Access: An easy to moderate walk on a reasonable trail. Steep sections and exposed cliff lines. Some rock scrambling if you want to view it from below or down from the cliffs opposite
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward
Time: 2hrs with a bit of time to look around
There are quiet a few sandstone arches scattered around our area. Dargan Arch is one of the most accessible and photogenic. It is situated just inside the Blue Mts NP boundary
A remnant of an erosion cave whose roof has collapsed the area was popular with rock climbers but climbing on the arch has since been banned and the bolts have been chopped.
The arch is maybe 8m high from the cave floor and spans a gap of around 15m. Adjoining wind caves and nearby pagodas and ravines are also worth exploring.
Getting there: Turn off the highway at Bell onto Sandham Rd and follow this back towards Dargan for approximately 3.5km (The last bit is dirt and can be fairly corrugated at times). Look for the turn off marking power pole 384 (There is usually a small sign nailed to a tree marking the pole numbers at each intersection). Turn right and follow this under the power lines. You will need to park hear as the road gets rough and is normally blocked as it continues into the scrub on the other side.
Walk down the old 4WD track for approximately 500m to it’s end and then continue on the foot track that heads off slightly to the left.
This will bring you down to a bend in the ravine and a view over the top of the arch
With a bit of care you can continue down to the left and scramble down into the gully upstream of the arch, then follow it back around to the underside of the arch with access to the adjoining caves.
After the previous few weeks of easier walks we were continuing with that theme but adding a little canyon in to the mix.
The problem was we didn’t know exactly where the canyon was. I knew the rough area but the few clues and a grid reference we were able to garner online turned out to be a little bit deceptive as they suggested it was in the main gully.
I was pretty sure it wasn’t but knowing the rough location a quick look on six maps and google earth showed up some likely slots in the top strata and we penciled the one we thought most likely on the map and set off bright and not too early. Interestingly I also circled another feature and sent the image to Ed with the notation “This looks interesting”
Veering off the tourist track we easily gained the top of the escarpment and the views were stunning.
We quickly located the assumed slot but decided it didn’t look right. It was running up hill for a start. So decided to look a little further up the gully. No luck. Maybe that little slot was the start and there was a deeper slot hidden in the center of the main gully at some point?
Our slot was interesting. It started with a ramp heading upwards and rolled over a peak before descending steeply to the gully floor. We would revisit this later.
This gave us pretty easy access to the gully but it wasn’t the constriction we were hoping for. Our plan from here was to follow the creek along to see if it did drop into a hidden slot at some stage along it’s course. It was slow going with thick vegetation and everything was slippery as snot.
We were getting close to the end of the gully and I knew there was no slot further down. Voices were heard emanating from the far cliff line so it was decided to head that way in search of easier progress.
As luck would have it it was a group of walkers from the Blue Mountains bush walking club who after a friendly meet and greet graciously offered to point us in the right direction.
We followed Geoff, Peter and their entourage up a ledge well out of the scrub to a convenient pass up through the cliff lines… The very slot we had descended earlier.
After a quick consult over the map we then left them to their lunch and continued on our way with some fresh information. It seems my “This looks interesting” feature was where we should have headed to begin with.
We stopped for a quick bite to eat on top of the ridge, made quicker due to the fact we had left our lunch on the bench at home…
With the new info it took no time to find the entrance to our canyon
From the description we got from the bushwalkers we knew we could bypass this abseil and pool at the bottom by scrambling down a side canyon but as we were already running late we decided not to waist time looking for the other entrance and just put jackets and jumpers into the dry backs and just suck it up.
It was a bit of a squeeze with the pack on but not too bad. Peering over the ledge bracing myself to get wet I notice the rope has a knot halfway down.
I lock off with a double half hitch around the robot while balancing on a tip toe ledge and pull the rope up to clear the knot and continue on.The spray off the waterfall as I go over the edge wasn’t too bad but the knee deep pool at the bottom turns out to be mid thigh deep and a tad bracing.
So much for rolling the pant legs up.
A second drop was soon encountered. It looked short, tight and awkward and again into a pool of water. Small ledges meant you could bridge out over the gap and I went for a look. Right on a short section where the ledges decreased to small to non existence a seepage of water had them wet, slimy and, in this weather, icy. It was dodgy as all get up but I managed to get across. I follow the ledge further but it seemed to be getting higher, the canyon wider and I can’t see a way down.
Rather than get the others to risk the ice ledge of death I back track. I had a bit of a BLM (Bowel Liquefying Moment) getting back across the hairy bit as the small handholds were much better going the other way but managed to dig my fingernails into solid rock and get passed.
We rope up. It’s going to be awkward as the anchor is a long way back and the slot is too narrow at it’s start to even contemplate squeezing down. A few less pies over the years and it may have been an easy down climb. Tal might have made it…
As it was I rope up left handed so as to keep everything the right way around and free up my back hand as I slide out sidewards. I bridge out to a slightly wider gap and with the rope threatening to pull me back into the tightness of the slot I was able to bridge down 2 sloping ledges most of the way.
Then both walls widened out in undercuts a fraction too high up for me to reach the ground.
I give myself a bit of slack rope and drop into the pool below. Not quiet enough slack as I do swing in a bit but down all safe with just a few scratches to my back (I had put my shirt in the dry bag)
Have I mentioned the water was freaking cold? The water was freaking cold. The air temp not much better.
Ed, Tal and Mandy follow and I try and hold enough tension on the ropes to stop them swinging in too much with varying degrees of unsuccess.
Just a bit down from where I decided the ledges were getting too high and risky we notice a bit where the tiny ledge swings around a nose and gives an easy scramble down into a side chamber… Oh well.
Next abseil was from an anchor a long way back from the edge. Geoff from the walking club was a bit concerned that a 50m rope may not be enough. I’m not sure I told the guys ours was only 45m…
I did have a couple of 10m safety lines packed as well so was thinking if it looked close I’d send the others down on single strand then tie the safety lines on and practice my knot passing abseil skills…
As it was it reached with plenty spare. It was a short drop but the wettest so far.
Lots of other little streamlettes of melting snow water had increased the flow just enough that there was no option but to get wet in the waterfall. The pool at the bottom was a classic example of spanner water, it tightens your nuts. Or it would have been if we weren’t so cold already that said nuts had long since retreated.
And then we were out of the canyon and quickly fishing what dry gear we had out of the bags.
We still had a couple of cliff lines to negotiate but managed to get through all but the last one without needing to rope up.
This trip usually finishes with an iconic absiel in a special location but it appears we scrambled through too many cliff lines. The ledge we were on ran out about 50-100m down stream of where we wanted to be.We even heard a call of ropes echo down the gully. We hadn’t seen fresh foot prints in the canyon so assume another group followed us through and then over took us as we searched for ways down.
Looking around for a likely anchor I spot a freshish sling around a big gumtree… Apparently we weren’t the only ones to go the wrong way.
It was a bit of a dirty wall but a simple rap down to the valley floor just above the tourist trail.
and hence a quick walk back to the relative warmth of the car
OK, I have to admit after the scrub bash to no where my confidence as a navigator was a little down and it was going to be a month and a half until every one was available again so in the mean time I just wanted to do a few shorter easier walks just for a bit of fun, maintain fitness and, brush up on the navigation on some easier routes.
The Grotto at Blackheath’s Centennial glen was another easy on track spot that I hadn’t visited before and was keen for a look.
A pleasant micro canyon right on one of the main tourist walks, it’s worth a visit as part of a longer walk or, as we did, a quick in and out.
It’s a nice spot for a photo but super short. We had plans further down the mountains so combined it with a quick walk down Valley of the Waters to check out Empress, Silvia and, Lodore Falls
I was a little surprised that this late in the season that commercial group were still leading trips through Empress but there was a big group just finishing and another getting ready to abseil.
Next up I needed to go for a bit of a ride to map some trails and potential trails up near Clarence for a project I have been assisting in the background with.
While in the area I thought I’d go for a quick stroll. Clip-in cycle shoes are not the best hiking boots so I didn’t stray too far but wanted to check out some pagodas high up in Bungleborri south branch
I then followed an old trail down into a swamp that feeds into Dambano creek where I came across this neat arrangement of rocks that looked almost as if they were placed by hand but if so the dirt and moss under them suggested they hadn’t been disturbed for centuries
Next up it was time for a couple of easier off track trips.
Another big rain event was forecast but the Sunday dawned with just a bit of drizzle. We kept an eye on the BOM radar and everything looked to be heading coastal. The temperature was fairly mild so we decided to rug up and take a chance.
It was wet underfoot with a lot of water run off and big puddles. It was probably a good chance to check out Gooch’s for a lake again but I was keen to get off track so we settled on a walk down into the head waters of the Dumbano crk.
Navigation was pretty straight forward but a good chance just to brush up the skills.
The rain got a little heavier as we approached the creek.
The soft light and all the little waterfalls cascading into the creek made it all very pretty but belatedly Mandy discovered her jacket was more water resistant than water proof and with the rain getting heavier resistance was futile.
The original plan was to follow the creek down to a small canyon section but the rain intensified while we had a bit of lunch in the cave and with Mandy sopping wet and getting cold we decided to pull the pin
In the short time we stopped for lunch the creek had risen a bit. a short section that was dry when we walked down was now flowing
We took a slightly different way out and as I said the navigation is as straight forward as it gets but for practice I had a specific spot in mind where I wanted to intersect the trail. 3omin of scrub walking later we were bang on the corner of trail I wanted to hit. Confidence back up.
Temperatures plummeted during the week and we got a small dump of snow on the Friday afternoon. We had a walk planned for Sunday but with Saturday’s netball cancelled I convinced Mandy to rug up once again and go for a short walk.
It was another short off track excursion with really basic navigation needed. There was still a bit of snow in south facing gully we decided to head down and the melt dripping off the thick scrub soon had us wet and cold.
The scrub in the gully was very thick but once through the scrub and into the sunshine we dried out and warmed up considerably.
Our target was a sandstone arch that I had a rough grid reference for. Our reference was about 50m off and if you weren’t actually looking for the arch you would walk right past it but tucked up into a little alcove was the Dingo crk/Bungleboori North branch/Howling Arch of many names.
The Arch is one of many stunning sandstone arches in our area but it is one of the trickiest to photograph as it’s tucked up in a small gorge and upstream is steep and thickly vegetated so the view down through the arch is obscured from almost every angle I tried.
Abseiling down off the bridge might give a better perspective but we hadn’t brought the ropes today and while it may have been possible to scramble down the gully through the arch the steep rocks were wet and icy and it was getting late in the day so we decided not to risk it.
Once again we took a different way out, staying out of the scrub in the gully by following some converging ridge lines. A simple compass bearing and walking in a straight line would get us back to the road but for practice I wanted to see how close to the car I could intersect the road.
We popped out of the scrub about 5m behind out parking spot. Not to shabby.
Sunday was a little colder. Cloud cover meant we just didn’t have warm spots of sunshine to thaw us out but we met up with Ed for a trip to look for a little canyon we had heard about.
So as usual I had a bunch of different walks/canyons playing around in my head all week for possible bushwalk destinations for the weekend, there is so much out there to do.
Anyhoo I had a couple of goals firm up and then Thursday I happened to check the weather forecast, as you do…
Apparently there was this bloke building a boat and collecting animals 2 by 2 or something.
Up to 80mm of rain Saturday and 40mm Sunday. Strong winds, weather warnings to stay inside. There goes that idea.
If we get that much rain Goochs Crater might fill up, says I in an off handed comment
That would be awesome we should check it out Sunday, says Mandy.
OK now I’m excited. Bring on the rain
So the rain sets in Friday night but it doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. The Deluge hasn’t seemed to make it all the way in from the coast.
Sunday is damp, sure we’ve had more rain in 36hrs than we had all May but it doesn’t seem like it would be enough. Undeterred we pull out the wet weather gear, pile into the Triton and set off at the crack of noon.
The damp weather gave the bush a different kaleidoscope of colours
So I’ve seen photos of the crater looking like a secret mountain lake. I’ve seen video of people swimming in it. But, alas and alack, I’ve never seen it for myself. I’ve made the trek in after big storms but I get the feeling it drains as fast and it fills and you have tbe there as it is belting down to catch it with water over the top of the reeds
And it was not to be today
You could just make out a few patches of water just below the height of the reeds. No swimming in Goochs Lake today. If we get a heap more rain we might make the trek in one afternoon through the week and check it out again.
Anyhoo. Now we are here we might as well slip around for a look at the little canyon near by.
Billabong canyon is just tight drop into a nice canyony chamber then a scramble down into a second camber and that’s pretty much it. More a canyonette than a canyon and despite being fed by a long swamp just up stream of the slot it is usually pretty dry with just a trickle going through it.
Today it was pumping nicely. We hadn’t packed harnesses so slipped up over the top and approached it from the bottom
Mandy and Tal decided it wasn’t worth the effort to push up through the damp scrub so when I came to the usually dry bottom chamber and found a deep pool and a gushing rapid I decided to strip off and go for a swim to see if I could get into the upper chamber.
Was it cold? Well, lets just say I’m pretty sure my outy became and inny and I’m not talking bellybuttons.
I didn’t stuff around too long, the air temp wasn’t too back but the water was not quite bathy so I took a few snap shots, rueing that I left the tripod in Mandys pack, and made my way back down
Quickly slipping back into the relative warmth of dry clothing I head back around to where Mandy and Tal were waiting with afternoon snacks and then we head back out to the car
So a weekend that looked to be shaping up as a no go for a bush walk turned up to be a great opportunity for adventure.
What’s that old saying? There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing…. and the right choice in destinations