25th September 2004
Leaving home at about 5.30pm on Friday afternoon, it wasnÕt long before I was at Bathurst sitting down to one of my brother-in-lawÕs banquets, (sate chops and rice this time). We chatted for a while about what could go wrong the next day and left plans for emergency rescue with another brother-in-law at Bathurst.
We reached Newnes about 8.10am, surprised to find no water in the Little Capertee Creek crossing, and were on our way about ten minutes later. This was a first. We had never tried a canyon that we knew nothing about before.
After the now familiar, but still demanding, climb up the Pipeline Track, under the weight of very heavy packs, we finally reached the top. We had packed plenty of rope (2 x 60m, 1 x 30m, 1 x 20m and several short lengths for scrambling and slings). We also carried wet suits, (which werenÕt needed as the deepest pool was only knee deep), warm clothes, food, water, first aid, torches, cameras, harnesses and setup gear etc. The weight was certainly felt on the awkward abseils that were to follow.
We also took a GPS for the first time, to see how reliable and accurate it was. I had entered the route before leaving and the first 5 or 6 waypoints were all within 25m. After we left the Starlight Canyon turnoff, however, it suddenly miscalculated its position by about 2km to the west. It may have been the cloud cover or the tree canopy, whatever it was it was useless after that Š very disappointing.
Surprisingly, the Wolgan Valley can be seen in the distance at the start of the first abseil. The canyon looks deceptively short from here and we thought there might only be one or two abseils but we were soon to be surprised. It was short, but it took us quite a long time.
The first and second abseils can be done as one (35-40m followed by a 10-15m drop down a very narrow, wedge-shaped slot). We set up, had a snack and abseiled down the first 40m and then 10m into the slot.
Unfortunately on the pull-down, the rope tangled around a branch that was at the bottom of the first drop. We thought we had cleared it but somehow the rope found it. As we pulled harder, the branch dragged along the ground to the top of the slot and jammed. Despite our best efforts, we couldnÕt release it. Finally, I decided I would have to prussik up to the top to release it. Cautiously, I prussiked as smoothly as I could towards the top. Just as I neared the top, the rope slipped slightly. That is NOT a nice feeling. I jammed my feet against the walls of the slot and climbed the last metre to the top.
I untangled the rope, set up on a substantial tree and abseiled back down the slot Š much easier without a pack! We finally left the first abseil at 12.50pm!! In hindsight, I would do this abseil in two stages next time. Alternatively, the narrow slot could be avoided by scrambling about 20m around to the right at the top of the first abseil and dropping straight down into the canyon, but it was an interesting challenge.
Soon after, there is a short hand-over-hand scramble from a rotten stump into the creek bed. Almost immediately, there is a short (5m) but awkward abseil from a sling around a tree in the creek.
The next abseil is a challenge. The anchor is a chockstone at the top of a deep (30m) slot, onto a second chockstone which is not directly under the rope. (The first one down must be careful not to drop under this chockstone as the rope needs to go over the top). During the pull down, we discovered we could have used a 60m rope doubled for this one. The canyon winds around to the right and the bottom of this abseil is not visible from the top.
After a short walk, you soon reach the next two abseils. Each is only about 5m. The first can be done from a casuarina log jammed across the top of the abseil.
The second is from a small log wedged in the sand at the back of a large rock. The start is a little difficult as you scramble over the rock.
The last abseil is 35m, nearly entirely overhung, from a sling high up in a tree about 5m back from the top. This one CANÕT be done with one 60m rope. (A 5m drop off into a knee deep pool is not recommended). Be careful the rope doesnÕt jam in two grooves at the top. We used a small log to help keep the rope out of these. The bottom of this abseil is right at the end of the canyon, above the Wolgan River. As it was getting late, we chose to scramble straight down the hill to the river and up the other side to the fire trail, which is conveniently very close to the river at this point. It is probably just as easy to follow th
e cliff line around to the Pipeline Track but we didnÕt want to risk it late in the day.
After a long but very satisfying 10 hour day, we were very glad to see the campsite in daylight. With a couple of others to share what would be a lighter load next time and with some experience of the canyon, IÕm sure we could cut hours of this trip. Anyhow, we had some problems, overcame them all and finished in daylight Š so we were happy. It was a new experience doing a canyon that we knew nothing about beforehand and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.