Devil's Pinch Canyon
Paul & Mick O'Neill
Tuesday 15th January 2008
After a last minute check of the weather forecast, which looked almost perfect, we left Bathurst at 6.40am, stopped for fuel and arrived at Newnes at 8am. It was a bit cool and some light drizzle was falling but we were happy with that as it would make the climb up Pipeline Track a bit easier.
We headed off at 8.10am and after about 45 minutes, we stopped for a snack and a drink at the first lookout, just before the steepest part of the climb and we reached the top at 9.20am. We were greeted by a large diamond python with a large bulge in its mid section. After some photos of the python, we headed out to the pagoda lookout as I was keen to show Paul the spectacular view. Unfortunately most of the valley was still full of fog, so I had to describe to him what he would have seen. Anyhow it was a bit of a pay back for a walk he took me on once along Narrow Neck to Clear Hill. I may as well have been in a room with white walls and a white ceiling that day. He spent the whole day describing what a spectacular view it would have been without the fog.
We were soon back at the track and headed for the saddle where we left the Glen Davis track and headed up the knoll to the East. From the top we followed a less distinct track through rain drenched vegetation and countless spider webs north, then north-east, then east, then south-east around a knoll to a slight gully where the track seems to divide and both branches head in a more easterly direction than we wanted to go, so we decided to leave the track and continue south. We soon found ourselves on the western side of what we assumed to be the watershed for Devil's Pinch Canyon. At this point we found a slight gully leading east down into the creek, so we scrambled down. As it turned out, we probably entered a bit earlier than we should have but it just meant a bit more scrub bashing before we reached the first abseil.
When we arrived at the first abseil at 10.15am, we weren't sure if the small tree on the right was the anchor for the 25m abseil or just another anchor for one of the short alternative abseils. From the top, only part of the abseil is visible and it looks like it ends in a shallow pool only about 15m below. So I decided to climb up through the scrub on the right, with some difficulty, in search of the anchor tree for the 25m abseil. Of course I didn't find it as it was the tree we had already found. On my return we decided that we had wasted enough time already and we would use the tree we had found. When I was gearing up, the multipurpose tool I had on my belt slid off and dropped into the slot upstream and unreachable from our intended abseil. Very annoyed, but thinking that it might be needed at some time on our trip, I set up another abseil from a small tree and abseiled into the slot to retrieve it. Fortunately I was able to climb out without having to prussic. While I was down in the slot I had a good view of our abseil and discovered that it was in fact the longer Ò25m abseil from the ledge on the right.Ó This was some consolation for the 45 minutes we had already wasted searching and retrieving. The second stage of this abseil is very narrow and spectacular, through a beautifully carved slot. At the end of the abseil is a 5m climb down a wide groove, which we negotiated without much difficulty. We found it easier to take off our packs and pass them down.
This is soon followed by a short more open section and then a long, sustained, narrow slot section. It consists of a continuous series of slides, scrambles or short jumps into small pools and narrow trenches. Due to recent rain, the water was crystal clear and the moss on the walls was a brilliant green in the patches of sunlight that managed to penetrate the towering walls of the slot. At one stage, in a deep narrow trench, a large water dragon leapt from a ledge above us and splashed into the water between us as if it was launching an aerial attack on us. The water was not cold by canyon standards and we were very comfortable in it, although we were wearing thermal tops and wetsuits.
Eventually we reached the second abseil at 1pm. The anchor is a large tree about 10m back from the top of the waterfall, which was not much more than a trickle. I had walked to the base of this abseil from the Wolgan River on a previous trip so at this stage I knew how long we had to go. We had plenty of time so we decided to enjoy this spot in the sun and have lunch.
After clearing away some branches that could snag the rope on our pull down, we set up and abseiled the waterfall into the lower constriction. Part of it is overhung but it has an easy start over a large boulder. The waterfall splashed over us a little and the pool at the bottom was about waist deep. The wade through the very narrow, winding section after this was a chest deep. I have seen it completely dry and also a couple of metres deep before so it is very unpredictable.
The bottom section is an easy stroll through a narrow slot with towering sculptured walls. At the end of the canyon, there is a short scramble down to the final 50m abseil from a tree on the left. I had heard stories about this one and I was keen to find out just what the problems were. Nothing was obvious from the top, so we set up using 60m and 53m ropes and Paul lead the way down very cautiously. It only took him a few seconds to discover the first difficulty and that was the incredibly slippery, slimy rock at the beginning of the abseil. After a few metres, second difficulty emerged. On the abseiler's left, facing the cliff, there is a nasty, wedge-shaped slot with jaws just wide enough to allow a rope to squeeze through under force. To make it worse, it is formed in the edge of the overhang and directly in the natural line of the rope. Keeping to the right to avoid it proved almost impossible, as the rope would pull you towards it and your feet would just slide across the slimy rock. If you slip at this stage, where you are right on the edge of the overhang, the rope would drop straight into the waiting jaws and it would be very difficult to get it out. With good overhang technique, it is possible to straddle the slot, gently lower yourself under it and avoid wedging the rope.
The first section of the abseil is about 26m and at the bottom there is a large rock platform before the second section. There is an anchor here as well, so the drop could be done in two abseils. It also looks possible to scramble out from the halfway point if you needed to but I didn't try it. We measured the total drop at 48m. If you intend using 50m ropes, check their length as ropes can shrink up to 10% with use. Our rope lengths quoted are actual lengths after shrinkage.
After the abseil we scrambled down to the Wolgan and headed back to Newnes. On the way we had a short break and also did a bit of exploring for about 15 Ð 20 minutes. We arrived back at Newnes at 5.30pm, 9 hours 20 minutes after leaving the car. It was our first time through this canyon and we wasted quite a bit of time, so I'm sure we could do it a lot quicker next time without rushing.
What a great canyon Ð well worth the walk and short section of scrub bashing.