Claustral, Numietta and Coorongooba Canyoning [CENSORED]

Dirk Schneider, Davide Giuliani, Kshitij Sahni (not Claustral)… and me

Claustral: Dirk
Other days: Dirk, Kshitij and I

The original plan was a three day ramble around Numietta exploring some cks. We were a large group at one point, maybe seven of us. But the realities of work and Christmas saw to some cancelations and then the northern beaches COVID outbreak lessened our group even further. Kshitij was waiting for his results to come back and seemed unlikely to join us. Dirk and Davide also didn’t seem overly keen on camping and suggested visiting Claustral instead. They hadn’t visited it before and it seemed to fit in well with letting Kshitij join us for the second and third days. And so, the day before we were to set out, a new plan was made. Into the Carmarthen and then Coorongooba Labyrinths we would go. I’d never jumped around areas so much. It would offer a diverse taste of canyons.

I got a lift into Lithgow (my parents were planning to visit Gaping Gill or Explorers Brook) and was soon collected from Main St by Davide and Dirk. I’d been on a few trips with Dirk before and now got to meet his housemate who had freshly joined the club. Parking at the memorable bend before Mt Bell. We located the track in and made good time to the top of the mini-canyon that drops into Claustral Brook. Climbing down a little we reversed back out. It was quite wet so we decided to get our wetsuits on and cache some gear for when we got back. There’d been quite a bit of rain the day before and I was a little apprehensive about how much water there might be in the Black Hole of Calcutta – the most constricted point in the canyon. The catchment here is about 2.6km^2. I thought we’d be okay though. There’d been 20-25mm of rain the day before and I knew that a group had been through Ranon after 30mm of rain without incident. With no rain forecast, worst case we’d have to wait around for the water levels to drop.

Continuing down the creek we negotiated the boulders, dropped down a fixed rope and into a pool and soon arrived at the first abseil which always seems to make a great photo. There was quite a bit of water, but down we went using a releasable single rope. I went last abseiling ‘out of the bag’ to simplify rope management. The next pitch quickly followed and then the third which is through the hole. We couldn’t communicate effectively and I didn’t even lock off our releasable set-up simply slowly lowering roughly when I thought the others were near the bottom. This proved beneficial for at least Davide as he was flipped sideways by the force of the waterfall. There was a swirling hydraulic at the bottom, this captured my pack spinning it round and round and despite Davide’s efforts, he couldn’t grab it without entering himself. Abseiling down, I crossed the flow higher up and managed to find a pretty much dry line down. A small ledge letting me go off rope above the pool. Bridging out a little I managed to fish my pack out from the other side and throw it over to the others. I jumped over to join them.

Spectacular canyon followed. And a couple of snakes (python and a whip snake?) and frog on a log. They seemed like unlikely companions. It had been quite a long time since I’d been here. Too long. The sun began to emerge as we admired our surroundings. We stopped for lunch on a beach at the Thunder junction and left our packs to explore up to Westerway Falls (named after [old SUBW member] Don [Westaway]’s feeling of being “washed away” [when they abseiled the falls]).
Returning we angered a tiger snake and were surprised to bump into a couple coming the other way. I was even more surprised when I recognised Narissa an old work college. Fishing a mustard belly snake out of the water we collected our packs and continued downstream. There were a couple of new bolts I couldn’t recall. I thought it had been a fixed hand-over-hand in the past (we didn’t bother putting our harnesses back on). We jumped another small drop. Passing the Rainbow waterfall we were soon at the exit. Up we went, traversing back around into Rainbow Ravine and up to the Camels Hump for afternoon tea on a nice rock platform used by aboriginals in the past.

We continued on to the saddle to walk back into Claustral Brook. Many ppl seem to be abseiling back in opposite the entrance gully (including commercial groups), I thought Parks didn’t want ppl doing this? It was a pleasant ck walk to Dismal Dingle (an exit I have used once) and then a bit more canyon followed with some deep pools. The others were just setting up the abseil back in when we got to the exit gully. They passed as as we got changed at the gear we’d cached.

Eating dinner at an Indian restaurant in Lithgow we bumped into my Mum whilst shopping in Coles. We crashed at my parents place for the night. Kshitij was already camped at the start of the Army Rd.

Waking early we hit the rd just after 0630. I hadn’t seen Kshitij for a long time. Maybe since Coorongooba New Years Canyoning in 2015. Arriving a little late we had a decent walk along the FT to where we’d drop into our first canyon. A bit of time to catch up and share stories.

Once in the Wollemi we dropped down into our first ck. None of us had visited it before. Quickly we encountered our first drop. We built an anchor by threading a large rock sitting against the canyon wall. The canyon then opened up, it would have been simple enough to walk around had we known and wanted to. Some tape was wrapped around a tree at the top of the next multi-stage drop. Shitij led the way. At the bottom of the three drops he looked around for another anchor… nothing. We extended the rope attaching a pull cord to the other end.

The fifth drop ended in Dirk’s Pool. Named so because he could stand whilst the rest of us were forced to swim in the murky rancid water.

A final large drop brought us to the end of the short canyon. It was about lunchtime. We thought about trying to exit to the North but ended up pushing on down the ck. It was pretty scrubby and walking in the ck provided the easiest way forth until the walls closed in and the temperate rainforest made walking easier. There were some great camp sites here. We lunched at one of the small clearings where a small tributary joined.

Reaching the main ck in the area we made better time downstream than expected. My ventures into the lower parts of the ck encountered much slower conditions. Counting off the cks as we passed, we soon reached the one we were aiming for. Reversing up we quickly found the start of the canyon.

The water wasn’t particularly deep. Some of us took off our shirts for some of the initial deeper pool, but soon put them back on. The canyon was quite sustained, narrow and spectacular. The main two obstacles were two climbs. Both up tree roots. The lower had some Telstra cord which didn’t really make it any easier. I just used the roots.

We exited the ck to the left, but ended up crossing back over to make our way back to the rd. We grabbed some tape we’d left behind on the way in and then headed to the Coorongooba Campground (I’d made a booking in the morning). The sunset was amazing.

After crossing the 30cm deep ford. In the dark, we all set up our tents in near unison. Davide and Dirk got a fire going. I had some cold noodles and we soon retired for the night.

Following my nose, I found the way up with little trouble. I was surprised that someone had bolted the way up, some we only saw from above as they took a more difficult route.

Contouring around to the creek, we dropped in and soon found the iconic love-heart shape abseil. Then (passing an escape) the next larger tiered drop down through a hole.

I went first down the next drop. A quick discussion about whether we should go down through the hole in the waterfall or over the chockstone resulted us going over the top. A speccy free hanging pitch.

The pull proved challenging. Throwing the rope over a rock arch gave a better angle but the tail was getting jammed next to the chockstone. In the end we rigged a 3:1 from a second smaller natural bridge using a redirect to pull the rope away from the wall. Begrudgingly the rope came.

One more drop followed and we took a short smoko before skirting around the next drop and returning to camp.

We made sure Kshitij made it back across the ford. After giving me my forgotten shoes, Dirk was off to the Warrumbungles. Davide gave me a lift home.

Christmas Day tomorrow.

Thanks for a fun trip guys. Nice to see you again Kshitij!

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