Ranon via Ranon Brook (4 Feb 2023)

I wasn’t at all surprised when Tom suggested Ranon for the weekend. A new abseil had apparently appeared so we needed to go and check it out, oh… and Jon and Lauren hadn’t done Ranon before.

My memory of last time we did Ranon via Ranon Brook was that we’d been out a very long time, as it was such a nice day we kind of just drifted until we realised it was 3pm when we had lunch. I had been talking up how it had taken 13 hours and so I was motivated to keep us moving on this trip to avoid that, particularly given we had twice as many people and a lot of abseils to get through.

The “new” abseil did indeed exist, previously large piles of logs apparently allowed you to climb down, but not any more! (The first photo “at the first drop” from our previous trip has me in the spot where Jon is in the photo below)

Tom on the “new” abseil

The rope decided to tie itself in knots for the second drop and so we took a while to get through that. As I was half way down the abseil I heard an almighty crack as if someone had a whip. I quickly looked around expecting to see a large branch or rock that might have fallen into the canyon. Instead I see Jon on the ground rocking and cradling his head. Initially confused as I couldn’t understand what had hit him, but he’d slipped over and cracked his helmet on the canyon wall. Fortunately after a few minutes he felt sufficiently ok to continue. In the meantime Lauren’s detective skills had found that Jon’s whistle (which was lodged in the side of his helmet) had taken the brunt of the fall and bits of it were shattered into the moss.

We continued down canyon doing lots of abseils – a pleasant change to have some awkward starts from using natural anchors. Many of the canyons we’ve done this season have been bolted and while I appreciate the placements make easier starts, it does take away some skill development and intellectual challenge. (Without getting started on whether bolts should be there in the first place!)

Tom in the canyon

We played it fairly conservatively and abseiled drops even if they might have been down-climbable – ostensibly because Jon was feeling a bit tentative. Though ironically he did one less abseil than the rest of us after deciding to slide/jump one of the drops.

Looking upstream

After morning tea at the Mistake Ravine junction and confirming we were all feeling good enough for another 8+ hours we pushed on.

Tom on another abseil

There was a relatively easy log descent – but on reviewing previous trips we didn’t seem to have to deal with this drop previously. There was a huge log jam behind the boulder, I suspect in the past you could get through underneath but currently it’s blocked up.

Alternate descending option

There was a pretty recent rock fall above the cavern at the start of the two-stage descent to the Claustral junction. The rest of the party made me very nervous by deciding to stop basically on top of them, none of the rocks had settled yet…. I was glad to move on.

Jon on the penultimate abseil in Ranon

Looking down the final drop in Ranon before it meets Claustral

Lauren abseiling

Just after we’d finished abseiling into Claustral I suggested to Jon we should move so that Tom was able to get out of the pool. The rope wasn’t coiled yet and the pile of it somewhat disguised the small pothole which Jon promptly stepped into. From the scream I was sure he must have broken something and when I turned around he was sprawled face first lucky not to have fallen down to the next level.

We had joked at morning tea about how given he’d managed to throw his dry thermals in a pool at the start, then with his slip, that we should probably exit before things got any worse…¬† Fortunately (?) his shin had taken the brunt of things and we were able to continue.

The occupants of the many cars we’d seen at the entrance had presumably managed to get through well before us. Other than a few voices drifting back we had the canyon to ourselves, and the awful, awful stench of a decomposing wallaby… which kept wafting downstream with the slight breeze.

Lauren & Tom in Claustral

We did catch the tail-end of a large group at the final abseil, and then caught them¬† properly at the end – I recognised a few ladies I’d met through the Women’s Canyoning weekends so we had a bit of a chat. We set off before them and didn’t see them again.

Fortunately my nemesis section of the exit climb went without incident this time round after getting my foot stuck briefly back in December. We caught up with another large-ish group shortly after that. We then stopped to pick up water so they went past, but we soon passed them again. I had to chuckle (a bit nervously for them) as we went past the second time and I overheard one of their party members saying “Right, we have two options, we can have another rest, or we can follow the people who know where they are going”. Oh dear.

We caught up with a third large-ish group at the exit gully. But despite overtaking those groups there were only a small number of cars at the car park when we got there – so there must have been a lot of other people in the canyon earlier that day.

In the end it was a 10 hour 9 hour 35 minute day for us (party members made me amend the time so as to not tar them with the slow brush!). And when I went back and checked our previous “really” long day had actually only been 10 hours 15 minutes.

Lauren declared it the day her new favourite canyon (not hard as she has a fairly small portfolio to choose from!). An excellent day out.