Death Trap* – Another canyon off the wish list

Death Trap (aka Sheepdip) 31 December 2016
Death Trap* is one of those canyons that has only gained popularity in the last year or so, even though I knew about it, there were so many other canyons on the Newnes Plateau that I’d always overlooked it.  If I’d known that you could also do a bit of caving, I would have done it sooner than this!  As I was going up there for the weekend I paired it with another canyon on the Sunday.  Jim, Rod and Trish joined me for Death Trap. 

We started out at 8.30am from the campground to the track that goes into Death Trap.  Death Trap is in the headwaters of Rocky Creek.  The walk in was easy.  It’s a fun canyon, you definitely need a wetsuit and there’s only one abseil, but it’s a nice one.  It’s a short day, it took us about 6.5 hours car to car (or campsite to campsite!).  Apart from the track which has formed, probably due to large groups going through, it doesn’t show a huge amount of wear in the canyon.  Rod assures us that after you exit Death Trap, there’s nothing that’s “canyon like” for the rest of the way down until you get to the tourist section of Rocky Creek.

*The name Death Trap is as per the Jamieson Canyons Near Sydney 5th Edition.  However, Craig Flynn (on his website) reproduced information gathered from the two Dave Nobles which appeared on the old OzCanyons forum years ago which clarifies the names of two canyons that over the years have been called Sheep Dip (which is Death Traps correct name) …

Around the mid 70s a party consisting of SUBW  and UNSWBWC members, which included David Noble, did an exploratory trip following Rocky creek from its source. They came across a small canyon reasonably high up in the creek. It had a lot of little slides and jumps into deep pools and they so they named this canyon section Sheep Dip. Later in the day, a few kilometers down stream they came to the larger section of canyon now known as Rocky Creek canyon.

All good so far, no confusion.

Then in the 80s(?) a party including another Dave Noble, having heard a basic description on Sheep Dip descended a tributary near the Rocky Creek Canyon car park  and found a canyon they thought matched the description. This is understandable, both are more shallow, open style canyons. Both have lots of slides and jumps into pools. Both have a larger water fall at the end and  both creeks drops down into tunnels below boulders near the exit… So they thought they had done Sheep Dip but they called it Twister among their own group.

When Rick Jamison published the first edition of the Canyons Near Sydney guide book in the early 90s he repeated the mistake and  he wrote the description and directions to Twister under the heading “Sheep Dip Canyon” with a comment along the lines of the second party preferring the name Twister. All the guide companies that have sprung up since have repeated this mistake offering trips down Sheep Dip and Rocky Crk which actually do Twister and Rocky Crk.

It’s wasn’t until the early 2000s when the 2 Davids were talking that the younger Dave realised his mistake and Twister had in fact been a new canyon.

The Fifth edition of the Canyons Near Sydney corrects this mistake and now has the description of Twister under the heading “Twister (sometimes known as Sheep Dip)”

But it then adds to the confusion by adding a description of Sheep Dip canyon under the heading “Death Trap Canyon (AKA Sheep Dip or Upper Rocky Creek canyon)”.

There was already a canyon named Death Trap but it is not in the Rocky creek system. It was first explored by another party (Including the first David Noble) in the early to mid 2000s.

Now in the Gardens of Stone guide books the Bush Explorers repeat this second mistake and compound it by naming a some of the nicer features near Sheep Dip after Death Trap. eg The water fall they have labeled “Death Trap Falls” flows into Rocky creek near where Sheep Dip canyon opens up…. No where near Death trap canyon

So Twister is the one near the Rocky Creek canyon car park. It is in a small tributary that runs into the creek you walk down to access Rocky Creek canyon.

Sheep Dip is in Rocky Creek itself, a few k up stream.  No doubt this confusion will continue into the future but I hope that clears some of it up.

So, now that the naming has been sort of cleared up … back to the canyon!

Once we were down in the creek, it was quite scrubby, lots of sword grass, but the creek-bed was easy to walk in, a lot of slabs of rock

Didn’t take long for us to get to the first pool. We decided to put our wetsuits on here, although space was limited, most of us cooled off in the water after we got our wetsuits on, it was really hot!

The first slippery dip and pool

Most of the pools are quite deep

Rod checked out this pool before we jumped it

Jim on a really good slide, although I was worried my pack would get caught in the slot at the bottom

Trish on the same slide

In some spots the vegetation closed over the creek, hiding holes to twist your ankles or logs to fall over

Another slippery dip, a bit more water would have made it more exciting

Very deep!

Another jump

Jim on the same jump

And Trish … Rod was waiting for death defying screams but none of us could manage them!

Rod at the top of the abseil. The anchor was in a different spot to when he last did it, and the other abseil does look good, so maybe we’ll have to go back one day to do the other abseil

Trish on the abseil.  The waterfall was really slippery, lots of moss and slime (evidence that it hasn’t been used that much despite the track in)

After the abseil there’s a bit of creek walking before you need to start looking for the exit. It’s a very pretty creek.

There’s one section that could benefit from a head torch, you can’t see where to put your feet and it’s a steep slope down.

We had a break near this massive overhang that Trish went over to explore. There was also a waterfall beside it (another possible canyon?)  We walked a little further and there was a rock pile that we had to walk up and over.  Then down, beside us was a big drop that looked “interesting”, so when we got to the bottom, we skirted around to explore it.

At the base of the rock pile, a cavern

Which turned into a cave. Jim managed to get up and through a small hole but it was awkward for the rest of us, he disappeared and called out from the other side to come through as he’d found a pool, the creek and maybe more tunnel.  The banner shot of Jim’s legs disappearing into the hole.

Trish found an easier route than the one Jim took, so Rod and I had to follow her, it was a lot easier for Trish and me than for Rod, he looks decidedly uncomfortable. Didn’t help either that none of us had leg coverings!

After exploring the cavern that we’d climbed into, we excited via the creek and back to where we’d left our packs

Then it was a simple matter of walking downstream and finding the beaten path back up to the top.  The track disappeared a few times but then it became more distinct and once we got to where we had started it was of course a well formed back to the fire trail and the campsite – and champagne for NY Eve.

Death Trap/Sheepdip is definitely worth the time, particularly with the bit of caving thrown in.

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10 Responses to Death Trap* – Another canyon off the wish list

  1. Craig Flynn says:

    Nice report. It’s a fun little frolick for what it is,
    Contrary to the guide this is Sheep Dip canyon. Death trap canyon is something else entirely

    • marilyn says:

      Thanks Craig, Yes, the canyon naming issues are becoming more and more complex with Jamieson, Nobles and Keates, I loved the write up in your recent blog ok with you if I copy & paste as someone asked me about the name, I will credit you of course and if you don’t like it, I will delete the “reply”, Regards, M.

      • Craig says:

        Credit should go to the Daves.
        David put the explanation of Twister/Sheep Dip on the old Ozcanyons forum years ago as well as a few mentions on his website and Guide book Critique. I’m just repeating info that has been put there before.

  2. Jenny Hughes says:

    Wow! Sounds great . That last photo just looks so inviting!


  3. Peter Foley says:

    Great photos. Great commentary.

  4. Roy Cotton says:

    Why is it called death trap it looks really inviting

    • marilyn says:

      I think it’s called Death Trap because of a pool that you have to drop into and it’s difficult to get out of, but in fact there is a problem with the naming, which I’ll clear up in another “reply”!

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