Dalpura Canyon, Dargan Arch and The Catacombs – 21 January 2015

I went up the mountains yesterday with Bob and Doug for some canyoning. The weather forecast was for rain so we planned to do the short and easy Dalpura Canyon near Bell. As it turned out, the weather was quite good – warm and daily sunny.


Just before the canyon started we came across a small grove of pink flannel flowers (Actinotus forsythii). Conditions have been right for these – a bushfire, and then rain a year or so later. All you need are the dormant seeds in the ground. Other walkers had reported finding some near the Lost City and in the Wollangambe Wilderness – both areas that had been burnt out. So it was good to come across these ones. A lot of native flower afficiardos have never seen them.



The canyon itself was quite nice. Very pretty.






At the end, we climbed out and had lunch on top of one of the pagodas on the ridge. Then up the ridge and back to the car. On the way I stopped to photograph some of the magnificent wildflowers.




We then headed to Bell and along Sandborn road to Dargan. We turned off at pole 384 and drove down to park along a fire trail. From there it was a ten minute walk down to Dargan Arch. None of us had been to this place before and we found it quite interesting. The arch is fairly large and it is easy to walk across it. Under the arch and in nearby caves and on the walls are some sports climbs. A few climbers were grunting there way up a steep climb on the far side of the creek.



Sports climbing involves the placement of ring bolts into the rock and this has caused some controversy. The arch itself is an interesting geomorphic feature – and I think its a shame to see bolts in it. But it is not unique – there are plenty of arches in the sandstone country of the Greater Blue Mountains, nor is it in a remote place. But it is in Blue Mountains National Park – and perhaps the land managers need to consider this issue?


Near the arch are some large caves and there would originally have been one of these where the arch now is. It looks like the roof of the cave collapsed a long time ago leaving the arch. Other large arches like this can be found at Clarence, above the railway line, and close to the South Branch of Bungleboori Creek.


After visiting the arch, the next place we visited was The Catacombs. This is an interesting old quarry in the Upper Blue Mountains.



More photos taken on the trip are on my website here.

This entry was posted in Blue Mountains, Canyoning, Grose Wilderness, Wilderness Photography, Wildflowers, Wollangambe Wilderness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Dalpura Canyon, Dargan Arch and The Catacombs – 21 January 2015

  1. Doug says:

    Thanks Dave. Lovely.

  2. Albert Hakvoort says:

    Love your photos, I haven’t heard of the catacombs before and looks like an interesting place that I would like o visit. Would you have more details of where it is?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Dave Noble says:

      The Catacombs is an old abandoned quarry in the upper mountains. I would be reluctant to reveal the location as there may be safety issues involved in visiting the place.

      • Gaz says:

        So only you are allowed to see our magnificent country…pull ya head in

        • Dave Noble says:

          I don’t see how this follows from the post? What are you referring to? The canyon, the arch or the cave? Please read the post carefully and the other comments.

  3. Allan Wells says:

    Lovely photos Dave. I saw a large community of pink flannel flowers (never knew they existed!) back in the late nineties out at Hargreaves Lookout on the Shipley Plateau after the area had been burnt out the previous summer. Tiny little flowers; you must have an excellent macro lens on your camera to capture them in such fine detail. The “Catacombs” area is officially ‘out of bounds’ and a fairly hefty fine applies if you get nabbed by the Water Board. 🙂

  4. James says:

    Hi David all these places look exciting to go to as i normally go hiking and do bush walks constantly. could you let me know where the catacombs. would be appreciated.

  5. chriskoz says:

    Good news about Dargan Arch protection, David.

    “NPWS has advised that climbing is not permitted at “Centennial Trev” due to the high impact on the rare and significant sandstone arch (Dargan Arch)”

    It comes from April 2015, just 3 months after this walk of yours. Do you know about the ban? Or maybe they imposed it after a feedback (direct or indirect) from your report here?

    They promised to remove the illegal bolts. I don’t know if they did (2.5 y elapsed since) because I haven’t been in the area. But I will check it on the next occasion, if I go to e.g. Goochs Crater. Perhaps it’s not bad idea to contact Neil Stone from Blackheath Office to help with bolt removal if required. I’ve been climbing in the area a bit & I do know that not all rocks need to be “ticked”. Climbing those caves, that offer no altitude gain nor nor any otherwise inaccessible vantage point, is simply stupid.

    • chriskoz says:

      I’ve been there yesterday (minus Catacombs because I have no idea where they are), thanks Dave for pointing the pylon number to the Arch otherwise I would need to look for this unmarked trail.
      As usual I took a train & bicycle when the walk is within cycling distance to the rail (Bell in this case) but sadly my care of environment was offset by a dirt bike hoon who was revving back and forth along Sandham Road making both lots of noise and raising lots of dust. The hoon appeared to be a very young fellow in shorts & t-shirt, so he likely got a dirt bike and petrol for it not from his but from his parent’s money. I had to endure the distress (more so there than on Bells Line of Road with normal traffic) because I couldn’t do anything other than showing my big middle finger to the hoon. Hoon’s activity and his vehicle were certainly not roadworthy but no police around there to ask for rules enforcement.
      About the walks:
      I found couple of old ribbons on the trees at Dalpura approach. I removed them because this area does not need any ribbons nor cairns. No navigation needed there. If you are unsure of your whearabouts on such a trip you simply don’t go there.
      I also found a silly old rope on a short slabby decent to old Dargan Cave climbing area. The rope makes no sense to any walker and only pollutes the area. Apparently those bouldering climbers, caring racks full of hardware, including drilling equipment, have very strong arms but such chicken legs, that they cannot walk up an easy slab. I of course removed the rope and took it to the landfill. Unfortunately, to remove their bolts and QD hanging from them, would be a more difficult operation because they are placed under the roofs on a very steep overhangs. I saw couple of very dangerous expansion bolts on a less overhanging area (and actually one hole from a bolt that got ripped off) those would be easier to remove but the others, glued in, require tricky angle abseiling and would leave scars on rock. They’ve been very persistent and agile to place them. I also saw lots of chalk marks on the routes with no bolts and no solid natural protection possibilities. They must have done it top-rope. I saw even chalk marks to make a series of mini-holds distinguishable for an extreme red-pointing exercise. Many signs of abuse of this rock in such a sort time climbing was in operation there (just couple of years as seen on the thecrag.com 2012-2015).

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