Arthurs Canyon (Blue Mtns NP, Australia)

Party: Mum and I

After two weeks stuck in the Park Royal in Darling Harbour, even the air in the CBD smelt fresh. We ran a few errands, visiting R&R on the way home. We arrived well after dark. I was disappointing to discover I’d left not only my puffy in the hotel room, but also my expensive Arcteryx hard shell. Due to COVID, there seemed no chance of getting it back; everything left in the room was to be destroyed… expect of course the pillows, blankets, mattress, carpet… it didn’t really make sense.

Despite wanting to reacquaint myself with the Australian bush, a day at home was very welcome. We helped Nam pack some of her things into the box trailer and Jimmy headed off with her to move into new house before resuming work.
Mum and I spent the day at home sorting out things. My room was both foreign and familiar. Even the smells in the house put me off. Only two of the rooms smelt like home. It was a little surprising to me that smell was so important.
Other things put me off too. The housing estate that had popped up above us as well as the fact that there seemed more unfinished projects than ever.

That night we packed and I quickly planned out a route for us. I’d picked Arthurs canyon which runs into the Bungleboori from Boiler Ridge. It’d be a full day considering how short the days were. But I wanted to see what the fires had done and the trip offered a good mix of walking, canyoning and a couple of climbs. The GEEBAM data showed a mix of canopy damage, so I hoped there’d be some untouched bush too. We planned to leave at sunrise and hopefully we’d be back at the car before dark.

In the morning we scraped the ice off the windows (it was about -5C), getting diesel and dropping in at Woolies to get some peanut butter. After so long in Latin America where it was comparatively very expensive I was craving it.
Continuing along the Bells Line of Road we turned of at Zig Zag and were soon zipping along the Yarramun Firetrail, Mum’s Land Cruiser right at home. We parked at an unmarked spot where a minor trail was obscured by lack of use, several trees barring cars from easy access. Shouldering our packs we continued on foot. The FT actually cleared up making us think that maybe it would have been worth driving a little further, but it’d probably be just as fast as working anyway.
Pausing briefly at a lookout to admire the pagodas and unburnt valley before us, we soon continued on our way. The FT terminated at a saddle, but a faint track continued up the ridge on the other side. It continued intermittently along a large flat, small xanthorrhoea dotted the open landscape some recovering drumsticks the only real colour. After leading us astray down a ridge, we contoured back to cross a second saddle. A third soon followed with a nice little chute meaning we could avoid any climbing. There were a couple of overhangs suitable for camping. One had a wombat hold disappearing beneath the sandstone. Some scat standing atop a small rock looked quite fresh and we hoped it had survived the fires in its cool burrow.
Lunching atop a small pagoda on our drop-in ridge, we admired our surroundings. Much of the bush had survived the fires protected by the pagodas, and more of the vegetation around Bungleboori Ck looked in great shape. Though other sections we had passed higher on the ridges looked completely gutted.
Dropping down into the ck we found it running. Mum described the smell as rancid, but to me it was strangely comforting. The smell of Australian canyons.

Following the creek downwards, some ferny side valleys tempted exploration, but with the short winter days we didn’t have time. Wallaby tracks and those of a marsupial were promising sings that some wildlife had survived the fires.
The ck dropped once before dropping more steeply forcing us to climb down over gigantic boulders. Downclimng next to a melted seatbelt anchor I peered down a drop at a large clear pool. This was our first abseil. I picked a tree that should see us through and waited for mum to join me. Once she’d arrived we built a new anchor and a dropped down, swinging back through the waterfall once before finding purchase on a second attempt at a ledge.

Another creek joined, the water subterranean for a time as the creek continued to drop. The canyon was wide and treed; not a slot canyon at all.
Soon however we were looking down into a dark, sinuous slot. It looked great! I went first picking a line that avoided the water. Stepping over the lip of a second waterfall I dropped down to a ledge and pressing myself in close to the rock face I traversed across, soon disconnecting from the rope to slide down into the bottom of the canyon. Mum followed. I missed this.

Carefully negotiating a pool we climbed down a log into a short tunnel, light just visible at the far side. I jumped the stream finding a log for Mum that would bridge the gap. Using it she only got one wet foot.
The canyon quickly opened, dropping down to the Bungleboori where we rested briefly to fill our water-bottles. Continuing downstream the canyon walls were quite steep and an exit looked unlikely. But after a couple hundred metres an escape presented itself and I figured I’d give it a crack. It overly difficult, but it was hard to trust anything. Most things I touched were loose and dropped down below me. I thought about dropping down and searching further downstream, but I knew I could get up if I focused. Clearing my mind I focused on my limbs carefully testing each hand and foothold several times before trusting it, and even then, not completely.
Up the first pitch I found a solid tree and using a tensionless hitch attached our rope to it. Routing it around some smaller saplings I dropped the end down for mum, tying in some loops at the more difficult spots.
Once she was up, I led the second more technical pitch, leaving my pack behind for this one. Move vertical it was easy for me to hoist our packs up and before we knew it we were on a flat promontory. On the other side another canyon seemed to be hidden below. So many places to explore!

We followed the ridge upwards, soon dropping down to cross the valley to the ridge we’d dropped in on. Both starving, we were happy to reach the familiar pagoda we lunched at on the way in. Again we rested atop it, enjoying the views as well as a sandwich and orange. Collecting the things we cached there we pressed on despite wanting to stay a while longer. It would be dark in a few hours. We need to at least make it to the firetrail.
Occasionally noting the tread of our shoes in the dirt I led us back along the ridge tops. The strange hum I’d been able to hear all day must be the nearby mine, and another aeroplane flew over us. The new flight patterns must be in effect. A shame.
Our route was more efficient, but it took a similar amount of time as we moved slower, but eventually we made it to the large flat area. The sun turning the skyline a bright pink-orange, the light streamed through the trees we knew we were close. By the time we made it to the FT daylight was quickly failing. Once we were close I pushed on at a faster pace finding the car where we’d left it. I pulled it out onto the road letting the engine warm. Mum quickly arrived.
Mum drove us back to Lithgow and we picked up some food before heading home. We’d be abseiling at Katoomba tomorrow.

Description

This canyon is very short and can be visited in a single moderately long day by walking along Boiler Ridge. The name came about because the pagodas along the access ridge were considered to look like the Western Arthurs in Tasmania.
There are a couple of abseils. One 30 m rope is adequate, but a 40m is preferable if you want to get creative and stay (mostly) dry. Exit by rockclimbing (grade ~9) out of Bungleboori Creek at GR 504005 to the south, back onto Boiler Ridge (or go a bit further and exit up Scatters Canyon, to the north).

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