Suboir Canyon (Blue Mtns, Australia)

Party: Michael Shanks, Ruby Stephens, Uyen Nhan Thai, Shania Rodgers, Lisa Ryan, Kristen Rhodes-Hasler, CALVIN LIM, and I
Felix Photos:

After running a bunch of trips not really aimed at people wanting an easier day out (without the added hassle of rope), I thought it about time to put something up a little more open to all. I’d explored much of Yarramun and its tributaries but had entirely neglected the Dumbano catchment until very recently. I’d known for a long time about some canyon in the headwaters dubbed Suboir Canyon (‘Suboir’ is a phonetic rendering of SUBW), and had been meaning to visit for a long time.

«In the early 60’s there were many walks into the Bungleboori area, and Dumbano and Yarramun canyons were explored.» «[Suboir Canyon] was visited on the 30th March 1962, but it was not until 19-20th August 1995 that it was given the name Suboir Canyon» [though I read something else that said they were named in the 60s. Not sure. Anyone know?]. It is also known as the Dumbano Dungeons by the Kameruks who explored the area in the 70’s. Dumbano Tunnels is a more recent name, though there aren’t really any tunnels as I’d initially thought.

Recruiting a party, we organised a day and transport. Unfortunately the day before heading out, Dalina one of our drivers had to pull out. That put a spanner in the works! More emails went back and forth… Lisa and Uyen would now catch the train to Lithgow, but we pushed the departure time back to give them a more respectable morning hour.

I collected Lisa and Uyen from the station and we met the others at the historic Zig Zag Railway, which will hopefully reopen despite numerous setbacks of fire and vandalism. Ruby’s car and Michael motorbike (Michael had joined us last minute) were already waiting. The train had been late.
We drove out onto the Newnes Plateau soon veering off onto another firetrail where we left Ruby’s car. I’d borrowed my Mum’s 4WD for the trip and I went a little faster than normal through the puddles thinking it’d be a novel experience for many in the car. Michael fared well on his motorbike, though it wasn’t really made for dirt roads and we were soon in the little pullout I’d used with Mum on a trip a couple of weeks earlier.

Looking over the topo map one last time and outlining the route we planned to take, we set of down the firetrail reaching a high point with good views over the Bungleboori some time later. Continuing out along Boiler Ridge, we tried identifying the regenerating flora and paused occasionally to look at birds and ants.

I’d hoped to drop in right into SUBW Canyon, but in the end we went for the safer route of dropping in further downstream. All in all it was pretty easy walking, though the going was harder once we began to wonder upstream. At some point it struck me that I probably didn’t mention that the trip would be mostly off track with some bushbashing… but everyone in the group seemed to be coping well.

The steep walls remained quite far apart for a time, but it was still nice. In one spot the walls had fallen creating a natural dam. Ash from the fires pooled here, a small drain hole where the water went subterranean. Passing under an impressive roof of sandstone the creek suddenly became a narrow slot. I had encouraged everyone to find their own routes through the bush, and now when suggesting those who hadn’t been in a slot canyon before should lead, there was only a little hesitation. Soon everyone was racing ahead, admiring this special place, spirits high despite wet feet.

We paused at an impressive canyon juncture. Quite a rare spot. Turning up the tributary canyon, we quickly reached a large overhang carved out where the creek did a turn in the shape of a horseshoe. Snacking on the dry ground surround by tree ferns we admired our surrounds trying to take it all in.

Continuing upstream the pools got deeper, some ppl getting wet to the knees others trying to keep dry by stemming over the pools. Climbing over a log jammed into the canyon, we entered the sunlight; very welcome for those who had been a little cold. (I scouted a connection here to the main creek; a simple up and over). Continuing a little further, we sat up on a pagoda for a time before heading back the way we’d come; pausing again in the overhang.

Taking the other branch of the canyon we continued up Dumbano the slot quickly ending. We passed beneath a giant boulder, looped up through an old section of canyon, and negotiated a large rockpile to again rest next to an overhang with a small fire circle.

Soon we descried the swamp we spotted when dropping into the creek. We discussed what route to take back but decided to stick with the original plan of heading up to the nearby firetrail. We walked along the swamp for a time finding one of the PVC pipes with an instrument to monitor the water (it was quite melted). And then veered up to the firetrail which linked up with the another that we followed back to the car and motorbike.

Walking along beside the swampland

We drove (and rode) back to where we’d left Ruby’s car, and soon parted ways. I had a couple of things to do in Blackheath and planned to spend the night at Michael’s. Out of habit however I turned right, giving Lisa and Uyen some wartime history of Lithgow pointing out one of the old gun batteries… it was only when we almost began descending the hill into Lithgow I realised my error. Oh well. Heading back the other way I dropped them off at the station.

Thanks everyone for making it a great day! Hope to see you all again 🙂

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