Category Archives: Canyoning

Bell Creek (11 Feb 2023)

The only other time I’d done Bell Creek from the Fire Station was 12 years earlier. And having now done it for a second time I would be included to go for the ‘complete’ version, unless you can’t work the car shuffle.

Tom at the top of a scramble

Bananas? No, waratah seed pods – lots of them!

This trip certainly reminded me we’d been doing a lot of ‘trade’ canyons this season, with very straight-forward entries. The approach took us the best part of 2-3 hours (depending on what you count as the approach). With a 30°C day forecast I was looking forward to getting into the water!

We faffed around getting into Little Bell Canyon, but eventually made it down.

Tom looking excited at the start of Belfry Canyon

Tom descending into Belfry Canyon

Phil jumped into the pool immediately below the climb into Belfry Canyon, whereas the rest of us decided to do the bigger jump into the next pool. Happy to cool down!

Gill choosing to get completely saturated

I’d not done Bell Creek without a lilo before, but the water temperature was pretty warm, and with extra flotation in my pack the long swims weren’t a problem.

Tom in the depths of Bell Creek

Emerging from another swim

Gill and Phil enjoying a bit of sunshine

Walking up Du Faur Creek

Where else would you rather be on a hot day but in a canyon with friends? Another great day out in the bush.

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.


Kanangra Main (14 Jan 2023)

Kanangra-style canyons aren’t really my cup of tea. I’d much rather be in sculpted sandstone slots than on narrow quartzite ledges. Which probably explains why it had been 14 years between visits to Kanangra Main!

With 3 weeks of big hills in NZ (and a bunch of moving about on sketchy slopes) we were keen to use some of that fitness before it vanished again. We managed to pull together a crew of 5 at fairly late notice for a descent of Kanangra Main.

I expected we wouldn’t be the only ones out there with limited rain in the past couple of weeks and a brilliant weather forecast. There was a party of two heading up the road as we pulled into the Walls car park just after 7am. And then some more cars drove in as we were walking up the road a short time later.

Views on the walk in

The party of two were on their way down the first abseil when we arrived. I turned around to talk to whoever from my party was behind me only to find it wasn’t someone from our group! A group of 3 had caught up with us – they were clearly motivated to get in front of a group of 5 old farts and were quickly suited up and heading down. It was unfortunate timing as we were the only three parties for the day.

Someone’s here ahead of us

Since the wall was occupied we figured we may as well avoid the exposed gully and abseil down instead. It was a nice warm up on a low consequence drop!

Warming up (avoiding the exposed gully) [Our abseil 1]

We had to cool our heels at the top of the wall for a while as the party of 3 got down the first 52m drop. We had decided to split the first drop into two – 15m/39m. Tom & Jon headed down the 15m and set the longer drop. Then Smiffy & I went through with our second set of ropes to set the next drop.

Looking down the wall [Our abseil 2]

Smiffy abseiling to the pinnacle [Our abseil 4]

So far (not very) our sequencing of ropes and people was working out pretty efficiently. The group in front weren’t moving much faster as we kept catching them. Unfortunately getting to the pinnacle was about as far as our planning had gone with who needed to be where when. The wheels fell off the efficiency bus at the pinnacle when we didn’t send the ropes down as soon as they were available. You can tell the group hadn’t done much canyoning together/of this nature recently!

Smiffy leaving the pinnacle [Our abseil 5]

That left me & Smiffy with 4 of the ropes we were carrying, with the 5th set on the abseil, and the rest of the group waiting unable to set the next abseil. To compound matters when we’d pulled the ropes from the pinnacle one of the ends had been pulled downstream and caught in something in the falls. We couldn’t free it from above but fortunately Smiffy was able to abseil part way down, and free it before continuing on.

Smiffy abseiling down to try and free the rope stuck in the falls [Our abseil 6]

We were more conscious of which ropes needed to be where after that! Though there were less abseils directly on top of each other so sequencing was less important.

Smiffy abseiling again [Our abseil 7]

Toni abseiling [Our abseil 8]

After a bit of creek walking most of us used the in-situ handline to get down to the boulder where I set the 9m abseil. Toni and I rapped it – it’s somewhat awkward, definitely looked like going down the chute would be easier.

Jon jumped from the boulder, unfortunately I wasn’t quite ready with the camera, my photo just looks like he’s sitting on it… so it didn’t make the cut for the blog. I was expecting Smiffy and Tom to both jump as well, but the need to protect a camera (Smiffy) and a knee (Tom) meant they abseiled as well.

Smiffy swimming as Tom prepares to abseil [Our abseil 9]

Next up was Tom & my nemesis set of abseils. On our only previous visit we had spent 2.5 hours here, as Tom had needed to prusik up this drop as our ropes wouldn’t pull.

Tom abseiling [Our abseil 10]

This time things went much more smoothly, though the drag on the ropes for the 56m abseil made it hard work getting down.

Tom abseiling again, while the rest of they party look on [Our abseil 11]

Smiffy abseiling – the rest of the party tiny specks at the bottom [Our abseil 11]

The next photogenic drop caused much dissension as all the photographers wanted to get down the bottom. Tom was about as decisive as I’ve ever seen him by getting the rap set and going first. I sacrificed my photographic needs by going last – though my camera went down with Jon hence a photo of me on the drop!

Tom abseiling [Our abseil 12]

Me abseiling! [Our abseil 12] (photo: Tom)

I helped Tom with the rope pull for this drop – it was super hard work. I thought my arms were going to fall off by the time we’d finished dealing with the ropes. In the meantime Toni & Smiffy had bypassed the next drop, but since Jon had set the rope the rest of us abseiled it.

Jon swimming, Tom abseiling [My abseil 13]

Then we abseiled from the tree on the left, though Tom did go scouting for the bolts only finding the single bolt on the right.

Smiffy abseiling [My abseil 14, Smiffy’s 13th]

Finally I set the last abseil since Toni’s scrambling route on the right looked far too vegetated to be any fun. Though checking the notes later supposedly it can be scrambled on the left as well – I didn’t look very hard for a route down.

Tom abseiling [My abseil 15]

The rock-hop down Kanangra Creek was very enjoyable (well maybe for those of us who didn’t bash up our shins just before the exit) and we had great views of the walls. There is something to be said for taking your time through the canyon because then it isn’t so hot for the walk out!

Toni in Kanangra Creek

Tom & Jon in Kanangra Creek

We discussed our sequencing for the exit (somewhat in jest) but knowing that things would be a bit loose. Subsequently I found myself at the front following an initially fairly clear pad up the ridge. I lost the main route at some point and found myself traversing under a bluff higher than I should have been, though I was able to rejoin the more trodden route.

It was a lot less pleasant than I remembered from previous uses – I think post-fires it has changed a bit. However, all my clinging onto vegetation above large drops on the Dragons Teeth two weeks earlier had put me in a good frame of mind for this exit!

The Spires from some way up Manslaughter Ridge

Happy to be at the track at the top

At the top at 6:20pm I headed out to the lookout to wait for the others. We all had the mandatory visit to the lookout and eventually wandered back to the car park almost exactly 12 hours after we’d left it this morning.

It was great to be able to just drive back to (the very quiet) Boyd River Campground and dig into snacks. The other highlight was my clothes being pre-warmed from being in Jon’s car all day – like getting into clothes that have been sitting on the towel-warmer!

So many snacks consumed that we didn’t eat dinner. Eventually fatigue overcame me and I had to retire as the rate of yawning to not-yawning was way out of proportion. An excellent day and evening.

Blue Mountains Canyoning (10 Dec 2022)

The forecast was decidedly unsummer-like. A cloudy 19°C in Katoomba wasn’t inspiring but somehow I found myself agreeing to an exploratory canyoning trip anyway. I think because exploratory canyoning seems like it’s likely to be drier since there probably won’t be much canyon.

Anyway… a balmy 11°C when we left the car.

It wasn’t long to wait for some canyoning – pretty much where we dropped in was canyon. If I’d been happier to get wet I think we could have downclimbed the first drop, but wedging oneself in the water flow to get down was not a particularly attractive option.

Getting into the creek

The shallow canyon continued on and off for quite a way. There was often multiple ways around things. I tended to go for the higher (=drier!) route, while Tom was happier to suffer.

Short climb down

How are you going to get down from there?

Looks wet!

Hello down there!

Looking back into the dark section

more wet!

OK, maybe not that wet

I was going to climb around this section as well but Tom convinced me to go through it. Just over belly-button deep so I guess not *that* bad. My feet were already numb after all.

Another abseil

We went for an explore up a couple of the tributaries as well. At least that warmed me up enough to be able to enjoy lunch! Things had taken longer than expected so given there was a bit of Christmas shopping to be done I decided we would need to leave the rest of the plan for another (hopefully warmer!) day.

Beautiful section of more open canyon

Climbing out

A surprisingly good section of creek and good (cold) times were had.

Waterfall of Moss (4 Dec 2022)

I had thought I might make a last minute plan with some of the women at the Summer Slaydies weekend for Sunday, but that didn’t happen (and I didn’t try very hard), so I was left with just Tom as a canyoning partner for Sunday. Tom declined to make a firm plan before we went to bed on Saturday night, which didn’t bode particularly well for actually doing something the next day.

But we were both awake pretty early, and after farewelling Jo who was off to do Yileen (without a whistle – oh my), we agreed we should do something just to get some more fitness in our legs. So off we went to Waterfall of Moss. I’d only done it once before in 2009 so it was almost like a new canyon. Particularly given Tom only had the print out of an old version of his notes – which pre-dated his last visit… and at times it felt like were written for a different canyon! Not trusting the rope lengths from the dodgy notes we ended up rigging a bunch of the drops with our longer rope unnecessarily – which meant I had a dry rope at the end of the canyon.

Tom on the third abseil

Looking back up the arch and the third abseil

Tom abseiling

More of Tom abseiling

Is this abseiling?

The conqueror? (I think it’s supposed to be yoga?!)

Tom abseiling the Waterfall of (once was) Moss

As the water temperatures are still pretty chilly we’d taken wetsuits (in dry bags) through the canyon just for the 200m of Wollangambe. So my dry rope went into the wetsuit dry bag and stayed dry! We ended up having lunch at the Waterfall of Moss/Wollangambe junction while Tom wrote up all the changes to his notes – which of course we found out later had already largely been updated.

Swimming down the Wollangambe to the exit

Tom & friend admiring the views

Seas of flannel flowers are everywhere at the moment

Back at Mt Wilson there were still tents up everywhere – presumably drying out while their owners were off adventuring. We packed up and headed home via scones at Mountain Bells. An excellent three days of canyoning.

Claustral Canyon (3 Dec 2022)

We were glad to wake to clear skies and see blue sky and sun appear as the morning unfolded. Despite already being at Mt Wilson it seemed a bit of a frantic rush to get to the Claustral car park for 9am. James was already there waiting for us. I was pleasantly surprised when there was only 1 car that didn’t belong to our party at the car park.

We marvelled over the track work that had been done since we were last in the canyon – the stairs look like they would have been a lot of work. And then suddenly the manicured track vanishes and you’re on your own!

The canyon really does come upon you very quickly with the new entrance (though it’s not really very new any more).

James enjoying the water temperature

Jo jumping

It felt like we’d barely got going when it was time to set the first abseil in the Black Hole.

Jo on the first abseil in the Black Hole

Jo on the second abseil in the Black Hole

Tom on the second abseil in the Black Hole

Looking up the third abseil in the Black Hole

We got through those fairly efficiently, though my camera not so well. I was at the bottom of the third abseil taking photos when James came down – next minute I was being absolutely drenched from all sides. Not a great time to have the camera out of the dry bag.

Tom in a never previously seen before composition…

When we got to the Thunder Junction Jo, myself and my camera took advantage of the sun to warm-up and dry out, while James & Tom headed up Thunder. They were gone long enough that we declared it lunch time and had finished lunch by the time they came back.

A couple came past while we were eating lunch. The conversation was very short. “Ranon or Claustral?” “What time did you start”. And then they were off again. Maybe our lazing about made us unworthy company!

I enjoyed not having to get wet immediately after lunch, and by the time we’d made our way through the more creeky/bouldery section I was almost ready for a swim. Quite the contrast to how cool I’d been the day before in Bowens South.

James & Tom downclimbing

Tom abseiling

The end of the tunnel swim

I never seem to get any better at the main climb on the exit. This time I managed to get my foot stuck in the crack and required considerable effort from Tom below me to free it. The volley wearers seemed to have better luck with their more flexible soles. I felt slightly better when Tom also got his (non-volleyed) foot stuck – though he managed to unstick himself. Besides that the exit went without incident.

Admiring the views

Tom, Jo & I headed back to Mt Wilson and the hordes, while James headed back to Sydney. A great day out. Mt Wilson was heaving, not surprisingly as there was several organisations with events on that weekend. The spot we’d secured the night before ended up being a winner and we had a relatively peaceful evening – even spotting two Greater Gliders in the trees above us.

Upper Bowens Creek South Canyon (2 Dec 2022)

The forecast wasn’t that nice for Friday, and I had an appointment. But then Tom told me that he’d arranged to do Bowens South – which at one point was my most frequently done canyon (5 times between 2005-2010) but I hadn’t done it for 12 years. Some last minute scrambling with the appointment meant I could join the team on a 16°C cloudy day.

The team on the way in on a gloomy day

Jo & Lauren passing the time of day

Tom abseiling

Canyon formation

Lunch was a bit chilly and we were all glad to get moving again, particularly Lauren who was the only one in a spring suit.

Jo making her way through the canyon

Jo still making her way through the canyon 🙂

Tom, Lauren & Jo

The mystery hand

Lauren contemplating a jump

Surprisingly a complete submersion seemed to warm me up and the remainder of the canyon felt comfortable temperature-wise. It’s interesting how I had quite strong memories of the upper section abseils but little memory of the deep lower constriction.



The not so robust exit

I don’t remember what this exit used to be like – but Tom assured us it was a bit more robust than what we were confronted with. While we managed to get up easily enough it felt like it wouldn’t be viable after much traffic.

Yellow backpacks

Water Dragon Canyon (25 Nov 2022)

Between the problematic conditions of the last three summers (Bushfires/Covid/La Nina) and a focus on more remote/wilderness canyons in the the preceding seven years, I have averaged about 1 well-known Mt Wilson canyon a year in the last ten years. So to have done two in a month is quite something.

Taking advantage of a beautiful Friday weather forecast we revelled in the quietness of Mt Wilson on a week day. It was a gorgeous day to be out in the mountains.

Tom downclimbing the Wollangambe 2 entry

Fields of wild flowers

Tom on the first abseil (look at that clear water!)

Traumatic down-climbing

Tom on the second abseil

Impressive lower section

Nicely lit chamber

Final corridor before the ‘Gambe

Sunny lunch spot

Why don’t we do it in the road? Canyon (Serendipity) & waratahs! (29 Oct 2022)

I could largely lift the introductory paragraphs from the last time Jon, Tom & I did Serendipity back in 2016. Only a few tweaks would be needed – general gist the same. Short canyon due to injury concerns, last minute decision to go, glad to get out because it had been a dud season…

Some significant differences though – didn’t see anyone else in the canyon which was amazing, and we failed to quiz Jon on any Good Weekend questions (major failing!).

Waratah season

Snazzy new signposts

There’s been a lot of new signposts put up since we were last in the area. Though not far after this one you get to a junction with no sign-posts, so… they’ll only get you so far.

Our third abseil

First abseil into the lower canyon section

Beautiful sunny day

Jon, Tom and the final abseil

Lunch jumps

Lunch jumps

We spent our long, lazy lunch surrounded by waterdragons. It was quite disconcerting, at one stage we were encircled by 6 of them.

(One of many) Bold waterdragon

And then to go back to the circumstances of the previous trip we bumped into some people we weren’t expecting at Cathedral Reserve making for a convivial evening. (Happy birthday Phil! Nice curry!)

On Sunday Tom & I set out for Better Offer Canyon but one of my niggles flared up part way in, so we just had morning tea on a pagoda with expansive views, then contented ourselves with flower photography on the way out. Lots of waratahs around at the moment!


More waratahs

Views over Birrabang Creek

Waratahs a-go-go


Mount Buffalo & Mount Beauty (6-8 Feb 2022)

After taking a couple of days to get ourselves from Sydney to Mt Buffalo it was time for some bushwalking!

Turns out Sunday morning is not the best time to be driving up the mountain – plenty of cyclists and blind corners to contend with. Despite good intentions of getting to Mt Buffalo by 9am it was after 10am when we left the car.

Our first day loop was about as unprepared as we’d ever been for a walk. Armed with the Parks map and a route I found from someone’s blog off we went. Not having a topo map we didn’t know how much up & down was in the route, or even how long our intended plan was. Our lack of fitness became apparent quickly – though I choose to blame the altitude… I wasn’t complaining about the altitude with respect to the temperature though – a nice change from the steamy humidity we’d had in Sydney for most of summer.

Tom emerges from the bush at Eagle Point

Lunch views from Eagle Point


Alpine scenery

Speccy views from Mt Dunn

Emerging back at the car – Cathedral back right

The GPS put our loop for the day at 21km. The most we’ve done in a day in… I’m not sure how long. I was very happy to make use of the hot showers at Lake Catani campground (make sure you book ahead) and get into warm clothes. The evening was fairly chilly.

Camping at Lake Catani campground

The next day we walked from the campground to the Chalwell Galleries – which is just a 50m section of ‘canyon’. Given how little canyoning we’ve been able to do this summer we enjoyed it – even if granite doesn’t given you the same kind of grip that sandstone does.

Granite canyoning 🙂

This seems to have a few modifications

Returning to camp via a circuit of Lake Catani we packed up, drove the car to the day use area and then walked to the Gorge area of the park. Had we hung around there for another hour we would have been able to watch 60+ paragliders launch – as it was we saw them taking to the skies from View Point.

Lake Catani from View Point

A very large caterpillar (or “faterpillar” as we christened it). Unfortunately nothing in the picture really gives the scale

We stopped at Eurobin Falls in our way our and walked up to the Upper Falls. The crowds had departed from Lady Bath Falls by the time we returned so Tom managed to get a couple of photos.

Finally we headed to Mount Beauty for the night. The next day we had an easy day and did the Mount Beauty Gorge Walk – though I suspect we went a bit further up the gorge compared to most people!

Tom in the Mount Beauty Gorge

The next part of our trip was out of Falls Creek – read about it here.

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