Bells Creek Jan 2008

Bell Creek Canyon. Blue Mountains. NSW.
Tuesday 8th January 2008.

It’s a bit hard to know how to write up our canyoning trip with Cait and Ali last week. It’s probably easier to let the pictures tell the story, with a few comments here and there. I’m planning on putting all the photos up on a webpage sometime, so these are just the ‘best of’. (OK, so there are quite a few – I can’t help myself!)

These were taken with our litte waterproof Pentax Optio W20… Taking photos in canyons is a bit of a challenge because of the water (and thus waterproofing issues) and the light contrasts. Some parts are so dark, but punctuated with shafts of bright sunlight streaming down, providing a bit much of a challenge for an auto focus camera. We are also still learning about the best setting to use in what situation, and also discovered that Cait’s method of carrying it while we were liloing (stuffed down the front of her wetsuit) caused the lens to fog up, and then we lost quite a few photos to some combination of the flash light bouncing off the fog, the steam, water droplets etc.

All the other times we’d done this canyon (and Marc had done it a few more times “BT” – ie. ‘Before Tracey’ )… we’d used two cars, doing a car shuffle so one is left at the start, several kilometres via road from where you walk out into civilisation and the car with the esky full of ice and cold beer!).. With that route we’d navigated our way mostly through untracked bush (but mostly downhill) till we hit a creek that is a tributary of Bell Creek.. and the log abseil (as you’ll see below.)

This year we didn’t have a second vehicle, so we followed a route in as described in one of the published canyoning guides. I’m here to say I’d rather do it the old way – as this walk in took us down into another canyon (DeFaurs) and back up the other side, over the hill, and navigating through the bush till we found our way down into the aforementioned tributary. No wonder the canyon tour groups now appear to be using our original way. (Ref. our attempt to do this canyon last year.)

The walk in alone took us 4 hours! So we had lunch (at 12.00) before wetsuiting up, and venturing into the canyon part of the trip. Both the tributary, and Bells itself, vary between very narrow enclosed sections – and Bell has deep dark pools requiring a lilo to navigate – occasionally opening up to several metres wide, bathed in sunlight, with sheer cliffs above. Other parts you need you need to trundle up and down, over and around huge boulders (and a couple of times we needed a handline to get down – one in particular where we once used to edge down a conveniently placed branch!)

Marc has done a Google Earth .kmz file of the trip, which, if you are so inclined and are into Google Earthing stuff, you can download from here.

So, let the photos tell the story…

Rest stop on the way in. I’m sure the girls wondered how the hell we were going to descend way down *there*. Even I was wondering, because our usual method seemed to take us down gradually.

Dunlop Volleys Rule OK.

The only shoe we would canyon in, and take our kids canyoning in. Why? You need some tyres with grip when you are walking on wet, slippery rocks.

Handline into DuFaur Creek canyon. I’d never done this particular descent before, ever, so I had even more butterflies in my stomach than I did already for the log handline (see later.) Plus I had extra butterflies watching the girls go down before me! Many butterflies.

As it turned out I did pretty well, earning myself a compliment: “You’ve still got it!” he said.

Then back up the other side. If I look a bit tired it’s after the adrenalin from the ‘narrow ledge’ where you climb out of DuFaur’s. Where Marc edged along, scrambled up, then dropped a handline down to the girls and me so we could navigate it more safely. Nothing like dangling your kids above a big drop for the nerves of a mother. (OK, so they weren’t dangling. It was just a very narrow bloody ledge!)

Yabby! More commonly blue, the ones you see down in this particular area of canyons are orange. Can only think that they are that colour to blend in with the rust coloured rock.

“The log” handline. Even though I’d successfully done this (again)’post-children’ a few years ago, I still always build it up in my mind to be harder than it is. You edge down the log, using friction as well as the handline as a brake… as Ali is doing in this photo… then about where she is, you have to flip over onto your tummy, hugging the log, then stretch your right leg out to a (convenient) little groove.. then heave yourself across. (With a bit of help from Marc.) Needless to say, seeing Ali has the shortest legs, it was the biggest challenge for her!

Even the parts which open out are awesomely beautiful.

The liloing part.. which is awesome. Some parts are so narrow you have to tip the end of the lilo sideways, and push yourself through…

Sometimes it’s quicker paddling backwards. The downside is you can’t see where you’re going so easily!

(You know, we once did this canyon at night!… though as I did it this time I was quite in awe that I had. We had headlamps (though Marc forgot his, and had to use a penlight in his mouth!). In this stretch when you turned the lights off, the glowworms were spectacular!)

The chosen ones?

Finally, the last stretch … after joining the Wollangambe River. Part liloing, part walking through shallower pools, up and over slippery rocks etc.

This was about 6pm! We then had to get out of our wetsuits, deflate the lilos, pack them both (wet, and thus heavier!) into our packs, and walk back ‘up’ to the car. Fortunately a shorter trip than the walk in. It took us about an hour, making the whole day close enough to 12 hours.

Yep, we were tired little vegemites! (Cait is looking a bit weary there isn’t she?…) Although I have been more stuffed on other walks out of canyons. Very proud of the girls! And myself actually.. because I’ve still got it, and still love it, at 45!

And Marc has just reminded me that one of the best parts was that we didn’t see another person ALL DAY!!


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