Surefire Canyon


Julie, Madie and me.

Despite doing the nearby Heart Attack canyon a couple of times for some reason I’d never done Surefire.

Meggsie always said it was his favourite canyon, mind you that was back in the days when you could drop a car on top of the exit ridge and then drive pretty much to the start.

Now there is about a 7km walk in and a 10km walk out.

This is one road closure that frustrates me a bit. I understand closing trails that were becoming rutted out messes but this is a flat ridge top trail with little chance of rutting out. The “End of the World” Lookout at the very end of the trail where Deans Creek Merges with Rocky Creek and they flow into the Wolgan is jaw droppingly awesome. Oh well if you want to see it now it’s a 12km walk each way along a flat dull fire trail so plenty of time to enjoy your wilderness experience i suppose.



When Julie asked if I wanted to do Surefire I thought it would be a great way to finish off a big year of canyoning and I jumped at the chance. We met Madie at the Zig Zag, pile gear into her ute and head off for a big day of adventure.

The walk out along the original fire trail is as straight forward as it gets. The 1970 mineral exploration trail that branches off that and leads out to the end of the ridge overlooking the canyon is very overgrown and the start is hard to spot unless you know where to look. We lost the trail a couple of times but the ridge is easy to follow and we’d regain the trail with out too much drama.

At the end of the trail we spend a bit of time looking for the borehole put in by Coalex to confirm mineral reserves in the 70’s. I had driven out here 20+years ago and the stand- pipe at the end of the road was obvious but for some reason we couldn’t find it today.

We did find what I believe is a surveyor’s “Lock Spit” Which would have marked the corner of gridlines on the old map

We scramble down to the cliff line and needed to traverse back and forward a bit to find a ramp that would get us all the way down to the creek. Once down it was a easy stroll down a nice gully until the creek dropped into the dark canyon below.

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Looks innocuous enough

We suit up, Madie and I opting to go wetsuits, Julie perhaps smarter in just a shark skin thermal top. It was a tad warm.

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Madie on the first abseil
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Julie happy to be in the canyon

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There are 3 or 4 abseils in close succession. Hey Craig get a photo of this. Calls Madie as she turns herself upside down.

I tried a new anti fog cleaner on my camera before I came. Unfortunately it seems to have caused some issues with the focus.

Despite the focusing issues the light in the canyon was superb. I can see why Meggsie liked it so much.

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Julie at the top of drop 3

There follows a short walk inter-spaced with some scrambles along a stunning section of canyon.

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I guess with the road being closed the long walk in and out has meant the canyon has retained an almost untouched feel to it


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And then we came to a section where stick jams create a false floor and there is an anchor set up on a large log wedged across the canyon walls.

Julie on the serene 4th abseil
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Julie on rope descending into the dark chamber
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Madie at the top of the 4th abseil

This chamber was dark enough that Madie chose to put her head torch on but just as she began her descent a shaft of light beamed down to illuminate her. It was kinda magical

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it had been almost pitch black when me and Julie descended
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Fluking the light

More glorious canyon continued

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Julie in a deep narrow section of canyon

We came to another drop we needed to abseil. Tom’s track notes say it may be able to be downclimbed but we found it very slippery and perhaps the log jammed in the drop had moved… either way we thought it best to rope up.

A short, cold swim through the narrowest bit of canyon followed, the only real swim of the trip.

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looking through to Julie on the other end of the swim
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Madie in the swim
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Madie emerging from the swim, head torch blazing

from here the canyon opens up slightly but is still high quality

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And green

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And awesome
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And grand
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And breath taking
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And stuff

We eventually reach the lunch cave and stop for a well earned bite to eat.

the usual exit is to head back up stream 300m and take and side creek up a gully, perform some dodgy acrobatics to climb out, then wander up through pleasant coachwood forest to regain the ridge top and old fire trail.

I know an easier exit, Julie informs us. 400m downstream is a short steep gully that gives easy access to the top then it’s a short distance up the ridge to the firetrail. We took it 8years ago, much easier.

OK, we make our way down with some boulder hopping and route finding then head up the chosen gully.

The gully wasn’t as quite as simple as promised… Looks like the 8 years since her last visit has filled it with deadfall. Clambering over, through and up it zapped a bit of energy.

Well for me and Julie it did. Madie seems to have an endless supply of energy and positivity  so long as there is regular supply of chips and chocolate. That’s pretty… This is fun….Wow, that’s cute….

We come to a  short, “interesting” climb up through a hole. I slip up with a little bit of grunting and groaning (It’s been a long time since I considered myself a rock climber) and then drop a rope for the ladies, because that’s the kind of gentleman I am, or sumfink.

Your truly hauling his arse up the dodgy climb in the gully that avoids the usual dodgy climb photo ©Madie Paige

Eventually we find ourselves on a wide ledge and Julie leads us back toward the canyon, rather than continuing up the gully.

There’s a old bushwalkers saying around these parts “The Nose always goes… Sometimes.”

We follow Julie back to around the corner to the nose of the ridge past a narrow, steep ramp that might be doable, to a wide ramp with easy walk up access to the top. Works everytime. Occasionally.

The view from the top, down Surefire gully to where it empties into Rocky Creek is top notch and we take a moment to grab a drink and soak in the views.


Now it’s just up this open ridge to the top of the knoll and the old fire trail is just over the other side. Julie explains.

Up we go in high spirits.

Except the knoll has a false summit, and then another, and another…. The higher we go the thicker the scrub gets. I’ve got scratches all over me, Julie is cut to bits, Madie is still smiling and having a great time….

We finally get to the top of the not so grassy knoll and give a sigh of relief at finding the old firetrail.

Now it’s just a 10km boring fire trail slog back to the car.

Let me know when you see the gate. Says Madie at some stage. Oh don’t worry I’ll be whoo-hooing says i

Sometime later, it may have been 1.5hrs it might have been 40 days and 40 nights I kinda lost track of time but eventually I let out a whoohoo.

Madie pushes past me. Race youes to the car. Call she as she breaks into a sprint.

Seriously too much energy… We “let” her win

all in all a big day and a great, if somewhat short, canyon. I’m sure in another week or so I’ll admit the walk in and out was worth it 🙂


Party Size: 3 all experienced

Time:9.5hrs car to car

Doing what you want is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.


Stunning light in Rocky Crk Canyon


Gaz, Lauren, Renee, Jodie, McKennzie, Rob, Sav, Dick, Luke, Swav and me

I think I have mentioned before that Rocky creek canyon is my all time favourite. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve been through but I still get goose bumps every time we get to the spot on the entry track where you start to hear the little waterfall at the start.


We leave town at sparrows fart and make our way up to the carpark. We are early but there is one other car already there. It looks vaguely familiar but I don’t take a lot of notice as we gear up and swing down the entry track towards Twister (not Sheep dip).

I’m a bit excited.

Wet suits get donned. stuff gets crammed into dry bags. For some reason I always seem to get a lot of go pro footage but not many photos in Twister and the opposite in Rocky but I digress.

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Rob double checking where to aim. Yep that big wet bit.

For quiet a few of the group this is their first canyon and despite a few nerves on the jumps the smiles are big

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Curro getting into the swing of it.
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Macca taking the leap with out hesitation
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Soon she is styling it up
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Lauren was probably the most nervous on the jumps but she didn’t let the nerves get the better of her
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Jump. Slide. Jump. Slide. Repeat. Twister is a hell of a lot of fun
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But all too soon it’s over and we have a 30min walk down to the Junction where the little stream that the entrance track follows meets with Rocky
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The soft morning light on the way in promised some thing special once we hit the canyon

Up ahead the waterfall can be heard. My pace quickens. And then Rocky creek comes in on the right and where our little stream meets it  it plunges into an inviting slot

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I realy can’t describe the feeling I get looking in here. Must be a bit like a coffee addict catching the aroma of the best coffee they have ever smelled
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In we go
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Rocky creek never disappoints me
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If they thought the water in twister was chilly they are in for a surprise. I feel a bit sorry for curro who was toughing it out in a rash shirt.
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One of the small drops in the canyon
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The swims start short but get longer towards the end
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After a fun constriction the canyon opens up breifly and offers a fun slide or small jump in a sunny pool
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The walls soon close in again and up ahead the sun beams look magical
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And they keep getting better
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And better

It was about here I walked around the corner and see the light of a camera ahead. Think I might have walkedinto someones carefully composed long exposure shot.

Sorry, calls I, How awesome are these rays.

Is that you Flynny, comes the reply.

Oh Autal.  I couldn’t see who it was, how are you mate.

We have a quick chat. He has been in there for a while already and is keen to stay a while longer chasing the changing light. We leave him to his snaps, can’t wait to see them, and continue down.

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The soft morning light casts and etherial glow

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The lower constriction really is sublime
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And just before the junction with Budgary( originally Buggery) creek we emerge back into the light.

We do our best to catch a bit of sun to warm ourselves while having a quick snack.

Now it is posible to continue down the creek aways and then climb out via a break in the cliffs then follow the ridges back to the car. I prefer to reverse back up the canyon. In the little time it takes to turn around you can guarantee the light will have changed. Plus you see things you missed on the way down.

We grab packs and head back up the canyon

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As I said the light changes
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And you get to experience the canyon from different angles

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The sun ray were awesome on the way down but not half and hour later they were on a complete other level
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Rocky creek canyon dwarfs you, engulfs you and reminds you your troubles aren’t even a blip on the geological time scale
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And the beams progress from sun to tractor
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Beam me up, Scotty
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Step into the light
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Almost need UV protected sunglasses
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Light behaves both as a wave and a particle and sometimes like a solid bar of awesome
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Everytime I turned around I though I have to get a photo of those rays
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And still they got better
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I could have stayed here all day. I was wishing I’d set up the camera on a tripod in a time lapse and could just sit and watch it all unfold
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The little TG-4 was pushed to it’s limits with the contrast but did a reasonable job
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Ok the others are well ahead of me now I tear myself away and continue up the canyon

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Renee negotiating on of the little cascades on the way up
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Curro feeling a tad shivery in his rash shirt by now but not far to go
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I can see the exit up ahead. I assure him
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Lauren is keen for a swim under the falls

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Back where it all began.

All in all a great day out.

With the early start Autal was the only one we saw in the canyon itself. A few groups walking in as we were walking out and a few cars in the car park but much quieter than I thought i would be on such a nice weekend near christmas.

Party Size. 11. 4 experienced 7 beginners though most of them have experince in varying outdoor activities

Time: 4hrs 20min car to car

Rocky creek canyon dwarfs you, engulfs you. Your troubles fade in the face of it’s grandour. They aren’t even a blip on Rockys geological time scale





Tim, Yuri, Scott, Louise, Peter, Sophie, Craig, Autal and me

Ah Windows 95, while Machintosh ensured “1984 wouldn’t be like 1984!”,  Windows 95 took Graphic User Interface and plug and play and made it accessable to the microsoft masses who had thus far been stuck in MS-DOS. It may have been the first and last time people got excited about a Windows release.


Windows Canyon is nothing like that.

It’s more of an absiel trip with canyony sections and the access as well as the length and tricky starts of the abseils has probably kept the masses at bay.

We park up and do the meet and greet. This time around Tim is going to be ringmaster it’s his circus and we’re his monkeys and he rallys us up for the pep talk then we are off

Up we go. Out of the wind it’s a pleasant winters day wind jackets and thermals will soon be shed
In the spirit of adventure we opt to go a slightly harder route up that contains a little shimey up a rock climb
After climbing up through the cliffline the cliff edge is a great spot to have a drink and a bite ot eat
Yuri on a brittle shelf way above the Wolgan

Don’t worry it is a bit of an illusion as there is another wide ledge just below and the pedistal is way more solid than it looks.

Autal thought he’d replicate Yuris photo and handed me his brand new TG5 camera. Now over night it was windy. All morning it has been windy. But we really didn’t get too much wind all trip, except as Autal approached the pedistal where a gust of wind plucked the beanie right off his head and made it soar.

Like wow, I’ve seen some pretty impressive paper planes in my day but nothing that caught on the wind like that beanie. Go little beanie. Go!

It went and went and went and went before finally dropping down into the tree line and snagged in a tree in the distance.

Bye bye beanie

Oh well a bit of scrub bashing later and we were in our gully

One of the impressive side slots
Sophie in the tunnel
Scott leading one of the tricky to start abseils
Craig 1’s new rope gets a test out. Flynny’s rope law. New ropes always tangle
Over the chock stone or under the chock stone?
About as canyony as it gets
Can you keep your feet dry?
OK it does get a bit canyony
View from the lunch ledge
Louise absieling through the arch “Window”
A window on the world. Louise setting up ropes
A fine Window it is
Autal through a window
Autal under the arch with a window
Scott leading the last absiel
Tim about halfway down the last pitch
Homeward bound

Another great day in the bush with great people

Time: a tad under 5hrs car to car

Thanks to Tim for organising and making it run so effortlessly.




“Get out there now and make sure you become part of the glorious past in somebody else’s future!” Andrew Penny




Tiger Snake Canyon


Ed Tal and me

Tiger snake is a cool little canyon. The two canyon sections are very short but the top one is tight with some interesting climb downs/absiels and the bottom section is magnificantly deep and narrow making it very cave like. One of the few “dry” canyons where you need a head torch in the midde of the day.

It’s a hard subject to photograph well but we had a goal in mind for sun set shots at a spot close by and thought this would be a good way to fill in the day.

-7.5° is almost a record low over night temp for the ‘Go, lucky its a short day and we weren’t planning to leave until 10am. By then most of the frost had melted and while cold, the sun was shining nicely.

The walk in was fairly uneventful and we reach the cleft where the small creek drops into the upper section without incident

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It’s an awe inspiring fissure, Narrow and dark

In all our previous trips we have absieled directly down here. It is an awkward absiel, as you have to bridge out over the narrow section to a bit that gives a bit more room, then you are pretty much down climbing on rope, if you slip you are going to swing in and get grated into the narrow bit… This time we deside to check out the alternate anchor point from higher up on the pagodas next to the slot.


The views fromthe top are amazeballz

Tal and Ed checking the view and enjoying the sun shine

It also gives you a great perspective over the top section of canyon. It really is narrow and short

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That dark slot drops 15-20meters down before openning up just around the corner
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The abseil from the higher anchor point is still narrow and awkward but you don’t feel you are goign to get pulled back into the narrow slot, plus you miss a little pool so keep your feet dry for a bit longer
Ed dropping in

Once in there is a slipery down climb, another advantage of the high anchor and long ropes is you can leave them set to assist you dont this bit and along the log to keep your feet dry again


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And then it’s the infamous bundle of sticks anchor. Where some one has placed a surperfluous fixed line.


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Hmmm that water looks cold, might take a few balancey moves to keep our feet dry
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Tal descends as Ed watches on
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Ed unclipping on a tiny ledge as he contemplates how to keep his feet dry

With the advantage of a bit of hieght I managed to bridge across easily. Tal had a bit of a go but decided the risk of slipping in outweighed the thought of getting his socks wet so just stepped in. Ed took a bit of time and all but done a Van Dam like set of splits but made it across the small, wet, slippery, sloping ledge.

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The top section finishes with this 17m absiel next to a small water fall


It is possible, with some good scrambling and down climbing skills to do the entire top section, including this bit, without abseiling but it is risky and why would you miss this one? It’s a very nice abseil

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Ed on rope Tal on firemans belay


It’s a short walk down the gully, the creek is dry again with the wtare from the canyon soaking into the sandy soil, to the lower constriction

There are acouple of ways in. Entering straight down the creek is nice but it is an awkaward drop and you do get wet at the bottom. This is the way I have been on all previous trips except the last one.

The other way is to scramble along the top of the canyon on a dodgy ledge to a anchor high up on a chock stone bridge. You do miss a bit of very pretty canyon but with a bit of scrambling/climbing skill you can make you way all the way up to the bottom of the awkward drop.

On the plus side the high entry is a great absiel down a dark hole and you keep your feet dry

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Ed Disappearing down the rabit hole
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It’s 20-25m straight downinto the darkness between walls so narrow that half way down you turn around to put your feet on the oposite wall

We spend some time in the dark depths snapping photos. Hopefully Ed gets some shots he can work with. My little TG struggled a bit in the darkness with my small head light trying to light paint the walls. My bike lights might have been better able ot illuminate the scenes.

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Ed sitting high up on a delicate arch within the darkness of the canyon
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Ed on a narrow bridge getting ready to defend 13 dwarves and a hobbit against a Balrog!
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Ed at the exit portal
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Tal and ed making their way downthe boulder scramble below the canyon
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What goes down must go up. Climbing out
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Climbing out

After doing all the “extreme” stuff I go arse over tit on the flattest part of the trail back to the car. I slipped on a slimey log, thought I’d caught my slef only for the momentum of the haeave pack to tip me over and drive my head into the ground. Mush laughter was had at my expense..

Driving back along the Coach rd we are stopped by a car coming the other way. How much further is the camp ground? says he

Which camp ground ar you looking for? say I

The one at New-nes, is it New-ness? says she

Newnes. You wont get there going this way.

We lost GPS when we turned off the highway.

Yep but you turned off the highway 20km to early and have gone 30km out of your way. 45years ago you could drive down from here…

they ask if there were any spots to camp up here and decide on a rough camp rather than trying to drive all the way back around in the fading light. Did I mention -7.5°? The night promised to be just as cold and they don’t really look like the outdoors type.

We point the way to a bit of a area where they might set up camp and wish them well then head off to capture a sun set from the cliff lines above the Wolgan



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Sun set over Donkey Mt. People might pay thousands of dollars per night to stay atthe resort below us but they wont hae views like this.

Tiger Snake canyon

Party Size 3 all experienced

Time: about 5hrs car to car with a lot of photo phaffing


‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”” — J.R.R. Tolkien




Tiger snake Canyon

It’s been fun slowly getting back into this canyoning caper.

I never completely stopped, we’ve always managed to get down 1 or 2 of the smaller ones each year with the kids, but last season was the first in a while we took on a couple of the more adventurous ones. However with free weekends few and far between it seemed like the season just started when it was already over.

We should do some drier ones through winter. It was a good sentiment but, again, weekends just didn’t align.

As the weather warmed up the keeness grew. A date was set. lets do Tiger Snake. It’s a relatively short trip but if memory served me correctly the abseils were interesting and the slot very tight and deep. The crew were available. Anticipation grew.

As usual the warmth of early spring gave way and in the week leading up the rain set in. Constant drizzle interspersed with heavy storms. Um weekend forecasts predicted an easing of the wild weather. I was looking forward to seeing the slot with water in it. The call was to suck it and see. If it was still raining we’d walk in and if there too much water we’d abort.

Saturday came with perfect weather. The sun was out, birds were singing… Sunday early morning drizzle was back.

Nothing but a groan greeted me as I woke Tal, but he rolled out of bed and we got ready to go. Rain jackets were packed but we we confident it would burn off.

Gaz and Bryson arrived looking keen. We called in to collect Meggs and Ben and then convoyed up to the ZigZag to meet up with Edwin.

Despite, or maybe because of, the rain and logging operations the road out was smoother than usual and in no time we at the car park.

Of the group only myself and Meggs had done Tiger Snake before. Me 20 years ago, Meggs some what longer.

Last time I had done it a bit of careful navigation was needed to find the start from the end of the old fire road. Now a clear trail continued on and we blindly followed it down into a low saddle before deciding to have a quick check on the map. Yep we’d taken a wrong turn and were a little too far east. We retraced our steps slightly, realising that the reason this bit of trail was so well trodden was quiet a few groups must have done the same, walked down then turned around and walked back, doubling the trail wear.

Just a little back up the hill we found our error and an obvious cairne and bit of tape around a tree clearly marking the spot where we should have veered left instead of continuing straight.

Back on track it was clear that a lot of water had flowed down the gully over the last week or so but now it was mostly dry, the catchment area was relatively small and the sandy soil drains easily, and soon enough we found the slot we were looking for.

12191854_10153106575681160_4852723574365829807_n  The was a few dubious looks shared as we considered the narrowness of the hole in front  of us. 20 years ago I was 15kg lighter and belatedly I recalled it being a tight squeeze even then.

Meggs wasted no time getting the rope out as we geared up. Tossing the ends into the crevice there was a definite splash. “You said this was dry!” “I said normally dryish”

Anyhoo I volunteered to be guinea pig and roped up. I didn’t get far before realising there was no way I was going to get down with my backpack on and the chest mounted go pro was in danger of being destoyedo so I wedged myself in and striped off the pack, handing it back up, readjusted the go pro then squeezed my way down.

Once past the start it opened out a little and it was more a roped down climb than an abseil.The spanner water in the pool at the bottom was about nut deep and full of the biggest tadpoles i’ve ever seen. No wonder tigersnakes sometimes made their way up into the coldness. Edwin bridged his way out and lowered the packs down to me and then the others made their way in.

The next drop was scrambled down pretty easily and then were were at the dodgy log anchor

11261030_10153106576276160_3168608634852814726_n I can’t remember if we used the logs last time but there had been a set of equally dodgy looking ring bolts installed. Of course this was back in the day when any permanent fixture in a NP was frowned upon and so they had been removed. Now the Logs wedged across the canyon walls and were the only thing to set the ropes on. About a dozen logs were in place but even a quick glace showed 1 would take the weight. 2 would act as back up and the rest were as useful as a hat full of dandruff.

Ed tested their strength and every one did their best to ignore the creaks and groans of the log as we descended


Another tight squeeze and the canyon opened out and an easy handover hand downclimb brought us to the big over hang abseil that ends the top section. Ropes were set and I was volunteered to go first. I descended the first easy few meters to a tiny ledge and looked out over the overhang. “Are the ends on the ground?” Called Meggs as he saw me pause. “Yep but there’s a big knot in the rope.” I think i’d been set up. Locking off on my balancey stance I hauled the ends of the rope up, cleared the knot and continued down.

This is a nice abseil beside a waterfall, which after all the rain was a picturesque drizzle of sparkling droplets.


From here the creek opened up a little and we wandered down to the next section.

A short time later the gully closed in again and clifflines began to hem us in. The drop into the next section looked very pretty. The green moss almost translucent on the walls but we decided to do the optional entry a little further along. Apparently it has become the more popular way in and after doing it I can see why. Taking Ed’s brand new 60m rope we left him to take some photos then back tracked a little until we could scramble up and along the top beside the canyon walls. Soon this brought us to a section where chock stones have formed a bridge across the top of the canyon.

Is it just me or do new ropes always tangle when you first try and unloop them? A little swearing and much untangling followed.

By the time we had the abseil rigged to go Edwin rejoined us and we graciously offered him first descent on his new rope. Not that we were scared of the drop that disappeared through a tight, cave like hole and into the darkness beyond. It was just the polite thing to do.

12187823_10153106577241160_5885931341013566767_nMeggs and Gaz followed so they could relieve Ed off belay and give him time for more photographolodating. I Helped the boys rope up and came down last. All I can say is “Wow!”

While short and dry the bottom chamber of Tiger Snake is spectacularly dark, deep and narrow anyway and this entry just adds to it. Almost 30m, mostly over hung and nearly completely dark. Very cave like.


The shortness of the trip gave us ample time to kick back and enjoy the experience. many iphone photos were snapped as Edwin set up his tripod and camera for some proper shots. We scrambled up stream to check out the short section we’d missed before making our way down

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Emerging back into the light Bryson decided it was time to eat lunch and set up on the rocks. By the time I told them there was nice sandy cave just a below bags were already open and the rocks seemed just as good a spot.

Bellies full the boys soon darted down the little glowworm caves just below our lunch spot. It was all fun and games until Ben let out a shreek and came bopping out of a tight squeeze as a mid sized bat ran up his back and used him as a launch pad, ducking into the next little hole.

The rock fall above the cave (really just a large low overhang) seemed fairly fresh and hemmed the cave in a little more.11220869_10153106577796160_60862263140824681_n

A quick scramble up through the cliff lines and then the exit trail meandered easily along the ridge, pretty much following the top of the canyon close enough that it was tempting to veer off and do the bottom section again. A quick climb up over a pagoda offered stunning views out over Deans crk and the cliff of the Wolgan and then an easy walk back to the car. all in all a pleasant little trip