TRIP: Heart Attack, Surefire, Rocky Creek Canyons

DATES: 6-8 Feb 2009

Saturday: Glen Charlier, Helen Smith, Ashley Burke
Sunday: Peter Berbee, Nigel Butler & friend, Helen Smith, Ashley Burke


It was the hot weekend. Who could forget it? 40 degree temperatures and
extreme fire danger. It is with concern and trepidation that you venture into the bush on such a weekend but the canyons were there.

Miraculously Helen and I managed to escape the Sydney 9-5 vortex on Friday and headed up during the afternoon and enjoyed camping in the relatively cool shade as the burning sun receded towards the horizon at last. We were later joined by Glen.

The sun rose with vengeance on Saturday morning but we were ahead of it, up early and off on mountain bikes, taking advantage of the morning coolness. After less than an hour of riding we stashed our bikes and set off for our first canyon.

By the time we approached the headwaters of the canyon the heat was beating down and the deep green forest canopy below was very inviting. Down we went and our feet splashed through small pools providing our first relief from the hot dry conditions.

Heart Attack canyon is called that because of what you have when you get to the top of it and look down the first abseil. An enormous pit and cavern with a 35m abseil to get into it. But no heart attacks for us, we were just keen to get out of the sun.

Down we went into a different world, cool and damp with walls of sandstone, petrified waves rising to daylight far above, and further down the canyon a lone coachwood tree, towering.

Lunch in the shade and then a sweltering climb in the most almighty heat out of the gorge, over a ridge and then down with great alacrity into our next canyon. Fortunately the distance between these two canyons is remarkably short but even so, such heat is fearsome.

The next canyon was a surefire canyon and named as such. After 3 or 4 abseils we were deep in its vault and we lingered long in its cool depths, taking time for photos, even shivering in its cool waters. Again the terminus of this canyon was presided over by a mighty coachwood tree, tall and straight.

The long climb out and walk back to our mountain bikes was a great way to end the day, and it was cooler now.

Back at camp we were met by Nigel, his friend and Peter, while Glen left us. We enjoyed camping one more night – no fires due to the total fire ban in place.

On Sunday we again set off very early to beat the heat and we were deep in the canyon by the time the sun exerted its supreme reign once more. Rocky Creek is an easy canyon, no abseils and plenty of water, and a nice little approach canyon called Twister on the walk in as a warm-up (or cool down).

Twister was fun but Rocky was magical. Deep and beautiful, with columns of light at steep angles playing on water and walls. Much time was needed to marvel at all this and take photos. We were the first group through the canyon. Soon the commercial parties and crowds would shatter the peace but for now the canyon was ours. We even got cold in there.

Rather than brave the hot walk out we simply did the canyon in reverse on the way out, and as we climbed up towards the cars the commercial groups and the tourists passed us on their way in, but the memory of the quiet canyon with those rays of light and no one else there was ours.

The early bird catches the worm.

A great weekend, here are some photos:

Ashley Burke
Email: aburke at
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