Danae Brook


Madie Jeremy and meeeee

Wanna do Danae?

I’ve said before the Kanangra style canyons of abseiling beside waterfalls for the sake of abseiling beside waterfalls never had a great appeal to me, but Danae was different. It was the most slot like of the Kanangra canyons so the short answer was yes. The long answer was I wasn’t sure I was up to it at the moment.

Danae is steeped in tales of benighted groups, 16 hour slogfests and epic challenges.

I also had other commitments so originally said, No. Well not yet but lets do it later in the season

But the idea began to germinate….

Ah Fugg it! lets do it!

In the week leading up an antarctic blast gave us plummeting temps, a good dump of rain and stupidly high winds so it was with a little trepidation I drove out to to the Boyd river camp late Friday afternoon. The rain had cleared but wind gusts up to 90kph ripped through the tree tops.

We’d be joined for the trip by Madies friend Jeremy, who it turns out I knew from my bike shop days. Also joining us for the night was Matt and Madie’s Dad and step mum.

After much banter and a feast of butter-chicken we seek the warmth of our beds. The plan was to break camp at 5am and be on our way soon after.

Morning came and the wind had calmed considerably but the temperature was still winterish. We sorted packs and ropes and by the time we dropped a car at the pick up point 3 of us set out on the Thurat fire trail just after 6am.

On a big trip like this I’m always a tad nervous until we we start walking and then everything calms and I enjoy the simple pleasure of being in the bush with like minded people

Track notes are deliberately vague but sometime later we veer off into the scrub, cross a couple of minor gullies and then drop down into a tributary to avoid the horrendous scrub on the ridge top. We reach the first abseil point at 7.30.


From there it’s into the stunning slot and abseil after abseil after abseil.

Madie stops on the chock stone to grab a photo and retrieve a stuck rope a previous party had lost.
Madie and Jeremy enter the slot
Danae swallows and humbles you. Madie on rope
The waterfall abseil. Danae can be dry, or it can be dangerously pumping
get the balance right and it is awesome. Jeremy in the fall
Jeremy at the bottom of the “Waterfall abseil”
Looking down to Madie at the bottom of “Danae Direct”
It is even more stunning in real life
And still the abseils come in the tight confines of Danae


On gritty Blue Mtns sandstone this would be a simple down climb. The quartzite of Kanangra  however is slippery as ice covered snot when wet so we rope up for safety
Madie watching Jeremy descend

And then comes the boulder field. A steep chute littered with house sized boulders. A massive 3D puzzle that takes about an 1hr to negotiate.



And a final abseil or two then the creek levels out and it’s another 1.5hrs of smaller boulder hoping down to the Junction with Kanangra creek.

From the Junction the haul up to the Kilpatrick causeway is like climbing a ladder for 1.5hrs, only the rungs are uneven, at odd angles, made out of loose dirt and covered in pickle bush, stinging trees and biting ants…

46687650_343951363049157_5052880284731572224_n (1).jpg
Not even the prickly pea and stinging trees could wipe the smile from my face.

A final scramble up a small cliffline and we top out to amazing views south towards Mittagong and east to the Blue Mts where the classic shape and colour of the Hydro Majestic can clearly be seen nestled on the cliff tops.

and of course the views down over the terrain we’ve just come through is amazeballs. The gully in the Centre is Kanangra main, Danae is behind the spired ridge in the middle distance to the right
Another hour of walking and one more cliffline to get through and we reach the car exhausted but fulfilled

What an Awesomely epic day with awesomely epic people.

Group size: 3 all experienced

Timing: 10.5 car to car.

Note this is reasonably quick, especially as none of us had done it before. We were expecting 13hrs.

To do it we had to be efficient on the abseils so we had 3 ropes. A 30m, which was kept with the last person on the bigger drops as the emergency back up, and 2x 60m. The first 60 would be set and as soon as the second person reached the bottom of the abseil the second 60 would be set for the next one. As soon as the last person was down the first would go again.

Rope management was also key with efficient coiling and uncoiling needed, though I confess to ending up with a tangled mess at least once as fatigue began to kick in.

GPS tells me we covered 19km with a bit over 1300m elevation gain.

Remember your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be. In it your senses get dulled, your muscles lax, and your brain turned to mush. Flynny

Madies Time log:

3 ppl
5.55 start
7.45 first abseil
7.55 2nd abseil off 2 trees difficult start
8.26 4th abseil off boulder
8.36 5th abseil 10 m off boulder swing under
8.40 6th abseil down waterfall lots of water
8.52, 7th abseil through hole dark slot under boulder
9.03 8th abseil w traverse line
9.30 9th  abseil 5m onto log
A few scrambles
9.40 10th abseil 5m off shitty sling without malion on rhs
9.50 11th abseil 7 ml in sun off rope on rhs
10.03 down sketch 5 m climb and 12th abseil start off 2 bolts and wires on lhs
10.30 scramble over centre of null
10.40 13th abseil off tree onto boulder field
11.34 14th 15m abseil in to pool awkward
11.45 15th abseil 10 m into pool of pitons on rhs
11.55 lunch rock after abseils
12.20 lunch over
1.22 Kanangra Creek junction
1.40 leaving change spot
3.15 track -killpatrick
3.30 hill
4.20 murdering gully
4.27 main lookout track
4.31 car


Empress and Grand Canyons


Gaz, Jodie and meeee

Last time I did the Empress Falls/Grand canyon double, Empress was still better known as Valley of the Waters canyon. We were still amazed that civilisation hadn’t been wiped out by the Y2K bug. The Euro was still brand new. NASAs Mars Odyssey was mapping the red planet and Queen Lizzy was pomping about for her Golden Jubilee…

So when Gaz and Jodie said they were keen to ease back into it I thought why not.

Being anti social, disliking crowds and line ups I like doing Empress early morning or very late afternoon. The light frost on the windscreen when Gaz came to pick me up may have indicated we needn’t have worried too much about that but, anyhoo, we went early and had the place to ourselves .

When Gaz announced he and Jodie had brought 2 sets of wetsuits, spring suits of Empress and Steamers for Grand, it was one of those Why-have-I-never-thought-of-that moments. I mean I had been contemplated doing Empress in with just a thermal top. I had a spring suit hanging in my cupboard…

You Eeeejit Flynny!

Too bad they gave me that epiphany after we left, But anyway.

We didn’t do the upper section today but did make the detour up to check out the Asmodeus Pool.
And then it was into the main section
The water was bracing… We opted to carefully down climb the obstacles rather than jump and get fully submerged
Which works well except for the squeeze under the chock stone
there came a time when we had to swim
It’s such a short little canyon, but very pretty
And the final bit is OK too I guess
Empress falls, just 1 of many falls in the Valley of the Waters

A quick 15min hike up the tourist track and we are back at the car putting dry clothes on for the drive back to Blackheath.

While we pretty much had Empress to ourselves we struggled to get a spot at the Neates glen car park and a steady stream of walkers filed up and down the track.

The entrance to the Grand Canyon is pretty awe inspiring, No wonder the commercial tour companies love it.



Despite plenty of walkers up top we had the depths to ourselves


Unfortunately the early start in Empress meant we were in Grand in the harshest mid-day light so the photos are no where near as good as previous trips.



Back in the day the guides challenge was to see how far you could rockhop, scramble, bridge and generally dick about to avoid getting too wet.
Gaz took the challenge on today and got all the way to the final 20m swim without getting wet over his waist. Here a submerged log saves his shorts a dunking


Me and Jodie had given up by this stage. Water wasn’t *THAT* cold


The bastard is still dry, this bets my best effort in my short stint as a guide
But he wont be dry for long….


Party size 3: all experienced

Time: Empress 1hr 40min car to car   Grand 3hr Car to car

Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better:- Albert Einstein

Previous trips with better light for photos

Empress 10/01/2016  / 05/02/2017

Grand  29/01/2017 / 25/01/2018






Galah Canyon


Madie, Naomi and meee

My plans for the weekend were not going to plan but Sunday suddenly freed up and I thought Madie had a trip sorted out so I send her a quick message to see what she was up to and whether I can jump in on it. The reply was ” Nothing planned let’s do something”

Galah it is then.

Naomi joined us and we set off from the car park in high spirits.

The constant banter saw us eat up the walk in no time flat and before we knew it we were suiting up.

Naomi modelling the latest trends for the fashion conscious canyoner
Revelling in the the grandeur of a short tunnel like section ©Madie
Naomi on the short abseil we would climb back up later in the day

And then the canyon opens back out and we wander down the pleasant creek to the main section.

Time to throw ropes ©Madie
The lower section starts with this impressive drop and then just gets better
Finding the easy/fun way down the slippery wall



It’s a really bad rope pull, you’d be better off pulling the rope on the boulder and sliding down the log on the next drop.

How did you get down the log? Asks Naomi

I’ll teach you to hump it. Says Madie. I’m a log humping expert…..


The canyon here is deep and impressive. A stunning bit of canyon

Naomi at the top of the “Guide book abseil”
Not quite how it looks in the guide book

We stuff around trying to re-enact the pose that features on the back of the 5th edition of the Jameison guide


Ok so Madie is not wearing stubbies, volleys or a terry towelling hat as David Stuckey did when he posed for the shot that became the image on the back cover of the guide book and she is standing a bit to far along the log but we got close going from memory.

Strike a pose

The other big difference is the  water levels. In the image on the guide book the water is all but covering the log and there is a nice flow coming under the chock stone above.

Did I mention its a stunning section of canyon
Remember to look up


If memory serves me correctly you knit one pearl 2… ©Naomi
Where would you rather be



And then the canyon opens out. Tom rates it an 8/10 and I’d have to agree, if only the constriction was a tad longer it would be a solid 10/10

But we still need to get out and after a bit of route finding we pick up the right trail and find the climb where we decide to play it safe and belay each other up.

I go up using a prusik on the fixed line for safety ©Madie

Then set a top belay for the girls


The exit follows the bottom of the top cliffline back around to meet the creek just below the upper section of canyon. From there we have a couple of options but choose to reverse up through the top section.

a fairly simple climb up the first abseil


From there we have a few deep wades and slippery climbs. Not wanting to either put wetsuits back on or soak dry clothes we opt for a quick undie run. Avert your eyes girls…

Naomi learns the hard way about the difference in grip on wet rock between bestards and her trail running shoes. Madie and I pretty much walked up the larger climb. Naomi had a couple of failed attempts resulting in some slides and loss of skin before we set rope on a meat anchor for her.

And before long we are back at the change point putting dry clothes back on for the stroll out.

Group size: 3. All experienced

Timing: 7.5hrs not rushing but not dawdling either.

Earth. it’s the insane asylum of the universe


draft Canyoning Good Practice Guide

The draft Canyoning Good Practice Guide (“the Guide”) has been released under the Australian Adventure Activity Standards (AAAS).  Feedback or submissions on the document are due by 12 November 2018.  


While the standards are currently voluntary, they can be adopted by land owners, regulatory agencies such as National Parks and Wildlife Services, insurers, etc.  They are also a bar against which a Court or Judge can compare a provider’s or leader’s negligence. 


The Guide is clearly written by and intended for commercial providers, yet it applies to Clubs and any recreational trip with dependent participants.  Most club members on a canyon trip would be considered dependents under the Guide.   


Whilst the Guide is not legally binding at present, we can foresee a time when canyoning will be so popular that a permit system will be applied to many of our most visited canyons, like Empress and Claustral.  If this document was enforced by National Parks and Wildlife Services for example, no Club trip would meet the standards for us to be able to visit these natural beauties freely.  Canyoners would have no other choice but to pay a commercial provider to attend these canyons.  For example, to comply with them the Club would be required to own, maintain, store and retire all the equipment used on canyoning trips such as harnesses, ropes, descenders, carabiners, etc.  Leaders would have to be qualified in various units / courses and know the canyon being visited beforehand.  It would effectively be the end of exploration and the bush would be covered in more unwanted red tape. This would of course be detrimental to every canyoner, member of a Club or not.  


We believe canyoners, recreational organisations, clubs and its members should oppose the Guide.  

We note that Bushwalking Australia recently issued a policy opposing the Bushwalking AAAS  (link:http://www.bushwalkingaustralia.org/images/docos/Policies/Bushwalking_Australia_Policy_-_AAAS.pdf)   


The same would be a desirable outcome from Clubs and Associations regarding the Canyoning Guide.  


Commercial providers have a higher duty of care to their paying customers than volunteer groups.  The Guide should only apply to them.  


Below are Craig Flynn’s and my submissions on the Guide.  If you agree with our objections, please copy (amend if you like) and paste the submissions in an email to: info@australianaas.org.au (RE: Submissions on the Canyoning Good Practice Guide) 

Here is the link to the full Guide: 





It would be extremely difficult, daunting and in some cases even impossible for volunteer groups such as Bushwalking Clubs to comply with the provisions contained in the Canyoning Good Practice Guide.


The Guide has the following MANDATORY requirements for example: 


1)    Equipment MUST be checked that it is serviceable before each activity or before being used (Rule 6.5);

2)    Appropriate procedures MUST be in place for inspections (Rule 6.5);

3)    Equipment and inspections MUST conform with the law and regulations (Rule 6.5)

4)    Equipment MUST be stored with reference to the manufacturer’s recommendations or instructions (Rule 6.6)


Analysis:  On Club trips members purchase, provide and look after their own equipment, including storage. These provisions would be impossible to comply with.


5)      Requiring certain Competencies from leaders (Rule 7.2)


Analysis: Requiring accreditation in certain units or courses to lead a canyon could only apply to Commercial Activity providers.  Most clubs are constituted by volunteer hobbyists with no formal accreditation or qualification.  This requirement would make leading a canyon by a recreational group extremely difficult.  


6)    Requiring knowledge of the site (Rule 7.5.2)


       Analysis: This provision fails on 2 fronts for recreational groups:


   a)    It refers to factors the provider should consider when allocating activity leaders to a trip.  However, in Clubs the trips are organised or volunteered by the members and NOT allocated;

 b)    While commercial groups are expected to have previous knowledge of a canyon, recreational canyoning frequently involves exploration.   Again, this provision is an example of a requirement that cannot apply to a recreational group. 


7)    Unprotected climbing MUST only be used where the risk is acceptably low of a fall from height indicate the climb does not require the use of a fall protection system or spotter (Rule 7.6.3)


Analysis:  Many climbs in canyons in the Blue Mountains involve exposure and unsafe heights.  A fall protection system or spotter is many times not possible.


8)    To reduce the potential for falls from height, procedures MUST include designating what areas that are not to be entered (Rule 7.6.7)


Analysis:  Recreational groups would not be able to limit the members’ mobility in certain areas, even if unsafe.  


9)    Abseil belay systems MUST use at least one belay method to protect the abseiler if they lose control of the descent and the belay method used MUST be a releasable top belay system, unless other considerations indicate another belay method is more appropriate.(Rule 7.6.8)


Analysis:  Requiring a belay system on every abseil is very onerous.  Recreational groups may not belay the first person or use a top belay over a bottom belay in many instances.     




An exclusion clause in the Guides would be appropriate, such as:


“The Canyoning Good Practice Guide does not apply to Independent (Non-Commercial) Participation in Canyoning Adventure Activities in NSW”  


By Gabriela Faura





If you rated the Good Practice Guide ‘I cannot support this’, please provide your reason:

The document is poorly worded (It’s “voluntary” but you “must”) with no scope to define exactly who it applies to.

“Dependent” and “Activity Provider” are grey terms which the document fails to clearly define.

It appears written by commercial interests for commercial interests. Under current legislation it would be unenforceable towards volunteers and recreational groups however I foresee a time when canyoning becomes so popular a permit system will be applied to the most popular canyons and this document could then be used as a minimum requirement by land-managers when issuing permits.

Unfortunately, several sections of the document become completely impracticable in a recreational or club setting which may then exclude such groups from obtaining said permits.


3.2 Canyoning emergency management plan. A documented emergency plan is impracticable for recreational groups. Specific clauses such as escape route mapping are not practical when exploring rarely visited canyons.

6.2.1 “Training in the use of equipment used MUST be provided to activity leaders and participants”. In my recreational group who provides this training to the leader and participants? This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction.

6.4.5 “A procedure regarding participant supplied equipment SHOULD be developed.” Completely irrelevant to recreational groups

“6.4.6 Rescue systems Anchor systems and belay systems MUST be rigged for a timely and effective rescue. Abseils that involve running waterfalls MUST use releasable rigging” Again, less practicable for recreational groups where the level of “dependence” is far less than in a commercial setting

6.5 Maintenance of equipment Again, completely impractical for recreational groups where each person is expected to look after their own equipment.

6.6 Storage of equipment Again, completely impractical for a leader of recreational groups where each person is expected to look after their own equipment

7.1 Naming conventions. This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction with no relevance to recreational groups.

7.2 Competencies. Completely irrelevant to recreational groups

7.4 Supervision ratiosIrrelevant to recreational groups

7.4.2 Supervision of belay systems Less relevant to recreational groups

 7.4.3 Assistant canyoning guides and supervision ratios Irrelevant to recreational groups

7.4.4 Single activity leader – all canyoning Irrelevant to recreational groups

7.4.5 Single activity leader – vertical canyoning Irrelevant to recreational groups

 7.5.1 Progression through a canyon Procedures MUST be used to reduce the potential of: This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction and completely irrelevant to recreational groups

7.5.2 Knowledge of site Completely irrelevant to recreational groups who may be doing an exploratory trip or visiting a canyon for the first time (whether using a guide book or beta from others). If this clause was in play previously canyons would not have been explored in the first instance.

7.5.3 Canyoning activity information for participants This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction and less relevant to recreational groups

7.6.5 Deep-water belays Procedures to assess the suitability and safety of deep-water belays MUST be developed and used. This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction. Procedures are completely irrelevant and impracticable to recreational groups

7.6.7 Abseiling and Climbing To reduce the potential for falls from height, procedures MUST include: This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction. Procedures are completely irrelevant to recreational groups

7.6.8  through 7.6.18 While offering a handy guide of what should be done the use of the word “Must” limits it relevance to recreational groups who may choose to use different methods and systems.

7.7 Aquatic canyoning activity management.  As above This is clearly written towards commercial parties or youth groups/clubs offering skills instruction. Most of the clause are less relevant/impracticable for recreational groups. Procedures are completely irrelevant to recreational groups


Are there any topics that should have been included but were not? 

If the document is to be adopted in any from it requires a scope that clearly defines who it is intended for. My suggestion would be something along the lines of “This guide applies to Commercial groups, youth group such as scouts, rovers, guides, recreational clubs (but only when the primary purpose of the trip is skills instruction)…… While it is a handy guide for recreational canyoners it is not expected to be applied to independent or co-dependent recreational groups”

I also feel the definitions of “Dependent group” and “activity provider” provided in the core guide are vague at best and clearer definitions need to be developed.


Are there any topics that were covered that you do not think need to be? 

Grading system.

There are 2 simple grading systems already in use in Australia, Jameison’s 1-5 and Brennan’s Easy,Medium, Hard

I feel these are more than enough to cover the relatively small diversity of difficulty in the Blue Mountains and the introduction of a new, more complex grading system only adds confusion.


What are your key concerns regarding the activity Good Practice Guide, if any?

A cynical person might suggest the guide is written by commercial interests to make it harder/less appealing for Recreational clubs and youth groups to compete with them.


My concern is if land managers decide to adopt the guide as a minimum standard for allowing recreational groups continued access to canyons. This decision could well be made by persons with little actual knowledge of canyoning who assume that as there is a published guide it would be applicable to all canyoning groups.


Other concerns include the document having an over use of the word “must” in a guide that is meant to be “voluntary” and the fact it tries to aim itself at groups and organisation that current legislation would view as exempt from it. Thus it is an impracticable document that exists for the sole purpose of existing.


Issues with the core guide

Incident reporting Not always practicable for recreational groups

Planning Management and approval of activities. Less relevant and practical for recreational groups

Activity plansLess relevant and practical for recreational groups

Purpose of activity. Less relevant and practical for recreational groups. I’d like a clear purpose for this document though.

Emergency management planning Refers to procedures. Documented procedures are completely irrelevant to recreational groups

Reporting notifiable incidents Completely irrelevant to recreational groups

Work health and safety Completely irrelevant to recreational and volunteer club based groups

Activity leader required documentation Irrelevant to recreational groups

Consent Less relevant to recreational groups

Trigger points. Documented T.A.R.P.s and trigger points are not relevant to recreational groups

Equipment and logistics Less relevant to recreational groups with some clauses being impracticable.

Naming conventions and roles Less relevant to recreational groups with some clauses being impracticable.

Competencies Less relevant to recreational groups with some clauses being impracticable

By Craig Flynn


Flynny and Gabby