I’ve said in the past I don’t like repeating a canyon too many times a season as it takes the sense of exploration away from it for me.
Well 2020 has changed a lot of things. With bush fires and COVID and park closures I think I’ve done Empress Falls more this year than I have since my short stint as a guide in the 90s but I’ve been reminded that as much as the conditions on the day it’s people you go in with make each and every experience unique
So when I get a text saying, We’re heading to Empress, Wanna come.
I think why the hell not
Rolling into the car park late. I hastily gear up, hug some old friends, meet some new friends and off we go.
Some hadn’t done Empress before so there is that buzz of new excitement that I find infectious
It helps when they are all just a little bit nuts
Signing the log book we note Lib and Justine are not far in front of us
We meet Libby and Justine at the bottom of the final abseil and make our way back to the car park all smiles and banter
Joel, Amber, Jen, Madie, Matthew, Gabby, Andrew, Sonya, Mark, Bernie and meee. Oh, and Geoff as the devil taking photos at the bottom
One day Joel (the sweet, innocent, shy fella he is) had an idea to do something wild.
Let’s have a dress up canyon party, says he.
And so we had to ask ourselves. What would Ginger Jesus do?
Um, He just suggested a dress up canyon…. Well der, dress up canyon party it is
The theme went from Anti-Valentine to Porn to Slotty to hot and wet to anything goes and eventually a mixed bag of fun loving freaks turned up to, um , have fun and, ah, be freaky in one of the most popular canyons in the Mountains.
If only someone had taken a camera…..
Note: there were more cameras than people
We gathered out the front of the Conservation hut for some snaps
By the time we were all down the abseil there was a large ensemble of tourists/walkers cheering, jeering and leering at us. Well I say “us” but it was mostly at Joel.
and the looks we got as we hiked back up the tourist track for a bite to eat at the hut were priceless.
Party Size: 11 but we split into 11 groups of 1 because, like, who’d want to associate with those other weirdos.
Time: Time has no meaning when you are having that much fun
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be: Maya Angelou
*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
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.
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.
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.
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
I’ve said before that for me the abseils are just a means to get to the next bit of canyon.
I’m far more excited by exploring the dark confines of a slot canyon. I’m captivated by the play of light as the sun arcs over head. I get fascinated by the way water and time have sculptured the rock, and I’m dazzled by the ferntacious greenery…
Ayhoo with that in mind the Kanangra canyons have never held a massive appeal to me but when Tim invited me on a trip down Kalang Falls I thought I may as well check it out to see what the fuss is all about.
After a week of drizzle mixed with rain we’d check the water levels and if it was too high we’d abort and do Dione Dell instead.
As it was it was pretty much prefect
And so our group of merry adventurers set off from the car park with a buzz of excitement and a swagger in our steps.
Despite a few of the others having done the trip before myself and Al got nominated leaders so the real leader, Tim could follow along at the back of the group as safety man with the spare rope. So we set off to rig the first drop.
There is a bit of scrambling to get down to the first anchor and Tom’s notes warned the final drop before the anchor could be dangerous so in the wet slippery conditions we rigged the abseil from above it.
As with all of Tim’s trips we had multiple ropes and walkie-talkie communi-doonies so the group could spread out. Me and Al would set rope, the next person would arrive, we’d take their rope and descend to the next one. And so on and so forth etc etc etc. So even with a largish group taking their time on slick rock we made good time down the ravine.
Rope management was the theme of the day. Lots of vegetation and ledges for ropes to get tangled on. I can see where flaking it out of a rope bag would be handy on a trip like this.
I found the scrambles between the falls took a lot of concentration. The quartzite is a lot slipperier than the standard Bluies sandstone and also tends to have a lot more loose rocks ready to roll your ankle.
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Probably really common, but can anyone tell me the species?
How did I find it? Well the waterfalls were stunning, the company was awesome, the abseils were abseils and the walk out wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.
Another great day in the bush with great people.
The mind is like water: capable of going anywhere but once hemmed in by walls of it’s own making it takes a powerfull flood to burst it’s banks and change its course: me
Group size: 8 all experienced
Time: 9hr 20min car to car, not rushing in the slippery conditions and taking it easy up the exit ridge.
Access: Easy walk, thanks to Ty N. and all his hard work fixing up the old track. There is some steep uneven dirt steps and a couple of spot where you are stepping over or along logs but no abseils or rock scrambles.
Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward.
Map: Lithgow 1:25000 These can be purchased at Lithgow Tourist information center or online for around $10 each though not really needed here
Time: It takes about 30min to walk up to the falls.
Ida Falls is a nice little walk on the outskirts of Lithgow. There are hand stencils in the area suggesting it was important to the native peoples prior to white settlement. The lower gully was once a coal mine and relics from that era are easy to spot.
Familiar to generations of Oakey Park kids as a semi secret hidout and yabbie hunting spot.
Half way up the gully is over looked by Top Points on the ZigZag railway to the left and a forgotten look out (opposite PoW memorial on Scenic Hill) and old climbing crag to the right.
In recent years a young local took on the task of fixing up the trail so others less adventurous could visit it. Please respect not only all his hard work but the very nature of the location, a piece of pristine beauty right on the edge of town
Head down Inch st this becomes Bells St after the second rail over bridge. At end of Bell st cross a little bridge (Notice the tunnel this creek comes out of on the right) and there is a small parking area on the right. Walk back towards the last house, down toward the crk. You need to get to the other side of the railway line and you do this by passing through a cool old culvert.
Once through the tunnel look for Ty’s home made signs as the guide you across the creek then up to the right to avoid the boggy ground and hence up the gully towards the falls
The Falls don’t always have a flow going over them so it’s best to do the walk after a bit of rain, or even while it’s raining. Return the same way
It’s possible scramble up through breaks in the cliff lines and visit the upper gully to but care and respect is needed
Note: The great outdoors is an ever changing place. Bush fires, changing weather, vegetation growth and forestry activities can all effect the trail conditions and thus the difficulty of the walk. These are a rough guide only and are by no means meant to be a definitive guide . They do not replace the need adequate map reading and navigational skills
Note 1: Taking care While reasonably well known these spots are still wild places and care needs to be taken around cliff edges and on the steep trails. Carrying the right gear as well as having adequate food, water and clothing is important. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.
Emergency beckons (PLBs) can be hired from Katoomba Police for very little.
Note 2:First aid A basic first aid kit is essential bit of kit whenever heading into the Aussie bush. A basic first aid is highly recommended
Note 3: Maps and Navigation Having the right map, a compass and knowing how to read them is very important when heading into the bush. If you are new to bush walking joining a club or accompanying more experienced walker for you first few outing is a very good idea. I found practicing map reading on well defined trails was helpful when I started out.
The Maps mentioned are the 1:25000 series. They can be purchase at Lithgow tourism information center, from outdoors shops or online for around $10 each.
Note 4: These are wild and beautiful places, respect them. If you are able to carry something in you can carry it out. Don’ be a tosser. Leaving your rubbish behind is a sure way to ruin it for every one else.