The Grand Canyon

29-01-2017

Mandy, Tallis and me

We had nothing firm planned but it was too nice a day to waist so we roused Tal out of bed for a quick trip through the Grand Canyon at Blackheath.

For the less adventurous there is a nice tourist trail along the rim of the canyon

It was hot and sticky on the walk in and we got to the abseil point just as another group were roping up. So we suited up at a wider area of the track before making our way down just as the last 3 were about to abseil in. It was a pleasant surprise to see the familiar face of Lyn Cook.

We dropping after and have a quick hello with Lyn and Jim. We let their group head off while we phaff around with photos before following them down.

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Eastern Water Dragon, Intellagama lesueurii lesueurii
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Pulling ropes
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Waterfall just upstream of the standard abseil point
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Crappy shot of Eastern Brown snake, Pseudonaja textilis. I disturbed it from it’s hiding spot near where members of the previous party were changing. It took off into the water, realised it was too cold and made a bee line for this rock. which I happened to be standing on at the time. I did some quick back pedaling before snapping this shot.
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Skink trying not to be come the snakes dinner
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Looking back up the canyon towards the falls
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Canyon formation
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Tallis under sun beams
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Mandy in the canyon
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Tal in the canyon
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Small Cascade about halfway through the canyon
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Tal in the Grand Canyon
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Some where I have a shot of me and Scott in this spot from 20 years ago. I conned Tal into trying to recreate it, though now I can’t find the original

*edit: I found the photo  not quite the same angle but not bad for a spur of the moment thing going off a memory from 20 years ago

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Looking up to a bridge on the tourist track over a side creek trying hard to become a canyon of it’s own
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Mandy and Tal relaxing in the canyon as the first booms  of thunder echo over head
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Tal in the canyon

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Mandy and Tal get to the swim just as the storm hits

Storm in the Grand Canyon

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Art. For art sake
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Tal and Mandy just before the canyon rejoins the walking trail
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Looking back into the canyon from the tourist trail

Party size: 3, all experienced

Time: 3.5 hrs car to car relaxed pace

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Grand Canyon Loop

Access: Tar road to car park.

Navigation: Navigation is fairly straight forward if you stay on the trail

Map: Katoomba

Time: 3-4hrs

The Grand Canyon loop is a sign posted tourist walk from Neates Glen to Evens lookout and back. The 7km walk involves a lot of rough hewn stone steps into and out of the valley. In between is a nice tourist trail winding through rainforest, a small tunnel, long overhung ledges and waterfalls.

Below the trail Greaves creek cuts a deep slot canyon and you may catch sight of canyoners either at the abseil point or down in the canyon from a few vantage points along the trail that offer views down into the depths.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Getting there:

Turn onto Evans Lookout rd at Blackheath. Follow this 3.5km and park in the Grand Canyon loop car park on the right (Note: When doing the loop use this car park rather than those at the Lookout or further back at Neates Glen.)

Follow the marked trail back toward Blackheath to the Neates glen car park and then down into the valley on the marked trail.

The trail follows a smaller creek to where it meets the larger Greaves crk. Here the trail crosses Greaves on stepping stones and then follows it down on the right hand bank. The trail passes under a picturesque waterfall and through a short tunnel.

Greaves creek soon carves itself into  a deep canyon while the tourist trail continues high above it. There are several spots along the trail that give views down into the slot. The best is at a small bridge over a steep side creek.

Once the trail descends back down to creek level it is possible to head back up stream and visit the bottom of the canyon. Not far in that is a deep 20m section that is a nice spot for a swim on a hot day.

The trail continues down, crossing the creek a few times in the next couple of hundred meters before reaching another intersection. Take the left up toward Evans Lookout  with very nice views into the Grose  Valley where Govetts and Greaves crks join.

The follow the trail along side the road back to the car.

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The trip through the canyon proper is a great experience too, if you have the gear for the abseil or you can, with some scrambling and cold swims reverse up aways and then return back down

Photos from in the slot     Grand Canyon 29/01/17

Alcatraz

26/01/2017

Mandy and I

Mandy was looking for an easier trip for Australia day. I was keen to get back after the canyon ate my phone and I lost most of the photos from our trip last year

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Orb Weaver eating a large Christmas beetle
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Orb Weaver

Remnants of when the area was used as part of the youth offenders program. Getting troubled youth out into the bush and building self esteem and worth

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One of the most unique waterfalls you’ll see. The water tumbles down a natural pipe like structure before emerging from a slot in the base
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Mandy at the start of the short canyon section
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The top of the descent into Alcatraz. AKA The Devils Throat
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One of the few higher flow absiels you find in canyons in this area
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Mandy Descending into the dungeon
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Mandy under the falls with the exit slot in the back ground
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Looking back into the exit slot with Mandy in the chamber
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Looking back in to the chamber
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This makes the exit slot look much bigger than it is. Just enough room to slide out on hands and knees
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It’s a spectacular site
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With care it’s possible to climb up above the exit slot and look back down opposite the falls
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We had followed the path of the water. Abseiling down the S bend and then through the spray of the water into what, from the top, looks like an inescapable hole
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Looking back up at the relics on top of the 50m vertical cliff line

Party Size: 2 both experienced

Time: 2hrs car to car with some photo phaffing.

(Note: the creek bed below the falls was far more slippery this time than when we did it last year. It was almost impossible to control speed sliding down the slope. It may be safest to set a rope here to lower down the slide. see video)

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Basking in the Glow of Worms

25-01-16

Tal, Ed, Ethan, Jodie, Gaz and me

It’s just before 9 as we pull into the Rocky Creek car park and we have the place to ourselves. That might sound unusual but it’s in the PM and our head torches cast eerie shadows through the mist.

Ethan and Ed soon join us. The refracted moonlight gives a strange illumination. We lament the lack of stars but soon we’ll be greeted by constellations of another kind.

We turn off onto the steep track that descends into the head waters Twister. Thick vegetation creates a tunnel effect and the bright spot of the head lights focuses your attention. Without the peripheral distractions of grand landscapes the walk in seems even shorter than normal.

There is nervous chatter as we change into wetsuits. It had been a long time since I’d canyoned at night. The Wollangambe trip at night use to be a favourite of ours. The looks you got from the masses as they were getting back to the car park just as you were leaving… Youse are too late. You’ll never get there before dark! That’s the point we’d grin. Dolphin torches at the ready…

Anyhoo for most of the others it was a first. Me too, I’d never done this trip at night. Wetsuits on. The cloud cover had trapped the warmth of the day, there were a few comments of how hot it was in the suits. Hold that thought.

In we go… Marvelous. Nerves turn to adrenaline.

Heightened awareness.

Man Twister if fun!

The water is Twister and Rocky crk seems warmer than normal at the moment. As warm as I’ve ever felt it. OK not bathy and you wouldn’t just float there of hours in your speedos but it not take your breath away bracing either.

Concentrating in finding foot placements in the dark I had to remind myself to stop and look around. Not far in I spot that familiar green glow. The first of the glow worms. A few dim spots nestled into cracks in the wall

Jodie had never seen glowworms before. Lights off. let your eyes adjust Wow its like Christmas lights, says she. I Love Christmas lights.

Every chamber it was tempting to turn the torches off and just soak in the glow but I knew it was only going to get better

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Twister felt like it was over in no time and we continued down towards Rocky Crk.

More and more Glowworms adorned the steep walls that overhang the access trail. Soon enough we reach the start of the canyon. In the still night the roar of the waterfall seemed amplified 10fold.

This was the first canyon I’d ever done. I still remember the feeling of awestruck wonder I felt first looking down that drop into the narrow chasm. It sparked my love of canyoning. Countless trips later that feeling returns every time of reach this point.

In we go.

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I was hoping to get some stars in the background. But still… Wow

The glowworms in Twister were nice. The ones along the entrance track were magical. Once in the jaws of Rocky they are on another level again.

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Even the snotty webs coating the walls reflected the light of the head torches, making the whole canyon seem to glow.

Unfortunately just as we get to the Washing Machine Jodie jars her ankle on a submerged ledge. She and Garry decide to start heading back up while the rest of us continue down to the starts of the tunnel swim. Not knowing how bad the injury is we opt to finish the trip there and head on back up.

Brown Eels, glowworms and yabbies greet us in a passage. We try not to disturb them too much

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Ghosts in the machine.
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The Tunnel swim
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Light trails and glowing walls

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I couldn’t get my little tripod set up here so it was hard to capture just how awesome this cave section was. With torches off there were enough glowworm to be able to see.

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Beautiful by day stunning by night
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Light trails under shifting glowworms
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Time to exit

Party Size: 6. Mostly experienced

Time:~4hr car to car with a slow ascent due to injury

There was a bit of history repeating tonight. Just before I started canyoning my little brother and his mates did a few night trips to Rocky Creek. 1 I remember as one of the girls in the group broke her ankle before they had reached the canyon. While we were able to walk of injured out (Some tough determination and a lot of grimacing) they were not so fortunate and spent the night carrying her back up to the car park…

Disclaimer: While canyoning at night poses pretty much the same risks as doing it in the daylight the consequences of things going wrong is much greater. Without the beams of sunlight to warm you between darker swim sections Hypothermia is a heightened danger. Limited peripheral vision may mask hazards that would otherwise be easily identify.

Navigation can also be much harder. You should be very familiar the canyon and it’s entry/exit tracks before attempting it.Even on this trip with clear trails the guys missed a turn started back up towards twister on the way out.

It’s also worth noting the creatures out and about at this time of day are creatures of darkness. They don’t want thousands of lumins shone on them and massive groups disturbing their peace. We kept our beam set on low and trod as lightly as possible. As you always should in these pristine environments.

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Unfortunately my GoPro was playing up and freezing. It missed most of the action in twister

Twister Canyon

14/01/2017

Mandy, Sharon, Sean, Tom, Claire, Tillie, Mick and Robbie.

And Me!

Aaaaand Weeze!!!

Last weeks blog about Sheep Dip Canyon addresses the naming confusion between these two canyons. I wont go over it again but todays canyon is Twister. It’s near the Rocky Creek Canyon car park and now days most people use it as a warm up (should that be cool down?)on their way into Rocky Creek Canyon. A Lot of people still mistakenly refer to it as Sheep Dip.

Anyway this was a cruzy morning with family and friends where we did Twister on it’s own, which is kinda unusual, but it is a fun little trip to show beginners down. I was a bit busy looking after the kids (and adults) to concentrate of either photos or video so they are not my best work but I got a little  bit and I’ll let them tell the tale.

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Tom keen to get the party started. The small stream drops down into a labyrinth between the mighty pagodas behind him
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Tillie was a little apprehensive at first
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It’s not deep or overly dark but Twister has some nice canyon sections

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Weeze had been lamenting she was the only one of my siblings who had not been canyoning before. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time she had been invited
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The smile on Tom’s face says it all. It’s a very fun slide. Unfortunately I didn’t have the GoPro going as Sharon came down out of control in what I am sure was a deliberate attempt to skittle her whole family
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Some of the jumps can be intimidating to those not use to it. There was very little hesitation in the group today.

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Tillie had been a little reluctant on the first few jumps. By the end, while still a little scared, she was still willing to take the leap of faith
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Sean and Tillie in the water. Robbie about to do the slide.
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Claire is a bigger adrenaline junky than I am and was keen to lead the way. Nothing daunts this super chick
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Tom on the last drop into the plunge pool.
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I never seem to get a good shot of this section
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The secret is out. All good so long as you are not after that wilderness feel (and there are other canyon that offer that.) The car par was so full it seems the camera had to cut that subaru in half.

Party size 10. 2 experienced the rest beginners

time: 2hrs car to car taking our time and enjoying it.

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While it is an easier canyon it has beenthe scene of many rescues over the years and at least 1 death so it still needs to be treated with respect. You are a long way from help so need to have the right gear and know how to get out of trouble when things go wrong.

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Clarence Dams 11-01-17

With all the people who visit the Railway dams on Dargan crk at Clarence now days I wonder how many have ventured up into the backwater. It had been ages since I’ve done it.

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As well as leaps of faith the main wall is also great for deep water soloing

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There are lots of climbable lines on the wall, however most involve a blank section 3/4 the way up that require a long stretch or balancey moves on tiny climps while trying to smear with bare feet.

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If you have a bit of reach the green route is by far the easiest. For someone around the 180cm mark it’s only about a grade 16. Where the higher climber’s elbow is in the pic is a sneaky under cling. By stepping down and to the left  you can then come back up right, use your right hand to pull you into the wall with the under cling, this allows you to push up off your right foot while stretching your left hand straight up. A seemingly small hold just within reach is in fact a very nice jug. The black line is the hardest I have managed to do, way back when I was climbing lots. It involves a cool move to get over the shelf and a big dyno further up where the wall gets blank. I only managed it once. the Blue and purple traverse lines would be around 17. The red and Yellow lines were always a bit beyond me.

A Quick Dip in Sheep Dip Canyon

Tallis and me

08-01-2017

OK so first up let’s try to address the naming confusion of this Canyon.

Around the mid 70s a party consisting of SUBW  and UNSWBWC members, which included David Noble, did an exploratory trip following Rocky creek from it’s 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 (This is the canyon shown here). 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

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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 kilometers up stream.

No doubt this confusion will continue into the future but I hope that clears some of it up.

Anyhoo. It was one of those weekends where there was a bunch of plans discussed but nothing firm set down.

Mandy was keen for something but then Sunday morning decided she wasn’t up for a canyon trip. Well I might drag Tal out for something shortish says I.

We shook Tallis out of bed around 10:30 and rolled out of town at the crack of 11.

No real issues on the way in other than maybe dropping off the ridge a bit early. There are a few spots where you can scramble down through the cliff lines, the one we chose was a little higher up in the creek than we needed to be and meant we had a little scrub to get through before the canyon started to close in. But it also had a couple of nice pools..

This is another trip we could have done without wetsuits but I s’pose there is no point leaving them at home and then finding out you needed them halfway through..

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Eastern Water Dragon, Intellagama Lesuerii Lesuerii (formally Physignathus Lesuerii)
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Tal suited up and looking forward to the cool water

The canyon formation in Sheep Dip is never very deep, constricted or dark. It’s more a series of small cascades tumbling through a cliff lined gorge but it has some nice bits and is a lot of fun

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Tal bridging out over the first little slippery dip

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There are a lot of fun slides and little jumps and then this slightly larger jump. All the holes should be checked before taking a leap as they do have obstacles such as  rocks and logs you need to avoid. Today with the mid day sun over head it was hard to see to any depth so I down climbed each one to double check before Tallis slid or jumped.

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Towards the end of the canyon is a larger cascade and even though it’s not vertical or over hung it’s very slippery and most people will need to abseil it. (very good scramblers may be able to go around it on a  high ledge to the true right then down a steep gully but I wouldn’t count on that)

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Tal on rope
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Tal on rope

The pool at the bottom is beautiful. It’s not that deep but it is home to some nice sized yabbies

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Giant Spiny Crayfish, E Spinifer. Like Budgies they come in a range of colours. These Blue ones with the bright orange highlights are my favourites
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Looking back up the falls

The canyon opens up a bit here but just down stream is a very pretty section. It’s not very narrow but the deeply overhung walls and dappled light is very nice indeed

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And then you come to a deadend, or what seems like it. The creek drops down a dark tunnel and in front of you is a blank wall created by a massive fallen boulder. Presumably this is what Jamison considered to be the death trap as at first it looks like there is no way out.

But there is a secret passage.

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Tal enters the nether world
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Is that the mouth of an Evil clown? Is it the Bat signal? or is it just our way out?
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The big cave up in the walls as the canyon opens out
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Tal dwarfed by the scale of the cliff, contemplating a way out.

After a bit of route finding down stream a break in the cliffs is spotted the from there it is a relatively simply scramble up the hill to intersect the old logging trail along the ridge. The scrub on the way up wasn’t all that thick but as Tal pointed out every thing seemed to be sharp. Razor grass and tea tree. Legs will have a new coat of skin on them shortly…

Party Size: 2 both experienced

Time: 3.5hr car to car with a fair bit of photo phaffing.

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sheepdip

Canyoning Footwear. Bestard Canyon Guide

So I’ve always been a fan of Teva sandals for my outdoor adventures but then I strained both Achilles at basketball. Clambering up steep hills in any shoe at the moment is a little uncomfortable for me. In the canyon they didn’t bother me too much but on a steep descent and, oddly worse, on a long flat walk out the heal strap on the sandals has given me a bit of curry and certainly done me no favours. Bearable while still moving but once I stop they flare up, by the end of the car ride home I’ve been struggling to walk to the house.

With this in mind and to get the pressure off the tendon I’ve decided to retire them early and try out a canyon specific boot.

I’m a big fan of Five10s for riding so was attracted to them first but a few people had said the heal strap in the five10s was uncomfortable, something I was trying to avoid. I’ve also heard of people complaining about longevity and quality in them, something that has been somewhat an issue with the riding shoes since Adidas bought them out.

The Fat Canyoners had a good write up on the Bestards so I decided to give them a go.

 

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Here are my initial thoughts.

Postage got held up a little in the Christmas madness so when they finally turned up I popped them straight on to break them in a bit. No real need. These are one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever tried out of the box. I wore them around all day doing some maintenance on my ute. Wow.

They are much lighter than they look too.

I’ve now had a chance to get them down their first canyon. Du Faurs creek

They have some features that shows just how much thought the good folk at Bestard have put into them, Notably  built in spats, to help keep sand and burrs out, and lace pouch.

Lace pouch? Sounds like a wank yeah. But on scrubby walks I was often waiting for others (I’m looking at you Mandy, dearest love of my life….) to stop and do up laces. Tucking the knot and lace ends up into the little pouch on the Bestards tongue means this should never be an issue with these boots. Attention to that sort of detail gives me high hopes for these boots (Or at least helps me justify to myself spending so much on them)

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The only concerns I had so far was how hot they be on a long walk out in high summer.

 

Price.

They aren’t cheap and being a tight arse I would not have spent that coin on a shoe for canyoning had I not suffered the achillies thing.

They generally go for around $175 Euro,that said I picked mine up for $115 euro from the Canyonstore. Postage was hefty adding another $50aus meaning all up it was a tad over $200Aus

Looks.

What can I say? They are friggin moon boots straight from a dodgy 80’s sci fi show. Cool is you are into that sort of thing.

I am

Fit.

At the time of ordering there wasn’t anywhere in Aus that stocked them (New store openning  in Katoomba is suppose to be stocking them now) so getting the sizing right was a bit of a concern. My Five10 riding shoes are all US10/Euro43 but my clipless riding shoes are US10/Euro45. Both fit perfectly (how does that even work?). My Teva Sandals are a Euro 43 and slightly tight so I split the difference and with widish feet and habit of wearing thick woolen sockswent Euro 44.5. The fit was pretty spot on, slightly roomy across the foot so the 44s may have been better. The lace system helped pull every thing tight enough.

Grip

Fat Canyoners said they needed to scuff the soles up a bit to get comfortable with the grip. I didn’t have any issues in Du Faurs but it isn’t the most slippy canyon out there so I’ll reserve judgement

Sand

There is a fair bit of wading down a sandy bottom creek in Du Faurs. At the end of the day not a scearic of sand in the boots. Win

Swimming

After the naturalness of the Tevas to swim in I found the Bestards to be a little weird in the swims. They had a bit of a floaty sensation. Not bad, just weird. Might take a bit of getting use to

Wear

To early to tell.

Comfort

As stated earlier one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever put on out of the box. None of that breaking them in and taping things up until the skin toughens up you normally associate with new hiking boots

The day wasn’t that hot so I didn’t get a chance to see how hot they be on a long sunny walk out but so far so good.

Definitely took the pressure off my achillies. Stepped out of the car and walked inside feeling almost normal. A big relief to me.

Be interesting to see how they go long term.

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Updated Medium term test

Canyoning Footwear. Teva Traildozer3 long term test

So I’ve been a long time fan of Teva adventure sandals  for canyoning and it’s been about 8months since I updated my old set to a set of Trail Dozer 3s and in that time they’ve done around 25 canyon trips, a dozen or more bushwalks and they have also seen a little day to day wear so it’s time for a long term review.

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Price.

The Trail dozer models go for around $115. I think I got mine on special for around $75. Dearer than Volleys, cheaper than some of the canyon specific shoes out there

Looks.

I’ve never really cared to much about looks. I’ve always been a function over fashion type of guy. I guess they are not much to look at but they aren’t butt ugly either. The greyish green certainly bucks the trend of bright gnarish colour schemes some other brands seem t think outdoors types prefer.

Fit.

My old trail dozers were a US10, Euro 43 and fit me like a glove (for my feet) so I ordered the same. The new ones were noticeably smaller. They were fine barefoot but combined with my favourite canyoning woolen socks (hole proof heros) they were a little snug around the toes. Not painfully so but noticeable.

Grip

Originally the Teva guys strapped a bit of car tyre  to their feet to help stop them falling out of their kayaks or something. Things progressed from there.

I always thought they were as grippy, if not more so, as the Volleys. The new models were no different. In the 25 or so canyon trips I did in them I slipped maybe 3 times, more due to lack of attention then shoe tread.

Sand

I think this is what I liked most about the old Tevas. Sure you’d get a bit of sand under your foot at times but the just the act of wading forward flushed it out. I was a little concerned the new, more enclosed design of the Trail Dozer 3 or 4 models might trap the sand in there a bit more. This wasn’t an issue. They flushed themselves out just like the old models. I can’t remember ever needing to take them off mid canyon to rid them of sand.

Swimming

They really are the best shoe I’ve swam in. It’s almost like you are barefoot. Feels pretty natural.

Velcro strap

I’ve read a few comments on other shoe reviews of people being very wary of velcro in canyon environments. I can honestly say in 20 years of using Tevas outdoors I’ve never had the velcro fail. Infact on my last pair the leather loop holding the plastic lug the straps went through wore out while the velcro was still holding strong

Wear

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After fair bit of walking the soles are showing a bit of wear but there is plenty of treat left in them.

The uppers have worn a bit but they’ve seen a fair bit of thick scrub. The spungy uppersole showed a bit of wear early on, especially around the heal but haven’t seemed to deteriorated since.

There are a couple of spots were the stitching has copped a flogging and they are looking a bit scruffy, especially the outside just behind the toe box

 

Comfort.

If you had have asked me 6months ago I would have rated the comfort pretty high. Then I strained both Achilles at basketball. Clambering up steep hills in any shoe at the moment is a little uncomfortable for me. In the canyon they didn’t bother me but on a steep descent and, oddly worse, on a long flat walk out the heal strap and slightly small size has given me a bit of curry and certainly done me no favours.

I’d  still rate the Tevas highly and if it wasn’t for the achillies issues I’m sure I’d stick with them. As it is to get the pressure off the tendon I’ve decided to retire them early and try out a canyon specific boot and have purchased a set of Bestard canyon guides.

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