Fern Tree Gully


Mandy and Me

It might be hard to beleive but the town of Rylstone has one of the best Yum Cha/Tea house in Australia (29 Nine 99, do yourself a favour). I’d booked in with Mandy for a late Mothers day lunch and we thought why not do a walk while we were there.

Dunns Swamp is the gate way to the Wollemi  and a hot spot for outdoor activity in the area but it’s a long way out of town and with the limited openning hours for Yum Cha we needed something closer and a bit more touritsy.

A quick google search told me there was a little nature reserve about 16km north of Rylstone that might offer up a pleasant walk. Fern Tree Gully

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, certainly not a little canyon, but I was in fr a pleasant surprise.

A well maintained (Not a thing out of place, 1 discarded chip pack the solo piece of rubbish we carted out.) tourist trail winds down into a pretty gully the vegetation is completely different to what I’m use to in the blues and there were lots of little information signs to let us know what we were looking at.

At the base of the gully I commented it was almost a canyon… then we rounded the corner and it canyoned up. Sweet!

Mandy making her way down into Fern Tree Gully
Fern Trees aplenty


The walls close in and a canyon appears


After a bit the gorge opens up a little as the trail ambles through the gully
Even close to midday the light was magical
For all their calling and mimicry Lyrebirds are normally shy creatures that dart off into the scrub at the first scent of humans… This one didn’t get that memo. I think he liked Mandy to be honest.
The canyon opens out and closes in a few times


The grey gums were massive

At the junction with the exit gully a short board walk lead down the main gully to a little chair where a natural spring rises

There was more canyonette in the exit gully

Did I mention the trees were huge?
Steps back up to the lookout trail

The Lookout trail winds along the top of the canyons 1.4km back to the car park and offers some very nice views


Well worth a look if you are in the area.

Party size 2.

Time: 1.5hr with a lot of photo phaffing


Hoping to see some more water in it


Me and Mandy

Thought we’d revisit this one hoping to see a bit more water flowing through it.

There were a lot of stick jams that showed just how high the water got, which surprised me this high up in the catchment.

Also any one planning  a winter trip note the storms have scoured out some of the pools so they are now waist deep.


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.


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



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

Orb Weaver eating a large Christmas beetle
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

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
Mandy at the start of the short canyon section
The top of the descent into Alcatraz. AKA The Devils Throat
One of the few higher flow absiels you find in canyons in this area
Mandy Descending into the dungeon
Mandy under the falls with the exit slot in the back ground
Looking back into the exit slot with Mandy in the chamber
Looking back in to the chamber
This makes the exit slot look much bigger than it is. Just enough room to slide out on hands and knees
It’s a spectacular site
With care it’s possible to climb up above the exit slot and look back down opposite the falls
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
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)


Twister Canyon


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.

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




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
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
Some of the jumps can be intimidating to those not use to it. There was very little hesitation in the group today.


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
Sean and Tillie in the water. Robbie about to do the slide.
Claire is a bigger adrenaline junky than I am and was keen to lead the way. Nothing daunts this super chick
Tom on the last drop into the plunge pool.
I never seem to get a good shot of this section
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.



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.


A Quick Dip in Sheep Dip Canyon

Tallis and me


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


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..

Eastern Water Dragon, Intellagama Lesuerii Lesuerii (formally Physignathus Lesuerii)
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

Tal bridging out over the first little slippery dip


click for larger images

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.

click for larger images

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)

Tal on rope
Tal on rope

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

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
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

click for larger images

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.

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



A quick trip to The Dry Canyon


This canyon has many names including “Wolgan View” and “Nobles canyon” but because it is a canyon that is dry it is mostly known by the very descriptive title of “The Dry Canyon

It’s a super easy walk in, pretty much flat, has 2 very nice constrictions and gives access to nice views over the Wolgan valley. It tends to be underatd by serious canyoners looking for something with a little more challenge and adrenaline but I really like it. The play of light in the lower constriction is magical.

Anyhoo friends were looking for more easy bushwalks to show visitors down when they came to town and I suggested this one. Finding a weekend when we were all available was proving problematic so now day light saving has kicked in we settled on a quick afternoon trip after the kids finished school

The late spring afternoon light was glorious as we made our way along the entrance trail and we soon reached the upper constriction.

I love showing newbies through here. Inevitably they are amazed at the upper constriction and I can’t help having a little grin. This is just the entree.

Anyhoo it was a nice little walk for a Monday afternoon.











Party size 4

Time 1.5hr car to car with lots of photo phaffing and looking about

Dione Dell


Jodie, Garry Edwin and me


Dione Dell is a good introduction to the Kanangra-Boyd style canyons. Unlike the dark, sandstone constrictions of Blue Mt canyons the ones out this way are more steep ravines that drop through a series of water falls as the streams cut down through the quartzite landscape.

Now at first glance quartzite looks a bit like sandstone, and once upon a time it was just that but then it got subjected to heat and pressure which melts down the granny structure and metamorphises it into and different beast.

Gone is the grittiness that offers some semblance of grip, and it’s harder too so tends to break off in lots of block sized chunks. Loose and slippery. It can make for hard going as you try to traverse it.

Anyhoo it had been ages since I’d been down Dione Dell (Almost 18 years) and I was keen to take Tal, he  and his mates had other ideas and went camping instead but I was still excited to show the others through it.

As I said earlier, it’s a good intro into Kanangra Walls canyons. One of the smaller trips out this way it consists of 4 major waterfalls, which are, for the most part, descended in single pitches, and a relatively easy walk out.

All that said it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The quartzite is slippy and loose and some of the abseils have quiet a bit of vegetation and in high water it would be a bit of a challenge.

In summer it is possible to take the direct route down through the falls. Today we opted to stay mostly dry (‘Cept for me who fell in. Pay back for the time I took Della down in the snow and he fell in multiple times)

But enough of my blabbering. here are some photos to wet your appetite.

Edwin testing out my new Canyonfire rope


Jodie and Gaz
Gaz on the second abseil



The crew at the base of Wallara falls
Me just after my unintended swim







Party Size: 4 (3 experienced I beginner)

Time: About5 hr car to car with some photo phaffing


A Lazy Koombanda Day

Koombanda canyon: A long write up of a short canyon

Mandy, Tal and I

My original plans for the weekend had fallen through. A back up plan never got off the ground so come Friday morning when the boss asked what I was doing on the weekend I smiled and said “I have bugger all on. I might have one of those rare weekends where I don’t do anything at all.”

It sounded pretty good….

Who am I kidding not half an hour later I’m texting Mandy “You up for Yileen this weekend?” I’ll admit at this stage I’m 3/4 joking but Mandy texts back “Not sure I’m up for the big abseil. Sunday looks like its the pick of the days what other options have we got for a small trip” “What about Koombanda? and what about doing it Saturday, leaving Sunday for an even lazier swim somewhere.” The idea was planted.

We’d never done Koombanda Canyon before. I’d heard it was short but OK plus it’s an easy walk out up old abandoned colliery haul road.

Saturday dawns wet and drizzly. We had a nice 7:30 sleep in. We still hadn’t committed to the idea but, What do you reckon? says I over breakfast. Want to get the gear packed?

Why not, says she.

We let Tal sleep while we get stuff ready. Finally waking him up around 9:45. We tell Beth our plans and ask if she wants to come. I didn’t think she would as she does like abseiling that much. Declines does she

So it was about 10:30 before we even drive out of town. Talk about a lazy canyon trip. To be even lazier we take 2 cars to do a bit of a car shuffle and reduce the walking even further.

The weather was miserable. I’m thinking of pulling the pin, say Mandy as she climbs in the ute after dropping her car at the locked gate at the top of the Colliery. They predicted 1-5mil and I’m pretty sure that’s running down my forehead just from dashing between cars, says she

’tis a mere heavying of the mist, says I.

To keep an explorational type feel I’d only read the basics about the trip. Where to park, how much rope we needed. But I gave Tal a copy of Tom’s track notes. It says to contour around the hill. Says he. But it doesn’t say which side of the hill, left or right. We check the map, take a bearing and split the difference. Straight over the top

Sure it looks like the Scottish moors but, honestly, it’s the Aussie bush in high summer

Despite the vigorous regrowth after the State Mine fire that had ripped through a couple of years ago it was fairly easy going, if damp. We dropped into a tributary and it only got scrubby towards the junction with the main creek. Even then it was more ferns then anything else

We soon reach Koombanda crk. It sounds like it has a bit of water flowing through it so we decide to put the wetsuits on. We had done a bit of  humming and haing as to whether to bother taking wetties, especially after not using them in Pipeline last weekend but with the weather having a piss weak attempt at summer I’m glad we took them. The swims were short but the water was chilly.

We come to a spot where the water disappears down a drop and under a rock. Is there a tunnel through Tal, asks I. Not Sure, says he. From here I can’t see light coming through from the other side. Best have a better look, says I.

There was an easy path around but under looked like a bit of fun, we were in no hurry, the big arse cave crickets didn’t look that scary and, we might as well make use of the wetsuits


It was a tight squeeze in the middle  but the water is crystal clear. It was a bit of fun

There followed a bit of crk walking. Did we come down the same tributary the note mention? Does it mater? The canyon eventually closed in and we scramble down a little chute to a beautiful, if somewhat cold, pool for our first deep swim.

Hmmm pretty but chilly

A little more crk walking and we come to our first abseil. It looks like it would be easy enough to down climb to save getting the ropes out but instead I ask Tal if he’d like to try going first? Alright, says he.

Not sure if it was because he really wanted to or just he wanted to freak his mother out a little. He ropes up and down he goes. Fully pro.


I can’t remember the last time Mandy abseiled, it must be 17 years since she had done one in a canyon as I’m sure it was before Beth was born but she handled it like she hadn’t had a break at all. Only problem she had was scrambling out of the deep pool at the bottom onto a ledge in a tight squeeze.

A really gorgeous bit of canyon follows. Not overly deep or narrow but As the great R Smith once sang it was so wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty.    (He may sang that more than once, who knows. Not I)


And just around the corner is our next drop. Once again it’s down a cool little hole dropping into the narrows below. The notes says 15m but I don’t think it’s that high. A 20m rope would be very close to reaching so long as the anchor is on a long sling.

Tal offers to go first again

Tallis on rope
Mandy in the depths
Me on rope with Tal on Belay
The chamber of Awesomeness

The water here has a reddish brown tinge suggesting high levels of manganese and iron and stuff usually associated with mine disturbance but we are a fair was up stream of the coal seem so maybe its just tannins leaching to the water, there was a lot of vegetation in a couple of the pools up stream. One I may have compared to Yodas swamp on Dagobah. Down stream it  seemed much clearer again.


Anyhoo, a couple of twists in the narrow section and we come to a final drop.


The notes say it’s an abseil, says Tal. But it looks like a down climb. They say that it might be able to be jumped. He looked hopeful. I think he wanted to jump

The drop is about 2.5-3m it looks like an easy scramble so I offer to slip down and check the depth. Swinging in under a chock stone I notice there is a hand line set up. Definitely wouldn’t bother setting up an abseil, even without the hand line its a relatively easy scramble. Water is deep and clear of hazards I point out where the rock ledge ends and Tal takes the leap.



From here the creek opens out a bit. A stunning waterfall comes in on the right then things degenerate to a choice of boulder hopping in the creek or picking our way over, through, around and under dead fall on the banks or sometime both together. One of the legacies of the intense fire that ripped across the ridge above, followed by some big gully rakers up rooting trees and washing branches and stuff down to jam up in the gullies. It’s not too bad but it does sap a bit of energy


It seems to take a fair bit of time to get from the waterfall down to our next point of interest. One of the more unique finishes to a canyon trip in the Bluies. You round a corner and suddenly the creek bed is concreted… After carefully working your way down the slipper concrete cascade and around another corner  the walls of the canyon look more like a man made breakwall… and there is a bridge spanning them.

We have arrived at the old Grose Valley/Canyon colliery. Dad worked here as a truck and loader driver on the surface in the 70s and 80s and I still look back fondly on the pit Christmas parties that took place over at Glenroy, on the Junction of the River Lett and Coxes River, a bunch of kids high on sugar running through the bush and finding spots to swim, jump and rope swing into the rivers.


It’s an interesting industrial relic in a very beautiful setting, I remember dad bringing me down here when I was young but don’t remember much except getting to ride around in the loader for a bit. We took our time having a bite to eat and a look around.

The cliff lines are stunning and some artists have added a splash of colour to the drab concrete wall.


And then for the walk out…  Up the old haulage road. It’s a gentle grade, the only difficult bit is a spot where the road disappears into a land slide but with a bit of care it is soon crossed.

There was a slight threat of summer heat at the bottom but not far up the rain set back in which made for a pleasant stroll back to the car.



Party Size: 3

Time: 4hrs 50min, car to car (with the second car saving us maybe 2km walking) Taking it easy with lots of faffing about with photos and stuff plus a relaxed lunch and look around the colliery site.