Party: Cathy Stansbury (Tigersnake and Twister only), Lyndsy Haviland (26 Jan only), Maj-Britt Engelhardt, Ashley Burke
Leader: Ashley Burke
Date: 26-28 Jan 2017

The days and weeks preceding this trip had been hot, interspersed far too infrequently by the occasional short interlude of cooler cloudier conditions. It was one such cool and cloudy interlude that just so happened to coincide with Australia Day, which just so happened to coincide with our planned trip to go canyoning out of a base camp on the Newnes Plateau.

So, after driving out on the Wednesday night we woke to damp cool mist on Australia Day with the trees dripping from overnight drizzle. Until now we had left open the decision of which canyons we would do today, but the cool and damp morning persuaded us to start the weekend with a drier canyon without cold swims. And so it was decided that we would head to Tigersnake Canyon. After breakfast and its obligatory cup of tea, and after the pre-departure gear check, we set off by car to Tigersnake.

Lyndsy had never abseiled before and was new to canyoning so when we arrived at the narrow slot that is the commencement of the canyon, we setup ropes for a practise abseil. After a few goes Lyndsy decided that abseiling was not an activity she wanted to do after all, and so she would sit out this canyon while Cathy, Maj-Britt and I went down. Fortunately, Tigersnake was the sort of canyon where this arrangement can work as it would be a trivial detour for me to run back to the top of the canyon to retrieve Lyndsy after we had finished. And Lyndsy had a great spot to wait, surrounded by pagodas and with rock platforms to admire the views out over the Wollemi wilderness, and a small water supply from a tiny pool at the very start of the canyon.

Maj-Britt, Cathy and I descended the narrow slot and negotiated a couple more short drops that required rope until we reached the famous overhang abseil. This is a very nice abseil with a clean start down an open rock face followed by several metres of open air abseiling to reach the base of a small waterfall. Then came a section of open creek before the second stage of canyon, a deep and dark constriction that was accessed by an abseil down a hole in the creek floor. Once at the bottom we explored around the rock arch, an interesting sandstone formation that warranted many photos.

We walked through the narrow canyon and clambered down the deep gorge to the exit. By now the sun was out and it was warm steep climbing out of the canyon and back up onto the ridge leading back to the car. I made the detour back to the top of the canyon to pick up Lyndsy who was dozing in the shade and had had a relaxing morning.

Back up on the ridge we were well overdue to have lunch now that we were all together again and there was a shallow rock pool nearby that we could suck water from. We sat and ate, the sun had come out and it had become humid, so we took turns sucking water from the pool.

There was still some time in the afternoon after we reached the car so a quick journey down Twister Canyon seemed like a great idea and a great way to get clean and cool ahead of our evening meal. Lyndsy waited at camp and packed her tent while Maj-Britt, Cathy and I drove off again. Twister is a nice quick and easy canyon which you can get in and out of in a late afternoon. There were water slides, short swims and a few short drops, but as the canyon developed the drops became a little higher and steeper. Maj-Britt loved water jumping so leaped into the deep dark pools with alacrity. But Cathy on the other hand decided that water jumping and downclimbing was not for her. But as we had rope and harnesses, this problem was easily overcome by converting a water jump into a short abseil. We used the rope again for the final drop and with that we completed the canyon.

Back at camp Lyndsy was packed up and ready to go, and Cathy had to leave anyway to go to work the following day. So Cathy and Lyndsy departed by car leaving Maj-Britt and I to enjoy our comfortable and spacious campsite and contemplate what canyons we would do the next day.

Just like the previous day, the morning was damp and misty after a drizzly night. We were confident it would warm up so we prepared for a long day of two decent canyons – Hole in the Wall and Banks. We drove off again, to the HITW car park, and then set off on foot along the well trodden path to the canyon. The canyon was beautiful, we were just ahead of another party of 3 canyoners who caught up to us in the Glow Worm section. Maj-Britt was deep underground, sitting with her torch off, admiring the glow worms on the ceiling of the short tunnel section.

Further on were two abseils and some short swims, a section of spectacular canyon which emptied via a notch in the cliff line, the “Hole In The Wall”, into Bungleboori Creek. This major creek was deep and flowing strongly, an impressive gorge. We decided to press on to Banks Canyon and only when we were high on the ridge above Banks Canyon did we take a short break for lunch.

The best way to describe Banks canyon is awkward. With its many short drops, narrow swims and many obstacles to clamber over, the rope was out often and had to be forever recoiled, decoiled and uncoiled for several short drops. It was beautiful though, with some lovely canyon formations, some deep dark sections and impressive overhangs. Finally we reached the end of the canyon, with its two longer abseils which took us back down to Bungleboori Creek.

It was getting late now and we still had a journey ahead of us. We had to reverse Bungleboori Creek to the Hole In The Wall exit, and this was a slipping and sliding affair, and a bruise or two were earned after falling on slippery rocks. The deep gorge was very impressive and we had to clamber up one or two short rapids. At the Hole In the Wall exit we found a large party who had just finished Hole In the Wall canyon, including some very young children who had done extremely well to complete the canyon and clearly had loved every minute of it. Maj-Britt and I pressed on up the pass until at last we reached a dry rock in the open to shake the sand out of our shoes and peel off our sopping wet clothing. It was then a fairly long walk back to the car which we reached just after 7pm, and finally, after driving back to camp we wearily but happily got settled in.

Wood was collected, a cheerful fire was got going, washing lines were setup for all our wet gear, warm food was had, tea was drunk, and dry clothes were changed into. The first clear and starry night of the trip was here and we enjoyed a very relaxing evening.

On Saturday I had stuff to do in Katoomba so after a leisurely breakfast and after packing up all our gear in the drying sunshine, we headed out. All in all a very successful couple of days cram packed with canyons. Thanks to Lyndsy and Cathy for joining on the first day and to Maj-Britt for staying to the end!

Ashley Eylenburg (Ashley Burke)