Coachwood/Rocky Creek/Twister Canyons – Saturday 17th - Sunday 18th February 2007

Coachwood Photos Rocky Creek Photos Twister Photos

Mick O’Neill, Paul O'Neill, Nadine Lucas and Karen Buchegger

Having a rare Friday off work, coinciding with a visit from my brother Paul from the Northern territory, I grabbed the chance to go canyoning. Unfortunately Michael was unable to join us this time so I asked Nadine if she would be interested - silly question! Somehow we also ended up with a stowaway, Karen, who thought she would substitute for her husband. Three of us headed off from Coolamon at lunchtime on Friday, to meet Paul at Bathurst at 4pm.

As we arrived at Bathurst, a spectacular thunderstorm hit and a quick check of the radar confirmed that it was not just an isolated storm. Although disappointed, we decided to stay the night in Bathurst and head off early in the morning. It turned out to be a good decision as the day broke with clear sunny skies and a pass over of the Mia space station at about 6.10am. Full of enthusiasm and anticipation, we packed and set off to Rocky Creek Car Park.

After reorganising packs and negotiating who would carry what, we checked our map and headed off north along a faint track. Never having done Coachwood before, we took three ropes: a 64m, 34m and 28m. The longer two were new 10mm ropes and the third was 9mm. We also took a gps to record our walk and as a backup if needed.

We left the carpark, GR 470(91)136(06) from the gps, just after 9.30am DST. The track quickly disappeared or we wandered off it, but we were navigating by the landform so it didn't worry us. We continued up and across the slope until we came across some large boulders. At this point we headed east, following the northern side of the ridge leading to HP973. Our target was 100m downstream from the creek junction at GR478140. We reached our entry point GR 478(43)140(34) after 30 minutes. A more direct route would probably save some time. We searched the vicinity for suitable entry points and anchors and settled on a mallee as an anchor about 6 - 7m from the edge of a rocky outcrop and a 17m drop. Care needs to be taken to avoid damaging the rope on the sharp edges but we had no problems. After clearing away all the dead twigs that could snag the rope on the pull down, I set up and Nadine was first to drop into Coachwood. She had a dance with a tree at the bottom but was soon down and on belay for the next abseiler. We finished this abseil at 11.15am. We had wasted quite a bit of time but weren't in any hurry until clouds started to build up above us. The next half an hour was a beautiful, easy stroll under the coachwoods followed by a climb down a small tree and a tricky slide down a large log and soon afterwards we reached the second abseil.

It was here, when we decided to put on our wetsuits, that I realised that mine was missing! During the reorganisation of gear just before we left, I had somehow left mine behind. For many people that wouldn't be much of a problem, but I get cold in a warm bath! Nadine, who swims happily in icy cold water, kindly insisted that I wear hers. Feeling a bit embarrassed but also worried about hypothermia, I reluctantly but very gratefully accepted her generous offer. The second abseil has two pitches that can be done as one and Karen chose this option. After some discussion, the rest of us thought it would be quicker to take the easy scramble around the ledges on the right and just abseil the second pitch.

The third abseil has a few options. While I was setting up around a solid coachwood, I noticed some slings through a hole below me, which might have been a better option. Once again, Karen was the guinea pig and it became obvious that the start was more difficult than it first looked, due to the awkward angle of the rock on the side. There is also a deep, narrow crevice just waiting to jamb the rope. After Karen was down, I redirected the rope around a second coachwood to avoid these problems. Karen, Paul and Nadine all argued over whose start was the most difficult but none of them was too bad. The next abseil follows immediately after.

The anchor for the fourth abseil is from slings tied in a crevice on the right and can just be seen from the top of the previous abseil. We finished this easy abseil down a waterfall at 2.30pm. This is the end of Coachwood and the start of the walk up Rocky Creek. (Rocky Creek Photos)

Rocky Creek

Nadine and I, who had both explored Rocky Creek before, were surprised to see the relatively high water level. Whether it was the high water level or fading memories, we couldn't recognise this section. From the end of Coachwood, it was a 30 minute wade, sometimes very deep, upstream to the Budgary Creek junction and the darker section of Rocky Creek Canyon. With very heavy, water-filled packs a couple of us struggled up Rocky Creek but loved every minute of it. It is a truly beautiful place and the slides and waterfalls add to the fun. The sunbeams are also a highlight. Nadine powered ahead without a wetsuit, only pausing to enjoy the odd patch of sunlight. The water was not as cold as I expected but a breeze soon cooled us down whenever we stopped for too long. Still feeling a bit guilty but grateful for the wetsuit, I did my best to keep up with Nadine whilst Paul and Karen brought up the rear. I think Karen found someone who could talk as much as her and even listen to what she said, so they were good company for each other.

The climb up the hill is steep but short and we were back at the car by 4.30pm. We had planned to do twister as well but decided it would be better to leave it until the morning before we go home. So we threw the wet gear into the Jackeroo and headed for our camp at Barcoo Swamp. The weather was perfect and we didn't even light a fire. After a good meal and a few refreshments we had an early night.

Twister

The next morning was fine and mild and we decided to do Twister before packing. We all jumped in the car, looking forward to a fun-filled canyon carrying very light packs. Unfortunately the trip didn't start well as I reversed straight into a tree! We weren't going to let this dampen our spirits and we drove off once again to Rocky Creek carpark. From here it is a very short walk to the start of Twister and we were soon enjoying the slides and splashes. On one longer slide, Paul slid off course and bruised a sensitive bone in his lower anatomy. He soldiered on, however, not letting us know just how badly it hurt. After several more slides and plunges into pools, we came to a 4m jump. I climbed down to check out the depth and gave the all clear to jump. Nadine, Paul and Karen decided they were all going to jump together, holding hands. They counted down and jumped - all except Karen who had an unannounced, last minute change of plan! Finally she mustered the courage and leaped into the pool, relieved to be down. After one final jump, the biggest of all, we could see the end of the canyon. Karen must have enjoyed the view from here, as she spent some time at the top before plunging into the deep pool below. This left a climb down a fixed rope to the end of the canyon which came too soon for all of us. (Twister Photos)

After several photos, we reluctantly headed off for the climb out. We met another group at the creek junction who had missed the track to Twister and had walked all the way down the exit track, only to have to turn around and climb back up. They weren't happy! After taking of our wetsuits and having a quick snack, we walked back to the car and drove to the camp. We all felt like relaxing at the camp and talking about our adventures but we needed to get back to our families so we wasted no time in packing and were soon on our way along the rough, pot-holed road to Lithgow, Bathurst and Coolamon.

For me, there is nothing like being in canyon country and sharing it with friends who love it just as much makes it even more memorable. Thanks to Paul, Nadine and Karen for another great trip and let's hope we can do it again some time.

Mick