Newnes in the Wolgan Valley is a great place for a lot of outdoor activities. Its good place for bushwalking, mountain biking, rock climbing and canyoning. Earlier in January I spent an enjoyable weekend camping at Newnes with a group of friends, some from the Sydney Rockclimbing Club. On the Saturday of the weekend, some of the party were climbing or helping to set up some rap stations while I was in a party that visited Pipeline Canyon. The next day most of the group went canyoning. One party went down Devils Pinch Canyon and the group I was in went down Newnes Canyon.
Pipeline Canyon is short but rather nice. Like Devils Pinch Canyon it has a dry upper constriction and a wet and more spectacular lower constriction. The canyon is accessed by walking up the Pipeline Canyon and then walking along the ridge of the Capertee/Wolgan divide for a kilometer or so. To see the upper constriction you need to enter the creek high up. It is a great walk through section of canyon. Not dark – but still quite impressive.
Then it is not too far, nor to hard to get to the lower constriction. It starts with two short abseils that take you into a nice slot. This section is wet, but more wades rather than swims. Then there is a longer abseil as the creek drops further close to the Wolgan cliff line. There are a couple more short drops then a last abseil that takes you to the end of the canyon and to the top of the talus slope. All the abseils are somewhat technical. The starts are all a little awkward and it is possibly not the best place for people without a fair bit of abseiling experience.
To exit the canyon, the easiest way is to follow the base of the cliffs back to the Pipeline Track. There is a slightly lower track – but this is dangerous and exposed in places. It is better to stay high.
Sunday was spent visiting Newnes Canyon. This is perhaps more of a tunnel trip rather than pure canyoning. More akin to caving perhaps.
I’m not sure who first visited this creek as a canyoning trip. It was certainly visited on a SUBW trip led by Gerry O’Byrne in the early 1960′s. Their trip report can be read in the SUBW archives here. The second creek they visited has been worked out to be Newnes Canyon. It fits in that they abseiled in close to the junction of Upside Down Canyon. Both canyons are dry at that point. The next report of a visit to the creek was in a walks report by Tim Hager of the Catholic Bushwalkers in their magazine the Waysider. It is from the late 70′s. Tim’s party also abseiled into the canyon in the dry section. Tim refer’s to the creek as “Newnes Canyon” and it appears that he had known of it before.
What makes this creek rather special is the long tunnel section. Many other canyons have tunnels. Indeed some have mulitiple tunnels.
Newnes canyon only has one tunnel section but it is long enough to require the use of a torch or headlamp to get through it. The tunnel can be reached from below with having to reverse any abseils, so it is possible aboriginals would have visited the tunnel. But is is doubtful they could have gone far up it in total darkness.
The earliest party I know that describes it was another SUBW party. This was a visit in about 1990 and the trip report can also be found in the archives. John Atkinson has written a rather literary account. The people refered to in the party are Airdrie Long, Bob Sault and Ian Wilson. They called the tunnel – the “Amazing Wallaby Tunnel”. Read the report to find out why.
The tunnel certainly is nice and can be quite entertaining to get through. It contains many glow worms and for that reason it has been called “Starlight Canyon” by some commercial parties.
As well as glow worms, the tunnel is also the home to bats. For that reason it is best to avoid visiting the canyon during winter when the bats breed. The tunnel can also fill up with water and require swimming. Some other times it is completely dry. On our visit there were some deep wades (chest deep?). Being with rock climbers, it was not too hard to avoid and deep wades by bridging. The canyon is narrow enough to do this and it adds to the entertainment.
To get to the canyon you use the same access track that leads to Pipeline and Devils Pinch Canyon. The track used to continue quite distinctly all the way to the canyon. On recent trips, and after post bushfire regrowth, the track is now hard to follow all the way. We found the final part getting to the creek a bit scrubby.
How do you leave Newnes Canyon. The easy way is to continue downstream to the very nice gorge below the canyon till the Wolgan cliffs are reached. Then it is not too hard to climb up a bit on the right, and then sidle around, gradually descending to avoid patches of scrub (some native raspberry vines!) till you get to the Wolgan close to the junction with the creek. It is also possible to exit the canyon by climbing up and out of Upside Down Canyon or at the junction using the convenient vines. This allows you to extent the trip by visiting other nearby canyons.
As for who was in the first party down Pipeline Canyon – I don’t know. I have heard that Bob Sault tried to go down that way when he broke off from a party returning to the Wolgan Valley via the Pipeline Track. I think he soon climbed out and returned to the track.