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Friday, June 13, 2014

Winter in The Budawangs 2014 - WITB6

Well it's the sixth annual (we did miss one year) Winter in the Budawangs; that marvellous wilderness in the Morton and Budawangs National Parks. This year the plan was a bit different: rather than one of our ambitious through walks from one end of the park to another, our plan was to set up a base camp and make the ambition be to get to a number of peaks: The Castle, Nibelung, Cole, Owen and Donjon Mountain.

After staying the night in Milton we arrived at Long Gully in time to head out before the other parties. This secured for us the camping cave at Coyoyo Creek: we knew there was the possibility of a day of rain, and a cave makes that much more bearable than hunkering down in tents for the whole day, or climbing rocks in the slippery wet.

All went to plan and we made good time to Coyoyo creek, and secured said cave, though sadly it isn't big enough for a party of eight to set up all their sleep systems. But at least it was there in case of daytime need, and sleeping in a tent in the rain is oddly soothing.

We got there in time to see the view from Coyoyo Creek campsite, one of the most iconic in the Budawangs. Here is Arnaud, a new postdoc at our University, on his first introduction the Australian bush:

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We then headed up the Castle, taking the track from the saddle above the campsite. We started at the usual point, where we had often ascended before, and one of us only a few months previously. But it soon seemed a little more difficult that we recalled. That will teach us to send Dean the climber on ahead - we had followed a route to the right of the usual scramble and a little closer to climbing than some of us found comfortable - out with the rope!

There were two climbs that for most of us required roping up. Here's one of us climbing up with a belay as backup:

It took a long time to get the whole party up  these climbs, and with the short winter day it was time to turn back. Here's a view from where we got to, which some of us recalled as a place you could get to without even a serious scramble:

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On the way down we easily found the usual way up to the left of the way we had come, making the descent was a matter of minutes rather than  a couple of hours! Most of us abseiled down the way we had come as a consolation prize given that we couldn't make it to the top in the available light.

The next day we headed for Donjon Mountain. Soon we came to the iconic chains that take you into the Nibelung Pass:

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Here's one of us climbing:

It was then into the Monolith Valley, with only a brief stop to look at the view:

It's really an impressive place:

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Then we headed to the west of the valley via the Green Room:

Just towards the end of the valley, a few hundred metres from Sunset Cave we headed into the bush following brief directions given to us by the friendly souls at Shoalhaven Bushwalking Club. But this proved impenetrable bushbashing and soon we were back at the track where we started: there was an issue of interpretation of the directions. We were meant to head along the southern side of Donjon Mt and the famous Budawangs sketch map marks the whole  collection of pinnacles north of Monolith Valley as Donjon Mt. However, Donjon Mt more properly refers only to the largest peak at the far end. So we headed off towards Sunset Cave looking for a track.

Soon we came to a piece of paper pinned to a tree and indicating the track to Donjon Mountain! But at this point we realised that there was likely again not enough light to reach the mountain, especially not at our current pace. So the slowest members of the party broke off to explore the cave and the slopes of Nibelung. There did indeed turn out to be not enough time to attempt a climb of Donjon, but at least the fast party got to the foot of the mountain to scout it out for next time.

Here are a couple of us on the return sitting on the lovely bridge at the beginning of the Green Room:

And here is one of us having scrambled up into the natural arch:

When we got back 'home' there was a lovely view from the camp site lookout:

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The next day was, as predicted, far to wet for scrambling. What little text we had was in strong demand. The two francophones (francographs?) in the party were unmolested as their reading matter couldn't be shared usefully; but Adrian's copy of a tome on early Australian archeology was surprisingly popular in virtue of having words on paper.

So we settled in for a day in the cave. Much tea was consumed. Compulsory relaxation is a rare privilege and we ended up thinking of this as a highlight of the trip.

The next morning it was raining again, so that pretty much ruled out a climb, and we packed up and headed out. Here we are at the end, tired and happy, and meeting our first leeches of the trip!

We may not have gained our peaks, but a good time was had by all, and they will wait for us until next year!

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