Category Archives: Canyoning

Canyoning after lots of rain (1-2 April 2017)

Katoomba had 535mm of rain in March 2017, 354mm of that fell in a 10 day period between the 14th and the 24th. Canyoners around NSW had been stuck inside for weeks watching and waiting to see when conditions might be safe to venture out. We had attempted to head out on the 18th but ended up touring the waterfalls of the mountains which were impressively full.

It wasn’t a great time to have just 3 weeks in the Blue Mountains for canyoning! Fortunately the rain finally abated and we were able to show Evan down one of the best canyons in the Blue Mountains, Claustral. Jarrah & Megan joined us for their first visit to Claustral as well. Tom & I had a couple of sleepless nights leading up to Saturday worrying the water might be too high. In the end Tom’s judgement that the water levels would be fine based on his experience of the canyon was right – it was a great day out. It was very dark so my photos didn’t come out particularly well – an easy culling process! Most of the ones below aren’t as sharp as I would like but they are the best of a bad lot.


Approaching the Black Hole of Calcutta in Claustral


Jarrah at the bottom of the first abseil

Check out the contrasting water levels from Tom’s last visit in 2014.


Evan coiling at the bottom of the second abseil


Evan abseiling the third drop


Looking back to the Claustral/Ranon junction


In the main gorge

Jarrah and Megan had to head home, while Tom, Evan & I camped at Mt Wilson on Saturday night. We woke to a grey, cool day. Perfect canyon conditions! Tom unfortunately wasn’t feeling great so decided to sit out Sunday. Evan and I headed to Lower Bowens Creek North Canyon. It’s a great canyon and while the water was up you can avoid abseiling in the main water flow.


The start of the canyon


Constriction getting narrower


Looking back upstream


Evan on the first abseil


Looking back at the first drop


Evan pulling the rope on the second abseil

Contrast the amount of water in the above photo with this photo of me in the same spot on a different trip.


Swimming in the canyon


Near the end of the narrows


Coorongooba Canyoning (2017-01-26-to-29)

After spending most of the day walking in we started our first canyon at 4pm. Smiffy had done it before but didn’t remember anything other than there being lots of drops. Time to be efficient then!


Tom bridging after one of the early drops


Tom about to reach another pool


Tom on yet another abseil


Smiffy below a drop as I investigate anchors for the next few drops


Smiffy abseiling


Smiffy above another short drop


Looking back up as Smiffy abseils.


Tom on the final drop

Normally I like my wilderness canyons to have no evidence of previous parties, but in this case with so many drops, some without obvious anchors I was happy to see anchors/slings in place! We were pretty glad to make camp while it was still light. The rain set in but the temperature never really dropped. It was a hot and uncomfortable night.


Glad to have a camp cave as the forecast (which is correct) is for rain

On day 2 we climbed up a nearby tributary (with a bit of effort), and then descended another creek. We then pioneered an increasingly sketchy pass which is unlikely to be repeated given there is an easy walk-up ramp nearby. Finally we descended a creek that didn’t deliver any canyon but had a series of nice waterfall abseils.


Tom ascending a waterfall



Toni making her way up the next drop


Toni & Smiffy climbing up another waterfall


Smiffy abseiling in a different creek


Tom abseiling


Our afternoon creek had lots of lovely waterfalls but wasn’t really canyon


Tom getting off-rope


Another nice waterfall


We got quite wet on this one

On Day 3 we moved on from our camp cave. Heading upstream we explored a couple of creeks, neither of which delivered much on the canyon front but again had some nice abseils. Finally we climbed out with full packs and headed over the tops, having a high camp above the creek we intended to descend the next day. Our objective was to have an earlier happy hour than the previous two days (not hard since I think the earliest we’d made it to camp was 7:30pm!). Even so we struggled to meet the objective, ending up making camp around the same time… but that was ok as Tom had promised day 4 would be a short day (more on that later).


Nest morning while packing up camp I nearly stood on this guy! (assume it’s a death adder – it certainly wasn’t going anywhere)


Thank goodness for Christmas shortbread that we could pack as last minute morning tea! (Thanks J&N&C&J)


This creek had little more than one abseil. But it was a pretty spectacular abseil!


Toni & Smiffy checking whether we are going to make it to camp for an early Happy Hour (unlikely!)


More waterfalls


Tom above another big drop


Abseiling the big drop


Toni on the final abseil while Tom sits on the log she’s abseiling off to keep it in place


High camp on night 3. It was very warm night, fortunately not too many mosquitoes as I didn’t get into my sleeping bag all night.

Day 4, our final day, was 3km down a creek and then a walk back to the car… I just believed Tom and didn’t look at the map until we’d covered about a kilometre in the creek. I then discovered we still had another 5km to go! Chances of it being a short day. Slim. We made it to the end of the creek at 4pm, with at least 11km still to walk. A big thunderstorm hit which was a bit scary as the lightning was close, and we were pelted by hailstones. Made it to the cars at 7:10pm – earliest finish of the trip! Though of course we still had the long drive back to Sydney. A great weekend, if not particularly relaxing!


Beautiful pools


Tom abseiling


Smiffy coiling the rope below our third abseil


More beautiful rock formations


Final abseil


Tom doing a shoe clean-out just as the rain arrives. Not long later we were in the eye of a massive thunderstorm including mentos-sized hailstones.


Thunder Canyon (2017-01-21)


Tom led a great trip down Thunder Canyon. Thunder was spectacular, a really nice way to get into Claustral. We had perfect weather for the trip too.


The party in the upper section of Thunder Canyon


Jo ‘flying’ towards the main abseil (down the black hole)


The first abseil in the canyon is pretty nice


Tom above the second abseil (we used the same rope as the first)


The canyon takes a 90°C bend in a pretty dark & spectacular section


Canyon formation!


Silhouettes in the dark section


Srini in the canyon


Lots of ferns everywhere


Impressive walls


More impressive constriction dwarfing Jon & Tom




Nearing Claustral


Tom below one of the downclimbs in Claustral


Jo attempting (futilely) to avoid swimming in the upper section of Claustral Brook


Claustral Brook

Blue Mountains Canyoning (2017-01-14)

Tom and I spent the day exploring a creek in the Blue Mountains.


After quite a lot of creek bashing it finally starts looking like it could get canyon-y.


Tom in the canyon


Pretty canyon section


Tom in the canyon


It was an attractive canyon


With interesting rock formations


And some deep pools for jumps….


… and slides




Nice rock formation


Heart Attack & Surefire (2017-01-7&8)

Normally as Tom’s birthday falls in prime canyoning season we organise a birthday trip but with the various trips we’d done over the prior couple of weeks we were feeling a bit tired. Fortunately Toni & Smiffy suggested the Heart Attack/Surefire double over the weekend so we got out despite our fatigue.


Tom abseiling in a side creek


Chris showing his flexibility on the classic abseil into Heart Attack


Tom in Heart Attack


The team wading


Chris on a downclimb while Toni looks on


Chris on an abseil before he dislodges one of the logs…


Tom downclimbing

We had taken overnight gear which we stashed while doing Heart Attack. We didn’t have a firm plan on where to camp but the vegetation largely decided for us. This clearing on Deanes Creek firetrail was one of the few places where we could actually set up. It ended up being a relatively long day as the old firetrails leading to/from Heart Attack are very overgrown (plus too many photo faffers!).


Chris relishing sitting down away from any scrub!


Tom on the first abseil into Surefire


Toni on the “hand over hand or 4m abseil”. A pretty tricky one to hand over hand! The abseil was made a lot of easier when I re-rigged the rope off a log above (rather than on) the edge of the drop.


Tom on our third abseil, with the rest of the party looking on from the bottom


Tom bridging to stay dry


Toni on the final abseil. There were a lot more (substantial) logs here compared to 2008.


Tom contemplating the grandeur of the constriction


Smiffy on part of the exit

I was really interested in how I found the exit as the only other time I’d done it was in 2008. I had vivid memories of how much I’d disliked the two sets of trees you need to climb up to get out. I was hoping with 9 more years experience under the belt I wouldn’t find it so nerve-racking. The various “climbs” are tricky but I managed them all, with pack-on, so I was pretty pleased. Next time I just need to try and do them without aid (rope/slings)!


And then a long firetrail bash back to the cars

We enjoyed the exit gully as it was shady and fairly easy going on what was forecast to be a 32C day. The firetrail was also reasonably shady so while the walk out was long it wasn’t particularly oppressive.

A great weekend out in the (overgrown, scrubby) bush.

Popeye Canyon (2017-01-04)


Tom above the upper section


Tom avoiding a wade


Tom in the upper section



After a bit of a creek bash we get to the lower section. Tom between downclimbs



On a downclimb






Tom wading



First abseil



Second abseil



Awkward downclimb. I went left instead.



Tom after a tunnel


In the ‘Boori






Swimming in the Bungleboori (Dingo Creek)


Looking up Gateway Canyon


Yarramun Canyoning (2016-12-26 to 31) – Part II

Continued from here

On day 4 we found a pass out of the main creek and had some easy ridge walking to drop in high up in a side creek. We had intermittent canyon for most of the day.


Sue abseiling under one of many annoying fallen trees


Smiffy abseiling into a pool


Toni abseiling


Toni on another abseil


Sue taking the direct route


Tom on (yet another) awkward start


Smiffy negotiating even more fallen trees on an abseil


Beautiful rainforest creek

It ended up being a fairly long day and there wasn’t much chat around the fire that night! I had a nap while Tom was cooking dinner. There was much discussion about what to do the next day. After writing off an option for a ‘mammoth day’ we settled on something hopefully a bit easier. So on day 5 we went looking for a pass out of the creek. Our heart rates got up quite high after I dislodged a large boulder while scrambling up a chute. Fortunately it was a wide chute and Sue and Smiffy had plenty of time to get out of the way. The pass eventually went but took quite a bit of exploring. From there we headed across the tops and dropped into another side creek.


Toni & Smiffy in a narrow bit high up in the side creek


Tom after descending the log. He failed to pose higher up while in a far more precarious position!


Smiffy setting the ropes for start of the main canyon section


Toni on the second abseil in the main canyon section


Sue on the first abseil in the main canyon section


Sue at the bottom of the second abseil


Tom at the bottom of the second abseil


Tom on the third abseil in the main canyon section


Would you believe we’re in a canyon? Tom using a handline to get to the final abseil


The dramatic final abseil


Tom in the canyon


Negotiating boulder block-ups in the main creek


Dinner on the last night – “Japanese surprise”. I got the packet in the picture in my player’s pack at the World Ultimate Championships in 2012. No idea what is in it as all the labelling is in Japanese. But we needed something to mix with the plain beef & vegies that Tom had dehydrated. Oh, and it was best before 2013. Tom was dubious and made me leave it until the last night. As it turns out appeared to be something like tomato sauce. And we didn’t die 🙂

On our sixth and final day (for me, Tom & Sue anyway) we climbed out of the creek and headed across the tops. Somewhat on our route back we descended a written-up but infrequently done canyon. Followed by what we were now used to – negotiating lots of fallen timber in the creeks! Tom had thought this might be a short day, but we left camp at 7am and I retrieved the car at 6pm…


Climbing a pass out of the creek


Easier gradient!


Tom mid-way into dropping into a deep pool


There were a lot of yabbies in the creek. This one was lucky not to get trodden on!


Tom on an awkward abseil (particularly awkward due to the full packs)


Tom in the canyon


Emerging from a dark section


Sue fighting the current going upstream in the main creek we ended up in

We left Toni & Smiffy to camp for New Years Eve, while the rest of us fought our way out a pass. Apparently another party started up shortly after us but we never saw them – so I guess they weren’t moving quicker than us!


Tom surveying the rugged country we’ve just exited


The side-effects of 6 days in the bush. Three canyoners and three pairs of shorts of split up the back seam. Mine also lost most of the back right bum but a bit of sewing and some strapping tape repairs largely held for the last three days.

Yarramun Canyoning (2016-12-26 to 31) – Part I

After a year off our ‘traditional’ Boxing Day canyoning trip last year it was good that Tom’s body appeared to be sufficiently healthy for us to get back into it this year. We garnered a bit of interest and so on Boxing Day five of us set off into the Wollemi Wilderness.


Tom had already had to do a repack after weighing his pack and deciding 20kg was out of the question – 2kg of gear left on the floor at home – hopefully nothing he would later regret!


Our first couple of hours were on familiar territory and we helped direct another party in the direction of Water Dragon – though after we left them Tom did admit he may have sent them in a bit early. Oops. We continued on, the going on the ridges was pretty easy as the regrowth from the fires was still relatively low. We dropped into a tributary of a tributary which was pretty unpleasant – and a bit of a theme for the trip – many creeks having a lot of fallen timber in them from the fires.


Having a break in a side creek after some scrub bashing. At least the going along the tops was pretty good after fires in recent years.


Scrambling in the main creek


Negotiating a log jam


Tom on a small hand-over-hand


Sue at the bottom of another hand-over-hand


Tom in the canyon


Toni standing out in her new wetsuit


On the second day we explored a side creek. On our way in I encountered some sawfly larvae.


The tributary we explored was dark and cold. This was at the end of of a tunnel section – before I had to break the spiderweb and disturb the water!


Toni exiting a narrow tunnel section


Sue enjoying the frigid water


Tom on a small downclimb


Sue in a slighty eerie dark section (artificially lit)


We base camped for two nights, Tom and I took the ‘annex’ around the corner from the main camp cave. We did a bit more excavating after the first night to even up the ground!

On the second afternoon the others opted for a bit of R&R while Tom and I headed back into the main creek. We were looking for passes and options for the coming days. Potentially we were going to have to reverse our route so we spent a fair bit of time assessing whether we could get back up everything (or leaving a rope in place as needed).


Tom descending into the main creek


Tom negotiating a further downclimb


Further down the creek we explored a very narrow side creek from the bottom. With a bit of bridging and grunting we got a bit of a way up it.

On day 3 we decided to move camp so with full packs found a pass out onto the tops and headed over the ridge to descend an unknown creek.


Abseil in our side creek


Tom on another abseil in the side creek


Lunch cave in the main creek. Complete with newspaper from 2014 that had (presumably) been left for kindling along with the large pile of firewood. The previous day I found an old torch in another overhang.


There were lots of flannel flowers out


After lunch we headed out a somewhat sketchy pass to descend the narrow canyon Tom and I had explored from the bottom on the previous day.


Smiffy on the first impressive abseil


Tom on the second narrow abseil


Toni abseiling, while Tom enjoys the canyon ambience


Bridging over a narrow section

Then we continued down the main creek. We were hoping to find a camp cave further downstream. The creek was slow going with full packs, and some major boulder block-ups which took some time to work out a way through.


Toni negotiating a downclimb


Magnificent gorge


Tom on top of one of the boulder block-ups. Now where?


More magnificent gorge

While the gorge was magnificent we were all pretty tired by the time we finally found a camp cave. Even better it wasn’t the camp cave we were looking for but a better one! (no hauling up a tree to get to it!)


A very nice camp cave, which ended up being home for the 3 nights

Continue the adventure

Macquarie Pass Rivulet (2016-11-20)


Tom at the top of the first short abseil


Tom on the second abseil.


The party behind us abseiling the third abseil.


Clare on an optional abseil in the one of the bouldery sections


Tom on a spectacular abseil into a amphitheatre where we had lunch


The whole creek is pretty accessible…


Clare abseiling while Tom looks on


Tom belaying Clare on the next abseil


Tom decides to take an (optional) slide


Jumping for the paparazzi


Another abseil, more photos!


The party behind us abseiling into the most ‘slotty’ section of the day


Stanley jumping


Tom jumping


The lower section is more horizontal and lovely walking. We spotted an eel in this pool.


The party behind us scrambling a drop near the end.


Mt Wilson Canyoning (2016-02-13 & 14)

So far this season has been a dud so it was good to be able to get out and do some, albeit pretty tame, canyons for a weekend. We were unsure how Tom’s, now hopefully not broken, toe would go so we went for a short day on Saturday. The only previous time I’d done Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? Canyon was also as a recovery canyon for one of Tom’s injuries back in March 2007. With almost 9 years between visits it was nothing like what I remembered!


Despite only putting out the call for other participants late on Thursday night Jon joined us for the day. We started the canyon about midday, and caught another group at the start of the abseils in the canyon proper. Having lunch seemed a good option at that stage while we quizzed Jon on questions we didn’t know from the SMH Good Weekend quiz.


We caught the group again at the second abseil just as their last person was finishing up, and then properly at the final abseil. They had a couple of kids who’d both grated their hands on the previous abseil and were not having a great time of it. We didn’t have to wait long and before we knew it were at the Wollangambe.



Tom’s toe elected for the short exit. It was peak hour! We found a party of 17 (the group that we had caught up to in the canyon), plus a large commercial party. We squeezed into a spot to get changed and then set off keen not to be at the back on the walk out! On the way up we also bumped into another commercial party that had been down the Wollangambe who we chatted to briefly. We bumped into a couple of people that Tom knew in the various parties.

Cathedral Reserve was packed. We were pleasantly surprised to bump into a group of friends who we weren’t expecting. And also pleased that the group of friends we were expecting turned up after their day down Twister and Rocky. It was a convivial evening and lengthy breakfast. Not unsurprisingly despite not having a plan when we got up we left to do Horseshoe Canyon before our friends set off on their planned canyon!

Tom decided his toe was up for a 5-6 hour day and since I hadn’t done Horseshoe Canyon we set that as our target. It was a hot walk in, but despite the hordes at Cathedral Reserve we didn’t see anyone. We made it into the canyon efficiently and soon were enjoying the cool, deep chutes of Horseshoe.

IMG_8411 IMG_8414 IMG_8417 IMG_8421 IMG_8423 IMG_8428

The canyon is quite impressive if also short. After exiting we headed down the Wollangambe before finding a shady spot for a leisurely lunch. It seemed incredible we could have this gorgeous spot to ourselves when not far downstream it was likely to be filled with people.


We did see a few people on our walk out, heading down to the ‘Gambe for a swim. On our return we detoured via De Faurs Rocks. It was great to get out canyoning!

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