Batemans Bay Bushwalkers : Snowball Camp

The postponed three day Snowball camp within Deua National Park, originally planned for February, attracted eight BBBW campers plus two colleagues from the Canberra Club. The weather was perfect, the campsite lovely, and the walking was varied, enjoyable and, as you will see, triumphant.

We set up base camp on the edge of the Woila/Deua Wilderness Area at Breakfast Creek, on the junction of Middle Mountain Road and Minuma Range Firetrail, accessible from the Braidwood/Cooma Road.

On day one, a 15km loop through the (very) upper Shoalhaven River was a good warm up. This almost featureless area was great practice for the skills of our new map and compass navigators. There were many consultations!

The entire area was burnt in the 2019-20 bushfires but most of this tablelands open forest did not suffer too much damage. Importantly, almost all the undergrowth was eliminated including the big patches of normally impenetrable Dwarf Casuarina. Apart from some rocky ground areas, the walking across the relatively flat large basin was comfortable with good views across swamps and heath. It is probably the only place you can jump across the Shoalhaven River without getting your boots wet.

On day two we tackled the main objective of the camp. About 20 years ago, whilst using aerial photos in a work related exercise, your author observed a significant waterfall on Breakfast Creek where it tumbles into the Woila Creek catchment. Upon checking the contour map, it was a surprise to see it was neither named nor marked. Nor were the cascades associated with it. Enquiries of locals and a search of the literature drew a blank, so a promise was made that this waterfall had to be checked out.

The aerial photos show a number of small waterfalls and cascades on the two arms of Breakfast Creek in rough, rocky, steep valleys, taking more than a day to fully investigate. So, on this day we planned to go only to the main drop, in a 6km round trip.

We approached the gorge from the north and dropped steeply, pausing to admire one small waterfall on the way, and there were other falls and cascades which we could not get close to. We finally reached the pretty, tree fern lined, junction of the two arms of Breakfast Creek. After some steep and rugged traversing of loose rock and fire debris on the east side, and bashing through the remains of lawyer vine, we achieved our main goal – the top of the main drop. It was impressive.

The Breakfast Creek Falls are about 40 metres high plus another 10 metres of cascade above. We were able to stand on the very lip of the drop to observe the “hole” and the lower rock lined gorge but in this position we could not see the falls themselves.

After lunch, with a bit of steep rock scrambling through the remains of dense half burnt undergrowth and “fire resistant” lawyer vine, we were able to get almost to the base of the falls. Most importantly, we could photograph it. The recent rains provided a good water flow and the cameras went into overdrive.

Eventually, we had to leave. The climb back out immediately west of the falls was very steep with lots of loose rock and other material requiring careful avoidance of descending debris. There were some unforgettable moments. One climber still insists on “sensing a football whizzing past my head”.

The difficulty of getting into, and out of, the site was well worth the effort but, unfortunately, it also came with a small cost. Bringing up the rear (a bit unusual but ensuring everyone got out safely) “dear leader” copped a large rock on the foot. Back at camp, the bruising, particularly to one toe, was revealed to be severe enough to cancel the third day’s walk (prompting some wag to try to call a tow truck!).

Nevertheless, on the third day, after decamping, we visited the planned walk area anyway and drove to the Big Badja Trig site on the Great Dividing Range. It is always worth a visit because it gives 360 degree glorious views. It is one of the few mainland sites where, in winter on a clear day, you can see both snow and ocean.

Notable features were Gulaga and the rugged rock outcrops of Mother Woila in the east, Wadbillaga to the south, and the broad open plains of the upper Murrumbidgee around Cooma. We also recognised the near meeting of five significant river catchments – the Shoalhaven, Deua, Tuross, Badja and Queanbeyan Rivers.

Still within sunshine, we headed home to coffee, warm showers and other trappings of civilization.

In summary, the camp was successful and the main objective of getting to a long planned significant waterfall was achieved. The (now named) Breakfast Creek Falls are impressive and, considering the scarcity of significant waterfalls on the South Coast/Tablelands, it is curiously unknown. It should certainly be marked on the map, possibly formally named. Further exploration of the upstream cascades and downstream gorge of Breakfast Creek, is well justified.