Party: Yi Fan Tong, Jia Min Lim, Jia Le Lim, Tim Hanigan, Joy Shen, Ashley Burke
Leader: Ashley Burke
Date: 10/12/2016

The party of 6 prospective canyoners assembled at Neates Glen car park on a mild and sunny December morning. All in the party except for myself were pretty much beginners to canyoning. So after the pre-canyon gear check we headed down the well-made walking track until we reached a small cliff where we could setup ropes for an abseil lesson. I gave a short safety briefing and abseil demo while everyone donned harnesses and helmets before taking their turn on the rope. With Joy belaying from below, each participant practised the drill of attaching to the rope, communicating with the belayer below and finally detaching the safety sling and starting the descent. In a short while, everyone had had a turn abseiling and all expressed confidence in proceeding to the canyon, which promised to be longer, wetter, more slippery and certainly colder than the practise abseil just performed. Oh and one final check, you can all swim can’t you, as there is a 30m swim towards the canyon. Yes, they all said.

So we walked to the start of the canyon, and the abseil here is a lot more dramatic than the practise abseil just performed, because you have to abseil about 5m before you reach the lip of the canyon, and only once you are there and fully committed can you see the bottom, a different world of mossy and glistening wet river rocks below … with no way out. All the beginners did really well and before long we were all at the bottom of the canyon with the ropework of the day complete and ready to work our way down the canyon floor.

This turned out to be the hardest part, with slippery rocks and cold water everywhere. I had to tell the beginners many times to not try to avoid the water, it’s more dangerous to try to clamber around on slippery rocks than just to swim straight through but some just have to learn the hard way. So it’s fairly certain that a couple of the beginners went home with minor scratches and bruises from slipping on the rocks, but not dampened spirits. There were a few short swims, and it became clear by the time we got to the long pool towards the end, that a couple of the beginners would have trouble swimming the full length of the cold deep pool at the end. And no, there was no way around.

So a drybag came to the rescue. It served as a good floatation device when filled with air and sealed tightly. The only problem for me was that with 3 beginners needing assistance, I had to swim the pool up and back 3 times (7 lengths of the pool in total) to accompany each weak swimmer one at a time through the pool safely. By the time all were safely at the end of the canyon, I must admit to feeling rather cold myself, and it wasn’t until we got going on the walk back up Nellies Glen that I started to warm up.

Once back at the cars it was after 1pm. We sorted out the wet canyoning gear and got ready to travel by car to the much warmer Megalong Valley for a late lunch. I dropped Yi Fan, Jia Min and Jia Le at Blackheath station as they decided not to come on the Christmas Dinner Walk. These 3 people were exchanged for Yumi, Nuria and Jo who joined up with us for the walk into the Christmas Dinner Walk camp.

This trip report is in two parts. Part 2: Christmas Dinner Walk on Saturday afternoon through to Sunday.