South Wolgan Exploratory Canyoning - Part 1 (1974 - 76)

All photos © David Noble. They cannot be used for any purpose without permission.

1974 - November 2-3

NPA Bushwalk - The route - Galah Mountain - ridge north to Rocky Creek, Rocky Creek to Wolgan River, Wolgan River to Annie Rowan Creek, Up a small tributary creek of Annie Rowan Creek - walk back to Mt Cameron Track via ridge.

Ted Daniels was the leader of this walk - he had been into the area quite a bit before. For many of us on the walk it was out first trip into this country south of the Wolgan.

Above - North of Galah Mountain. Some of the party - Vince Murtagh, Dave Kelly, Alex Pryma, Ted Daniels, Joe Mack, Tom Williams is bending down. Also present were Tom Sinclair and John Alexander.

Above - Looking down into the magnificent gorge of Rocky Creek. A few years later we would find Contradiction Canyon coming in on the far centre.

Above - Complex rugged country. Rocky Creek gorge is on the right and then cuts through the middle ridge to join the Wolgan on the distant left. The gully on the centre right - has formed along a joint line - the same one that provides the exit gully for Heart Attack Canyon. Both are easy walk up passes. Further north, the joint line continues across the Wolgan.

After looking at this view. Ted suggested we look at something on the other side of our ridge. He wanted to know if it was a canyon.

Above - We looked down and saw this slot. Both Tom Williams and myself confirmed that it was indeed a canyon.

This was our first view of what later became known as Heart Attack Canyon.

Inverse Canyon

We then scrambled down a great pass at the end of the ridge and followed Rocky Creek down to the Wolgan and then walked down the Wolgan to camp on large flats at Annie Rowan Creek. The next morning we tried to climb up a small creek to the west. Our passage was barred by a lower waterfall - but we soon managed to scramble around it. Ted had looked in detail at this creek using air photos and a stereo viewer and he was of the opinion that it would then be an easy walk up creek. However, it soon went into a nice section of canyon. We managed to scramble all the way through this canyon - so we called it "Inverse Canyon" since we had gone up it rather than the more common way of doing canyons.

Above - Alex Pryma in Inverse Canyon

Above - Looking back down at a slot we had just scrambled up in Inverse Canyon

Above - Alex in Inverse Canyon

Above - Some of the party in Inverse Canyon

Above - After we climbed out of the canyon we had fine views of the nearby cliffs and valleys. here we look over to Bull Ring Creek - the subject of later exploration.

1976 - January 3 - Heart Attack Canyon

This was when the canyon was first done. I had organised the trip - but had to drop out at last minute because of an injured knee. Not long after I went on a season of bushwalking in Tasmania - and the weekend after I came back - I did Heart Attack canyon with Keith Maxwell.

1976 - February - Heart Attack Canyon

Above - Keith Maxwell on the dramatic first abseil (of the lower constriction) of Heart Attack Canyon.

The canyon had first been done as a weekend trip. Myself and Keith did the trip as a daytrip - and exited by the now usual exit gully.

Above - A more recent picture of Gordon Thompson on the first abseil.

1976 - October 23 - Surefire Canyon

The next weekend after the first descent of Heart Attack Canyon we set off to explore other creeks in the area - and on the way up the mountains - we (Ian Hickson, Ross Bradstock,Chris Cosgrove and myself) stopped to pick up Tom Williams. As he got into the car he said he knew where there was a "Surefire Canyon" - but bad weather and car mechanical problems prevented us getting out far beyond Clarence.

On the day after I did Heart Attack Canyon - Keith had gone back to town, while I camped up in the area and did a solo reconnaissance of Surefire Canyon. I walked out to the top cliffline above the junction of the South and West branches. Again - like Heart Attack I could see a promising slot. Some friends were out in the area and I managed to get a lift back with them.

It was not until October that we had the chance to explore the creek - and we found a great canyon. The party was a mixed one - Tom Williams from Springwood Bushwalking Club, Ted Daniels from the NPA, Tony Haigh from the Kameruka Bushwalking Club and myself.

Above - Tom on the first abseil

Above - Tom at the bottom of the second abseil

Above - Ted on the second abseil

Above - Tom watches while Ted finishes the second abseil. Notice we all have small weekend packs. These were waterproofed with garbage bags.

Above - Tony further down the canyon

Above - Tom and Tony - at the junction with the west branch.

On early trips there were four abseil in Surefire Canyon. The last one has now gone - due to the movement of a log.

Above - Tom and Tony in the canyon

Above - Tom and Tony in the canyon.

Later that afternoon - we explored downstream (and there was a major partial solar eclipse - a total eclipse in Victoria) and camped at the Rocky Creek/Heart Attack junction on a magnificent grassy flat. On the Sunday - we explored Ball Race Canyon (Ted had partly explored this creek before) and exited via a pass directly onto the ridge between Surefire and Heart Attack canyons.

1976 October 30-31 - Exploration of Annie Rowan Creek and Tributaries

On the Saturday, Keith Maxwell, Rose Adams and myself explored a tributary of Annie Rowan Creek and found Disappointment Canyon. This had a spectacular start - but soon ended when it joined another branch.

Above - The abseil into Disappointment Canyon

Above - We had to use combined tactics (ie standing on people's shoulders, climbing up and then putting a rope down) to get up a pass out of Annie Rowan Creek back onto Mt Cameron. Here is Keith looking back down the pass towards the Wolgan.

On the Sunday - I was joined by Ted Daniels and Chris Cosgrove - and we explored another tributary - without finding any canyon.

1976 - November 20 - 21 - Bull Ring Creek - Annie Rowan Creek Tributary

Above - Martin abseiling in Bull Ring Creek

A few weekends later (20-21 Nov), Martin Darling and Myself explored Bull Ring Creek and another Annie Rowan tributary - finding sections of canyon in each creek.

Above - Martin on the way up the Annie Rowan Creek tributary

Above - Martin in the Annie Rowan Creek tributary

Above - Martin on the way up the Annie Rowan Creek tributary

Above - Martin on the way up the Annie Rowan Creek tributary

1976 - December 4 - Rocky Creek Canyon

On the Saturday of this weekend - Bob Sault (KBC), Nick Bendelli, Dave Firman (both UNSW Bushwalkers) and myself set off to explore Rocky Creek from high up. Early in the day we found a section of canyon where the creek passed through pagodas. This section (now called "Sheep Dip Canyon") had a 20m abseil. Near the end of the day we found the major constriction of Rocky Creek Canyon.

Above - Nick Bendelli at the start of Rocky Creek Canyon

Above - Dave Firman looks down the canyon

Above - Bob Sault and Nick Bendelli in the canyon

Bob and myself went all the way through Rocky Creek Canyon and then explored a few hundred metres up Budgary Creek hoping to find more canyon (without luck). We then went back through Rocky Creek Canyon and exited via the ridge between the creek and the now standard entrance gully. We then walked back to our campsite at Barcoo Swamp. The next day we did a repeat descent of Surefire Canyon.

1976 - December 5 - Surefire Canyon

Above - Bob Sault on the first abseil of Surefire Canyon

Not too far past this we found the remains of a Koala that had fallen into the canyon.

Above - Bob on the second abseil

Above - Nick above the second abseil

Above - Nick (left crouching - getting on the rope), Dave Firman and Bob above the third abseil

Above - Looking down at Nick at the bottom of the third abseil.

On this trip we managed to exit the canyon via the Western Branch. There was a long thin log sticking up the final waterfall. Nick attached a prussik sling to the log and climbed up - and then put a rope down for us. We then climbed up to the northern cliffline and soon found a steep, scrambling pass up that and back out along the ridge.

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