Category Archives: Canyoning

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.

Canyoners

Twins!

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!

Waratah

More waratahs

Views over Birrabang Creek

Waratahs a-go-go

Waratah

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

Caution!

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.

Yileen & Dargans Creek Canyons (18 Dec 2021)

Summer finally arrived in late December – a hot forecast, instead of November’s incessant rain and cool temperatures. Thanks to Kylie’s instigation of “Summer Slaydies”, five women met up for the first time and did a very enjoyable run through Yileen. It was a pleasure to spend the day with this group and share our love of canyoning.

Expansive views on the way in

Expansive views on the way in

The crew (clockwise): Me, Laura, Monika, Jannice, Lorien. (The best photo of a blurry bunch!)

Green corridor

Small scramble into the depths

Jannice on the first abseil

Laura on the first abseil

Loz abseiling, while everyone else looks on

Beautiful section of canyon

Loz in another corridor

Canyoning is such hard work!

Monika at the bottom of the second abseil

Laura on the final drop

The party following us abseiling the wet line

We were so efficient that we were back at the Pierces Pass Lower Carpark for lunch.

I met up with Tom afterwards and we did a run through Dargans Creek Canyon.

An awkward downclimb with the volume of water obscuring views of the holds

Downclimb in the canyon

Classic canyon formation

Tom trying out a new camera carry method

Apparently the method is a winner

Soaring walls

The first part of the exit

Trademark Dargans – the spiked tree exit route

Jerrara Creek (17 Apr 2021)

Stop the press! James was available for a second canyoning weekend less than 3 months after our last trip. However, true to form, the weather was not looking great for the weekend. I looked at the where the rain was going to be, and suggested heading south might be the best bet.

After a series of indecisive conversations through the week we did make enough decisions to end up on our way to Bungonia on Saturday morning. We had a relatively late start as we’d been discussing Long Gully – and we’d been at the Shoalhaven for lunch when we’d done that trip previously. However, Tom was now angling for Jerrara Creek. It was only while we were driving down that I looked at his notes and saw the 8-11 hour time estimate. Well. With our likely start time we were going to have 8 hours of daylight. Better make sure we all pack our torches, or hope that 2009 Tom who wrote the notes had been over-estimating the time needed.

After doing a lap of the campground (no, it’s not like we’re pressed for time), and the disappointment of finding the Bungonia campground did not permit wood fires (no, I didn’t pack a stove), we left the car at 9:45am. It wasn’t long before we were wet-suiting up in Jerrara Creek. We proceeded pretty smoothly through the canyon.

DSC04998

James abseiling the first drop

DSC05000

Tom & James “enjoying” a swim – not the warmest day!

DSC05003

Impressive drop

DSC05007

Tom on his way down

DSC05009

James descending the same drop

It’s been a while since I’ve done a canyon with a lot of long drops, and even with only 3 of us, I’d forgotten just how it takes to get people down.

DSC05018

James on the first pitch of Jerrara Falls

DSC05026

James at the start of the second pitch of Jerrara Falls

DSC05028

The third pitch of Jerrara Falls

DSC05030

View of Jerrara Falls

We enjoyed the brief periods of sun we got and were pleased to find the clouds had largely cleared in time for lunch.

DSC05032

Lovely lunch spot and time to warm up

We left our lunch spot at 2pm that gave us 3.5 hours till sunset – seemed like we wouldn’t be needing to use the torches – but you never want to be too confident!

DSC05037

Tom descending into the shade

DSC05039

Big country (and another swim looms)

After the swim in the photo above we had a longish section of boulder-scrambling which we moved through pretty efficiently. I was sweltering in my wetsuit and when James joined my pleas we stopped at a lovely spot to get changed. It would have been a nice spot to camp but I was not unhappy to only have our day gear with us – lugging a wet 60m rope makes a pack heavy enough.

DSC05041

This was such a tranquil spot

From there it wasn’t long till we hit the exit. Though I think James was a little dubious about this being an NPWS track given the state of it, particularly at the bottom. My legs haven’t felt so sluggish on a hill in a long time but we made it to the top without really stopping so I can’t be that unfit!

DSC05043

Slogging our way up the Red Track

I think we were back at the car around 5:15pm, so all up 7.5 hours. Perfectly timed really in the end – what with the sun at lunch, and doing the climb out in the shade with the lovely evening light.

Fortunately James had a stove so our night wasn’t a complete disaster, particularly after a bottle of red and some fortified shiraz 🙂

1 2 3 6