Five Men Against a Canyon

by Tom Williams

Crystal clear water tumbling over pebbled races between deep sandy floored pools, the occasional red flash of a crayfish, lush vegetation encroaching upon the water, shafts of light dappling the leafy floor with the tinkling of bellbirds in the background. Suddenly the scene is smashed. Five bickering bipeds come tumbling and clattering down the gully slopes, leaving a wake of smashed vegetation and fleeing bellbirds. The creek is churned as they progress and hapless yabbies are captured for food.

These, as they would quickly inform you, if you knew not of such important things, are canyoneers. Five powerful individuals loosely knitted into a team to do battle with nature and to prove their worth in the eyes of themselves and others.

Struggling to maintain the lead was the fearless Trashbin, always first into the fray, next ranged Noodle wishing to hell he had room to pass, third was Bullwinkle, relative newcomer yet to show his worth, fourth strode Simple Simon, always cool and innovative, lastly and certainly least stumbled Big Foot.

The mouth of the canyon was reached, its gullet plummeting down into unseen depths. Ropes and similar bright ornaments suddenly became tools of the canyoneers trade. They wait nervously while Big Foot returns back up the stream to collect his rope from where he had forgotten it a half mile back. When all is finally ready there is some argument as to who should abseil first. This is quickly solved by Trashbin, who grasps the rope and is quickly out of sight, sliding fearlessly into the abyss. Noodle quickly sets about organising the others and impressing Bullwinkle about his past feats. Simple Simon is next, proclaiming all the while the simplicity and superiority of his new brake bar abseiling device, until it suddenly unclips itself halfway down; his dangling form’s fearful screams a source of amusement for the others. The remaining three follow quickly and easily.

They were now encased within the canyon, its towering walls dark and smooth. As the rope was hauled down and coiled, Noodle forged ahead to have a look. Soon his anguished cries echoed back, “There’s a canyan snake around here, remember one nash and you’re ash”. A spasm of fear shook the party and they edged fearfully past the spot where the dreaded snake lay coiled around a pile of driftwood, resting on its four legs and flicking its blue tongue menacingly.

Long swims through chilly water and strenuous clambering over rocky barriers filled the remainder of the morning as they progressed inexorably through the canyon. An opening in the canyon and temporary sunshine and lunch provided a welcome relief. Here, many great adventures were retold.

Soon after the lunch stop the canyon resumed its constriction, it became steep and chocked with boulders whilst the swims increased in length. At the head of one small waterfall and pool, the group stood, the more heroic members conspiring to jump the waterfall.

The not-so-brave Noodle and Bullwinkle piked, thereby failing to gain admittance to the elite. Big Foot and Simple Simon jumped at the lowest point, Trashbin, ever fearless (and brainless?) sought the highest position, parrying Bullwinkle’s accusations of madness and warnings of the rocks in the pool with “Crap, I know what I’m doing”, as he launched himself into space, hitting water and rock in quick succession. Luckily he hit his head and wasn’t hurt.

The slot continued with intermittent pools and sandbars dispersed amid wet clammy rocks, till at last an exit point was reached and so began the long haul out. The gradient was steep and sustained. Noodle, as always, excelled in such conditions and surged ahead, thinking he could show them who was boss. Bullwinkle and Simple Simon plodded steadily upwards, whilst struggling to keep up was the not-really-so-fit Trashbin, who was glad of the even slower performance of an exhausted Big Foot, who was muttering his excuse, “I must give up smoking!”.

(Ed – Please see me, you have made rather heavy weather of the simple problem of doing the Grand Canyon.)