Hole In The Wall Canyon - 11th Dec 2005

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Kentley Mayer, Liam O'Neill and Mick O'Neill

We were all excited about this trip as none of us had done it before and Liam had only done Starlight Canyon prior to this one. The reports were promising and the tunnel section sounded really interesting. We were a bit concerned about how “tricky” the abseils might be, especially with Liam's lack of experience so we used a quick release setup on all abseils just in case. As it turned out noone had any problems. The starts were awkward but with care they were no problem.

We expected a long day so we were at the barrier and ready to go at 8.30am. I had entered the route on a gps beforehand and I was keen to see how well it worked. We headed off at 8.36am and bowling along solving the problems of the world when we realised we were heading south and dropping quickly in elevation which didn't correspond to our planned route. A quick look at the map confirmed that we had taken the first track to the left instead of the second. A great start. Feeling a little embarrassed, we quickly backtracked to the intersection and decided to take at least some notice of where we were going from now on. We hadn't seen Kentley for some time, so there was a lot to catch up on. Tragically, this was to be the last time we saw Kentley as he was killed in a rock climbing accident less than three weeks later. Liam was planning a trip to Africa and spent most of the trip discussing his plans with Kentley and drawing on his experiences in Africa. I'm sure he will treasure those moments forever.

Our little deviation cost us about 15 minutes and we reached the very indistinct loop in he road at 9.15am. The end of the old road was more obvious with a sign showing the walking track. We arrived there (GR496020) 4 minutes later. The weather was sunny and warm but we knew it would probably feel hot on the climb out. We followed the undulating track down and then up to the High Point 996 (GR501026) at 9.32am. The track heads easterly here, downhill for a while then starts to climb. Just after it climbs there is an obvious but narrower track heading NNE at GR 507026. We reached this intersection at 9.41. We had enough mobile reception here to send a message but not to talk – something to keep in mind in case of emergency.

From the intersection the track heads NNE along and down a spur to an obvious rocky outcrop where the Hole In The Wall entry track heads down into the gully. This is where the exit track rejoins the entry track. There is a small overhang which served as a good place to have a snack. We encountered two tiger snakes on the track just before this outcrop and were to find another on the walk out. About a week or so after our trip there was a well-documented rescue of someone who was bitten by a tiger snake in this area. The rocky outcrop is at GR513038and we were there at 10.08am, 1h 32min after leaving the barrier, including a 15 minute deviation. So it should have taken about 1h 15min to reach this point.

From the outcrop, we followed a track straight down the gully and followed it through the scrub along the watercourse until we reached what looked like the beginning of the first canyon section. It looked like a good place to get suited up so we did, (10.28am).

The walk down the first constriction is beautiful and has a challenging climb down or jump in a darkish section. We found it best to climb along a ledge on the left and jump into a narrow deep pool. It is possible to climb down here and back up if necessary but it involves a thorough stretch of the groin. After this, there is a lengthy walk down the creek which is OK but not spectacular by canyon standards.

We reached the magnificent first drop at 11.55am. The water was crystal clear, sparkling in the sunlight and had an aqua hue to it. The jump option was too inviting to pass up, so we plunged in one after the other.

The first 7m abseil was reached only a few minutes later at about 12pm. As I remember it had a bit of a tricky start, being slippery, but it wasn't too bad. After this there is a pleasant walk and scramble down the creek to the dark section. I found the easiest way to do the squeeze in the dark is to crawl through on the left then drag your pack through with your foot at first until you can get hold of it. As each person swims across, drag there packs through in a similar fashion before they crawl through. The water is extremely cold in the dark section, so don't let members of your party enter the water until the person in front is through the squeeze. We reached this section at about 12.50pm. (I don't have any notes or photos of the 50 minutes leading up to this and I am writing this several months afterwards, so my memory of this bit is not clear. The dark section and the spectacular glow worms were a highlight and I won't forget them.)

We reached the third abseil at 1pm. This is a spectacular drop (13m) into a well-like hole, finishing in shallow water. The colours and texture in the rock are spectacular in this last section of the canyon.

Twenty minutes later we were at the last drop, which can be abseiled or hand-over-handed. The canyon has a spectacular end as you are immediately greeted by the Bungleboori. Never having seen it before, we were all impressed with its beauty. It was a very enjoyable swim and wade upstream and around the sharp left bend to the exit track. We climbed out onto the welcoming rock platform for lunch with the friendly water dragons. We arrived at the exit at about 2 pm? and had a lengthy lunch.

We headed up the steep climb out at 3.05pm. It is very steep for a short time but soon levels out to an easier grade. We were back at the rocky outcrop at 3.30pm; the track intersection at GR507026 by 4pm; HP 996 ten minutes later; the old road at 4.20pm and back at the barrier at 4.48pm. In total the trip took us 8h 12min with a 15 minute detour.

It is a great canyon, well worth the walk in and out. It will always be a special trip for me, having shared it with my son Liam and my brother-in-law and great mate Kentley, who we miss so much.

Mick O'Neill

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