So I goit a little busy and hadn’t organised a canyon trip for the weekend. I had a permit to grab a load of wood from Newnes Forest and suggested to Mandy we do a little walk while up there.
This one is a short little canyon with lots of name. Back before social media it was a bit secrective and I think each group that “found: it gave it their own name. I reffered to it as the Little Canyon. I’ve heard it called Tower Canyon, Mossy Bottom Canyon, Waratah Canyon…
It’s been rechristened Ethereal by Michael Keats and the bush explorers in the Gardens of Stones and Beyond books and seems to have gained popularity with bush walkers in recent years
Karen McLaughlin informs me her group called in D day canyon back in 1998.
I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t visited by Col Oloman and his crew when they first started exploring the Bungleboori canyons in the 60s but a lot of his trips went undocumented so it would be interesting to hear from anyone who visited it back in the day in the comments.
Anyhoo. That write up is longer than the canyon…..
With the weather turning cold it’s time to focus on dry trips. Depite popular opinion there are a number of dry(ish) canyons not to far from the usual summer trips that are worth a look. This one is a short day in the Wolgan.
The canyon itself isn’t that great in regards to length and depth of the constriction but it has a couple of standout features and great views.
We met at the servo bright and early and sorted car pools to drive down to the car park. Mick was joining us for the haul up through the cliff lines but then leaving as he had afternoon plans in the bigsmoke
Madie was running 5min late but, hey she had a 4hr drive to get here so no one blamed her. Oh, in a previous blog I stated she needed a constant supply of chips and chocolate. that was just a bit of fun after she brought a large pack of chips on the trip I didn’t mean it to sound like she was a snack scoffing fatty. She usually eats nothing but kale washed down with a cup of steam, or sumfink. I’m the fat guy on our trips.
The frost was lifting off the tops and down in the valley it was a glorious morning so we wasted little time in setting out up the hill.
Our path up is typically steep but relatively easy for the Wolgan.
Some Pretty section of creek and grand overhangs break up the climb
and soon we are bathing in sunshine on top of the stunning clifflines that seem so impenetrable from the valley below.
This is where Mick leaves us and heads back the way we came up. For the rest of us it’s a relatively easy stroll up through the scrub to intersect a faint trail along the ridge.
There is a pleasant bit along the ridge before we drop back down through the scrub to our first anchor point above a 30m abseil down through one of the highlights
Over the millenia water running down a sloping face have carved a deep groove into the rock befre hitting a band of iron stone that created a small pool halfway up the cliff line. Evenually this pool eroded deeper and deeper until it bored a hole staright through the cliff
From below the hole is stunningly circular
A short, dark cave section follows
Then there is some bounder hoping and scambling down beside the creek before it tries to canyon up
On our trip last year we were greeted with a deep, very cold pool here that soaked every up to their necks. Today we didn’t even get our feet wet.
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And then the next highlight is a drop down through this stunning hole through the rock
At the bottom is usually a deep plunge pool that takes some manoeuvring to get across without falling in. Today it was nearly dry but I made them do the bridge anyway 🙂
The hole opens into a chamber with an amzing window out over the Wolgan
We have lunch in the sun light on the halfway ledge and then there is one more long abseil before the quick march down the hill to the cars
A day in the bush with a fun bunch of people is the perfect chatharsis for the stress of the modern world
Access: A nice walk along a gentle ridge. Tar to parking area
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward though the trail can be a little vague further out
Time: 30min out. 30min back
Date walked: 31-03-18
Jinki ridge is another spur off the Bells Line of road that gives nice views over the Grose Valley. A trail runs from the Bells Line of road out between Jinki and Dalpura creeks and the Pagodas out the end are reminiscent of the Lost city.
Getting there: From the weigh station at Bell follow the Bells line of road toward Sydney for approximately 4km and just after the concrete lane dividers end there is an old fire trail which goes right just as the road swings around to the left. Turn off into this fire trail and park at the locked gate (Obviously try not to obstruct the gate)
The fire trail goes South and then veers East to start and is easy to follow (note: there is another fire trail just back a bit at a more open park spot, but it goes West then swings North) . Jinki ridge offers great views over the upper Grose over towards Mt Victoria.
The fire trail eventually deteriorates to single track. It can be a little vague but just stay on the top of the ridge
Views change to your left side with some vantage points looking down the Grose. Towards the end of the ridge you get views over to Valhala Head and Thors Head from high pagodas. Be careful near the cliff edges as they are all over hung and brittle.
Also care is needed on the pagodas. The plate pagodas are fairly unique to our area and iron stone bands that make them so unique break off very easily. These awesome rock formations take thousands of years to form, the last thing we want is for them to be damage by a careless footstep.
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 could traverse the ledge from the usual pass up used for Windows or exiting Crooked Crevice.
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.
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
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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We spend some time soaking in the ambience and snapping photos before Yuri reminds us we have a ways to go yet.
Right next to Kenobi 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
And once on top we are greeted with magic views from a rarely visited vanatage point
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.
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.
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….
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.
Thanks to Yuri for organising and leading the trip
The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.:- Nicholas Kristof
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.)
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.
“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”