Easter Canyoning (29 Mar – 1 Apr 2024)

I’m not sure I can remember a time in the past where Tom & I were both so unfit. Tom recovering from a bad ankle sprain in late January hadn’t been out much. And my excuse was much poorer – working (way) too much. Besides a quick jaunt down to Bob Turners in early January we hadn’t carried overnight packs since September last year. So we knew there was going to be a fair bit of suffering given we were not just carrying overnight packs… but 4 days of food, plus canyoning gear. Tom started off with 21kg and maybe for once he was carrying more than his share at the start?!

The Easter forecast was excellent for a weekend of canyoning, so there was no flimsy excuses for a last minute bail. We had a good run out of Sydney early on Friday morning. Lithgow McDonalds was the busiest I’d ever seen it – with every camper trailer, 4WD and general car in the vicinity there. The staff were exceedingly efficient and I was in and out with my caffeine before I could blink. We were walking shortly after 9:30am. Eventually taking a break when my shoulders just couldn’t take any more. We set up our base camp for the 3 nights, then had lunch and headed off to do our first canyon. It felt good to not have a full pack – but with a rope, harness etc the pack was still heavier than anything I’d been carrying of late.

Tom happy to be canyoning

Trying to remember how to bridge

Convenient log

We had thought we might get two canyons in, but we didn’t finish the first one until 4pm. So given our aforementioned lack of fitness we decided it was better just to head back to camp (still a far way away).

Unsurprisingly I slept like the dead and had to kick Tom into action at 7:30am. We were supposed to get up with the sunrise (which was only 7am) – Tom claimed he didn’t think it was light enough for the sun to have risen. A likely excuse.

So with a slightly later start than planned we were off on day 2. We weren’t doing anything new on this trip – everything had been done before, but for me at least, it was all more than a decade ago – so it may as well have been new!

Abseiling on day 2

Hopefully Tom remembers how to scramble!

We dropped into our second canyon of the day just as the sun was directly overhead. Very bad timing from a photography point of view – but given how quickly the sun was moving we decided to have lunch and hope that the glare had moved on by the time we finished. The theory almost worked… though maybe some sections we would have been better off keeping on going.

Narrow abseil

Colours are a bit Utah-esque

Tom abseiling

Base of the abseil

This put us in a good position to start out third canyon of they day in the early afternoon. With our relatively heavy packs (at least compared to previous trips) the various climbs were hard work. Particularly for Tom when he had to pass the packs up to me! We were glad we hadn’t decided to do this canyon the previous afternoon as I’m pretty sure we would have finished in the dark.

Can he get up?

Scrambling again

Awkward climb up

Eventually we topped out and were back at camp by mid-afternoon. I was glad I’d brought some reading material – it was very pleasant to settle down with a hot drink and a book. Later on we spotted gliders jumping around above us as dusk hit (we saw them all 3 nights).

Day 3 we had a somewhat ambitious plan. It was likely in trouble when we hit our first abseil of the day with no obvious anchors. Tom managed to toss the rope over a fallen log several metres above us which saved us trying to backtrack and scramble out. We didn’t remember doing this abseil previously – maybe we dropped into the creek further down?

Abseiling from a very high anchor on day 3!

Finding a way through the hole


At the end of the canyon for an early lunch we then had to decide on what the rest of the day held. Feeling our fitness limitations we decided a shorter day was a better idea and so headed up another canyon towards camp. The discussion then became about whether we should walk out that night or not – since we were both pretty clear that neither of us had energy for canyoning on day 4. The main argument for walking out that night was to miss the traffic on Monday – which was likely to be horrendous given Easter didn’t coincide with the school holidays this year.

Happy to be back in canyons!

Classic Coachwood chamber

As we got near the top of the canyon an awful smell of dead creature wafted down to us. We’d had something dead in the canyon the previous day – but it wasn’t very big, and so didn’t smell *that* bad. This was pretty awful – and the anticipation of finding it was equally bad. There’s nothing like a bit of bloated wallaby guts floating in the water to put you off your canyon. Fortunately (?) in this case the wallaby was not in the water but in a slightly wider section. But it was lying where we would have walked had it not been there. Tom was in front at this point, and while trying to avoid the carcass, managed to lose his balance and take a full tumble. Fortunately not onto the carcass! But still, we were right next to it for longer than we should have been while he extricated himself from his pack and managed to get back on his feet. Then the wind changed to bring the smell upwind with us. Gross.

Finally we turned a corner and we were free of the smell. Though we weren’t feeling that keen to drink the water we’d picked up – admittedly a fair way downstream from the carcass.

I led us up a steep slabby section of pagodas to a nice shady spot. Once we’d agreed (no arguments from either side) that we would not be walking out that night, then we were able to relax in the shade and enjoy the views.

Afternoon tea views

The next morning we tried to get away relatively early – but with a few hours walk out, and a few more hours drive back to Sydney, it was hard to avoid the peak of the traffic. That’s what you get when you’re too unfit to canyon on the final day! It was good to be back canyoning. And with 6 canyons over the weekend it doubled my canyon count for the season.