CLAUSTRAL WITH SOME OF THE BEST

23/04/2022

Stirlo, Madie, Leo, Kylie, Jason, Aimee, Mark and meeeee

I was hankering to get out. Some options were discussed then Leo says BMNP is set to re-open.

Claustral it is than.

It seems impossible to me but I’ve never done Claustral with the above mentioned folk before. It’s one of my favourite canyons and they are some of my favourite people.

Time to fix that.

I’m a bit early so I make a quick stop to check in with the ancestors,

And on to Claustral. Whether you think it Claustrophobic inducing or Cloister like or a combination of the two is irrelevant right now. We meet up, gear up and shut up….

Wait, that’s not right.

We meet up, gear up and set off, chattering like magpies with lots to chatter about.

That’s more like us.

Once again photo credits go to a mix of the crew

Rightously Ferntacious
I’ve never abseiled this one before but Madie had the rope set up and threatened to cut me if I didn’t use it. Kylie follows me down

And we work our way down to where the real show starts

Stirlo on the first drop into the Black Hole of Calcutta

Click the photos to make the magic

Compulsory “Hulks Fist” photos and shenanigans ensue

Get fisted ©Aimee

Click to enbiggen

Then there’s not much left to do but make our way down the gorgeous canyon and in the gorgeous company of gorgeous souls.

Oh, The “National Geographic” shot is also compulsory ©Jason

We are too early and it’s too misty for Sunbeams but the muted misty light is nice too

There was a little bit of pump in spots
Top bunch of humans and me. ©Madie

A bit of team work never goes astray

The tunnel swim

and all to soon it’s over.

We have a quick bite to eat on Tash’s rock of Shame and then it’s up Rainbow Ravine and onward

I have a fear of heights and I’m claustrophobic: Kunal Nayyar

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Arethusa, again

02/04/22

Madie, Kylie, Russ and meeeeee

It had been 5 weeks since I have done a canyon!!!

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

So the top photo is my Bestards, renownly awesome boots for Blue Mtns style canyons. On the bottom are my skeches renownly comfy for old men but super slippery. I had the bestards out ready to go with my wet suit booties. Guess which shoes I put on that morning.

Anyhoo we meet up. Head in and gear up.

So yeah 5 weeks since last canyon but more like 9 since I was last on a rope . I may have been a little excited
and before long we are into it

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.

but anyhoo I have done write ups of Arethusa before here and here, so enjoy the photos (none of which are mine so ©Madie ©Russ and ©Kylie.)

Madie checking out an alternate rap to avoid the pot hole in the waterfall
The girls wondering if I’ll make it across the gap in the slipperiest-shoes-known-to-man(tm)

https://youtube.com/shorts/A9ExmCQuWqw?feature=share

Same spot a couple of years ago different water level
She’s a pretty canyon

meat anchors are me
Frothy

And then it’s time to climb out, well it’s time for Madie to climb out and haul the rest of us up or sumfink

the crew
it’s best not to ask

Of course I’m sane, when trees start talking to me, I don’t talk back: T Pratchett Well Ok sometimes I do: Flynny

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3 little canyons on a Saturday afternoon, just because

19/12/2020

Izy, Ed, Dick, Madie, Leo and meeeeeeee

‘Twas the Friday before Christmas with zero plans for the Weekend

And it just kinda hit me, I must make amend

So I sent out a late invite, with little remorse

And 5 Friends replied “hell yes”, as a matter of course

We started earlier then planned ’cause Madie was bored

They piled in my ute and the accelerator was floored.

Leo tried his best to wet not even his feet

We jumped, slid and abseiled and had lots of fun

Then Madie threw mud at me, it was the end of canyon 1

Canyon 2 is a cracker, an absolute blast

but the best was to come, we saved it ’til last

The next is my favourite, I whispered to Iz

The thing is I meant it, it absolutely is

Dick left us early, he was coming back the next day

He shook hands, he hugged and went on his way

The rest of us pushed on and our excitement it grew

And we got to the slot and made our way through

We slid and we jumped, we spashed and had fun

And looked around in awe at this place where we’d come

To soon we reached the end and had to turn around

but we smiled as we cherished the joy that we found

this might be a bad poem but I bet you wish you had been us

and doubt all you want but rhyming “Iz” with “is” well… that’s just fucking genius

Party Size: 6

Times

Sheepdip: ~ 2 and a bit hrs car to car

Twister and Rocky Creek: About 3hr car to car

The best friends force you to lever yourself up

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Afternoon Delights

3/11/2020

Madie, Leo, Libby, Russ and meeeeeee

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

Bummer

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.

Hey Flynnsticle, upside down photo for old times sake? There was a bit of inverted rope twirling.

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

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Empress Falls and Sweet Dreams

31-12-19

Madie and meee

I’d strained a tendon in my arm so hadn’t climbed for ages but with 99.99% of canyons closed due to the devastating bush fires that are raging across the country I was going a bit stir crazy.

I text The Mad One to see what she was up to over new years.

Want to go climbing now?

It’s like 6pm Monday afternoon. Sure

There’s an easy climb at Mt Boyce that I use to really enjoy that she hadn’t done yet so we decide to go give it a crack.

A quick look at the guide. You need bolt plates she says.

I have plates.

Cool.

We meet at the car park. a quick check of the guide and we drive around to the new car park…. It’d been 20+ years since I’d climbed this one.

Mandy 2/3s the way up the Eyrie, circa 1996

So we abseil in, and leave a rope in place. Good call

and head around to the start of the climb.

©Madie

I can’t see many bolts, says she

I remember it being run out, say I

And up she goes to clip the first bolt 6 or 7 meters off the ground.

Um, Flynny. I can’t see any bolts above me.

I lock her off while she pulls out her phone to check the online guide .

Um this is a mixed route….

We didn’t pack any trad gear. Ooops

A delicate retreat was made and by the time we ascend our abseil line it’s dark… Bugger! shall we try something again tomorrow?

It’s New Years Eve and we skived off work early to see if we could find somewhere open.

Pulling into the car park we step out of the car… holy crap it’s hot.

Wanna do a quick run through Empress to cool off first?

Yep.

Changing plans is what we do the best

Back in the car and out to the conservation hut

Entering the cool confines of Empress Canyon ©Madie

Back at the car we check online to see what crags are open then head off for the classic Sweet Dreams. A climb I’ve never done before

I totally sooked it and “let” Madie lead every pitch but I thoroughly enjoyed the climb,

Cheers 2019. you have been eventful.

Here’s to 2020

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Greek Myths and pirate ships

06/07/2019

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.

First up is a series of towers detached from the main cliff line by some interesting slots. I know Yuri has a name for them but I can’t remember what it is

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.

The North eastern cliffs are riddled with undercuts and sand caves. The most impressive of which is this beauty with its ribbons of colour and delicate iron stone plates. Animal tracks abound in the fine sand all along the cliff line
Into the Lair we go. Not sure how the minotaur will react to 8 burly blokes instead of 7 Athenian youths and 7 maidens fair but anyhoo we’re not scared….
Not the legendary beast but a legendary beast.
Ok so with a bit of moisture and greenery Minotaur’s lair is a nice walk through slot, not as long as I remember and the walls are quiet shallow, but nice

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.

Ariadne tended the labyrinth, She was the Daughter of Minos, King of Crete, and a bit of a spunk. Mick is hoping to find her. That may be the Minotaur in the back ground
New album, Lust for Ariadne by Mark and the Descentionists drops April 2020… or sumfink

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.

Ed and I spotted this slot in 2016 but were short on ropes (shorter than we knew it would turn out) so we opted not to descend it at that time. Checking it out is probably the only reason I bothered to do Minotaur’s Lair again
So we probably should have stuck with the Ancient Crete theme but we’re splitters and went with Walk the Plank canyon, AKA Ed’s Plank
Russ volunteering to be first to check it out

Non remanebit ex eis ungula et circulo fundae : No sling shall be left behind. Or sumfink

It was about now we hear the dreaded whoosh, crack, kaboom.

Everyone OK.

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….

Russ in the short but nice middle section happy none of those rocks had hit him

More squeezey fun ensued
And then it opens out in to a pleasant exit chamber
Ed admiring the end of his plank. Or sumfink

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

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Twilight Canyon

06/01/2019

Madie, Mark, Jen, Gibbo, Steve, Sterlo and meeeee

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.

After a hot haul in this pool was so welcome

Mark cooling off, Sterlo dropping in with Steve on belay while Madie checks out the cave
the top section reminds me a bit of sheepdip canyon
But then the walls close in

and it drops into a stunning slot

The jump through the arch was a definite highlight

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

Wanna sit in the river and drink beer? Oh shit yeah!
All canyon trips should finish like this

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

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*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

Claustral Canyon, with a side of Thunder

24-03-2018

Ed, Ethan, Garry, Jodie, Dick and me.

So Ed had just about run out of awesome photos to edit awesomely into awesomer photos of our awesomest trip to Claustral with Lewis last season.

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.

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Ed in the ferntatious fernery of the fernilicious entrance gully fernery

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After a week of rain water levels were up a bit

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And the water was a little on the chilly side

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But the light was divine

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

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last time I was awed by this section. Today even more so.

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Descent into the Maelstrom

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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

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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.

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Ed contemplating shades of green on the Hulks Fist

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

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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

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The low angle of the sun creepng down the walls  throws up interesting shots like this shot below

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Jodie in the spotlight of Garry’s Ay-Ups while up above the light plays hard to get and a mist fall sprays the walls

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Ed posing in a scene he made famous with his 2017-18 season Ozcanyons banner

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Jodie joins him to pose for Ethan. I’m pretty sure thats the angle that featured on the cover of National Geographic a few years ago.

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And onward we go

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And th greenery continues

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As does the dark

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

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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.

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It has glowworms shinning throughout the day if you know where to look and are game to turn off your light

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Oh look light rays are starting to come through

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Dick and Ed admiring the sun beams

And didn’t they what

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We spent quiet a bit of time here

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It gt better and betterer

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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.

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Believe it or not this is 100% natural lighting. As Ed declaired you couldn’t design a light scheme that perfect. And check out the play of that water feature.

But still there’s more. Hidden behind the falls is another delight

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A deep dark cave behind the falls themselves. You may be able to make out some glowworms in this shot

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The biggest draw back with the little TG4 is the 4 second exposure limit. Thi s needed about 30 to bring out the glowoworms in their full glory. Olympus get around this somewhat with their live comp mode which builds a little in camera histogram type magic that takes multiple shots and blends the bright bits into the back ground image. It works ok for waterfalls, fireworks and stars but glowworms are hard.

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

 

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Back down we go

The light beams were waiting for us again

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

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but then the walls close back in for the tunnel swim

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Ed at the start of the tunnel swim

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Dick heading into the tunnel swim

And some more gorgeous canyon

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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.

 

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Grand Canyon at Night

25-01-2018

Ethan and me

*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

Anyhoo

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.

 

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The soft afteroon/post-storm light was awesome

We dropped into the canyon around 6:30pm. Thinking by the time we phaff about with photos things would get dark about halfway through

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The light was eerie and atmoshperic and awesome

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Normally when I try this sort of canyon shot the sky and center is a blaze of washed out over exposure. The light today was something special, very little post editing done here

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The wider bits were still fairly light

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The small cascade near the start

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Ethan negotiating one of the log jams

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Ethan making his way down and the light continues to drop

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It really is a stunning slot

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Again this shot on a point and click camera would be horibly contrasty in normal light conditions. I could have lightened up the sides a bit but thought why bother, that’s how it looks when you are in there

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Ethan contemplating stuff like if snake don’t have eyelids how do they sleep….

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In this light it was hard to see with the lights off but even harder with them on as the mist got reflected back in your eyes like driving in fog with high beams

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and the moody atmosphere kept getting better. I mean sun beams ar great and all but moonbeams are so chill

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Giving the Gand Canyon a Claustral like feel

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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

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Side creek near the end

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back up we go

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Darker it gets

 

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It’s like 3 different canyons in the different light traveling different directions

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The glowworms came out to play. they are hard to photo well but the little TG4 does OK

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A selfie with some glowworms

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Looking up through a gap in the canyon walls. What are stars and what are glowworms?

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Serveral times we just turned every thing off and sat in silence under the glowworms. It’s a special experience

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Leaf tailed gecko spoted by another group who were heading in as we headed out

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. Lao Tzu

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