Canyon Log
Wit Cieslik

The canyon log is my chronological account of the various canyon trips that I have been fortunate enough to partake, and in some cases, lead.

Sydney is blessed with an abundance of rugged bush land less than two hours drive away, and in this bush land lie some of the most pristine and delicate environments that can be found.
Visiting these places may require no more than a simple walk along a creek, or demand bush craft and navigation skills just to get there.

These trips are 'canyon' trips which involves starting high in the range and following a creek or stream as it carves it's way down to the river valley. The Kanangra canyons are generally fairly open and following these is an excersise in abseiling and scrambling. The beauty of this area are the panoramic views along the Kanangra Walls and valleys. The incredible ruggedness of the area.

Blue Mountains canyons like Claustral, cut deep into the sandstone below them and over time have worn channels and gutters, deep enough that direct sunlight never reaches the bottom. Walking and swimming through these is a magical tour through a ferny green wonderland. A visit to the lost planet.

I have kept these notes as a reminder to myself of the individual trips, as well as to provide 'some' useful information for following excursions, or to supply to others planning similar outings.

As I have been hap-hazardly adding pictures lately, these pages are now best viewed at 1024 x 768 !

Trip 16
Starlight Canyon
8th January Y2K
Sean and Ross

Length of trip : approx 14km
Elevation : approx 350m
Duration : 1 day
Rope required : 50m

(1) Ross arrived home from visiting his parents up north
(2) I couldn't make Sunday for a canyon trip with Geoff and Tove.
(3) The NZ trip is fast approaching ... time is running out

I hatch an evil plan. Knowing that Geoff and Tove are planning camping at Newnes to do Starlight Canyon on Sunday, I suggest (to Sean) that we make a day of it on Saterday.
Drive up, do the canyon, leave a card to let Geoff's crew know we were there, and drive back. !

Cunning huh !
I knew Rossco was kind of interested in doing something like this so, after climbing in the gym on friday night, eating pasta in Crows Nest and then talking Ross into coming along with us, (during the godfather part II), we started packing our stuff at about 02:00am, for a 06:00am getaway !

06:10 and we were on our way. The weather looked positive... Postivley dismal that is ! Light rain alternated with heavy rain, and the only consolation was that Sarlight is a dry canyon. (save for flash flooding, we should be OK)...
We made it to the camp ground at Newnes around 09:15, and to our surprise everything looked pretty dry. That is, it hadn't rained here for a day or two. The sky above could have gone either way though.

A good tip on the way is the Bakery at Richmond for breakfast consumables and lunchtime treats! (Watch out for the traffic lights though).

Looking up towards the start
The canyon starts way up over there !
If the track is marked ! Why isn't it on the map ?
The start of the 'unmarked' Pipeline Track
It was 09:30 as we walked along the track following the creek downstream. We knew we were the first people that way this morning, from the spider webs we kept removing from the trail as we went. Theorising as to where the famed 'Pipeline track' might start, we were pleasantly surprised by a large sign and a small set of stone steps marking it.
Next we theorised as to where the track might actually go, (as it's not marked on the topo's). Here we were surprised again ! Instead of following Petries Gully up as we imagined, it actually climbs up and further around the cliff and winds it's way into the next gully. As the going got steeper I got slower. Our next landmark was to be a lookout of some description. After a reasonable slog uphill I stopped for a breather and was surprsed to hear shouts from a group obviously coming up behind us!

Ross and I exchanged quick glances and began uphill again. Maybe 50m further on the trail ubruptly leveled out, and a small sign pointed the way to the lookout. Just then, a group of 10 or so peope charged up behind us and with barley a word, all trooped past maintaining their speed. Weird! (We never saw them again...Apparently as they passed Sean, he asked which canyon they were heading to, their reply ? An inscrutible "We may do a couple..." (They did Starlight ahead of us and left their fire place in the flat open section).
We spent a few minutes admiring the view from the lookout and managed to estimate where it was, on the map. there were some sensational rock walls on the other side of the valley!

From the notes, we were to walk another 0.5km along the Glen Davis track before turning off toward Starlight. I began counting paces and sure enough, at an estimated 0.49km we reached the saddle marking the first turn. Following Sean now, we skirted around the rocks to the east and picked up a footpad that was neither faint nor old. Checking our progress along the way was purley mechanical, the track did all the work. Devils Pinch canyon is access via an obvious turn off from the same track. (Freshly broken branches indicated that the group ahed of was, was in fact... ahead of us).

The creek started off as a pretty scrubby affair. Lots of leaf litter, dead logs, and no water. Occasionally we passed a soak which made us feel there was a creek beneath us, and soon we found the path sratching it's way up the right hand bank to avoid the pool mentioned in the guide. There are a couple of rocky traverses on the path here, but all have good hand and foot holds and the rock was dry (watch out for loose leaf litter). Eventually we dropped back into the gully which was now looking a little more like a canyon. The flat leaf littered floor was walled on both sides by steep rock walls about 8m high. A small canyon comes in from the left at this point. (but it is very small!)....

As we walked on, the canyon became more typical. The walls became taller, the moss became greener and thicker. The path winds back and forth down the creek, crossing on logs or stones, or sticking to the level ground where it exists.

At 12:30, some three hours after we started we stumbled onto the 1st abseil.

Sean and Ross above the 1st pitch
The 1st pitch (Sean and Ross)
This is an impressive place. Just where you least expect it, the gound open up an dsimply swallows the creek... and then continues on beyond. Looking down into the hole I could just make out the pebbly ground before a dark slot into which the creek was flowing. We could hear the water splashing it's way down below us, but the actual base of the drop was out of view. As I looped the rope down, Sean and Ross took up positions on the oposite side of the drop and whistled their amazement at the view presented.
The first abseil is straightforward. A good tree on the right hand side gives a solid belay with ample room below it for clipping on safely. The drop itself is a little slippery and very dark. It was difficult for me to see where to put my feet as I went from daylight into twilight.
Ross came down next. The photo should say it all. Ross's 1st abseil ever was a 25m drop with slippery overhanging edges down the side of a waterfall into a black hole ! ... Check out the grin !
Sean followed smartly and I re-packed the rope into it's bag as we would need it again for a while. Our canyon was now a very deep, dark and narrow slot. Not completley dark as I expected, and certaily no glow worms. i was feeling a little dissapointed as we carefully picked our way through the tangle of debris at our feet. One spot was full of recently deposited trees and folage which enticed a few comments as we passed by.
As quickly as it started, the slot opened up briefly and then, once again, closed up. This time swallowing us in complete darkness. The constriction here is amazing. About shoulder width for most of it, the roof is solid and seems at time to be about 10-15m high. The floor is flat soft sand and the walls are worn smooth and round and flowing. Chamber after chamber connected by a single twisty little passage (any played adventure?). he glow-worms are sensational. They actually give off enough light that we can almost see eachother in their green glow.

The first of the two drops gave a little trouble as I walked in to it with my pack on, and then couldn't easily reverse out to take it off. After struggling out of my pack straps, wriggling down the slot was no problem and a good tip here is ... don't put your pack back on again just yet. The next drop is just around the corner. (I'd just managed to get may pack back on and do it up as we walked when, you guessed it... the second drop!
At one point I couldn't fit through with my pack and had to resort to dropping to all fours and crawling underneath. The other guys just squeezed through. Not much further on I spied the grey of daylight from beyond and we stopped once more to take a last look at the constellations of glow-worms above us. In a moment of quiet I heard a strange noise ahead.
Not quite chirping, not quite squeaking, sort of chattering. BATS!

Just before the final opening, sound and smell advertised the presense of a large family of these furry little creatures all huddled together high up in the roof above us. With all three head lams shining on them, they were starting to get a bit agitated. The chattering and flapping was increasing, as were the number of little bodies becoming detached and swooping out over head. (we stopped shining our lights on them least we started an avalanche of wings and poo ).
The sun chose this moment to appear and the narrow confines of the canyon lit up green and damp. Continuing along we ambled out into a very wide section of canyon. Picturesque with tall trees, ferns and vines, white sandy beaches, mossy rocks and steep undercut walls. Many of the trees here have grown very tall to reach the sunlight. Barley a couple of handspans in diameter they reach 15-20m above us before a single branch sprouts. Some have clearly not been able to support their own weight in storms. Numerous stumps, snapped like matchsticks, dot the floor with their dead upper body lying further down the canyon, or caught up high, in a tangle of vines and branches. Some balancing precariously against the canyon rim like giant booby traps.

Sean and Ross enjoy a dry open stretch
A sunny open section

We rewarded ourselves at the top of the second abseil, with a bit of lunch (and left another card for Geoff and Tove), and I set the rope for the next abseil (a couple of times). My first throw was wild. Despite us all joking about 'not' getting the rope over the fallen tree suspended above the falls. I managed to do just that! To make matters worse I even managed to hook some obstacle on the other side, and for a minute, looked like I'd got the rope jammed. One good pull and back it snaked. My second throw ended up as a tangled mess below the teee, but still all at the top of the falls. "Bugger it !" I'll fix it on the way down.
Good thing too. I'f it had gone through, it seemed a good probability it would have wrapped itself over another tree trunk, unseen, below and some distance out from the water fall.
Lucky for me the others were laughing so much, no-one got a photo of the stuff up !
This 15m abseil goes down a slippery water fall with a slight overhang about two thirds of the way down. Again the pool was only ankle deep.
The rest of the trip down stream consisted of boulder hopping and sliding until we emerged onto flat land on the bank of the Wolgan.

Splashing up the river is delightful, although the soft river bottom made walking a little difficult. As soon as we could, we popped through the bush and landed on the old 4wd trail back to Newnes. Excellent views of all the cliff lines and 'big walls' being lit by a low western sun accompanied us back to the campground. A point of interest along the way back is the 'ruins walk'. This is a self guided tour through the ruins of the old shale oil cracking plant that used to exist here some 70 years ago. It's humbling to stand there and realise how much effort and toil went into building the site, and how completly nature has re-consumed what once was. It's also curious to think about what the river must have been like when the plant was operating. They used a lot of nasty staff back then and I'll bet there was little or no concerne for the environment at the time !

Sean descends the 2nd abseil
Sean on the 2nd pitch

With sun shining and blue sky we crossed the Capertee once more and arrived back at the car at 17:30 exactly. Dinner from the chicken shop in Lithgow and a drink at the Kurrajong pub and finaly ... sleep at home .... I can't help wondering where the other guys went though !

Geoff and Tove actually went and did Devils Pinch, thereby not seeing any of the cards we left !
Apparently the abseils were very good !