The Devils Pinch

Devils Pinch Canyon

29/12/2016

Ed and I

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The Wolgan, the bits money can’t buy

Devils pinch is one of several canyons accessed via the Pipeline trail just down steam of Newnes. I’d done a  few of the others and was keen to get back for this one as it was reputably one of the better ones in the area.

Ed arrived a my place nice and early and we headed on down hoping to do the climb before the heat of the day. Good plan.

At the car park we debated taking wet suits. We hadn’t used them last year when we did Pipeline Canyon but we had heard the wet section in Devils Pinch was longer, darker and more sustained. We decided to take them, they offer good scrape protection when scrambling down rocks if nothing else. Not such a good plan.

Bags stuffed full we  headed down stream to the start of the Pipeline trail and began the climb up. It starts fairly gentle and we had a slight breeze in the shadow of the tower cliffs above us. The higher you go the steeper it gets and it wasn’t long before I was stripping off my sweat soaked shirt to get a bit of that breeze on my skin.

It still amazes me the effort it must have taken to build the pipeline between Glen Davis and Newnes (not to mention all the way to Newnes Junction near Clarence). Back when men were men and so were women or something and hard work was par for the course.

I bet those guys didn’t go home from work and talk about their feelings. says Ed.

I dragged steel pipes up a mountain all day but Ed was mean to me and called me names. Says I.

Anyhoo. We reach the top, dump the bags and make the short detour to the look out. Man how good does it feel to walk through the bush without a 75l pack stuffed full of gear on your back? (What was I saying about men being men… Yeah na, my shoulders hurt.)

We snap a few photos and then continue up to the watershed (It’s not like an actual shed, Stupid…) and veer off onto the Starlight trail. Once again we lost it somewhere around where you’d turn off for Pipeline canyon but corrected our error and pick up the main trail without too much drama.

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The cliffs overlooking the Glen Davis end of the Pipeline trail and you can make out the awesome conical peak of Tayan Pic in the distance across the Capertee

Considering the popularity of Devils Pinch canyon I expected there to be a bit of a trail veering off the main track, if there is we missed it but found our way down to the headwaters of the creek without incident.

The heat is getting oppressive now so we are keen to get into the cool of the canyon. The creek threatens to “canyon up” a few times before we reach the spot where it drops down a dark slot. Woohoo.

We scramble along a ledge beside the slot to the abseil point and now have to put our gear on balanced on small stances. Didn’t think that through…

The top section is suppose to be fairly dry should we put wetties on now?

It says the abseil lands in a pool and there are some climb downs into water.

Rather than putting harnesses on now, then doing some deep wades and have to take harnesses off, put wetties on and harness up again we chose to put the wetsuits on now. Bad plan.

I’ve said it before but abseiling for me is just a means to get to the next bit of canyon. But this abseil is really cool. Relatively easy start then a long drop into an awesome slot but one you touch down it keeps going down another dark, narrow drop. About 25m all up, or down I should say.

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Ed on the second bit of the first abseil

We’re now in a deep, dark narrow cleft. It’s really beautiful. There is a tight squeeze climb down a twisting chute before we are on the cleft floor. The pool the guide suggested we would land in is nonexistent at the moment, just a damp patch of mud.

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Edwin contorting  down the chute

Rounding a bend and all too soon the canyon opens out into a wide gorge. Scrambling down the valley the creek bed is as dry as a nuns nasty and the heat is slowly cooking me. We stop and strip the top of our wetsuits down in an attempt to stive off heat stroke.

It was disappointing to see this section of otherwise pristine creek was infected with backberry.And Flys! I’m pretty sure there was an international convention of the bushfly alliance. Millions of them swarming around, we were expecting to come across something dead but nothing, just clouds of flys. I’m pretty happy at this point they weren’t bitey.

Finally, droping down through a layer of strata a small trickle of water appeared in the creekbed. I wasted now time in splashing the cool liquid over my head.

And then we come to the next section of shallow canyon with the welcome sight of a deepish pool waiting at the bottom. Rotting vegetaion leaching tannins gave the water what Ed described as a lovely shade of Earl Grey (What’s that Paul Kelly line about the coffee being the colour of the river but not nearly as brown?) but we pulled the wetties back up and jumped in.

Ahhh, Bliss

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Ed scrambling into the wet section

The next section of canyon is really nice. It’s not all that deep but has some narrow squeezes, tricky climb downs and deep wades.

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Small pot hole you can’t touch the bottom off in at the bottom of a narrow climb down

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click images to enlarge

This section is reasonably long and has a lot of fun bits but eventually it drops into another deep narrow section.

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Overhanging abseils are nice but usually have shity starts as you work your way over a tricky lip. This one just gradually turns over hung so it’s a really nice start then a  17m abseil hanging in space.

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This section is awesome. Deep and sustained and, despite being midday, the play of light on the walls was divine.

click images to enlarge

We come to a slightly wider chamber and Ed points down to a funny looking rock. Look a skull. Oh yeah a wallaby skull, fair size. Must have fallen in…. Oh shit goanna.

Sitting on a rock about 3feet away is a small, beautifully patterned lace monitor. I guess that’s who dragged the wallaby in. It’s dark and cool in here but it turns out it an easy walk up from the exit portal so I’m pretty sure it hasn’t fallen in and become trapped. Unfortunately around the corner is the remains of a much larger one, just under 2m long.

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Lanna the canyoning goanna
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Lanna looking up the slot but keeping an eye on us

The rest of the canyon is an easy walk down a sublime slot.

Click images to enlarge

At the exit portal we get out of the harnesses and wetsuits and eat lunch in the shade enjoying the cool breeze drifting down out of the canyon.

Once fed we opt to by pass the final two abseils and scramble down beside the steep gully to the Wolgan river before commencing the 5km hike back to the camp ground. It was hot, damn hot and our water was getting low. When we did Pipeline canyon the weather gods blessed us with a cooling down poor of rain on the walk out. No such luck today.

A hot but very worthwhile trip.

Party size: 2 both experienced

Time: 6.5 hrs car to car. Bit of Photo Phaffing, not rushing but moving steadily all day.

On such a hot day it would have been fine for most people without wetsuits. The water was cold but the pools short and there were plenty of little patches of sunshine flooding in.

I tried the helmet mount for the go pro, didn’t have the angle right for much of it so most of my clips were unusable, I’ve salvaged what I could…

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A Wombeyan Womble

Mares Forest Creek Canyon

28/12/2016

Mandy Tal and I

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Mares Forest Creek cuts through a delightful little canyon upstream of the Tinted cave at Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve.

It’s different to anything in the Bluies as the rock is limestone with a marble bed. The water has that tinted green you get from minerals leaching out of the limestone so it looks like something you would see in Spain or somewhere. Whats more it’s a 30-40min walk in on a clear, sign posted tourist track.

Its a prefect little canyon for first timers and experienced heads alike.

Anyhoo. Mares Forests Crk Canyon has been on our to-do list for ages. Then it appeared in the “Wild Swimming Australia” guide book and featured on Australian Geographic’s websites as one of the top 10 swimming holes in Australia and we said, we really should do that this year.

But for some reason we never got around to organising it. Then Tom Brennan posted some awe-inspiring photos and I says We should so do that this week. and Mandy says I haven’t got anything booked for Wednesday. It’s on.

Wild Swimming Australia advises to get good light you should be in the canyon before noon so we shake Tal out of bed at sparrows fart. You can sleep in the car, says Mandy.

How far is it? says Tal. ‘Bout 2hrs. Ok then.

Just past the Abercrombie  crossing Tal peels open an eye. You never said it was half way to Canberra. Mummbles he

We waist no time in parkign the car and slipping up over the hill and down the other side, making a detour into the Tinted cave (Open to all park visitors for free)

click to enlarge

This rock might be a bit slippery once we get wet I remark as we climb back out of the cave and head down the stairs to the creek.

I needn’t have worried. Once in the creek the rock was surprisingly grippy. Far more so than the moss and slime covered sandstone we are accustomed to.

The trip is a simple one. Just follow the creek up stream for about 1.5km to the waterfall then reverse back down.

We inflate lilos, don wetsuits and off we go

 

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In hindsight we could have done without both. On a hot day the wetties were, um, hot and the water was pleasant enough to do with out them and while there were a couple of long deep pools unless you are a poor swimmer the lilos were more effort over the scrambling sections then they were worth.

click images to enlarge

It’s a very nice little canyon and the sculptured limestone walls are something else.

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Tal and Mandy floating up the canyon13.jpg

A few long pools and some rock scrambling interspaced with creek walking brings you to a blissful pool fed by a small waterfall. There is a rope hanging down beside the falls you can use to haul yourself up to slide back down or climb right up for a small jump. There is only a narrow bit deep enough to jump into with big submerged rocks either side but the green tinged water is clear as clear so it’s easy to see the obstacles and spot your landing zone

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The pool at the top of the canyon section is like a cross between Hyde Park in Hartley and a mini Jump Rock in Macquarrie pass
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Craig takes a leap
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Like father like son, Tal follows suit

 

We splash about here for a bit before retracing our journey back down through the canyon.

You can hike in and start the trip from the top but it’s such a short and pretty canyon going up and coming back down so you see it twice makes more sense to me.

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How’s the serenity

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Click on an image to enlarge

 

And all too soon we arrive back at the bottom of the stairs where a young family as made the trek across for a cool dip. How awesome is this place?

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Party Size: 3 all experienced

Time: About 3.5 hours car to car with a lot of photo phaffing and splashing about

Video was done with a hand held go pro so it’s a tad shakey

 

mares

http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/1407743716

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Claustral

11/12/2016

Edwin, Lewis and myself

Claustral is the quintessential Blue Mountains canyon. A deep, dark, sustained slot accessed by a series of abseils down a dark hole known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. Once in you are committed, the slot can be as fearsome as it is beautiful. Flash floods do happen and the exit is hours away. It has claimed the lives of some very experienced canyoners and been the scene of various rescue operations over the years.

It’s part of the big three. Thunder, Ranon and, Claustral canyons and their tributaries, carve the saddle in between Mt Tomah and Mountain Banks into a deep maze that has come to be known as the Carmathan labyrinth.

In 1804 the botanist and  explorer, George Caley, gazed up at the Blue Mountains and confidently declared “There is not a single peak which would take more than half a day to scale!”

He was right, but it wasn’t the peaks that would thwart him in his attempt to cross the mountains. His party reached the top of Mt Tomah with little difficulty then set about crossing the short distance to the next peak,  Mt Banks. He didn’t know about the labyrinth that awaited him below.

We were taught at school that the early explorers failed to find a way across the mountains because they tried to penetrate the river valleys when they needed to follow the ridges. But Caley’s plan was always to follow the ridges between the high peaks. Unfortunately the ridge he tried to follow didn’t exist

Scrambling down through lawyer vines and disjointed cliff lines they eventually came to a deep dark chasm they called Gaping Gill (while a chasm still bares this name it is probable they were looking into the lower reaches of Thunder gorge).

With no way to cross the chasm they beat a retreat back up to the ridge and tried another approach. This time into a gully Caley would name Dismal Dingle. Night descended and they made camp in a small overhang. Awestruck by the glow worms lighting up the wall over head, tormented by possums who ran like little demons through their camp stealing their food, eaten alive by mosquitoes and, terrorised by a wild fire that ripped up through the Grose Valley his men threatened revolt if he tried to push on they way they were going.

Come morning they beat another retreat up to the ridge line and opted to follow this in a wide arc around the labyrinth below. They were now on the very ridge that would one day carry the Bells Line of road. A native track way, had they stayed on this ridge they would have achieved their goal of crossing the Mountains in little over another days walk. But, of course, they didn’t know this.

Their plan was to follow the ridge line they mistakenly believed connected the major peaks they could see from the Richmond plains . And so they veered off to explore the peak of Mt Banks with Hat Hill, their next objective. Upon reaching the top of Mt Banks they looked down in dismay at the 300m cliff line that plummeted into the Grose Valley with Hat Hill unreachable on the other side. Dejected they turned tail and headed for home.

Later, or so I have read somewhere (but for the life of me I now can’t find the source) an early female bush explorer (Mary Biles?) ventured into the rim of the Labyrinth and upon peering down into a dark slot dropping into bowels of the earth wrote words to the effect of “One day the depths may be explored. Whether brave or fool hardy those who do surely will not suffer from claustrophobia.” Thus the slot was later christened Claustral canyon.

OK, maybe I spiced a bit or even all of that intro up. I’m not a historian, don’t take it as gospel. After all, I got my history of the world from Mel Brooks and all I know for certain is “It’s good to be the king.”….

Anyhoo. I’ve a confession to make. I’d never done Claustral Canyon. I’d been into  the system through Ranon and I’d wandered up the bottom section of Thunder canyon but back in the day Claustral was the most popular abseil canyon and I was put off by the thought of lining up to access the abseils. I was a bit of a canyon snob really and I come to realise I had cheated myself of a great experience.

Soooooo when Ed and his mate, Lewis, invited me along on a photophaffary trip I jumped at the chance. Now as you probably have worked out by now I have a little point a shoot camera (Olympus Tough TG4) and am not overly concerned at capturing amazing images of art, more documentaries of my travels so I had a sneaky suspicion that they needed a mule to carry the ropes so that they might lugg in more photomagraphary equipment needed to get their awesome shots but I was cool with that.

As it was everybody bought rope.

Anyhoo, I was running a bit early so stopped by the Emu Cave to get a few photos and explore the rock shelf a little more. then it was onto the car park

After a quick meet and greet, with the wrong party ( Are you Lewis, Says I. Nope, says he. Are you doing Claustral? We’re doing Ranon. Cool we’ll probably see you in there)

Lewis arrives and we introduce ourselves just as Ed turns up. We reconcile gear, stuff packs and we’re off. The traditional entry and exit point to Claustral was from the top of Mt Tomah, however in 2011 the land the access track crosses changed hands and the new owners built a house right where the track was. And who can blame them, they have some of the best views in the mountains.

A new route was found from the other side Mt Bell. This made the exit a lot longer and more convoluted which I think may have reduced visitor numbers a bit.

Anyhoo. We quickly make our way down through a pleasant gully and soon reach the junction with Claustral Brook

A bit of creek walking and boulder scrambling brings us to the first swim and we suit up and plunge in as the canyon begins to get deeper

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Ed scrambling down
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The canyon is looking good already

A little more scrambling and we come to the abseils. 3 successive drops down into a dark abyss. Ed and Lewis scramble to get cameras out. Looks like I’m going first for want of a better model

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The start of the abseils
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Lewis on the first abseil

The drops are pretty cool. Abseil 10-15 meters, swim across a pool to a small stance and repeat

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Lining up to take photos on the small stance between drops

The final abseil starts through a small hole and drops into darkness. Much awesomeness

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Edwin dropping into the Black hole of Calcutta, nicely back lit by Lewis’ torch

From here its 50m through the darkest part of the slot until it widens slightly at the Junction with Ranon.

The moss covered boulders and fern strewn walls at the junction may well be the most photographed bit of canyon in the country but it is truly stunning.

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We played around here for a while snapping photos from all angles
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Lewis contemplating the light
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It’s much greener than I remember. One of the most fern filled and moss covered canyons I’ve been in
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Cameras at 10 paces… I’ve heard of people paying to do the guided trip just for a photo here

After lots of photo phaffing we head down. The boys need to be very careful with keeping their gear dry so it’s in and out of dry bags a lot. The advantage of my TG4 is I can keep it at the ready. The photos may not be the same quality but as it’s so handy I have about 600 to trawl through.

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Canyon formation
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Canyon Formation

Just as the big cameras get triple dry bagged to continue on Ed looks up to see one of the group coming in from Ranon has slid out along a fallen log that spans the canyon 40 or 50 meters up. There was a scramble to get cameras back out in the hope they were going to abseil down the middle of the canyon walls from this log but by the time cameras were out he had thought better of it and retreated to do the normal route through the waterfalls

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The group coming in from Ranon catch us
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Like the slot the greenery just keeps going

With all the standing about i had begun to get cold so I peeled down the wet suit and put a light thermal underneath which improved things greatly.

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Looking for sun rays but the day was a little overcast so the few we got were very faint

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Ed carefully wading with the camera out
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Canyon formation

Light rays, canyons and photographers

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Ed chasing Rays

We caught back up to the other group at the junction with Thunder Canyon, which is a great spot for lunch. They soon finished and continued on, we have a quick look up Thunder and then followed suit.

After this junction the canyon opens up a little and there is some tricky scrambling down some drops before it closes back in.

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Lewis looking down a pot hole

Once it closes back in you encounter the infamous tunnel swim. Way back when I did Ranon the last time the water level was down and you could walk through here. Now it’s  a spectular 50m swim

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A little more scrambling, a couple of pools and you reach the exit

There is a steep haul up Rainbow Ravine, which has some pretty canyon sections itself, then a long walk up the ridge to the top of the Camels Hump. I remember last time getting to this point and thinking we had come up the wrong hill.  From the top the hump it looks to be surrounded on all sides by chasms and the old exit point to top of Mt Tomah can be seen across a particularly deep chasm. You can see why, with no maps and no knowledge of the land Caley and his crew had so much trouble. I’m remember almost having my own muntiny on my hands as hungover and exstausted Della and Lurch were in no mood to drop down and climb out again.

Just when we thought we would have to descend all the way down and start again the trail crossed a narrow, bridge like rock saddle. It barely looks real. Something straight out of Tolkin. The old exit is now just up the hill. 10-15min up to the car park… The old exit.

The new exit is not so quick and does involved dropping all the way back down into Claustral Brook. We head steeply back down. There are some nice canyon sections and a swim or two before we reach the gully we came in on.

Yeah it’s a long walk out. Yeah I’m feeling it today but it’s not too bad, we’ve done worse.

Party Size: 3 All experienced

Time: 10hrs car to car. Lots of time spent striking poses and  snapping photos

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The Emu Cave

AKA Cave Hotel.

Ok so we know George Calley came this way on his failed attempt to cross the mountain via ridge tops in 1804 and it’s hard to imagine he would not have used the rock outcrop above the Cave as a vantage point as it gives a great view over the land he was trying to traverse. How he missed signs of use, I’m not sure but the history of the Blue mts crossing may have been very different had he found the cave and realised this was a aboriginal track way…

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Emu tracks engraved across the western wall
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Grinding grooves on the outcrop
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Sharpening groove

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OK so legend has it that T Shearwood set up a bootleg camp and distillery here.

However, there was a T Shearwood who managed a lodging house near by and it’s been suggested this was his piss take on those travelers too stingy to pay the toll on the highway or to pony up for a bed for the night on the Bells Line.

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