Whadda ya doing this arv? Wanna Canyon after work? Says Madie
This is becoming a habit. I kinda like it.
Should we invite others? say I
Yeah, I miss people
A flurry of last minute invites were sent out. Sadly no one was available for an early Tuesday afternoon adventure with zero notice. Go figure
Madie and Leo arrive at the car park and after I field some work calls it’s about 4pm as we make a dash down into the canyon.
We were traveling lightish and fastish (For me) and my camera is playing up so not many photos were taken.
Some giggles, banter and poking fun later we are through the canyon and me and Mads start up the hill while Leo pulls the rope on the last abseil. He still well and truly beats us to the climb and ascends up ready to belay us
Up I go and start up the next bit while he belays Madie up.
I get almost to where it starts flattening out when he jogs past, Come on Flynny.
I have a bit of a jog. Legs are cramping. I walk for a bit. Looking back Madie is jogging and gaining on me fast. Leo is heading up the last little hill to the car park. I try to jog again. Stubborn or determined or sumfink
Back at the cars we laugh as we change into dry clothes.
Hey, Russ and Libby are going to do Juggler!
We should join them…
We drive around to meet them and then head off into Juggler at a slightly more relaxed pace.
And we reach the end and walk out in the darkening twilight
Party size: Butterbox, 3 Juggler, 5
Time: Is irrelevant when you are hanging out with awesome friends or Butterbox 1hr 45 Juggler 1hr 35
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving: Terry Pratchett
Mark, Ed, Ethan, Rob, Russ, Mick, David and meeeeeeee
I’d first visited the Minotaurs lair (AKA Bell Minor canyon) with Ed in 2016. It was a hot dry winters day and too be honest I didn’t think much off it.
But on the way out we spotted a tight slot that’s looked like it may be interesting. Being short on rope and time we didn’t descend it that day so I guess it was time to go back for another look.
Also Geoff Fox had told me about a slot up above the lair that he said was worth visiting so after a cold wet week we set off for a bit of an explore.
Then we head around the corner and into the gully. We cross over and avoid the worst of the scrub by traversing the base of the cliff.
And then we scramble out to look for the slot Yuri ad Geoff labelled Ariadne slot. Just when we thought we’d have to be too high another set of clifflines rise above us and we follow them around.
Its a pretty slot and would make a great abseil in from the top but no Athenian princesses were found so we make our way back down to the junction with Minotaur’s lair and fight our way through tree fall up the other side.
It was about now we hear the dreaded whoosh, crack, kaboom.
With the exception of possibly soiled pants every one was fine. Russ had looked up in time to see a baby head size rock tumbling in slow motion down the canyon. It hit the wall then exploded on the ground where he had been standing moments before….
One more little abseil and we reach the junction with the main gully
Some dense scrub
Some complex boulder hopping….Sliding
And then an easy walk down the nose to the road.
All up a good day in the bush with great people. It was a fairly long complex walk with plenty of scrub and elevation for 3 fairly short slots but I love this shit and heading out with others likewise inclined sooth the soul and clears the mind.
Party Size: 8
Time: 6hr 15min car to car with a bit of a car shuffle
The hardest thing is to find a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat:- Confucius
We’d just finished an epic day canyoning at Glen Davis. It had been a big day in scorching heat, we were driving home exhausted.
Oh course we started planning our next trip.
I wouldn’t mind doing Twilight some time this season says I.
Wanna do it next weekend replied Madie
Wheels were set in motion…
Anyhoo a ragtag group of adventurous folk meet up in the camp ground, the plan is to ride our bikes down the Wolgan river maintenance trail then stash the bikes and find a way up the hill. A bit of asking around had us confident our pass was viable and the bikes, in theory would make the haul down and back up the river faster, if not easier.
The ride down was fairly non-eventful and we were soon stashing bikes. The heat had already kicked in and Mark took a slight detour to lay in the river to cool off.
We follow a steep ridge littered with loose scree to the base of the mighty Wolgan cliffline. Breaching the cliff was surprisingly easy. Our original plan had been to scramble out onto the tops, across a ridge to descend into the top of the canyon. With the sun blazing overhead we opted to stay in a shady gully and found this gave us a relatively easy way onto the halfway ledge that runs above the canyon all the way up to the start.
And then the canyon opens up. A short bit of boulder hopping and we scramble out onto the ridge for an easy walk back to the bikes and hence back to the cars
Party size: 7: 6 experienced 1 semi experienced
Time: I did 7hrs car to car relaxed pace with a bit of laying in the river prior to the ride out but Steve busted a deraileur so Gibbo had to do some bush mechanics to convert it to single speed and I rode back down to assist with carting packs once they had it going so the group did 8hrs total
Live your life governed by a compass, not a clock:- -Stephen Covey
*March 2019 I am once again participating in the Wests Cycle Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter. If you enjoy my blog or just want to help this great cause think about making a small donation
If you haven’t seen his photos do yourself a solid and look him up on the book of faces or find him on flickr
Anyhoo, with Ed being a new dad he had other things to occupy him and thus was only going on limited trips but we had hatched a plan ages ago for a return trip to Claustral for more photos.
But it just didn’t seem like it was going to go to plan. Ed’s camera had some issue which meant it needed to be sent away for repair. I strained a calf muscle a couple of days before the trip and could barely walk and the weather turned wet and cold and the best laid plans of small rodents and hairless apes seemed like they would crumble.
In the end it came together and we found ourselves signing the visitors book on the walk in track just past 8am. We had thought the weather might put people off but a group of 3 was just in front of us and a party of two pulled up just as we headed off. We’d perfectly time it to briefly meet each other at the thunder canyon junction and exit but otherwise not see each other in the canyon. (more cars were lined up on the side of the road by the time we returned to the car park)
Ed showed up without his camera. It was just back from repairs and he didn’t want to risk it in the rain. Probably be too gloomy anyway…
The day was actually sunny and we wasted no time getting into the good bits.
We get to the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta. They are roaring. We agree on whistle signals as voices wouldn’t be heard and work out a plan to piggie back the ropes down the abseils to avoid a large group waiting in cold water.
In I go
Despite the sun shine up above the black hole seemed even darker than usual. Around the corner the Green Room at the Ranon junction was as spectacular as always. A lovely soft light had Ed regretting not bringing the camera but if he had I think we’d still be there…
Free of camera duties he was quick to strike some poses
The quintessential Claustral shot of recent years is looking back towards the Green Room with someone standing on a rock that looks a bit like Hulk’s fist. Just about every group that goes through takes the shot. I’ve heard of people booking a commercial tour just to get the shot. You’d think it would be blasé by now.
But it still holds some magic.
Still I try a few different angles and poses just to be different. Now I wouldn’t claim to be a photographers areshole but I think they turned out ok
And we move on.
It’s dark in the canyon. With the mist lifting I was expecting sun beams but it seems we are a tad early. In a few spots I’m glad we had head torches
The low angle of the sun creepng down the walls throws up interesting shots like this shot below
We get to the junction with Thunder Canyon and I convince them it’s worth the side trip with it’s cold dark swims.
The group in front of us are just coming back out. they have found an intense light ray and are warming them selves in it’s brilliance
It was a small teaser of the light show that was about to burst forth
But first to brave the cold swim. Thunder Canyon is deeper and darker than it’s more popular siblings.
It has glowworms shinning throughout the day if you know where to look and are game to turn off your light
Oh look light rays are starting to come through
And didn’t they what
But eventually we dragged ourselves away. Further up was more dark but it was worth venturing up to join the short finned eels in the cold waters.
Just around the corner is the base of Westerway Falls.
But still there’s more. Hidden behind the falls is another delight
I could have stayed here much longer but we needed to move on. This was as far up Thunder we’d be able to get. Time to back track to the junction
The light beams were waiting for us again
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And then we are back to the junction.
Most people consider the next bit to be part of Claustral but technically it is Thunder Gorge in Camathan brook and Clautral brook is it’s tributarty. Sure Thunder comes down and takes a right angle turn while Claustral seems to go pretty much straight but Thunder was the first one explored and named so it gets the glory. Or sumfink
There is some energy sappng boulder scrambles and tricky climb downs
but then the walls close back in for the tunnel swim
And some more gorgeous canyon
And then it’s time for lunch and the haul up Rainbow ravine.
It’s hard going in the humidity but the veiws from the top of the camels hump are worth it.
Just up there is the old car park… But we turn back down steeply into the top of Claustral Brook where we work our way down through some more nice canyon sections. Above us thunder rumbles and a storm hits.
Well that saves the dilema of whether to dry bag the dry clothes or just swim in them. By the time we get to the swims we are soaked any way. The rain was heavy but refreshing and we reach our second exit point and do the climb out to the cars.
It’s later than we had planned. We’d sppent longer in Thunder canyon than I thought we would have but it was just so mesmerising. Still Gaz has to be at work for a 12hr night shift in just 45min so no time is waisted and it’s into dry clothes and a hurried good bye.
All in all a top day.
Your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to stay.
Party size 6 all experienced
Timing: 9.5 hrs not rushing and my injured leg holding us up a bit.
The video is a bit longer than my normal opnes but I could have put up 20min just on the Black hole abseils.
*Slight detour* in March I am again taking part in the West Cycles Classic to raise money for the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Whether preforming bush rescue, emergency patient transfers, and all the rest no one has ever had to pay to use the helicopter due to public donations. If, like me, you believe this is an invaluable service or if you just enjoy reading my blog think about pitching in with a donation. Large or small every bit counts. follow this link for details 2018 West Cycles
I mentioned to the gang I wanted to do Grand at night this year. At some stage me and Ed discussed doing it the Australia day weekend but as he is a new dad I doubted he’d get the leave pass and so I promptly forgot about it.
Then I get a text, Are you doing the Grand Canyon trip tomorrow night? Ethan is keen
I had completely blanked it from my mind. Had no intention of doing it. I thought Ed must have known someone else doing it….
Now I’m keen thou.
A quick text to Mandy and Tal. Tal was a nope. Mandy was keen with a slightly earlier start. We’re in. Then Mandy had to pull out last minute.
Me and Ethan it is.
With dry lightning strikes causing havoc and starting bushfires in a lot of the canyoning belt I was keeping a close eye on both the weather and the Rural Fire Service updates, as well as NP closures but unlike the rest of the canyoning areas Blackheath got a bit of rain out of Thursday’s storm (10mm) and so it was damp and misty in the valley.
We dropped into the canyon around 6:30pm. Thinking by the time we phaff about with photos things would get dark about halfway through
Um, we are at the last swim…. Depsite the photo phaffing we seem to have come through super quick. We breifly contemplated following the track back to the start and doing it all again but chose the better idea staying in the canyon, reversing it back to the start and coming down again in darkness. Excellent idea Smithers
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. Lao Tzu
Glen Davis is a bit of a canyoners paradise. A quick scan of the clifflines shows slots carving through the sandstone pretty much everywhere you look. Yet being a bit further from Sydney the canyons are less frequented than those in the Blue Mountains or over the hill in the Wolgan. Publicised track notes are also scarce and getting up through the cliff lines takes a good bit of route finding, navigation and rock scrambling (if not outright climbing) skills.
All of this means the canyons here retain a bit more of a wild, explorationy feel. It is an epic location.
When Kent sent out an invitation to do the Coin Slot lets just say I was keen as mustard.
it was going be a large group but the plan was to split into smaller groups and take different routes up. Just about every one was carrying ropes and the first group to get to the canyon would set the ropes and the last group would retrieve them before we all met at the base of the last abseil.
I pick up Peter and Ben and we meet the others at Capertee. I’m so use to pulling into the car park, grabbing packs and heading off. This standing around socialising is a all a bit of a novelty.
We roll down into Glen Davis and regroup. More socialising. This is going to be a relaxing day. or is it?
Big groups are often hard to get organised but Kent is the consummate ring master and he gathers everyone together, gives the spiel on how the day is to go and splits us into our group. Climbers here, scramblers there. and we’re off.
The groups soon spread out on the haul up the steep fall zone to the base of the cliffs
We gain a lot of elevation quickly but the clifflines still tower above us and the route is not overly obvious.
We harness up. The first pitch is pretty simple. 1 balancey move as you step across a gap and you’re basically up. Autal makes short work of it and I follow him and set ropes. the rest of the group will be roped up. Ruth joins me to haul packs while I belay the others as they climb up one by one.
With everyone up it’s a traverse along a narrow ledge with stunning views before we wind our way up and onto a sucession of ledges.
The zig zagging route takes us through some stunning erosion caves with sands of different colours and textures.
I’m caught up in the experience and am snapping photos of the views.
Craig and James we need you guys up this bit next to set ropes on the last pitch. Calls Kent. Apparently we are the “climbers” in the group.
The next pitch is fairly simple as far as technicality goes. Someone has already managed to get up and so the rope is set by the time I get there. Again one or two moves that are difficult more from the exposure than the moves themselves. We are now along way up. Maybe 50 meters above the base of the cliff, which itself is a hundred meters or so above the river so it becomes a head game.
One step out then up and around. Foot holds are solid and plentyiful but at one stage the hand holds are slopers. I get up and replace Kent who has been on top belay. He goed ahead and direct people through the next section.
I take over rope duties to belay others us to a small ledge below the final climbing pitch. Trust your feet, says I more then once.
Over the radios we hear the first group has already made it to the canyon. With a small group of experienced climbers this route would be quick and easy. The size of our group has definitely slowed things down but we are not in a hurry and it’s all part of the experience and the views were breath taking on a stunning winters day.
A bit of a bottle neck is forming on the small ledge between these two pitches. James has managed to free solo the next pitch and drop a rope down and so he starts belaying others up the last pitch as I bring the last of the group up mine.
The last pitch is the longest we’ll do, maybe 6 or 7 meters, it’s only about grade 9 or 10 but again you are a long way up and it seems like there is nothing but air between your feet and the river several hundred meters below. It’s an awe inspiring place to be.
The last pitch starts on small holds and foot placements are smeers more than anything. But with a bit of assistance on the first meter or two everyone gets over it and from there the climb is pretty simple. As people top out they head off towards the canyon. By the time I’m up and James coils the rope it’s just the two of us.
Sue and Sonya wait for us at one of the turns and Kent waits to lead us through the final bit of scrub. The first group have left ropes set up so all we need to do is head on in and retrieve ropes as we go. So despite the big group we were spread out and you were only ever in groups of two or three with little to no waiting at the abseils. The groups chopped and changed a bit as people waited to help cart ropes out and others went ahead.
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The unique heart shaped chock stone is the iconic image of this trip. it’s a nice drop and you don’t notice the shape until you look back up from just down stream.
And then the creek drops down into an stunning dark slot.
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It was here we struck the only glitch in the smooth running of the day. The rope refused to pull.
Kent scrambled up the bottom drop, throwing himself backward over the lip, legs akimbo. I’ve heard of looking up old friends but that was a bit much. Nichole averted her eyes…
Trying different angles the rope still wouldn’t budge. I climb up to Kent and between our combined weight of mumblemumble kilos and a bit of backwards and forwards on the different rope ends we manage to free it with out needing to resort setting up Z lines or the like.
The biggest hold up of the descent, 15min freeing a jammed rope. Not too shabby.
Just around the corner it looks as though the slot is finished but it wasn’t done with yet and the best was yet to come.
The “Coin slot” abseil it breath taking. A scramblie start then down through a hole and the bottom of the world seems to fall out from under you. It looks and feels far higher than it is. I lock off to try and get a photo looking down but as I take my top hand off the rope I start to swing back…. Um normally on a big drop my pack is pretty much empty. As rope mule this time around I have 2 60m ropes in there. Lesson learnt. I quickly grab the rope as a guide and continue down. Photos can wait.
Oh did you notice the faces in the rock?
And still we weren’t done.
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With the group back together for the first time since we left the cars we dolled out ropes and head off back down the hill.
All in all an enjoyable day with a great bunch of people.
Group size: Large but spread out with lots of ropes and capable leaders
Time: About 6.5hr car to car with bottle necks on the climbs
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of
It’s just before 9 as we pull into the Rocky Creek car park and we have the place to ourselves. That might sound unusual but it’s in the PM and our head torches cast eerie shadows through the mist.
Ethan and Ed soon join us. The refracted moonlight gives a strange illumination. We lament the lack of stars but soon we’ll be greeted by constellations of another kind.
We turn off onto the steep track that descends into the head waters Twister. Thick vegetation creates a tunnel effect and the bright spot of the head lights focuses your attention. Without the peripheral distractions of grand landscapes the walk in seems even shorter than normal.
There is nervous chatter as we change into wetsuits. It had been a long time since I’d canyoned at night. The Wollangambe trip at night use to be a favourite of ours. The looks you got from the masses as they were getting back to the car park just as you were leaving… Youse are too late. You’ll never get there before dark! That’s the point we’d grin. Dolphin torches at the ready…
Anyhoo for most of the others it was a first. Me too, I’d never done this trip at night. Wetsuits on. The cloud cover had trapped the warmth of the day, there were a few comments of how hot it was in the suits. Hold that thought.
In we go… Marvelous. Nerves turn to adrenaline.
Man Twister if fun!
The water is Twister and Rocky crk seems warmer than normal at the moment. As warm as I’ve ever felt it. OK not bathy and you wouldn’t just float there of hours in your speedos but it not take your breath away bracing either.
Concentrating in finding foot placements in the dark I had to remind myself to stop and look around. Not far in I spot that familiar green glow. The first of the glow worms. A few dim spots nestled into cracks in the wall
Jodie had never seen glowworms before. Lights off. let your eyes adjust Wow its like Christmas lights, says she. I Love Christmas lights.
Every chamber it was tempting to turn the torches off and just soak in the glow but I knew it was only going to get better
Twister felt like it was over in no time and we continued down towards Rocky Crk.
More and more Glowworms adorned the steep walls that overhang the access trail. Soon enough we reach the start of the canyon. In the still night the roar of the waterfall seemed amplified 10fold.
This was the first canyon I’d ever done. I still remember the feeling of awestruck wonder I felt first looking down that drop into the narrow chasm. It sparked my love of canyoning. Countless trips later that feeling returns every time of reach this point.
In we go.
The glowworms in Twister were nice. The ones along the entrance track were magical. Once in the jaws of Rocky they are on another level again.
Even the snotty webs coating the walls reflected the light of the head torches, making the whole canyon seem to glow.
Unfortunately just as we get to the Washing Machine Jodie jars her ankle on a submerged ledge. She and Garry decide to start heading back up while the rest of us continue down to the starts of the tunnel swim. Not knowing how bad the injury is we opt to finish the trip there and head on back up.
Brown Eels, glowworms and yabbies greet us in a passage. We try not to disturb them too much
Party Size: 6. Mostly experienced
Time:~4hr car to car with a slow ascent due to injury
There was a bit of history repeating tonight. Just before I started canyoning my little brother and his mates did a few night trips to Rocky Creek. 1 I remember as one of the girls in the group broke her ankle before they had reached the canyon. While we were able to walk of injured out (Some tough determination and a lot of grimacing) they were not so fortunate and spent the night carrying her back up to the car park…
Disclaimer: While canyoning at night poses pretty much the same risks as doing it in the daylight the consequences of things going wrong is much greater. Without the beams of sunlight to warm you between darker swim sections Hypothermia is a heightened danger. Limited peripheral vision may mask hazards that would otherwise be easily identify.
Navigation can also be much harder. You should be very familiar the canyon and it’s entry/exit tracks before attempting it.Even on this trip with clear trails the guys missed a turn started back up towards twister on the way out.
It’s also worth noting the creatures out and about at this time of day are creatures of darkness. They don’t want thousands of lumins shone on them and massive groups disturbing their peace. We kept our beam set on low and trod as lightly as possible. As you always should in these pristine environments.