LOCATION: Wolgan/Capertee divide, Newnes, NSW
PARTICIPANTS: Ashley Burke, Tom Murtagh
INJURIES: Usual shin-bruising and scrub-scratches
PET PEEVES: That effing Pipeline track

After no small amount of disorganisation on my part, almost all the people who expressed an interest in this trip instead buggered off down to Canberra and spent the weekend discarding their favourite possessions into the greedy waters of the Murrumbidgee River. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say that the same rabid weather system that allowed the canoe clubbers to risk life and sacrifice (several) limbs on otherwise calm rivers gave us some cause for reflection as we sped along Bells Line on Friday night …

(around Mt Bell)

ASHLEY (peering through wall of rain thrashing the windscreen): If it’s forecast to rain this weekend, why are we going canyoning?

TOM: Oh, it’s not raining.


TOM: Ah, I mean it’s not raining in the Wolgan. I’ve been watching the radar on the BOM website all day.

(we drive past Bell, the storm gets worse, much worse … we consider the Festival at Mt Wilson and reckon they’re welcome to it)


ASHLEY: A computer told you that? Computers are stupid.

TOM: Maybe I was using it wrong, it’s been a while since I’ve used a computer. Oh well, maybe we can hang out at the Lithgow Maccas all weekend and learn how to use the Weather Rock.

(we drive through Wolgan Gap, the ground drops away, and we notice that there isn’t a single cloud in the sky. The stars have come out to play!)

BOM: Told you so.

HUEY: Just kidding, I’ll rain on you during the night anyway.

… which he did. Of course.

Up bright and early, we got away a bit after eight and surveyed the sorry scene at the main campground, which was playing host to a large gathering of bikies. It was pretty quiet. There were beardy dudes and ladies passed out on beer-soaked leather jackets and pants all over the place.

First off was Pipeline Canyon, an uncomplicated canyon which we knocked off in short order from the very top. It was a bit drizzly, which made everything somewhat slippery, but I was extremely pleased that since my last visit there’d been enough rain that all the manky, fetid pools of chilled anatomy-tightening water had been flushed out and replaced by clear, beautiful pools of anatomy-tightening chilled water. During the drought, this was the canyon whose deep arctic basins of evil slurry had inspired an unsavoury new definition for the term “turkey slapping”.

But no time now for etymology. The canyon was rapidly dispatched, and we exited right along the bottom of the cliffs, then up the Pipeline Track for the second time that day, and had lunch after abseiling into ___ Creek.

I say ___ Creek because I know how sensitive the issue of canyon nomenclature is in this august forum. This creek becomes a canyon commonly known as “Starlight Canyon”. An earlier-used name is “Newnes Canyon”. For this weekend, we standardised on “Amazing Wallaby Tunnel” because that is more fun. (see http://www.subw.org.au/archives/POR/Wallaby_Tunnel.html for THAT story)

So, choose whatever name you like best, and turn the page. *ding*

This was my first trip down ___ and it was just incredible. The abseil-in put the club’s “not quite 50m” rope to the test, and suddenly we were in a High Quality Canyon, which is always nice. We’d read about a party earlier in the year who’d gotten stuck at this point and had to gnaw their own legs off or get a lift out or something equally dramatic, so we left the rope in place, mostly-swam down the amazing, flooded, completely dark (except for the billions of glow-worms), constricted section, swam back, pulled down the rope, and then realised that we should probably leave the canyon at some stage, and swam the dark section a record-breaking third time. Okay, the really tight bit with the blockage wasn’t really much fun, but I took hundreds of photos of it and everyone agrees that it really is high-quality darkness.

Eventually we found some high-quality light in ___, too, and we made such great time out and down to the Wolgan that I completely forgave the canyon for infiltrating my drybag and getting the chocolate wet. We got into camp before six and settled back to the dulcet sounds of the bikies playing the best of the nineties cranked up to eleven until well after ten. WELL! We certainly weren’t going to take that sort of nonsense from a massive crowd of fridge-sized ZZ Top lookalikes, and decided on an aggressive strategy of limited cooperativeness were they to ask for canyoning tips. They didn’t, so I feel we won the day.

Got a lazy start on Sunday, and headed, up, the, Pipeline Track, AGAIN, because it’s just so freaking scenic and pleasant, and took a leisurely stroll through Devils Pinch Canyon. This, too, had been flushed out since my last visit and it really is a fantastic canyon, with all the twisty turny tall squeezy swimmy slidey stuff you get from the best. Ashley discovered the unwelcome fact that his camera had been overexposing the slide film (“Thirty seconds? Does that sound right to you? Hang on … it wants a thirty MINUTE exposure … maybe we should have lunch and come back.”), so in solidarity I snapped my tripod in half, lending a somewhat rakish angle to all the later photos.

As we left the canyon, the sun came out and it turned into a glorious day. Even better: the cicadas came out, and we were treated to a very compelling example of Darwinism in action. These thousands of cicadas were not only young and full of energy, but also WILY, and none of the little buggers would fly or land below an invisible 10-foot altitude floor: clearly the legacy of decades of abuse at the hands of bushwalkers returning to the Newnes Hotel. Our fates were intertwined, if we couldn’t catch one of those slippery little devils it wasn’t going to be for lack of trying.

So that was the weekend. It was great to do three really good canyons, and still get back to the fleshpots for an early Sunday dinner. Thanks Ashley.

A very few photos at: http://acl.arts.usyd.edu.au/~murtagh/newnes-200712/