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We planned to ascend Donkey Mountain by this spur on the northern side.

The spur proved to be extremely steep.

The whole slope was littered with rubble from a landslide some time in the past.

The slot is a pass through the cliff lines.

A quick climb through this slot and we were on the pagodas that form the northern wall of the 1st long canyon.

Looking down into the long canyon.

Unusually for Donkey Mountain, one of the pagodas was covered with wild flowers.

Looking down the Wolgan Valley towards Newnes from a high pagoda on top of Donkey Mountain.

The whole pagoda was covered with orchids, many just developing.

Looking through the canyon.

Looking down into the main chamber of the canyon.

A large insect amongst the blueberry ash flowers.

Geoff emerging from another slot onto a mezanine level, full of orchids.

Looking east along the canyon from the meazanine level.

A tunnel through the pagoda gives access to the canyon floor via a chimney.

Outside the canyon in an open area between the large pagodas.

Walking along the canyon floor.

The floor of the canyon is partially blocked by rubble.  The chimney to the northern pagoda starts near here.

The end of the canyon has a large room.  A squeeze through a narrow slot provides a way out of the canyon here.

There is a hint of a deep canyon through the trees.

Looking into the deep canyon further to the west.

A way in perhaps from the eastern end but no easy way out without a tape.

In a small canyon furtherto the west.

Through some rubble and small blueberry ash.

Finally, a doorway into the deep canyon.

Geoff in the deep canyon.  This canyon was blocked at both ends.

Open space outside the deep canyon provides more possibilities.

Geoff checks a slot through where the canyon splits in two.

The entrance to the northern canyon is small and low.

The northern canyon is a deep, narrow slot.

The canyon is very narrow but with careful footwork it can be negotiated.

The exit from the northern canyon is on the slopes of Donkey Mountain.

The southern canyon started higher and was much more open.

The southern canyon was partially blocked by a rock fall.

The exit is through a tunnel formed by another rockfall.

Looking through the southern canyon exit.

The southern canyon exit is under a large square chockstone.

 

Track Notes - Donkey Mountain in Detail

Date:  12/12/2007

Maps:  LPI Ben Bullen 89314S

Route:   Donkey Mountain.  Climb a northern spur of Donkey Mountain and explore canyons, slots and pagodas on the northern side. Distance: 5 kilometres:  Ascent: about 440 m.  Lots of ups and downs.

Gear:   Daypack, Gaiters, Camera, EPIRB, Map, Compass, GPS (set to WGS84), 3 litres water

Party:   Peter Medbury and Geoff Fox

Notes:

Geoff and I returned to Donkey Mountain to see some of what we missed when we walked across it on 04/12/2007.  Geoff was keen to sketch out the maze of twisty little passages and to record grid references for the more interesting spots. 

Our plan was to get to the top of Donkey mountain as directly as possible and as close to the slots and canyons as we could.  We would find everything of interest we could in the area we started in, make appropriate notes and work our way west until it was time to head back to the car.  We hoped to be able to find our way down through the cliff line at that point rather than having to retrace our steps.  It proved to be a very interesting day.

We parked the car on the road opposite a prominent spur running down to the northern side of Donkey Mountain.  Although it appeared it might be a steeper climb than the route up the eastern end, it avoided about 500 metres of Patersons Curse and extremely sharp thistles.

The thistles weren't a problem where we started our walk.  From a distance these nasty little plants masquerade as a pretty meadow but up close they aren't very nice at all.

We reached the treeline quickly and immediately started to see an amazing variety of wild flowers, including prostrate Twining Peas (Hardenbergia violacea), Purple Flags (Patersonia sp), Cranberry Heath (Astroloma humifusum) and Hyacinth Orchids (Dipodium punctatum).

The Cranberry Heath was just coming into flower.  These plants form low, dense mats with their small red cylinder shaped flowers hidden inside.  The fruits are reported to be edible but there were none to try. 

The Hyacinth Orchids were flowering too, particularly on the western side of the ridge.  I don't think I've ever seen so many of these orchids flowering in one place before.  It was quite a sight.  The plant has no leaves and gets its food through a symbiotioc relationship with a soil fungus.

We crossed a small knoll and the climb began in earnest.  The vegetation changed immediately the slope steepened.  There were no more little plants.  There were large trees, some wattle, lots of debris and bull ants.

As we got closer to the cliff line the slope became a mess of tumbled boulders and fallen trees, making progress difficult at times.  There were animal pads to follow in places and while the route was not as direct it was easier to negotiate.

When we reached the cliff line we found it to be a series of large pagodas with slots and ramps providing easy access to the top.  Once through an inviting slot we found we were in a large ramp between an outer and inner row of pagodas.  We had been here last week, emtering from the east and looking for a way to the western end.  A quick inspection had shown no way through.  The ramp led down to the west and suggestd a steep way down.  It loooked a great place to start.

There were several slots and narrow passages in the walls of the inner pagodas. We decided to start with the slot furthest to the west and work our way back.

We crawled up the slot to emerge on a flat pagoda with a view straight down into a long, narrow canyon running east to west.  The walls of the pagoda to the east were too steep and smooth to climb so we could only go west.  A short scramble had us on a large flat pagoda covered with wildflowers.

There were Trigger Plants (Stylidium graminifolium), White Dogwood (Ozoothamnus diosmifolius) and Lance Leaf Platysace (Platysace lanceolata) all flowering in profusion.  The rivers of colour made the pagoda top look like a garden designed by a landscape architect.  Amazing.

There were good views to the west along the northern side of Donkey Mountain, to Mt Wolgan and on, up the Wolgan Valley.

After a good look around we went back down the slot and headed east.  We ignored a shallow cave and kept going until I found a spot where I could climb up to the pagoda top again.  This pagoda was another fairyland, completely covered with orchids.  There were orchids on the rock walls everywhere.  They were even growing as a groundcover, partially blanketed by leaf litter.  Many of the Rock Lillies (Thelychiton speciosus) were juveniles.  Unfortunately none were flowering.  It would be a spectacular place in spring.

From the orchid nursery it was posible to clamber around onto another pagoda, this one higher and much dryer than the others.  It offered fabulous views over much of Donkey Mountain and down the Wolgan Valley towards Newnes.  It was a great place to sit and enjoy the views.

Retracing our steps to climb down off the pagoda I noticed another little slot, almost too small to squeeze into.  On investigation it opened into a slightly larger space that provded a way down to a mezanine layer on the pagoda, almost completely covered with orchids and moss.  Somewhere very cool and very green which quickly narrowed into a narrow slippery slot that offered no further progress.  After a look around we climbed back through the pagoda and this time climbed down.

Geoff took us back to the little cave we had ignored earlier.  Once inside the cave we saw what we had missed.  There was another way to the top of the pagoda as well as a crawl to another cave and mezanine layer.  It provided excellent views into the canyon and access to a slot that could be climbed down, at least to a chock stone.  The only problem was what was below the chockstone.  We decided to inspect the slot from the bottom rather than climbing down to hae a look.  We returned to the outside of the pagoda and headed around to the large space that opened onto a number of canyons and ramps.

We took a lunch break when we got there, under the shade of a Blueberry Ash, Geoff sitting on a large log and me on a small pagoda.  It was very peaceful and relaxing.  We ate quickly because there was so much more to see.

After lunch we went into the lomg narrow canyon we had been viewing from the pagoda tops.  From our last trip we knew the usual exit involved a squeeze through a very narrow slot at the end, floowed by a crawl through some dead vegetation.  This time we would retrace our steps and use another exit from the area where we had lunch.

Halfway along the narrow section of the canyon on the northern side there is a slot with a chockstone.  It was the slot I had been looking down earlier.  It was easy to climb over the chockstone and from there I was able to climb the slot up to the mezanine level I had been in before.  I went through the crawl, out the other side and walked around to meet Geoff back in the canyon.

We left the long narrow canyon by the way we entered and climbed around the pagoda walls on the southern side looking for a way to the top.  We couldn't find a route that didn't seem too exposed.  While looking we climbed a large pagoda a bit to the south to get a better view of the walls that were defeating us.  We just couldn't find a way up.  There was a large crack that looked promising but on inspection it proved of no use.

From our vantage point on the more southerly pagoda we could see down into another huge canyon just to the west that we hadn't seen before.  The walls were vertical cliffs with no obvious way in.

We abandoned out attempt on the pagoda walls beside us to see if we could get in to this new canyon.  Almost immediately I found an access point.  I could get in but withut a tape I mightn't be able to get out.  Maybe another occassion.

We worked our way along a series of ramps and cuttings on the northern side on the huge gorge, passing a lone Hyacinth Orchid flowering in amongst the rubble.  We found a ramp heading down to the south-west and followed it down.  About halfway there was a narrow slot leading back to the east.  It was a way into the deep canyon.

The deep canyon was blocked at the entry point and it required a climb to get down to the floor level.  The floor was covered with deep sand.  When we had explored the canyon we found it was blocked at both ends.  It looked like water running into the canyon during storms couldn't drain away and pooled behind the rubble.  Sand washed into the canyon wasn't washed away and instead settled on the bottom.  We confirmed the possible access point we found earlier was a way in but would require a tape to get back out.

After leaving the canyon we headed on down the ramp we had been following.  It dropped away fairly steeply to the west.  At the bottom it headed around towards the south-west.  A small tunnel appeared to head west.

We dropped our packs to explore the tunnel.  A crawl through the tunnel led to a narrow slot.  At the beginning, the slot was far too narrow at the bottom to walk through but it widened further out near a chock stone.  Ledges a few metres above the floow made it possible for me to work across to a chock stone and from there it was an easy climb down to the canyon floor and I was able to leave the canyon.

I explored a larger canyon just to the south to see if it provided an easier way to where Geoff was waiting.  This canyon was much longer and lot easier and it led directly back to the bottom of the ramp.

We collected our packs and headed south-west through the larger canyon.  There was one large rubble pile we needed to climb across and then we were able to walk out onto the slopes of Donkey Mountain just above the cliff line.

A large Leucopogon Lanceolatus was growing just near the entrance to the canyons.  It was covered with yellow and red berries.

Our first attempt to get through the cliff line was blocked by a sheer drop.  We reversed our path and headed around the nose of the cliff to the north.  We were able to use some ledges and some small scrambles to get through the cliffs and back to the ridge we had used in the morning.

An easy walk and we were back at the car after a very successful day.  We had a terrific day exploring.  Geoff had made lots of notes he could use to help map the canyons on Donkey Mountain.

Donkey Mountain still has a lot of secrets to be unlocked..

 

Times, Locations and Grid References
Time Location Grid Reference
08:00 Leave Car GR
09:00 Arrive North Side GR
14:50 Leave North End    GR
17.00 Arrive at Car GR  

 

Geoff and Peter in a passage through a pagoda on Donkey Mountain (photo: Geoff Fox).


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