister naming convention gives preference to first parties name. Jamison repeated the error in his guide book and referred to the canyon as Sheep Dip. It was only years later when David asked Dave how he found Twister that Dave realised they were 2 different canyons.

By that stage the Jamison guide was in it’s second or third edition and was probably the most popular source of canyon information and so those from outside bush walking clubs came to know it as Sheep Dip Canyon, including most commercial guide companies. The error was somewhat rectified in the Fifth Edition which now has it as Twister (known by some as Sheep Dip). Oddly it compounds confusion by naming Sheep Dip “Death Trap Canyon, AKA Sheep Dip”. Twister is definitely not Sheep Dip and Sheep Dip is definitely not Death Trap. They are 3  different canyons

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Dargan Crk Canyon

Dargan crk is one of our favourite canyons. Yeah it’s short but it is a perfect example of what canyoning is all about to show newbies. Even in the years when we “weren’t canyoning” we’d do this atleast once a year. It’s a quick, relatively easy trip but still packs a bit of wow factor. + it has the appeal of the dams for a swim afterwards.

It has some very nice canyon formations and the dark section is particularly nice.

I’ve done it all the different ways, down the old stairs, abseiling in, walking around the climbers access, reversing back up climbing out the tree spikes and, going all the way down through into Hartley vale.

My preference, if you have time is to do the canyon and then exit by reversing back up. It doubles the canyon experience and you do notice different stuff on the way back.

Climbing up the waterfall and then up the tree spikes is an experience and a good way to exit if time is a bit more pressing. But do yourself a favour, if anyone suggests doing the car shuttle and doing the through trip down through Hartley kick them square in the nuts. It’ll be more fun…

Anyway this one isn’t so much a trip blog as just a spot to park the video of on of our trips