South Wolgan cliff lines

30-09-17

Tagging along with members of the Bush Club and Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking Club, lead by Yuri.

On a recent trip to Windows Canyon I pointed out some features to Yuri that I’d visited with my usual crew after taking a wrong turn looking for a pass up through the cliffline. Knowing Yuri had extensively explored many of the cliff lines in the upper Wolgan I was surprised he had not venured along this particular section.

With his curiousity pipped he began to plan an walk to explore the area futher.

On our infated scrub bash to nowhere we had explored the cliff line from the north but a look on sixmaps suggested there maybe some other interesting features in the upper cliff line to the south and after some discussion we decided it would be good to see if we to traverse the ledge from the usual pass up used for Windows or exiting Crooked Cravice.

We’d then take my pass up to the tops and see if we could find a way down from further along that did not involve absieling.

While I’ve been telling Geoff I would sign up to the UBMBW club, and even printing out the membership form a couple of times, I’d yet to sign up and had never been on a club walk before so signed on as a guest as Yuri gave the breifing and outlined our goals.

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We take the usual pass up to the base of the upper cliffline. There was some debate over which ledge we needed to be on but the higher up we went the more obvious it was

Not 50m around from the slots normally taken to access the tops was this stunning cave. We had a quick morning tea break while checking it out and snapping photos.

This already has made the walk worthwhile, says Yuri

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Yuri in the cave
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The small slot above the cave hinted a nice abseil would be posible as a side trip to other things in the area
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Looking out of the cave

Making our way around the base of the upper cliff we pass many potential passes and slots that begged further exploration, however we were mindful of time as we still had no idea if we would find a way off the tops or would have to retrace our steps.

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Yuri leading us along the base of the cliff
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Another narrow slot. It looked like it would be possible to chimney up  and explore deeper
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It was slow going at times as we pushed through scrub and worked our way up, down and around the sometimes broken cliffline
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And then we came to the mirco canyon I had called Kenobe on our first visit there looking for something else (ie This is not the pass you are looking for…)
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It’s a pretty spectactular, if somewhat short canyon in an unexpected location

We spend some time soaking in the ambience and snapping photos before Yuri reminds us we have a ways to go yet.

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Right next to Kenobe is the pass up I’d pioneered with Ed, Gaz, Jodie and Ethan and this is the pass up we took today. It’s involves a short but easy climb/scramble which I slipped up and dropped a rope down to assist the others. From there its a scramble up rocks with the views behind improving with each meter of altitude

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And once on top we are greeted with magic views from a rarely visited vanatage point

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Yuri on a pagoda high above the Wolgan with Donkey Mountain in the center distance
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Cameras at the ready. Geoff considers Donkey Mountain his spiriual home and a new prespective on it was welcomed
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Yuri pointing out the Halfway ledge on the oposite side of the valley he had pushed through yesterday
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Another shot of Donkey Mountain

Our next goal was to  see if it it would be possible to bypass the first abseil in another canyon known to members of the group and then follow the base of the upper cliff further around to hopefully walk off the plateau further north.

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Ok it felt a bit wierd to be here without ropes, we usually absiel down through that hole in the cliff up there

We suggested this would be a nice spot for lunch as there is normally a small pool at the base of the cliff but with the extended dry conditions not only was the water fall dry but the pool at the base was completely dry as well.

It was later in the day than we had planned and over lunch we decide to split the group in two and send a party of quicker members forward, the idea being if the descent was not possible and we had to backtrack the others could do so with out descending all the way to where the path might be blocked.

As I was the only other member carrying a map Yuri nominated me to lead the forward group and we consulted maps to agree on how far around we would traverse before trying a descent.

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This projection in the cliff put me in mind of a downhill helmet. I haven’t riden my DH bike for 2 years, I think the cliff is telling me something.

We had agreed to to hug the base of the cliff but at a junction we had a choice of following a ledge along or drop down to the next level. Not knowing if the ledge would go and knowing we would evenually need to go down I decided to drop down. It turns out it was double overhang and Yuri assures us the upper level was a highlight of the trip….

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Looking back along the upper ledge we had bypassed
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This slot is extremely narrow at the top, too narrow for me but a sling up there suggests someone has gone through it.  Anyhoo the base marked the spot we had agree to attempt a descent

Following a dry water course we were able to scramble down through the lower clifflines though there was the constant possibility we’d encounter the one last cliff whcih had no way off and we’d have to back track all the way back up.

At one stage is looked like we were on half a trail that seemed more than an walaby track. I mentioned my suspicion that we weren’t the first to come this way just as John calls out. Did you see the tape? says he. holding up a faded pink tape that had once marked someones way up.

Confident now we were down we left the creek as it become wet and very thick with vegetation. The nose always goes, sometimes. is the catch call of serious bushwalkers in these part so we got out of the scrub and followed a serries of spurs all the way back to the river.

A toot on the whistle signalled to those behind that we were down. 30min later they were to.

All in all a good day out just having a look.

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Descending from the top of those cliffs without ropes was steep and scrubby but easier than expected.

Thanks to Yuri for organising and leading the trip

 

The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.:- Nicholas Kristof

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Glowworm Tunnels

09-09-17

Me and Mandy

Built in the early 1900’s to cart goods and supplies (and people as an afterthought) into and out of the new shale mine in the Wolgan valley the Newnes rail line was a marvell. 31miles (~50km) long, including 2 curvng tunnels carved through the sandstone where the line descended through the clifflines at Penrose gully, it took just 18months from survey through wild terrain to having trains run.

The trains themselves were special Shay locomotives that had a unique vertical piston and gearing arrangement that was able to deliver steady power to all wheels via drive shafts thus they were able to negotiate the steep grades and tight bends required to get out of the valley.

The line was always a bit of a problem child though. Not only were mining conditions in the Wolgan far harsher then expected (the seam was easier to mine from the Capertee) but maintenance on the track was expensive. The little culvet bidges used to span the “Dry gullies” proved completely in adiquate for the “gully rakers” and flash floods produced by summer storms. By 1934 the line was closed. Much of the remaining track and infrastructure were pulled up and shipped over seas for the WW2 war efforts in Egypt and Turkey.

The line was left to deteriorate but the second tunnel, with water now running through it from tunnel creek became the home of glowworms which exist naturally in the canyons and caves throughout the plateau and are a larvae stage of a gnat.

Being able to see glowworms in the day in an easily accessable spot soon became a draw card tourists and much of the line above tunnel became an access road.

 

Anyhoo. I’ve visited the tunnels many times and I always enjoy it. Dad took us there as kids, I took my kids when they were little and we’ve done it many times with friends and family. Now days though my visits are usually part of either a longer mountian bike ride or as a side trip from near by canyons. Each time I go I try and snap a photo of the ferns looking out of the tunnel and invariably it the photo ends up either with the ferns too washed out in the bright sun or the tunnel too dark or both.

Then I had a bright idea and contrived a plan to slip up at night to see what I could capture.

 

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I think it came out Ok for a little point and shoot camera.

click to enbiggen

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No matter how many times I do it driving through the first tunnel on the way to the car park is always an awesome experience

 

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The Timber Chute

03-09-17

Mandy and I

A long time ago dad told me about this timber chute up a slot that gave easy access to the cliff tops above the Wolgan. They use to slide logs down it, said he. It’s somewhere around here, it’s an easy road up to the base of it and you can sit on the cliff edge at the top and see the whole valley.

So I’ve been looking for it on and off for years, well not really. I’ve always hoped to come across it in my travels but hadn’t really done any detective work  or set out with a goal to specifically go looking for it, just had it in the back of my mind that it would be cool to stumble across.

Once I found an old timber platform hanging over the Wolgan cliffs out past long swamp and thought maybe that was it, may be dad had is spot mixed up and they accessed it from the top rather than from the valley. No, he said, it’s down past the pub somewhere. Well that left a big somewhere. Not sure what it was we found, someone suggested a hang glider launch… Anyhoo

Last year while flicking through an old climbing guide that I had read and read again back when we had first gotten into climbing, one that has been sitting in my draw for the last 20 years, Lo and behold there it was staring me in the face. “The Timber chute walls”. You eeejiot Craig!

How had I missed that?

So I dragged Mandy out for a walk and we followed the cliff lines around and found a likely creek. But just up stream we were blocked by a small water fall. Our up and down route along the cliff had sucked up too much time and we needed to beat a retreat. Next time Gagdet.

12 months later I was keen as keen for another look.

This time we followed the old road up the gully before spearing off and making our way up to the cliff line. The lower cliff line here is more a jumble of broken slabs and each time we got into the creek we were stopped by another unclimbable waterfall so we traversed back and forward up through the scree and finally reached the base of the upper cliff. From here it was an easy walk around into the canyon.

And what a little ripper it is.

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Old retaining wall
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The Wolgan Clifflines never cease to strike awe into me
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The Portal
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The entrance to the Timber chute. Those two logs spanning the gap arn’t dead fall or wash down they are have been carefully measured and set into carve notchs. Unfortunitely there is no trace of the chute below this
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to get an evan ramp some of these notchs are 2 or 3 meters up in the walls

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It looks as though flash floods have wash quiet a few beams down

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I wonder if they had a bullock dragging the logs or if they just let them fly?

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When the canyon opens out at the top the tallest tree fern I’ve seen greets me
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Looking back down
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And back down at the old logging road this little lyrebird wasn’t shy at all.

Party Size. 2 Both experienced

Time: 3hrs car to car with lots of photos and a long lunch

You have Nothing to loose and a world to see. What are you doing in here?

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Wollangambe Fire trail

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Access: Getting to the carpark involves a dirt road with a few rough bits. Nothing extreme but a 4WD is handy just for the ground clearance and traction

Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward.

Map:  Wollangambe  1:25000 These can be purchased at Lithgow Tourist information center or online for around $10

Time: Less than 2hrs with a bit of time for lunch on the clifflines at the end

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View from the end of the fire trail. Mt Banks in the centre distance, Mt Wilson to the left.

Depending on which map you look at or who you talk to this is either the Wollangambe or Dumbano fire trail. Open source and google maps seem to show it as Dumbano fire trail. Wollangambe fire trail is what I always knew it as and makes more sense to me as at the end you lookout over the ‘Gambe just upstream of Wollangambe crater.

Anyhoo, whatever you want to call it, it’s a pleasant stroll with some stunning backdrops.

 

Getting there:

Turn off the Bells Line of road at the ZigZag Railway onto the Newnes Forest rd. Follow this along for around 4.8km and turn off to the right at the bottom of a hill below Bald Trig.

Unfortunitely the start of the fire trail looks a bit like a rubish tip where grubs seem to dump there soft drink bottles and coffee cups… But it gets better.

Set your odeometer here, you want to stay on the main fire trail but there are a couple of intersections where it is easy to take the wrong fork.

At Approximately 1km keep left (right follows the old Wolgan Railway easment around Bald trig to the sand quarry.)

At Approximately 2.5km stay right then at approximately 6.4km stay left. After a little over 8km you will come to the locked gate (GR 499952).

Park up and follow the old road on foot past the gate. The first couple of hundered meters is steep then it is easy going along a flattish ridge for 2km.

Either side of the ridge are sheer sided gullies and at the end of the ridge is a rocky point (GR 505931)  in between where these two tributaries meet the Wollangambe.

This is a nice spot of a bit of lunch (or as we did today cheese on smith chips…) there are some great views with Mt Banks straight ahead, Mt wilson slightly off to the left and Bell out to the right. And the wild Wollangambe can be heard gurgling below.

For the more adventurous this route, with some off track navigation at the end is the shorter way to access the Wollangambe crater which is usually done as a over night bushwalk from Bell. (its not a real crater but a circular depension holding a hanging swamp.  I think it is the reminants of a large billabong type feature made in a sweep of the wollangambe. It sure looks craterish from aerial photos and satelite images though.)

 

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Easy walking along the old fire trail.

Note: The great outdoors is an ever changing place. Bush fires, changing weather, vegetation growth and forestry activities can all effect the trail conditions and thus the difficulty of the walk. These are a rough guide only and are by no means meant to be a definitive guide . They do not replace the need adequate map reading and navigational skills

Note 1: Taking care  While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails.  Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.

Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police for very little.

Note 2: First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. First aid training is highly recommended

Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for you first few outing is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.

The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.

Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.

 

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The Dry Canyon

25-06-17

Catherin, Devon and I

So after our trip through River Caves Mandy had to be back in town early but the rest of us decided to take the drive out to the dry canyon which is always a great one for showing newbies

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It’s a bit pongy today, says I. Probably that dead dingo, says Catherin. Don’t know how I missed it. Poor thing looks to have taken a few wounds and sort refuge up in a little alcove but didn’t make it through.
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Standard dry canyon shots to come

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And with plenty of time in the day we decided to slip over the tops to bask in some sunlight and take in the views

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The pagodas that from the Dry canyon with Donkey Mt in the back ground
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At least here we can look down on the rich bastards in the Emerites resort

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Its a long way down into that dark cervice to where we just were
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It doesn’t feel like it arcs so much when you walk through it
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Heading back up the middle canyon section

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All in all a pleasant day in the great outdoors

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“the great French climber called it ‘The conquistadors of the useless.’ Yeah, the end result is absolutely useless, but every time I travel, I learn something new and hopefully I get to be a better person.” –  Yvon Chouinard, 180 Degrees South”

Goochs Crater

10-06-2017

Mandy and I

This is becoming out go to walk on drenching wet days. It’s pretty in any weather

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Goochs Crater nice and green again

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Billabong canyon
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Billabong canyon with a bit of water flow
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Billabong Canyon
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Goochs Crater
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Nearly enough water for a swim
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Hi vis or no vis

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Fern Tree Gully

21-05-2017

Mandy and Me

It might be hard to beleive but the town of Rylstone has one of the best Yum Cha/Tea house in Australia (29 Nine 99, do yourself a favour). I’d booked in with Mandy for a late Mothers day lunch and we thought why not do a walk while we were there.

Dunns Swamp is the gate way to the Wollemi  and a hot spot for outdoor activity in the area but it’s a long way out of town and with the limited openning hours for Yum Cha we needed something closer and a bit more touritsy.

A quick google search told me there was a little nature reserve about 16km north of Rylstone that might offer up a pleasant walk. Fern Tree Gully

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, certainly not a little canyon, but I was in fr a pleasant surprise.

A well maintained (Not a thing out of place, 1 discarded chip pack the solo piece of rubbish we carted out.) tourist trail winds down into a pretty gully the vegetation is completely different to what I’m use to in the blues and there were lots of little information signs to let us know what we were looking at.

At the base of the gully I commented it was almost a canyon… then we rounded the corner and it canyoned up. Sweet!

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Mandy making her way down into Fern Tree Gully
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Fern Trees aplenty

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The walls close in and a canyon appears

 

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After a bit the gorge opens up a little as the trail ambles through the gully
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Even close to midday the light was magical
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For all their calling and mimicry Lyrebirds are normally shy creatures that dart off into the scrub at the first scent of humans… This one didn’t get that memo. I think he liked Mandy to be honest.
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The canyon opens out and closes in a few times

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The grey gums were massive

At the junction with the exit gully a short board walk lead down the main gully to a little chair where a natural spring rises

There was more canyonette in the exit gully

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Did I mention the trees were huge?
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Steps back up to the lookout trail

The Lookout trail winds along the top of the canyons 1.4km back to the car park and offers some very nice views

 

Well worth a look if you are in the area.

Party size 2.

Time: 1.5hr with a lot of photo phaffing

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By George! My Uncle is Great.

25/04/2017

Julie, Lyn, Jim and I

So I always thought it odd there were some great canyons running off the Blue Mts Plateau on the North side of the Highway but not much to the South. Sure there was Empress, which is stunning, but I thought it an oddity in among the micro canyons, steep cracks and more open V-gullys running into the valleys on the south side.

Awhile ago I heard rumours that something else had been found but was vague on details. Then the 5th edition Jamieson guide came out with a brief description of the awesomely named “Great Uncle George” Canyon and I’ve been keen to check it out but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

Hey Julie, texts I, U off on ANZAC day? though my spelling and typing is even worse on text.

Sure am, says she or something to that effect and we hatch a plan to visit Old Uncle Georgeyboy. She contacts Jim who pioneered a different exit up an easy ridge back to Ingar Fire trail which makes a very short car shuffle or negates the need for one altogether if you don’t mind a bit of boring fire trail walking at the end.

Jim and his wife Lyn are keen to come along, even better.

Ed can’t make it as he is busy doing family stuff, which is a bummer. As I know he was keen to check it out too.

Tal was keen but when I woke him up at the crack of 7:45am he groaned, rolled over and pulled his covers over his head… Um OK. Julie shows up we stash gear and head up to meet the Cooks at the car park.

It’s a short walk in… if you veer through the private property but it may be best to skirt around the outside, avoiding the swamp and neighboring gully. Up top it’s a bit of an erosion scar. A trail dozed down towards the cliff edge must surely be an old fire break as it’s too steep for a standard 4WD.

Anyhoo we reach the abseil point. Jim set up on the rope, backs up and with a little hop disappears. It’s funny to watch. One second he is there, there next he is not. Hopefully I can get some video together over the next week or so as I have a good clip of Lyn doing the same.

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Jim dropping in

A nice overhung abseil into a awesome amphitheater. A tall waterfall plunges into a sited up hole which must once have been a very pleasant swimming hole.

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The abseil comes down beside this pretty fall. With all the earthworks/erosion up top the pool is silted up but I wouldn’t mind betting it was once a nice swimming hole.

A set of stairs lead back up the through the cliff line and while the rope is getting retrieved I fire off a couple of photos and head up the stairs to see where they go. A lot of work had gone into making the stairs and the trail above them. It takes me up to a little cave where more stairs are carved up the rock face to no where, as the trail continues around a nose and up above the top cliff line.

click to enlarge

What followed was a pleasant stroll down a very pretty creek inter-spaced with some abseils and some nice canyon sections.

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Julie abseiling the second drop
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Jim on the third drop
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Julie on the 4th drop
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Julie on Camera, Jim on watch and Lyn on rope

More pleasant creek follows. It was mostly easy walking with a little bit of boulder hoping

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Several times the canyon threatens to form, swings around a corner and peters out

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Jim, Lyn and, Julie in a canyonesque section
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there were some tricky down climbs
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And lots of little waterfalls

And after a bit more creek walking a canyon forms with a bit of length to it

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Jim leads Julie into the narrows of the canyon

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It opens out briefly

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But it soon closes back in with some tricky abseils
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Lyn on one of the tricky overhanging starts
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Jim past the tricky start an abseiling into a very nice chamber

While never overly deep or tight it does seem to keep going for a while

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Julie disappearing down the next bit.

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And then there is more pleasant creek scrambling with enough awesome scenery to make it well worth while

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Looking back up stream to our lunch spot and exit point

The Jameison guide says to continue down stream a while then out another creek, which requires a car shuttle but Jim had scoped another option last trip and we scramble up a break in the clifflines which leads to an easy ridge back toward the picnic area near the start of Ingar fire trail and thus back to the car.

So, while I wouldn’t say the canyon itself was overly spectacular it was a very nice trip  in a beautiful creek that was, for the most part, very easy going. While a couple of the abseils had tricky starts they were all a bit of fun.

Party Size: 4 all experienced

Timing: 5hrs car to car with lots of photo phaffing, exploring, chatting and taking it easy )

All in all a great day in the great outdoors with great people

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I thought the entrance chamber was so awesome I went back with Mandy and Tal a couple of days later for a picnic via the stairs

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We were trying to figure out why these stair would be carved under the cave, its certainly easy enough to walk up the slope beside them then Mandy cottoned on to a likely answer, could they have quarried blocks from here to use int he stair case below?

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Despite a coolish day Mandy was keen to get under the Falls

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I hadn’t even notice this that first time around. Blue Mountain Historical society had a few clues to the initials may have belonged to nothing that matched completely

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I think Tal is disappointed a) he didn’t come on the canyon trip and b) we didn’t bring ropes with us today
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A weathered inscription on top of the cliff. Could that be WRH,  For Walter R. Hall? Unfortunately we couldn’t find an SC Hall or ED Hall to tie it in to the initials in the rock in on be of the previous photos
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Looking back on to the falls from the pagoda at the top of the stairs
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This chick makes me happy

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Hoping to see some more water in it

25/03/17

Me and Mandy

Thought we’d revisit this one hoping to see a bit more water flowing through it.

There were a lot of stick jams that showed just how high the water got, which surprised me this high up in the catchment.

Also any one planning  a winter trip note the storms have scoured out some of the pools so they are now waist deep.