It’s been almost a year to the day since my last Wollangambe Canyon trip – last time I tackled the Wollangambe Upper Section (also known as Wollangambe One). With hot and dry weather forecast for the next week it seems a good time to head back and undertake the Wollangambe Lower Section (also known as Wollangambe Two, or the “Lower Tourist Section” referring to it being a non-technical canyon). We leave Sydney a bit later than planned – I’m taking my son Luke (10) for his first canyon adventure, and am joined by friend Andy plus his son Sam and two of his friends.
** NOTE: The section of Wollangambe Canyon is “easy” by canyoning standards, and does not require any technical skills. But it’s more challenging and dangerous than bushwalking and conditons can rapidly change. Do not attempt any canyon before or after heavy or sustained rain.
We’re on the firetrail, which starts opposite the Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground in Mount Wilson, just after 11am. There’s the usual warning signs at the gate, before the firetrail descends gradually through tall forest.
The wide trail is fairly flat for the first 2.2km – in fact, after the initial descent it climbs fairly steeply up a hill before reaching the narrow track down to the Wollangambe River. We’re glad when we’re finally heading down to the river, with the track down being another 1.4km in length. (There’s just one bifurcation in this track, where we take the left-hand fork.)
Just before reaching the river there’s a steep drop, with a fixed rope helping to descend the cliffs above the Wollangambe River.
We’re at the entry point for Wollangambe Canyon Lower Section and inflating our li-los by 12:30pm – this is also the exit point for Wollangambe Canyon Upper Section (“Wollangambe One”). We are all looking rather professional as we get ready… until Sam inflates “The Otter”!
It’s much cooler in the Wollangambe Canyon, and it’s nice to be in the water with a short swimming / liloing section to get us started. Compared to the Wollangambe Upper Section a year ago, there’s more rock scrambling in this section.
Not far from the start there’s a tricky drop of about 2m – you could jump (but you need to land very precisely to avoid a submerged rock) or used the frayed rope that’s been installed. Or a combination of the two, with a jump into the river from half-way down!
The water level is relatively low, so there’s quite a few “rapids” that require careful navigation to avoid tearing our lilos… and otters…
There are not many long swimming sections, but there are frequent, deep sections between the rock scrambles. It would be as tough (if not tougher) than Wollangambe One without lilos.
It’s hard to fully appreciate the beauty of the river/canyon, when your attention is frequently focussed on finding a way around the boulders and rapids. But when you do stop and look around – or you’re floating along one of the deep sections of the river – it’s a pretty amazing landscape with the crystal-clear water of the Wollangambe River surrounded by steep cliffs and rock formations sculpted over millions of years.
It doesn’t take long between these brief moments of contemplation before the next set of obstacles presents itself. Seems to be a more rocky challenges here than Wollangambe One!
Like Wollangambe One, the lower section of the river is home to many Sydney crayfish, a red spiny burrowing species that’s indigenous to the Greater Blue Mountains. A few water dragons also watch our progress down the river.
At the entrance to Whungee Wheengee Canyon (MGA568919) we greet a couple of more serious canyoners who have been exploring some of the tributaries of the Wollangambe River. We’re now well past the half-way mark. There’s a huge overhang a bit further on, after another tricky section where the river has vanished under a collection of car-sized boulders. Time for a last snack break and a check of our map.
A last magnificent section of still water and towering cliffs that we li-lo down, as we come up to the last bend in the river before our exit.
I’m always a bit nervous about missing an exit – it’s a long way down the river before the next track out!
It’s a relatively straightforward route out from the Wollangambe Canyon – the track is initially very steep as it follows a ridge up, before the ascent becomes more gradual. There’s a few vantage points over the Wollangambe Wilderness, and you can just make out the route of the Wollangambe River.
The narrow track reaches a grassy clearing after about 2km, where it becomes a firetrail that ascends very gradually through tall eucalypts and ferns. The exit route is slightly shorter than the entry, and after about an hour of walking we’re back at the Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground, finishing right next to the firetrail we took down to the river.
0.0km Start at Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground (firetrail) 2.2km Start of track down from firetrail to Wollangambe Canyon 3.6km Reach Wollangambe Canyon at MGA560916 (8931-2S Wollangambe map) 9.0km Junction of Whungee Wheengee Canyon (MGA568919) 10.4km Exit point from Wollangambe River (MGA572925) 13.2km Turn right onto Mount Wilson (North) firetrail 13.8km Reach Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground