Recollections Of My Years Bushwalking With SUBW

by Dick Donaghey

My years with SUBW from 1960-65 have given me lasting memories of beaut walks in the Blue Mountains and further afield in NSW, Qld, the Australian and New Zealand Alps and of course my beloved Tasmania where I now live.

My first club trip was in Easter 1960 – a hard epic from Kanangra Walls to Mt Colong and Yerranderie and back. I started out as a Uni Rover but was converted to SUBW by Don Westerway and others. On walks in the 60’s we had some great campfires where we swapped yarns, had philosophical debates and dried out wet clothes and sleeping bags. I remember the aromatic smells of the Blue Mountains bush – the eucalyptus, the tea-tree, boronias and especially the mint bushes on the Kanangra ridges. I have visions of wattles in full bloom in August on the Mt Caley ridges and down the Budawangs. 1960 was my initiation into abseiling and canyoneering. How could I forget my first canyon – an epic pioneering 4 day trip in October down Thunder Canyon and up My Hay to Leura with Colin Oloman and Gerry O’Byrne. Colin abseiled first into the canyon and down into a dark, cold pool. Gerry was about to follow when I said “Hang on! It’s my turn next. You have to give me some abseiling tips”. We swam and waded down to the junction of Thunder and Claustral Canyons and it was awe-inspiring to be the first people to wade up the narrow Claustral slot and down Thunder. I was exhausted on our last swim and thanks to Gerry and Colin I survived to live another day.

It rained on and off the whole trip and I remember on the eve of the third day we ascended Mt Hay, watched a glorious sunset over the Grose valley, ate some soggy rice and were forced to spend a night out on Mt Hay because it was no place to wander about in the dark.

Another great walk I did in 1960 was a 3 day trip to Mt Pigeonhouse and the Castle in the Budawangs. After a long scrub-bash up to the Castle, John ‘Cyril’ Sutton and I ascended to the top in late afternoon. We then had to the camp in the dark and I discovered you could navigate by following creeks downhill.

To round off 1960 we did more canyons and then in December I did a classic trip with Colin Oloman and Elizabeth Scott into Bungleboori. We slept on the hard boards of the Clarence railway station and then next morning we navigated through the maze of unique sandstone landforms along the Bungleboori ridge. Over the next 2 days we cut across the gorges of theYarramun and Wollongambe Creeks to Mt Wilson.

Tasmania always had a special appeal. One of the highlights was the ascent of Federation Peak in February 1963 in the snow and then down the Old River to Melaleuca with Gerry O’Byrne.

One of my last club walks was a winter trip into Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair with Wyn Jones and Jeff Boyd in 1965. We foolishly carried 90lb packs that included snow and ice climbing gear and a pressure cooker. We stayed in some grand old huts like Du Cane and Pine Valley and in an old dilapidated pub at Rosebery.

My years with SUBW were very special. The leadership of Colin Oloman and others was inspirational. Walks with SUBW gave me the bush skills and the confidence to do solo ascents of high mountains in Papua New Guinea and prepared me for my most epic wilderness adventure. This was a first traverse of 13,000 ft Mt Victoria, Owen Stanley Range, in 17 days in 1969 with my spouse Carolyn.

For many years Carolyn and I only did family walks, but recently we have done extended walks in South-West Tassie like Precipitous Bluff, a traverse of the Du Cane and Eldon Ranges and some high altitude trekking in Nepal. To this day I still have a love for adventure, travel and birding in distant places like Nepal, Indonesia and New Guinea. I dream of climbing in Peru, but like returning to my favourite haunts again and again.