Glowworm Tunnels


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

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








Tiger Snake Canyon


Ed Tal and me

Tiger snake is a cool little canyon. The two canyon sections are very short but the top one is tight with some interesting climb downs/absiels and the bottom section is magnificantly deep and narrow making it very cave like. One of the few “dry” canyons where you need a head torch in the midde of the day.

It’s a hard subject to photograph well but we had a goal in mind for sun set shots at a spot close by and thought this would be a good way to fill in the day.

-7.5° is almost a record low over night temp for the ‘Go, lucky its a short day and we weren’t planning to leave until 10am. By then most of the frost had melted and while cold, the sun was shining nicely.

The walk in was fairly uneventful and we reach the cleft where the small creek drops into the upper section without incident

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It’s an awe inspiring fissure, Narrow and dark

In all our previous trips we have absieled directly down here. It is an awkward absiel, as you have to bridge out over the narrow section to a bit that gives a bit more room, then you are pretty much down climbing on rope, if you slip you are going to swing in and get grated into the narrow bit… This time we deside to check out the alternate anchor point from higher up on the pagodas next to the slot.


The views fromthe top are amazeballz

Tal and Ed checking the view and enjoying the sun shine

It also gives you a great perspective over the top section of canyon. It really is narrow and short

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That dark slot drops 15-20meters down before openning up just around the corner
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The abseil from the higher anchor point is still narrow and awkward but you don’t feel you are goign to get pulled back into the narrow slot, plus you miss a little pool so keep your feet dry for a bit longer
Ed dropping in

Once in there is a slipery down climb, another advantage of the high anchor and long ropes is you can leave them set to assist you dont this bit and along the log to keep your feet dry again


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And then it’s the infamous bundle of sticks anchor. Where some one has placed a surperfluous fixed line.


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Hmmm that water looks cold, might take a few balancey moves to keep our feet dry
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Tal descends as Ed watches on
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Ed unclipping on a tiny ledge as he contemplates how to keep his feet dry

With the advantage of a bit of hieght I managed to bridge across easily. Tal had a bit of a go but decided the risk of slipping in outweighed the thought of getting his socks wet so just stepped in. Ed took a bit of time and all but done a Van Dam like set of splits but made it across the small, wet, slippery, sloping ledge.

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The top section finishes with this 17m absiel next to a small water fall


It is possible, with some good scrambling and down climbing skills to do the entire top section, including this bit, without abseiling but it is risky and why would you miss this one? It’s a very nice abseil

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Ed on rope Tal on firemans belay


It’s a short walk down the gully, the creek is dry again with the wtare from the canyon soaking into the sandy soil, to the lower constriction

There are acouple of ways in. Entering straight down the creek is nice but it is an awkaward drop and you do get wet at the bottom. This is the way I have been on all previous trips except the last one.

The other way is to scramble along the top of the canyon on a dodgy ledge to a anchor high up on a chock stone bridge. You do miss a bit of very pretty canyon but with a bit of scrambling/climbing skill you can make you way all the way up to the bottom of the awkward drop.

On the plus side the high entry is a great absiel down a dark hole and you keep your feet dry

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Ed Disappearing down the rabit hole
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It’s 20-25m straight downinto the darkness between walls so narrow that half way down you turn around to put your feet on the oposite wall

We spend some time in the dark depths snapping photos. Hopefully Ed gets some shots he can work with. My little TG struggled a bit in the darkness with my small head light trying to light paint the walls. My bike lights might have been better able ot illuminate the scenes.

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Ed sitting high up on a delicate arch within the darkness of the canyon
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Ed on a narrow bridge getting ready to defend 13 dwarves and a hobbit against a Balrog!
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Ed at the exit portal
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Tal and ed making their way downthe boulder scramble below the canyon
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What goes down must go up. Climbing out
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Climbing out

After doing all the “extreme” stuff I go arse over tit on the flattest part of the trail back to the car. I slipped on a slimey log, thought I’d caught my slef only for the momentum of the haeave pack to tip me over and drive my head into the ground. Mush laughter was had at my expense..

Driving back along the Coach rd we are stopped by a car coming the other way. How much further is the camp ground? says he

Which camp ground ar you looking for? say I

The one at New-nes, is it New-ness? says she

Newnes. You wont get there going this way.

We lost GPS when we turned off the highway.

Yep but you turned off the highway 20km to early and have gone 30km out of your way. 45years ago you could drive down from here…

they ask if there were any spots to camp up here and decide on a rough camp rather than trying to drive all the way back around in the fading light. Did I mention -7.5°? The night promised to be just as cold and they don’t really look like the outdoors type.

We point the way to a bit of a area where they might set up camp and wish them well then head off to capture a sun set from the cliff lines above the Wolgan



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Sun set over Donkey Mt. People might pay thousands of dollars per night to stay atthe resort below us but they wont hae views like this.

Tiger Snake canyon

Party Size 3 all experienced

Time: about 5hrs car to car with a lot of photo phaffing


‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”” — J.R.R. Tolkien




Fern Tree Gully


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!

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


The walls close in and a canyon appears


After a bit the gorge opens up a little as the trail ambles through the gully
Even close to midday the light was magical
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.
The canyon opens out and closes in a few times


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

Did I mention the trees were huge?
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


Hoping to see some more water in it


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.


Grand Canyon Loop

Access: Tar road to car park.

Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward if you stay on the trail

Map: Katoomba

Time: 3-4hrs

The Grand Canyon loop is a sign posted tourist walk from Neates Glen to Evens lookout and back. The 7km walk involves a lot of rough hewn stone steps into and out of the valley. In between is a nice tourist trail winding through rainforest, a small tunnel, long overhung ledges and waterfalls.

Below the trail Greaves creek cuts a deep slot canyon and you may catch sight of canyoners either at the abseil point or down in the canyon from a few vantage points along the trail that offer views down into the depths.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Getting there:

Turn onto Evans Lookout rd at Blackheath. Follow this 3.5km and park in the Grand Canyon loop car park on the right (Note: When doing the loop use this car park rather than those at the Lookout or further back at Neates Glen.)

Follow the marked trail back toward Blackheath to the Neates glen car park and then down into the valley on the marked trail.

The trail follows a smaller creek to where it meets the larger Greaves crk. Here the trail crosses Greaves on stepping stones and then follows it down on the right hand bank. The trail passes under a picturesque waterfall and through a short tunnel.

Greaves creek soon carves itself into  a deep canyon while the tourist trail continues high above it. There are several spots along the trail that give views down into the slot. The best is at a small bridge over a steep side creek.

Once the trail descends back down to creek level it is possible to head back up stream and visit the bottom of the canyon. Not far in that is a deep 20m section that is a nice spot for a swim on a hot day.

The trail continues down, crossing the creek a few times in the next couple of hundred meters before reaching another intersection. Take the left up toward Evans Lookout  with very nice views into the Grose  Valley where Govetts and Greaves crks join.

The follow the trail along side the road back to the car.


The trip through the canyon proper is a great experience too, if you have the gear for the abseil or you can, with some scrambling and cold swims reverse up aways and then return back down

Photos from in the slot     Grand Canyon 29/01/17



Mandy and I

Mandy was looking for an easier trip for Australia day. I was keen to get back after the canyon ate my phone and I lost most of the photos from our trip last year

Orb Weaver eating a large Christmas beetle
Orb Weaver

Remnants of when the area was used as part of the youth offenders program. Getting troubled youth out into the bush and building self esteem and worth

One of the most unique waterfalls you’ll see. The water tumbles down a natural pipe like structure before emerging from a slot in the base
Mandy at the start of the short canyon section
The top of the descent into Alcatraz. AKA The Devils Throat
One of the few higher flow absiels you find in canyons in this area
Mandy Descending into the dungeon
Mandy under the falls with the exit slot in the back ground
Looking back into the exit slot with Mandy in the chamber
Looking back in to the chamber
This makes the exit slot look much bigger than it is. Just enough room to slide out on hands and knees
It’s a spectacular site
With care it’s possible to climb up above the exit slot and look back down opposite the falls
We had followed the path of the water. Abseiling down the S bend and then through the spray of the water into what, from the top, looks like an inescapable hole
Looking back up at the relics on top of the 50m vertical cliff line

Party Size: 2 both experienced

Time: 2hrs car to car with some photo phaffing.

(Note: the creek bed below the falls was far more slippery this time than when we did it last year. It was almost impossible to control speed sliding down the slope. It may be safest to set a rope here to lower down the slide. see video)


Twister Canyon


Mandy, Sharon, Sean, Tom, Claire, Tillie, Mick and Robbie.

And Me!

Aaaaand Weeze!!!

Last weeks blog about Sheep Dip Canyon addresses the naming confusion between these two canyons. I wont go over it again but todays canyon is Twister. It’s near the Rocky Creek Canyon car park and now days most people use it as a warm up (should that be cool down?)on their way into Rocky Creek Canyon. A Lot of people still mistakenly refer to it as Sheep Dip.

Anyway this was a cruzy morning with family and friends where we did Twister on it’s own, which is kinda unusual, but it is a fun little trip to show beginners down. I was a bit busy looking after the kids (and adults) to concentrate of either photos or video so they are not my best work but I got a little  bit and I’ll let them tell the tale.

Tom keen to get the party started. The small stream drops down into a labyrinth between the mighty pagodas behind him
Tillie was a little apprehensive at first
It’s not deep or overly dark but Twister has some nice canyon sections




Weeze had been lamenting she was the only one of my siblings who had not been canyoning before. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time she had been invited
The smile on Tom’s face says it all. It’s a very fun slide. Unfortunately I didn’t have the GoPro going as Sharon came down out of control in what I am sure was a deliberate attempt to skittle her whole family
Some of the jumps can be intimidating to those not use to it. There was very little hesitation in the group today.


Tillie had been a little reluctant on the first few jumps. By the end, while still a little scared, she was still willing to take the leap of faith
Sean and Tillie in the water. Robbie about to do the slide.
Claire is a bigger adrenaline junky than I am and was keen to lead the way. Nothing daunts this super chick
Tom on the last drop into the plunge pool.
I never seem to get a good shot of this section
The secret is out. All good so long as you are not after that wilderness feel (and there are other canyon that offer that.) The car par was so full it seems the camera had to cut that subaru in half.

Party size 10. 2 experienced the rest beginners

time: 2hrs car to car taking our time and enjoying it.



While it is an easier canyon it has beenthe scene of many rescues over the years and at least 1 death so it still needs to be treated with respect. You are a long way from help so need to have the right gear and know how to get out of trouble when things go wrong.


A Quick Dip in Sheep Dip Canyon

Tallis and me


OK so first up let’s try to address the naming confusion of this Canyon.

Around the mid 70s a party consisting of SUBW  and UNSWBWC members, which included David Noble, did an exploratory trip following Rocky creek from it’s source. They came across a small canyon reasonably high up in the creek. It had a lot of little slides and jumps into deep pools and they so they named this canyon section Sheep Dip (This is the canyon shown here). Later in the day, a few kilometers down stream they came to the larger section of canyon now known as Rocky Creek canyon

All good so far, no confusion.

Then in the 80s(?) a party including another Dave Noble, having heard a basic description on Sheep Dip descended a tributary near the Rocky Creek Canyon car park  and found a canyon they thought matched the description. This is understandable, both are more shallow, open style canyons. Both have lots of slides and jumps into pools. Both have a larger water fall at the end and  both creeks drops down into tunnels below boulders near the exit… So they thought they had done Sheep Dip but they called it Twister among their own group.

When Rick Jamison published the first edition of the Canyons Near Sydney guide book in the early 90s he repeated the mistake and  he wrote the description and directions to Twister under the heading “Sheep Dip Canyon” with a comment along the lines of the second party preferring the name Twister. All the guide companies that have sprung up since have repeated this mistake offering trips down Sheep Dip and Rocky Crk which actually do Twister and Rocky Crk.

It’s wasn’t until the early 2000s when the 2 Davids were talking that the younger Dave realised his mistake and Twister had in fact been a new canyon.

The Fifth edition of the Canyons Near Sydney corrects this mistake and now has the description of Twister under the heading “Twister (sometimes known as Sheep Dip)”

But it then adds to the confusion by adding a description of Sheep Dip canyon under the heading “Death Trap Canyon (AKA Sheep Dip or Upper Rocky Creek canyon)”.

There was already a canyon named Death Trap but it is not in the Rocky creek system. It was first explored by another party (Including the first David Noble) in the early to mid 2000s.

Now in the Gardens of Stone guide books the Bush Explorers repeat this second mistake and compound it by naming a some of the nicer features near Sheep Dip after Death Trap. eg The water fall they have labeled “Death Trap Falls” flows into Rocky creek near where Sheep Dip canyon opens up…. No where near Death trap canyon


So Twister is the one near the Rocky Creek canyon car park. It is in a small tributary that runs into the creek you walk down to access Rocky Creek canyon.

Sheep Dip is in Rocky Creek itself, a few kilometers up stream.

DeathTrap is another small canyon altogether.

No doubt this confusion will continue into the future but I hope that clears some of it up.

Anyhoo. It was one of those weekends where there was a bunch of plans discussed but nothing firm set down.

Mandy was keen for something but then Sunday morning decided she wasn’t up for a canyon trip. Well I might drag Tal out for something shortish says I.

We shook Tallis out of bed around 10:30 and rolled out of town at the crack of 11.

No real issues on the way in other than maybe dropping off the ridge a bit early. There are a few spots where you can scramble down through the cliff lines, the one we chose was a little higher up in the creek than we needed to be and meant we had a little scrub to get through before the canyon started to close in. But it also had a couple of nice pools..

This is another trip we could have done without wetsuits but I s’pose there is no point leaving them at home and then finding out you needed them halfway through..

Eastern Water Dragon, Intellagama Lesuerii Lesuerii (formally Physignathus Lesuerii)
Tal suited up and looking forward to the cool water

The canyon formation in Sheep Dip is never very deep, constricted or dark. It’s more a series of small cascades tumbling through a cliff lined gorge but it has some nice bits and is a lot of fun

Tal bridging out over the first little slippery dip


click for larger images

There are a lot of fun slides and little jumps and then this slightly larger jump. All the holes should be checked before taking a leap as they do have obstacles such as  rocks and logs you need to avoid. Today with the mid day sun over head it was hard to see to any depth so I down climbed each one to double check before Tallis slid or jumped.

click for larger images

Towards the end of the canyon is a larger cascade and even though it’s not vertical or over hung it’s very slippery and most people will need to abseil it. (very good scramblers may be able to go around it on a  high ledge to the true right then down a steep gully but I wouldn’t count on that)

Tal on rope
Tal on rope

The pool at the bottom is beautiful. It’s not that deep but it is home to some nice sized yabbies

Giant Spiny Crayfish, E Spinifer. Like Budgies they come in a range of colours. These Blue ones with the bright orange highlights are my favourites
Looking back up the falls

The canyon opens up a bit here but just down stream is a very pretty section. It’s not very narrow but the deeply overhung walls and dappled light is very nice indeed

click for larger images

And then you come to a deadend, or what seems like it. The creek drops down a dark tunnel and in front of you is a blank wall created by a massive fallen boulder. Presumably this is what Jamison considered to be the death trap as at first it looks like there is no way out.

But there is a secret passage.

Tal enters the nether world
Is that the mouth of an Evil clown? Is it the Bat signal? or is it just our way out?
The big cave up in the walls as the canyon opens out
Tal dwarfed by the scale of the cliff, contemplating a way out.

After a bit of route finding down stream a break in the cliffs is spotted the from there it is a relatively simply scramble up the hill to intersect the old logging trail along the ridge. The scrub on the way up wasn’t all that thick but as Tal pointed out every thing seemed to be sharp. Razor grass and tea tree. Legs will have a new coat of skin on them shortly…

Party Size: 2 both experienced

Time: 3.5hr car to car with a fair bit of photo phaffing.



A quick trip to The Dry Canyon


This canyon has many names including “Wolgan View” and “Nobles canyon” but because it is a canyon that is dry it is mostly known by the very descriptive title of “The Dry Canyon

It’s a super easy walk in, pretty much flat, has 2 very nice constrictions and gives access to nice views over the Wolgan valley. It tends to be underatd by serious canyoners looking for something with a little more challenge and adrenaline but I really like it. The play of light in the lower constriction is magical.

Anyhoo friends were looking for more easy bushwalks to show visitors down when they came to town and I suggested this one. Finding a weekend when we were all available was proving problematic so now day light saving has kicked in we settled on a quick afternoon trip after the kids finished school

The late spring afternoon light was glorious as we made our way along the entrance trail and we soon reached the upper constriction.

I love showing newbies through here. Inevitably they are amazed at the upper constriction and I can’t help having a little grin. This is just the entree.

Anyhoo it was a nice little walk for a Monday afternoon.











Party size 4

Time 1.5hr car to car with lots of photo phaffing and looking about