Sure I’d done a heap of other cool stuff in mean time but I was itching to get back out.
Wanna do Arethusa?
Does the pope shit in the woods…. wait, um, that’s not it. I mean, hell yeah
Anyhoo we meet up. Head in and gear up.
It’s a big call but Imma call it anyway, Arethusa is the best bang for buck micro adventure in the Blue Mountains.
All thrilla no filla. Beautiful canyon sections with minimum creek walking. Pretty waterfall and cascades. Abseils that can be techie unless it’s supper low water levels. Interesting down climbs with optional jumps. Stunning views at the end. And some easy but adventurous climbing to get out.
Some extra bolts have appeared recently and I would caution people to assess the landingzones. We scrambled/walked past most (all) of them simply because it was quicker and easier (even in the slipperiest-shoes-known-to-man(tm). OK I had a few moments but none of them near the optional abseil bolts) but one anchor in particular looked like it would drop you into recirculating water at the flow level we did it in. At lower levels (and maybe higher levels) it mightn’t be an issue but today we looked and said nope to that.
So make sure you assess things yourself rather than just blindly follow. And that goes for all canyons. We got use to the low water levels during 10years of drought, now they are flowing again reassess things.
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