Arethusa

25/02/2017

Edwin, Kent, me

Arethusa, in Greek mythology was a sea nymph who fled her home and came up as a fresh water fountain. In Blue Mtns canyon mythology it was one of the first canyons explored by bushwalking clubs in the 30s. As such it could be argued that Arethusa canyon is the birth place, not of a fountain but of the Aussie canyoning culture.

These hardy club members came up from the bottom, which is no mean feat considering how slippery the canyon is going down with modern equipment, not to mention the 30m abseil at the end of the canyon.

Apparently they scaled this cliff at Arethusa falls by using tree roots which have long since disappeared.

It’s a bit of an oddity that the canyon tends to be far less visited than many of it’s near by neighbors. This may have something to do with the original exit being a long scramble around the base of the Carne walls or maybe the creek had suffered a bit of pollution from storm water run off  and seepage from Katoomba tip and the like for a long time (Old car tyres are still a feature of the canyon).

I’m not sure who pioneered the rock climb exit but when combined with an entry from the Mt Hay rd side it makes for a really nice trip.

Anyhoo,

A few weeks ago me and Ed dragged Tal along on a scrub bash to find a way in from the east. After a lot of scrub we found a few spots all far too long for the ropes we had and with Tal’s ankle playing up we opted to abort the trip and went and did Empress.

Anyway after actually looking at the maps we were fairly disappointed in our efforts and had to get back for another go. ‘Cept Tal who said No.

Anyhoo me and Ed organised a day to do it and Kent joined us.

This time we had no dramas getting down to a small side creek and after a quick scout around Ed chose a tree and rappelled in. A short bit of scrub down the creek and we come to another drop, this one with an established anchor and in no time we are in Katoomba creek.

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Bottom of First Abseil
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Ed starting the second abseil

There follows and few swims in between pleasant creek walking before some slippery rocky scrambles

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Scrambling in the creek

And suddenly the creek canyons up and we abseil in through a hole at the base of a pothole on a high ledge

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Ed abseiling into the canyon

Heading up stream of the absiel point we admire the stunning water fall that marks the start of the canyon

click to enlarge

Continuing down the canyon involves slippery boulder hopping, swimming, slides and jumps.

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Kent and Ed contemplating a down climb
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Edwin checking the depth to see if it’s jumpable
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Lots of small cascades makes route finding down the canyon a little tricky at times but they are beautiful
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Ed and Kent descending the maelstrom
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Looking back up the canyon
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Ed and Kent picking their way down

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Looking back up from the end of one of the last swims
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Approaching the junction with Alpheus canyon where Arethusa canyon opens out

Tiny Tiger Snake, Notechis scutatus

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Arethusa Falls. Those hearty bushwalkers of yesteryear did well getting up here, tree roots or not

The traditional exit is to abseil the falls and then scramble around the base of the Carne Wall back to the tourist trail. This route is littered with horror stories of groups benighted or getting back to civilization well after dark after an ankle breaking scramble across loose scree slops. Kent says it is easier to continue down the creek past Hilary falls to the old swimming hole at Edenderry falls and thus back up  Rodriguez Pass and the Pilcher track.

We opted the climbing route up into the end of Alpeus canyon and then a series of ledges and hand lines.

Ed, who is a much better climber than I ever was lead each pitch. I haven’t done any serious climbing in ages but had no dramas seconding even in my canyoning moon boots. Where the rock is a tad blank  knotted fixed lines hang down  to compensate for the lack of  big easy handholds.

Kent isn’t a climber at all so as well as putting him on top belay we set a second rope for him to jumar on where needed

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Ed belaying Kent up the first pitch
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Kent jumarring up a long, steep hand line section

If you are a rock climber its all pretty straightforward. If not there are some tricky bits with a bit of exposure thrown in. Any more than 2 or 3 non climbers in the party would cancel any time otherwise able to be saved by using this exit.

Party size: 3 all experienced

Time: 6.5hrs car to car with a bit of photo phaffery and hauling packs and assisting the climb

You can find more photos of the trip on my facebook

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Crikey!

22/02/2017

Kent, Ruth, Doug Doug, Camera Doug, Roy, me

Back before Steve Irwin made “Crikey” his world  famous catchphrase Tony Norman peered down into a dark slot in the Bungleboori Wilderness and, stunned at what he saw he uttered “Crikey Mother of God!”. Thus the slot was dubbed “Crikey Canyon.”

Peter Tresider has since claimed he visited the canyon on a solo trip in the 70s…. David Noble has some comments on that claim in his guide book critique.

Anyhoo,

Of the Blue Mtns canyons with published track notes Crikey is a bit of a holy grail. It’s remote. It’s deep. It’s dark. It’s technical. And it’s beautiful.

It’s one I have wanted to do for many years but for one reason or another I haven’t managed to get to. When a mate appeared in photos of a trip out there I mentioned it was one I was keen on doing. Oh they’re going again next week. Says he.

Only problem is they are doing a 4 day trip mid week and we are a little busy at work.

I confirm which day they plan to do Crikey. A quick chat to the boss (work) and I pull a favour and get a day off at short notice. A longer chat with the real  boss(home) and I get a leave pass.

Now whether to get an early start and do it in a day (doable if you know where you are going and have no issues along the way) or walk in and met them the night before. I go with the latter and Roy decides to come out with me as a guide despite having injured his ribs the week before. I get away from work around 2pm, do some last minute packing and swing by to pick Roy up, then off we go.

The trip in was fairly uneventful, the track starts clear then comes and goes a bit before disappearing altogether. A slight navigational hick up saw us miss a turn on the main ridge as we follow a spur a little out of our way. Eventually Roy say he doesn’t recognise anything and we decide to check the map, realise our mistake and back track to the correct heading.

We reach the camp cave around 6pm where I meet Kent, the trip organiser, Doug No 1, henceforth known as Doug Doug, Doug No 2, aka Camera Doug and, Ruth. The group were enjoying a meal and cup of tea after a day in Bridge canyon aka Steep Creek. We chat and laugh and as the sun goes down bunk down for a early night around 9.30

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Making ready for bed.
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Early morning stirrings in the camp site

We weren’t planning to leave camp until 8.30am so I take a wander up the bottom of Froth and Bubble canyon (aka Bubble Bath) for a bit of a look while others are slurping tea and cooking breakfast.

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Looking up the exit portal for Forth and Bubble
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Forth and Bubble canyon
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the end of Froth and Bubble canyon

And then we were off. Crossing the Bungleboori we scamper up an easy pass and then with a bit of navigation, follow a ridge down to enter the creek not far above where it drops into the canyon.

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Time to suit up

The abseils come thick and fast and we have several ropes to leap frog each other and keep things moving. Most of the abseils have tricky starts, some of them in dark sections. It’s everything I love about canyoning, problem solving on the fly in a truly stunning environment with good company.

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The first abseil is the easiest. Ruth on rope with Roy offering tips
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Is that an odd coloured glow worm? No a light in Roy’s pack the only indication he is abseiling down through the hole on the second drop
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Roy in the dark section. Image captured by using the TG4 in live comp mode then using my head torch to light paint Roy and the canyon walls
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How tenacious is this tree? Growing through the dark and stretching 50m up into the light before the hint of a branch or foliage
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Kent in a narrow section
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Camera Doug disappearing into the dark abyss
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Deep and dark
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The play of light was magical
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Eastern Water Dragon
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The canyon opens out a little and Doug Doug slides down next to the water dragon
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Ruth and Doug negotiating a boulder/log scramble
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Lower section Crikey canyon
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Looking down from the top of the second last abseil
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Roy on rope
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Ruth wading down the canyon. you may be able to make out Camera Doug on abseil and Doug Doug and Kent looking on from the top of the abseil
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Looking up from the bottom of the last abseil with Roy disappearing into the glowworm cave

Shakey shots of the glowworm cave. The connection screw for my tripod had fallen into the bottom of my bag so I had to make do with hand held, braced against the wall. Click to enlarge.

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Looking out of the canyon to a large land slide near the junction with the Bungleboori
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Ruth and Kent scrambling over boulders while admiring the canyon walls
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Working our way upstream on the Bungleboori
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Working our way up stream on the Bungleboori

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Boulder scrambles R us

Scrambling back up to camp. Click to enlarge

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We are met by John who had walked out int he morning but missed us before we left so spent the day exploring the ridge tops. Here me and Roy say our goodbyes and head out with John while the other have another night under the stars.

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All in all a great 24hrs out in the Aussie bush. I had built Crikey up in my mind over the years and was a little worried it wouldn’t meet my expectation but it was every thing I thought it would be. Deep, dark, technical and very rewarding

Big thanks to Kent and the others for allowing me to tag along on this part of their adventure out near the junction of the ‘boories

My Go Pro was freezing up this trip and I have check the footage to see if it got anything worthwhile yet. if there’s anything decent I’ll put a video together shortly.

Party Size: 6, all experienced

Time: 24 hours car to car or 7hr camp to camp at a fairly relaxed pace

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Rocky Creek Canyon

18/02/2017

Jeff, Sam, me

Rocky Creek canyon is the most popular canyon on the Newnes Plateau , especially when combined with Twister Canyon,and it is easy to see why.

They are fairly easy to get to, don’t require abseiling and are relatively non technical. Twister is like natures theme park. Lots of jumps and slides and fun. Rocky Crk is deep dark and awe inspiring, It is the canyon that got me hooked on canyoning.

Despite the ease, or maybe because of it, many people have been caught out under estimating the dangers. There are been many rescues over the years and at least 1 fatality. Rocky creek has a massive catchment so the threat of flash flooding is very real. I have been flooded out of it myself, second guessing an afternoon storm.

Anyhoo.

Jeff grew up exploring the iconic canyons of Zion NP and has been keen to check out Rocky Crk. Finally we go a weekend where we were both free. One of the advantages of living close by is you can time your trip to miss most of the crowds. Last time we went at night this time around we went really early and the light was awesome. It changed in the little time it took us to go down and start reversing back up.

And we didn’t see a soul until we were back at the car park.

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The start of Twister Canyon
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One of the many water jumps in Twister Canyon
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Where the entry track meets Rocky crk with Rocky coming in from the right and disappearing down the cleft on the left
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Sam coming down the entry chute
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Sam in Rocky Creek

Click to enlarge

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Jeff and Sam make their way down the canyon
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The soft morning light
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Looking back up the canyon where it opens out just up stream of the Budgary crk junction
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The majestic Rocky creek canyon
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As you carefully pick out your footing you have to remind yourself to look up

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With the sun a few degrees higher the soft light disappears and these striking rays appear

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The more open section around about half way through
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Jeff and Sam in the last swim before climbing back out where the canyon started
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Jeff and Sam back at the start with Rocky creek canyon behind them

Party Size. 1 experienced Aussie caynoner, 1 experienced USA Canyoneer(er). I beginer

Time:3.5hrs car to car

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Dargan creek Canyon

13/02/17

Mark, Dan, Me

Dargan creek canyon is a short, easier but still very pretty canyon down stream of the Railway dams at Clarence.

Even in the years when we weren’t right into canyoning we would visit this one once or twice a year. It’s one of my favorites to take beginners down, just because it is short and easy to get to and has the added bonus of the dams for a cooling swim after the walk out.

It is also one of the first canyons we took the kids down.

Today was just a quick trip afterwork as a reckie for Mark, who was looking for a trip to take some beginners down to gauge their outdoors ability.

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Daniel in the first of the canyon like sections

 

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There were a lot of juvenile Water Dragons scampering about
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Mark and Dan as the wall close in and the water gets a bit deeper
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The slot. it might be “easy” and short but it has some very pretty sections

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Several years ago we took Marks brother and his Scottish girl friend through the canyon. Just as we go to the narrow section where Dan is a Brown snake popped its head up out of the water and made a bee line to the nearest heat source… Me. Mark quickly push his pack in front and the thankful snake curled up in his back pack..

 

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Yours truly enjoying the relatively warm water in the last of the swims
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Dan and Mark and the canyon

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My preferred method of exit is to just reverse up the canyon but the scramble up the waterfall and tree is the quickest way out

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Some time in the distant past someone nailed a series of spikes into the tree to make a ladder. As the tree has grown the spikes have been somewhat enveloped but it is still fairly straightforward. Beginners may need to be belayed with rope and harness.

 

Party size:3 (1 experienced canyoner. 2 experienced bush walkers)
Time:1.5hrs car to car

 

 

 

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Empress Canyon, AKA Valley of the Waters canyon

05-02-2017

Ed, Tal and I

A quick trip through Empress with Tal and Edwin after aborting an attempt at something else.

 

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Tal at the start of the canyon. Hot day and relatively warm water so we opted not to take wetsuits.
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You can make out the bridge that spans the canyon as part of one of the walking trails
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Canyon formation
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It was a busy day in the canyon, even before the commercial groups start showing up after noon. We leap frogged these guys at the start as they suited up and they caught us as we waited for the group in front to finish absieling
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Waiting for a slower group with some beginners on the abseil. Waiting in the breeze coming down the canyon here was the only time it felt a little cool. We could have set up on the right hand anchor but we weren’t in a rush and I think it can put beginners off a bit having another group set up beside trying to push past.

 

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Ed on the start of the dramatic 26m abseil
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The group behind follow on their brand new rope.

Party Size: 3 all experienced.

Time: 1.5hr car to car with a bit of waiting.

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