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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Ranon Canyon

17-01-2018

Kent, Anna, James, John, Tal and me

Last time I had done a trip through Ranon canyon Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas were Smooth and Mmmbop was unfortunitely still a thing. A drunken conversation between myself Della and Lerch on the wrong side of 2am saw us up a few hours later working off hangovers in the heat.

It was Lerch’s first big canyon I remember getting to the Junction with Claustral and him asking where the exit was. The look of dejection when I told him it was 2hrs down stream was almost as good as when we got to the top of the camels hump and I pointed out our destination up on Mt Tomah that looked to be separated by another deep chasm and I jokingly said we had come up the wrong ridge…..

Lerch is not a violent man but I think I saw murder in his eyes that day. Luckily he was too stuffed to chase me.

Anyhoo, I had some time off and Kent was out on another one of his multiple day canyon extravaganzas and he happened to be doing Ranon on a day that I could get to. Sweet.

The “normal” entrance to the Claustral system through the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls is spectatualr and all but I always preffered going in via Mistake Ravine and Ranon Canyon. Originally that was probably a snobby thing knowing it was far less visited but it does give you more bang for your buck with some very nice canyon above the junction that gives Claustral a real run for it’s money in terms of greenry. IMO it’s even more fernilicous and still has few signs of visitation.

Anyway there was so much beauty in this trip I think I’ll leave the words to a minimum and let the photos tell the story.

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Looking down Mistake Ravine towards the Ranon Brook Junction
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Tal on a slippry hand over hand into Mistake Ravine
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Ferntacious

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Fernilicious
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Like a lost world
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Sandstone, Sassafras and Coachwood
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Tal giving Anna some tips on foot placement

 

After the junction with Ranon it somehow gets even more ferntacualr
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John dropping into Ranon
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Fern ceilings are cool

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Kent all chilled out and relaxed

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Work life ballence or something

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Tal resetting after having negociated the deep pool mid abseil
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Anna on another 2 stage abseil with a deep pool between drops.
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Kent and James pulling ropes
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John dropping down towards the Claustral junction

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James in the slot at the Claustral junction
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Sun beams in Claustral
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Looking out of the Black Hole of Calcutta towards the Ranon Junction. You can make out Anna belaying Kent down the final abseil
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Claustral Canyon
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The Hulks Fist

OK so this location/pose is probably the most snapped shot in any canyon in the Blue Mtns, if not the southern hemisphere. Sure it’s almost getting cliche and is certainly the classic “Claustral photo” but who cares it is such an epic spot. I thought it became “the shot” after it was featured in National Geographic but a quick google informs me that was the next one down which Ed has captured from a slightly different angle for the 2017-18 Ozcanyons banner.

So who first took it? No idea but two of the best comes from Ed and Jake 

Anyhoo

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Claustral canyon

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Claustral is such a great slot, deep and sustained. Unfortunitey in 1982 3 people lost thier lives when they got caught in this section in a  severe storm. Between the Black Hole and the Thunder Canyon junction there is little to no refuge in rising water. The Claustral system has a large catchment so it’s important to stay uptodate on weather forcasts and if it looks dicey or you are unsure… Well the canyon will stillbe there next week, next month, next year

 

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Enjoying a bit of sun light

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Looking up Thunder canyon
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Me and Tal go for a quick look up the bottom 100m or so of Thunder. The water is so much colder
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From the Thunder junction down there is a bit of boulder hopping before the canyon closes back in

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Tal in the tunnel swim. On my first trip though here it was silted up and was more a shallow wade. Deep and clear today
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In the tunnel swim
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The chock stones in the tunnel swim seem so far above you as you swim through but the cliffs above dwarf them

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A final swim to the exit spot
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And then it’s up and up and up
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Though the exit gully, Rainbow Ravine is very pretty itself
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Looking across to Mt Banks

in my report on our Claustral trip last year I explained how George Caley thought it would be an easy traverse from Mt Tomah across the “low saddle” to Mt Banks. Without knowledge f the deep canyons, only some of which we had just traversed, it’s easy to see why he had thought that.

Anyway anther great trip with great people, thanks again to Kent of organising.

Anna was pleased that on a canyon trip with 5 blokes no F bombs were dropped. Personally I think she blanked a few out.

Party Size: 6 all experienced

Time:8.5hrs car to car, relaxed pace

Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves-Friedrich Nietzsche

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