Party: Ashley Burke, Michael Tran, Edward Hatrick-Smith, Tony Le, Elsie Wang, Benjamin Goode, Ashley Brennan, Tim Blundy, Maricar Maandal (Keena), Rena Chen, Carina Lucchinelli, Isabelle Kopecny, Elizabeth Sharaq, Marie Siemers
Leader: Ashley Burke
Date: 23-24/1/2016

On Thursday night it rained. Solidly. On Friday it just kept raining. And as Friday evening, our time of imminent departure, approached, it just kept raining.

“Irresponsible and dangerous,” some were told. “Have to call it off,” I heard it said. But was it? In the end the SUBW club motto prevailed and I made the call, “Press On Regardless”. The trip would proceed. And in any case, there were alternate options if, in the cold light of day it was found that any of the originally planned canyons were flooded.

I left home in pouring rain and as I drove west a slit of light appeared through the grey clouds and just before the sun set behind the mountains a ray of sunlight caught the tops of the trees along the motorway. It would be ok.

I picked up my passengers at Richmond, the rain had stopped, and we drove in calm conditions up to Clarence where we met the others who had come from different parts of Sydney in separate cars. The only person missing was Isabelle who was running late, and due to flaky phone reception we were unsure whether she would meet us here or drive all the way to our campsite by herself. In the end, we decided that the latter would happen anyway if we just headed to camp and waited there. So in a convoy of 4 cars we drove out to our plateau camp. The road was damp but driveable and it had stopped raining. We set up our tents and went to bed. Just before I dozed off to sleep Isabelle’s car headlights announced that she had in fact found her own way to camp by herself, and even found our exact camp spot. This was very welcome and now we had all participants in the trip present and accounted for.

Would the morning bring more rain and wash out any hopes of doing a canyon? We would have to wait and see.

Saturday dawned clear with clouds and blue sky, a fresh morning with the bush alive and lush in the aftermath of rain. A cheerful fire was quickly got going and we gathered around for breakfast and sorted out abseiling gear and what we needed to take for the day. With the weather holding good, Tigersnake Canyon was a definite goer as its tiny catchment presented no risk now that the rain had stopped. Even so, when we got to the headwaters, normally bone dry watercourses were flowing freely and clearly. Just before the top of the actual canyon we stopped at a pagoda and setup ropes for some abseil practise. The beginners were taught the basics of abseiling here, which is just as well, because the first few abseils of this canyon are a little awkward and then there is the overhang abseil.

Once the abseil lesson was complete we headed to the top of the canyon which was a narrow crack between some pagodas and one by one we headed down. Ben did a great job of belaying from below and of taking everyone’s pack when thrown down to him. This narrow little slot is much easier without a pack so the best thing to do is to throw it down to Ben. It took a while to get all 14 people down this short drop and then there were a couple of other very short drops to negotiate followed by a downclimb on some tree roots on a short overhang. Eventually everyone got down these first few drops to the top of the longest and scariest of the abseils – the overhang!

Again Ben went first and belayed, and one by one everyone descended this clean drop. It started with a direct descent of a sheer rock face which then became overhung. There were smiles for the camera as each abseiler paused for a quick photo. For Keena I setup a top belay and one by one everyone was down and at the bottom in the dappled sunlight we had lunch. Marie took a shower in the lovely little waterfall there, where the sunlight caught the droplets of water creating a sparkling shower.

After a quick lunch it was time to walk downstream to Stage 2 of the canyon. A party of Sydney Bushwalkers caught up to us as the last few of us were abseiling down this final drop. This final drop was a very different abseil, a drop straight into a hole and into a deep dark canyon with water splashing about. Most of us explored the area around the base of the abseil, clambering up a short waterfall to reach the upper extremities of this section of canyon. It was deep, dark and beautiful with water flowing and some very narrow sections where you had to turn side on and take your pack off. It opened out into a majestic coachwood glen and once the canyon dropped out into rainforest we made our exit.

Clambering up steeply we soon reached the top of a pagoda from where 360 degree views of the wilderness were had and in the distance we heard thunder but there was still no real threat of rain.

We soon rejoined the main track and walked back to our cars. But the day wasn’t over yet. We returned to our pleasant camp where there was enough sunlight and warmth to spread everything out to dry and get a fire going. We had a few cups of tea and snacks, cheese and bikkies and Tony’s figs and other delicacies. We decided to make a visit to the Glow Worm tunnel after dinner.

So after a rest and dinner, most of us headed in 2 cars to the glow worm tunnel. Frogs were croaking by the hundreds there, there must have been several different species judging from the strange sounds coming from the ponds around the car park. We donned head torches as it was dark by now and headed down to the tunnel. The glow worms were in fine form, they were bright enough to cast their own light in even the darkest part of the tunnel so that we could make out each other’s shapes and see the reflections of the glow worms in the pools of water in the tunnel.

By the time we got back to camp it was getting late but some of us stayed up to sample some wines, including Isabelle’s local Tumbarumba wine.

Sunday was a totally different day from Saturday, both in terms of the character of the canyon and the weather. There was no more than a slight drizzle but the morning was damp with mist and low cloud around camp. But it was warm and Rocky Creek was a goer as planned. There would be no abseiling today, just lots of swimming, splashing and cavorting about as if this were Wet’n’Wild or something. We drove out to the car park and were surprised to see road plant and bulldozers smashing about the bush out there, seemingly intent on widening the fire trail and creating enough loose soil to wash into the canyon in the rain that was surely about to come.

We headed down the track to the canyon, wandering through a beautiful rainforest creek to reach the main canyon which was flowing nicely. This was where the fun really began. There are basically 2 ways to get into the canyon. Either downclimb carefully or just jump straight into the foaming pool right there. Many chose to jump. And some chose to do so several times. Yet there was still more to come. We swam through some narrow pools and then we came to the feature of this natural Wet’n’Wild that was voted the best attraction of the whole canyon – the bumslide. Many like Tony and Ben went up and down this like yo-yos never tiring of the fun slippery slide into the deep pool at the bottom.

Not far on from here was a beautiful tiny waterfall trickling into the canyon from high above, creating a thin curtain of light, a perfect tiny column of the purest water. Some longer swims followed, and some went ahead. Isabelle and I helped Keena through the longer pools and we were all rewarded by more spectacular canyon around every corner. We didn’t linger long at the end of the canyon before turning back and reversing the whole canyon back the way we came. This created more opportunities for Tony to have some splashing fights and for people to go down the bumslide one last time.

After all this frivolity we climbed back out to the cars and this warmed us all up after the cold confines of the canyon. We returned to camp where our tents were waiting, and we all enjoyed a very relaxing lunch by the fire where we could revel in what we had all done over the weekend and how much fun we had all had. We had completed both canyons as planned, the weather held good despite forecasts, and we’d also done a side trip to see the glow worms.

Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic weekend out in the bush with a great variety of canyons and a great group of people. We were all so glad that everyone made the decision not to give up due to the rain on Friday and to come anyway. Press On Regardless.

Until next time.

Ashley Eylenburg