It’s time to think outside of the square

With all the usual canyoning haunts closed due to being scorched by bushfires over the last 2 months, most canyoners are feeling a bit deprived.  I’ve been casting around for some alternatives and this great little canyon came out of left field, from an unexpected source.  I’ve abseiled before in areas on the Illawarra Escarpment, but hadn’t even heard of this little national park.

Heather, (who’ll go anywhere with me) and I headed down south to meet up with three CSS members for a days canyoning.  I’d met Thomas and Michael before when caving at Yarrangobilly, but I was meeting unassuming Alan (who was introducing us to the canyon), for the first time.

The walk in was dead easy, along an old fire trail and then a footpad down to the creek.

With lots of leaf litter around, this small climbdown was a little sketchy, the top didn’t afford many hand holds but further down there were some good roots.

Initially, the creek was a little scrubby, but the trees soon thinned out, making for much easier walking.

The creek then became quite boulder, Alan assisting Heather with a controlled slide down this boulder.

Another climb down.

On a previous recent trip, Alan had left this tape in place to assist with the climb down as there weren’t many hand and foot holds.  We took it out with us, whoever does this canyon next will have to rig up their own rope/tape for safety.

Wading through the creek, there’s a lot of farm land upstream so the creek has a lot of silt in it, each group that goes through the canyon stirs up the silt, making it difficult for any fauna that lives in the creek, Alan indicated that (for this reason) National Parks don’t like to see too many groups/people visiting the canyon.

Heather negotiating a climb through some logs.

You can see from this image how much silt is in the creek.

We put our wetsuits on when we came to the first swim.  The water was cold but I think if I did this again I wouldn’t bother with the wetsuit, just thermals.  Whilst the wetsuit did protect my skin on the climb downs, I didn’t enjoy carrying it out!

After the swim we went through a boulder field when ended at some lovely (treacherous) mossy rocks, by this time we were all wet and that made the rocks super slippery.

In this part of the canyon we came across lots of “potholes” for want of a better word, holes that had been worn into the rock, here’s a few of them here – but there were many, many more.

A difficult climb down a very slippery log before our next swim.

You had to take your backpack off for the climb down the log, then there was no where to stop to put it back on, you have no idea how hard it is to swim, hold on to your backpack and take a photo!

The second long swim.

Followed by a short wade.

Another boulder section, there were two ways around this, both were tried, and both were very tight.

This was the way I went, I was really surprised that Michael fitted through as it was way tight.

The final swim which is called the Infinity Pool.

At the end of the pool, the water cascades over the edge, a true Infinity Pool.

In the pool, looking back up the canyon.

Alan checking out the anchor at our first abseil.  There is a rock “jug” at the back of the ferns where the anchor tape has been affixed.

The first abseil down the waterfall.  The top section is very, very slippery, you end in the pool which is only knee deep.

We used a 50m rope doubled, and there were a few metres left at the bottom, so the abseil is probably 15m, but the anchor is set back about 5m.

Michael on the abseil.

Heather coiling the rope for Alan.

Exiting the pool up a log, it was slippery when I went up, because I was wet, I probably made it more slippery for those that followed.

Through more boulders, this too was slippery.

Looking back at the waterfall (middle of image).

Our second abseil, Alan (in the distance)  is setting up the 50m rope.  This pitch went down to a ledge, where we set up the 2 x 60m ropes for the third abseil.  There is another waterfall over to the right, but this would need a 70m rope (or 2 x 70m ropes if you do DRT).

Thomas on the abseil, the anchor is high up off a tree, we found it difficult to reach across and retrieve the rope for the next person, so Thomas set up a series of prussic loops so that we could easily pull it across for the next person (note to self, if I ever do this again, I’ll put the prussic loops on the rope when setting it up).

After landing on the ledge, there is another anchor for the third pitch, we used 2 x 60m ropes, and there was about 5 – 7m on the ledge below, so it’s about a 54m pitch – it’s really nice.

Alan at the bottom of the pitch.  You do land on very slippery rocks here, we used the rope to get past the slippery area and move to a safer spot, where there was another anchor.  A few years ago, this was the spot where another canyoner had slipped and fallen on a ledge and been injured, the attempted helicopter extraction ended in a fatality.

The third and final pitch down onto a good flat rock area which is were we had lunch by the pool.

The fourth pitch.

A view of the full drop (which we did in two pitches), in the top lh corner, you can see the other waterfall which would be a 70m abseil.

To exit the canyon, you go up through the rocks over to the left and then follow a side creek up to a break through the cliff-line.

The walk out was a little scrubby in places, but for the most part easy going, despite the high humidity.  Eventually we found a spot in the cliff-line that we could scramble up, with the aid of some roots and a few small saplings.  Once on top it was a relatively straight forward walk back to our vehicles.

Group of happy canyoners at the end (l-r) Heather, Alan, Michael and Thomas.

Thank you so much for taking us through this canyon Alan, thanks everyone for helping me out with the difficult climb downs and big thanks to Thomas for setting the trip up.  Hopefully we’ll find some more hidden treasures down south!

Heather and I were going to go and do Macquarie Pass on Saturday, but decided (for a variety of reasons) to go home instead, but first we’d do a bit of a road trip.

Heather and me attempting to take a “selfie”, we’re not that good at it. This was Heather’s favourite photo, out of all the ones we took – go figure – we did have a lot of fun trying to take the selfie though – obviously it takes a huge amount of skill which we don’t have.

Our first port of call – The Big Potato – surely Robertson could have come up with a better “come to see us because” … reason than this big turd looking edifice?

We then took the scenic road home, driving through towns that neither of us had been through since our childhoods.  Great road trip, thanks Heather!

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7 Responses to It’s time to think outside of the square

  1. Shirley Hampton says:

    M / I’m so pleased you’re not sitting on your butt growing old!! Here’s to a healthy and happy 2020
    x Shirley Paul too

    By the way we enjoy looking/reading about all your adventures – keep on trucking!

  2. Heather Da Silva says:

    That was my favourite because it was my “Before the Attack by the Big Potatoe” shot.

  3. Jenny hughes says:

    LOL, if there is a canyon around you will find it Marilyn! When is your canyoning book coming out?

  4. Kathy Leslie says:

    You continue to amaze me!!! You are either very courageous or a bit crazy to do these adventures. I truly enjoy looking at them from the safety of my couch.
    The scenery is gorgeous! Glad to see that the fires have not burned all of Australia!
    We have snow and ice here but fairly warm temps. Last year we were in. Polar vortex at this time. my guess is you do not miss our winters!!!! Thanks again for sharing your adventures. Take care, Kathy

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