Zobel Gully descent

NSW & ACT specific bushwalking discussion.
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NSW & ACT specific bushwalking discussion. Please avoid publishing details of access to sensitive areas with no tracks.

Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby johnw » Wed 29 Apr, 2020 3:23 pm

FatCanyoner wrote:If you'd called National Parks, they've have told you the Grose was closed.
Again I agree 100%. Repeating my earlier post:
johnw wrote:For the upper Grose Valley, it's managed from the Blackheath (Govetts Leap) office (02) 4787 8877.
mandragara, Rather than trying to justify your actions to people on this forum just give NPWS a quick phone call and you will have absolute clarification from the official source.
If you want further explanation as to why Grose Valley access is currently shut, ask to speak with the ranger responsible for that patch when they are available.
While I also agree that NPWS comms could be improved, at least two of the locations mentioned in the current alert are appended with "no access to Grose Valley".
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby mandragara » Wed 29 Apr, 2020 7:14 pm

FatCanyoner wrote:There is no question that National Parks could improve their communication, particularly with closures, but it's also important to understand the limitations of closures covering large areas. If they were to list every single place an off-track walker could go, the closure pages would be impractically long. You must be taking the *&^%$#!. This is actually one of the clearest things to me. It states "All walking tracks into and around Grose Valley " are closed. To assume that means you can enter the valley off track seems bizarre to me.

It may seen bizzare to you, but I've done my best to explain my reasoning below. Hopefully you can at least understand how I came to the conclusion I did, even if you still disagree.

After the fires and floods, the language they used on their website was different to what it is now. Two dot points were listed (courtesy of Wayback Machine)
Closed Areas wrote:All tracks and canyons in and around the Grose Valley including the Grand Canyon (northern escarpments)
There is no access permitted into the Jamison Valley, Kedumba or Grose Valley or any other remote areas.

After some time, the second dot point was removed, leaving only the note about the tracks being closed. I took this to mean that access into the valley was permitted, otherwise, why have two dot points like that? In my eyes, the "Grose valley" and the "tracks into the Grose valley" are two different entities which had two different notifications. Perhaps this is part of what you mean when you say NPWS needs to improve their communications.

According to the sign that used to be up for Bob Turners track in the Wollemi, and was up recently for Grassy Hill and Culoul Range FT, the tracks are closed as they need to be rebuilt and inspected for safety. Bob Turners track has since been repaired and reopened. I imagine this is the reason access to the Grose is restricted. If it was out of environmental concern, they wouldn't have re-opened Grand Canyon (and all the associated tourist coliforms) and the cliff top walks.
FatCanyoner wrote:If in doubt, call them. The Blackhealth office is very responsive, as is the Hawkesbury one. They will answer specific questions for you. But best practice is to err on the side of caution, not look for technicalities to try and dodge them.

As I mentioned in my eariler post, I tried to contact them several times. Admittedly, the Blue Mountains guys redirected me to NPWS Richmond, as the email I sent pertained to tracks in several park areas. My calls were also not answered or returned. So did make some effort to seek clarification, maybe you're right and I should have tried harder. I wouldn't want to damage the environment with my presence, the Grose is a lovely place.
FatCanyoner wrote: Again, completely untrue. Most of the burnt areas in the Blue Mountains remain closed.

That was a typo on my part, it should have said *some* tracks in the Wollemi that were closed are now open again. If you look at my previous response, you can see that I highlight Bob Turners and the Mt Wilson canyons as examples. Colo Meroo and I believe T3 track (word of mouth only) are open also. All of the Nattai is also open I believe, which got thoroughly roasted (although this isn't anywhere near the Wollemi!).
FatCanyoner wrote: In the Blue Mountains, the advice police have been given when you ring them up is that they will allow people to drive 15 to 20 minutes for excercise. If you'd called National Parks, they've have told you the Grose was closed. Likewise, I'm sure the police would have told you to stay away.

I called NPWS a few times with no answer or call-back. As for the COVID stuff, when I have friends who drive to their farm at the Coxs every weekend (towing quad bikes!) without issue, I'm just not motivated to interpret the law conservatively. I'd rather a caution or $1,000 fine, I've already saved as much by not eating out or going to the gym.

By the way, those Curtec Kegs you sell on your website are excellent. You should restock sometime!

johnw wrote:
FatCanyoner wrote:If you'd called National Parks, they've have told you the Grose was closed.
Again I agree 100%. Repeating my earlier post:
johnw wrote:For the upper Grose Valley, it's managed from the Blackheath (Govetts Leap) office (02) 4787 8877.
mandragara, Rather than trying to justify your actions to people on this forum just give NPWS a quick phone call and you will have absolute clarification from the official source.
If you want further explanation as to why Grose Valley access is currently shut, ask to speak with the ranger responsible for that patch when they are available.
While I also agree that NPWS comms could be improved, at least two of the locations mentioned in the current alert are appended with "no access to Grose Valley".

I agree I should have probably been more persistent in trying to contact them (although I only ever emailed NPWS Blackheath, I emailed and called NPWS Richmond mostly). I took their silence to mean "We don't care enough either way to bother calling you back", and I just needed to get out of the house properly (i.e. not the supermarket queue which is are my local trails on the weekend, I'm sure you know what I mean).

Thanks for the replies. Perhaps I'll meet one of you on the trail someday, once things return to normal :)
Last edited by mandragara on Wed 29 Apr, 2020 7:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby Warin » Wed 29 Apr, 2020 7:37 pm

mandragara wrote: I just needed to get out of the house properly (i.e. not the supermarket queue which is are my local trails on the weekend, I'm sure you know what I mean).

Thanks for the replies. Perhaps I'll meet one of you on the trail someday, once things return to normal :)


I hope things 'return to normal' sooner than I expect.
I would have liked to go back to the Grose soon after the fires to see the regrowth having been down there a month or two before. Such was not to be.

I am going to try the 'local trails' when it next rains hard .. should keep most inside. :D
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby mandragara » Wed 29 Apr, 2020 7:44 pm

Warin wrote:I hope things 'return to normal' sooner than I expect.
I would have liked to go back to the Grose soon after the fires to see the regrowth having been down there a month or two before. Such was not to be.

I am going to try the 'local trails' when it next rains hard .. should keep most inside. :D


An excellent idea! Last time I tried I got devoured by leeches though (Benowie track with sandals on, not my finest decision).

I've been walking some lesser known trails (e.g. Shark Ridge near Berowra) and done some off track in Marramarra NP etc (all within 30min of where I live, for those with COVID concerns), as a way of managing the crowds.

If you like, I can PM you some of the photos I took of the lower part of the Grose Valley. Let me know via PM if interested.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby Neo » Wed 29 Apr, 2020 9:05 pm

Personally I think an off-track walk is fine, even given the fire and virus restrictions.

However, officially no you can't go much further than your neighbourhood to exercise.

Off-track is a unique capability, yet it is included when authorities only mention the most known locations. From NSWPWS info:

Hat Hill Road in Blue Mountains National Park closed due to floods and repairs.

All walking tracks into and around Grose Valley including Perrys (below Docker lookout), Cliff Top, Bridal Veil Falls, Rodriguez Pass, Victoria Falls, Mount Banks, Pierces Pass (Hungerfords) and Short Ridge (aka Lockleys Pylon closed below Pylon) due to fire damage.

So stating known walking tracks is for general public safety until they are checked. Technically the off-track bushwalker unfortunately included.

Parks near my current location were only a day or two from opening post bushfires when everything was closed due to virus concerns!!
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby mandragara » Wed 29 Apr, 2020 11:19 pm

Neo wrote:Personally I think an off-track walk is fine, even given the fire and virus restrictions.

Comforting to hear! :)
Neo wrote:Off-track is a unique capability, yet it is included when authorities only mention the most known locations. From NSWPWS info:
Hat Hill Road in Blue Mountains National Park closed due to floods and repairs.
All walking tracks into and around Grose Valley including Perrys (below Docker lookout), Cliff Top, Bridal Veil Falls, Rodriguez Pass, Victoria Falls, Mount Banks, Pierces Pass (Hungerfords) and Short Ridge (aka Lockleys Pylon closed below Pylon) due to fire damage.
So stating known walking tracks is for general public safety until they are checked. Technically the off-track bushwalker unfortunately included.

I see, well that certainly seems to be the consensus here, from several experienced people.

What's your take on why NPWS had two warnings up about the Grose Valley after the fires, with the second one removed at a later date?
Closed Areas:
- All tracks and canyons in and around the Grose Valley including the Grand Canyon (northern escarpments)
- There is no access permitted into the Jamison Valley, Kedumba or Grose Valley or any other remote areas.

In my mind, the first pertained to the tracks, the second pertained to the Valley as a whole.

And it's a shame about how us Aussies had to take the triple blow of fire, floods and now pestillence. I admire your patience with respect to your local walks.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby Neo » Thu 30 Apr, 2020 9:51 pm

Overall I guess it is protection for the landscape plus a blanket-rule to protect the humans.

The Blueys is also 'my local' but admit to lazily car camping and mostly only descending those cliffs to 60m! Plenty of exploring to yet be done :)
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby tom_brennan » Sat 02 May, 2020 9:40 am

FatCanyoner wrote:There is no question that National Parks could improve their communication, particularly with closures...


Understatement of the century!

NPWS used to be much clearer about their communication of closed areas back in the early to mid 2000s. Budget cuts don't help, but the loss of experienced staff is probably also part of the problem.

To be honest, I tend to agree with Mandragara here. When one day they say that there "is no access permitted into the ... Grose Valley" and the next day they say under the closed list: "All walking tracks into and around Grose Valley", it certainly makes it appear that only the tracks are closed. If the valley as a whole is closed, just say "No access permitted into the Grose Valley", full stop. It's not hard! It shouldn't require a call to the parks office to translate.

If you look at the alerts for Wollemi NP (https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/vi ... cal-alerts), it's not much better. There are 9 closed places and 1 open place. Does that mean the rest of the park is open or closed? The following safety advice section seems to imply that remote places - if not closed - are open.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby FatCanyoner » Sun 03 May, 2020 2:39 pm

I try to be kind to National Parks, because I know how much they have suffered from a decade of budget cuts. So many exceptional rangers and staff have departed. So much experience, passion, and knowledge has been lost. And those that remain, while almost all have their hearts in the right place, simply don't have the time, energy, or resources to make things better. I'd encourage people to not just complain about this situation, but to do something about it. Write to your local state MP or environment minister Matt Kean, urging them to properly resource National Parks. Join conservation groups that advocate for these areas. And make sure come election time you vote for candidates and parties that are committed to protecting the environment and properly resourcing our public lands.

Getting off that soapbox, and onto the original one, I'd advise people thinking of travelling to the Blue Mountains or other national parks to read the COVID-19 specific alert on the National Parks website (https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws-covid-19). While it doesn't provide specific distances of how far you can travel to exercise, it specifically states:

"Where possible, walking tracks and low-traffic open spaces will remain open for the local community to exercise...
If you wish to exercise in a national park, choose a park close to your home. Non-essential travel is not permitted."


My reading of that aligns with the advice local police have been giving people who call them. If you're travelling from Sydney to go walking in the Blue Mountains, you are in breach of the public health restrictions.

Going to the original issue of walking in closed areas, particularly recently burnt areas, I totally understand people's desire to go on adventures. I've definitely entered closed areas, and when I was younger I similarly did my best to read closures in the most narrow way possible to justify doing what I wanted to do. I get that desire.

As I've matured, I've come to a realisation that National Parks aren't there for my pleasure. They don't belong to me, but to everyone. The pleasure they give me is an added bonus, but not their primary objective. First and foremost these places provide refuges for the plants and animals humans have pushed to the brink. Australia has lost so many species already, and globally human pressures are driving more species to extinction. Our parks provide an opportunity to conserve and sustain these species, and ensure they survive into the future.

These days I try to run my decisions through a matrix that prioritises nature over my own enjoyment. If I am doing something that causes damage simply for my own enjoyment, I try to avoid that. The heightened risks after fires (introducing weeds, crushing seedlings, causing erosion of unstable soils, etc) mean I avoid these areas. By giving them appropriate time to recover before entering, it reduces my impacts, ensuring my enjoyment doesn't come at the expense of the natural world.

I also think about how my actions will impact on others. It means I go to a lot of effort when visiting new areas to confirm access is permitted (particularly if needing to cross private land), as well as talking to local rangers to confirm my plans are acceptable within the management plans of the areas. Sometimes that means changing plans, avoiding areas, or being cautious about what is and isn't publicised. By doing things right, I hope to make it easier for others in future. There are many examples of areas that have had access restricted due to the carelessness of a small number.

So when National Parks put closures in place post fires, or to protect sensitive environmental areas or threatened species, I accept them. I don't try and skirt around them. And if possible, I try to go above and beyond the letter of the law.

Our outdoor pursuits can provide a net benefit for nature, by encouraging people to care for these places and protect them. But they can also cause loss, degrading landscapes and undermining their values. You can have fun in the outdoors without harming nature, but if your enjoyment is coming at the detriment of nature, I'd argue that you're part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby FatCanyoner » Sun 03 May, 2020 2:42 pm

Oh, and on a complete tangent, I'm glad you've found value in the Curtec Kegs mandragara. They are brilliant for more aquatic pursuits, and much more able to withstand a beating than dry bags. I've got both sizes in stock again, and I've also got replacement lids and seals (still need to add them to the website). They are the points most likely to fail, so I'm hoping by stocking some spare parts it keeps the kegs running longer and helps reduce waste by allowing people to replace one component rather than getting a whole new keg.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby mandragara » Tue 05 May, 2020 3:58 pm

tom_brennan wrote:
FatCanyoner wrote:There is no question that National Parks could improve their communication, particularly with closures...

To be honest, I tend to agree with Mandragara here. When one day they say that there "is no access permitted into the ... Grose Valley" and the next day they say under the closed list: "All walking tracks into and around Grose Valley", it certainly makes it appear that only the tracks are closed. If the valley as a whole is closed, just say "No access permitted into the Grose Valley", full stop. It's not hard! It shouldn't require a call to the parks office to translate.

Glad to hear it's not just me!
FatCanyoner wrote: My reading of that aligns with the advice local police have been giving people who call them. If you're travelling from Sydney to go walking in the Blue Mountains, you are in breach of the public health restrictions.

I just got off a call with my local police station to ask about this, they didn't know and directed me to the National Coronavirus Helpline, who told me that supposedly there are no longer any restrictions as to how far we can travel for exercise (as we can travel arbitrarily far to visit another household now). So now I'm thoroughly confused, I can find sources to back up any point of view (any travel is OK, local means <2 hrs drive, local means ~20 mins drive). I feel like writing to the SMH or something to whinge!
FatCanyoner wrote: Going to the original issue of walking in closed areas, particularly recently burnt areas, I totally understand people's desire to go on adventures. ... These days I try to run my decisions through a matrix that prioritises nature over my own enjoyment.

I totally agree and am developing that mindset also. Right after the fires, I snuck down Bob Turners track, when the area was still quite smokey and some trees were still visibly on fire (not just hot embers). I walked out after dark, when this was especially apparent, you could see fire dotted all over the landscape. I had a similar experience once on a guided tour in Kakadu, when we were caught in a small fire.

I regret going to Turners now, as even though I did bleach my shoes before going and stuck to the track (mostly, lots of fallen trees to bypass), I feel I was putting my own curiosity above the wellbeing of the environment. So I won't be doing anything like that again, and feel some regret over it. I did carry out the remains of an old Lilo though, so perhaps I'm karma neutral.

With tresspassing, If they're easy to contact (phone, email), I'll ask. If not, I'll cross their property and ask permission in person if I see someone (If they ask you to leave, and you do, you're fine legally). But I agree with basically everything you say, and will put more effort into contacting local rangers in future, rather than just sending a few emails and making a call or two. Every year we lose more and more bush, and I don't want to inadvertently play a role in that.
FatCanyoner wrote: Oh, and on a complete tangent, I'm glad you've found value in the Curtec Kegs mandragara.

They're great! I've only just started getting in to the sport myself, having only really done 'Gambe 1 and 2 twice, reversing Whungee Whingee a bit, as well as some unnamed 'soft' canyon stuff in Royal NP and Werrikimbe NP.
I was expecting 'Gambe 1 and 2 to be a lot harder than my usual sport of romping around the Colo river, but in fact it was a lot easier. I now need to work out what sort of wetsuit I need to get for winter swims down the Wollangambe, plus maybe things a bit more adventurous (all contingent on COVID of course). I can swim for hours in 10-12C water in regular clothes without feeling cold (that's what my sportswatch recorded last time I was there (20th of March)), so I'd need a suit that provides a temperature delta of about 12C or so. Perhaps you can advise!
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby north-north-west » Wed 06 May, 2020 8:15 am

mandragara wrote: I now need to work out what sort of wetsuit I need to get for winter swims down the Wollangambe..


Get a drysuit.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby FatCanyoner » Wed 06 May, 2020 10:31 am

I'm not one for wetsuits (in most Blue Mountains canyons they can actually make you colder), but having swum the 'Gambe in the middle of winter, you definitely feel the cold a lot more at that time of year. A dry suit would be very luxurious. I'd probably recommend a 5mm wetsuit for comfort. Neoprene gloves would also be a good addition. I was in a 3mm wetsuit, with a polypro top too from memory, and it was my hands that got cold. I also wasn't using any floatation, so that didn't help.

If you're looking to expand your canyoning experiences, I'd recommend a few non-technical canyons (Hat Hill and Rocky Creek are two great ones). But learning to abseil makes a world of difference. Join a bushwalking club with an active canyoning program and you'll discover an amazing array of canyons.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby funbags » Wed 06 May, 2020 11:23 pm

mandragara or anyone else on here,

have you done from either Zobel gully or Garrads Gulch up Mt Hay?

is there a route opposite Zobel to ascend Mt Hay

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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby tom_brennan » Fri 08 May, 2020 1:32 pm

funbags wrote:is there a route opposite Zobel to ascend Mt Hay


I can visualise reading an article or possibly something in a club magazine years ago regarding an ascent of Mt Hay Gully, which I believe is the one roughly opposite Zobel. But I have not found the article, so I can't give any more info than that. From memory it was a scrambling/climbing ascent, so perhaps more like David Crevasse than Zobel Gully.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby ribuck » Fri 08 May, 2020 5:54 pm

funbags wrote:Garrads Gulch up Mt Hay

On Tom Brennan's website is his trip report for Mt Hay -> Shaw Gully -> Garrads Gulch -> Mt Banks, which you could reverse:
https://ozultimate.com/tom/bushwalking/ ... /index.htm
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby FatCanyoner » Fri 08 May, 2020 6:47 pm

ribuck wrote:On Tom Brennan's website is his trip report for Mt Hay -> Shaw Gully -> Garrads Gulch -> Mt Banks, which you could reverse:
https://ozultimate.com/tom/bushwalking/ ... /index.htm


Great trip report. I haven't run into Kangaroo Thorn much around the Grose, but there seems to be a patch of it on many passes in the Blue Breaks. It's a plant not quickly forgotten, mostly because you spend the next hour removing thorns.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby mandragara » Fri 08 May, 2020 7:37 pm

FatCanyoner wrote:I'm not one for wetsuits (in most Blue Mountains canyons they can actually make you colder), but having swum the 'Gambe in the middle of winter, you definitely feel the cold a lot more at that time of year. A dry suit would be very luxurious. I'd probably recommend a 5mm wetsuit for comfort. Neoprene gloves would also be a good addition. I was in a 3mm wetsuit, with a polypro top too from memory, and it was my hands that got cold. I also wasn't using any floatation, so that didn't help.

If you're looking to expand your canyoning experiences, I'd recommend a few non-technical canyons (Hat Hill and Rocky Creek are two great ones). But learning to abseil makes a world of difference. Join a bushwalking club with an active canyoning program and you'll discover an amazing array of canyons.

Thanks to both you and north-north-west for the dry suit suggestion. I have more to research! I had planned to get into canyoning in the second half of 2019, but fires and now COVID have sort of put that on puase. I'm fat and don't have the cash for fancy abseiling gear, plus I hate heights and just sort of power through it, so have always been a bit wary of the sport. But the pics I see look so damn good! I want to do Rocky Creek as soon as the restrictions lift.

I joined SUBW back when I was in 1st year (2012), but never really engaged. Seemed like a bunch of nudists, going by the pics :P I should rejoin once COVID is over (I'm still at USyd). I actually bumped into Paul Griffiths once in some remote bit of the Colo, I believe he's in SUBW, we were quite surprised to see other people!

FatCanyoner wrote:
ribuck wrote:On Tom Brennan's website is his trip report for Mt Hay -> Shaw Gully -> Garrads Gulch -> Mt Banks, which you could reverse:
https://ozultimate.com/tom/bushwalking/ ... /index.htm


Great trip report. I haven't run into Kangaroo Thorn much around the Grose, but there seems to be a patch of it on many passes in the Blue Breaks. It's a plant not quickly forgotten, mostly because you spend the next hour removing thorns.

Mt Caley has, by far, the worst scrub I've encountered in the bush. I did an 8 day West-East traverse of the Wollemi, going on ridges, down into creeks etc. At no point did I encounter scrub as bad as what grows on Mt Caley. It's regrowing with avengence after the fires.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby Grabeach » Fri 08 May, 2020 11:34 pm

tom_brennan wrote:
funbags wrote:is there a route opposite Zobel to ascend Mt Hay


I can visualise reading an article or possibly something in a club magazine years ago regarding an ascent of Mt Hay Gully, which I believe is the one roughly opposite Zobel. But I have not found the article, so I can't give any more info than that. From memory it was a scrambling/climbing ascent, so perhaps more like David Crevasse than Zobel Gully.


I've read an article from an SBW mag in the Mitchelll Library, which is the one you probably would have seen, about an ascent in 1953. A rock climb was mentioned, as well as signs of a previous ascent. Frank Bendeich also told me of a later ascent they (Catholic BWC) made using a bit of old rope they found hanging down after heading up too early on their way to Shaw Gully. I wandered down the gully a few decades back to have a look. There is one cliff (10m?) close to the base of the lower cliff line, that I would have not have got up. For comparison purposes, I had ascended David Crevasse around that time without too much difficulty.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby tom_brennan » Mon 11 May, 2020 5:31 pm

mandragara wrote:Mt Caley has, by far, the worst scrub I've encountered in the bush. I did an 8 day West-East traverse of the Wollemi, going on ridges, down into creeks etc. At no point did I encounter scrub as bad as what grows on Mt Caley. It's regrowing with avengence after the fires.


As you can probably gather from the trip report, Mt Caley is also the all time worst scrub I've ever encountered. Howard Pass to Mother Butler Creek in Ettrema would be up there, but that was just thick, and on a 40 degree day. Mt Caley you can't even layer up and push through since it's lawyer vine and kangaroo thorn. The lawyer vine holds you and the kangaroo thorn will go through anything.

Grabeach wrote:I've read an article from an SBW mag in the Mitchelll Library, which is the one you probably would have seen, about an ascent in 1953. A rock climb was mentioned, as well as signs of a previous ascent. Frank Bendeich also told me of a later ascent they (Catholic BWC) made using a bit of old rope they found hanging down after heading up too early on their way to Shaw Gully.


My memory was that it was a Frank Bendeich article in a CBC magazine, but I have copies of many of the interesting CBC articles, and I couldn't find it. I did find the SBW one you mentioned (Dec 1953 magazine), thanks.
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Re: Zobel Gully descent

Postby juxtaposer » Fri 15 May, 2020 3:25 pm

The gully under Mt. Hay north side was descended by the Kamerukas in the 1960s. I don't know about any earlier people either going down or up it. I once walked over Mt Caley and descended Garrad Gully (before it had a name) and returned to the plateau by climbing out of Zobel Gully when we came up against the main waterfall. The best prospect at that point looked to be on the left (west) side a bit back from the fall. It was a very hairy pass but it went. That was in 1981. I hear the way around on the eastern side is more straightforward.
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