Heart Attack Canyon

by Chris Cosgrove

Let me explain the naming of this canyon. Well, you see, there were five of us – Ross Bradstock, Tom Williams, John Lucas, Bryden Allen and I – sleeping comfortably on the front verandah of the Bell Cafe one misty Friday night. Anyhow, about four in the morning, this distraught woman comes rushing up to the residence beside the cafe with the news of poor ol’ Mrs. Quinn. After much treading on Hothams and Kiandras and saying “excuse me” and “I wish you’d sleep somewhere else”, the shop was opened, lights were turned on, and we could overhear the talk about Mrs. Quinn’s heart attack and perve at the wench with the topless pyjamas. She coughed about an hour later.

The next chapter in this ridiculous story starts at the locked gate on the Galah Mountain fire road. Bryden punctured a tyre doing a three point turn at the gate and found that his spare was as flat as a ten year old sheila. So – back to the Bell Cafe to pump it up.

Where to get into the canyon; that was the problem. Tom wanted to get in a fair way down and possibly miss out on a bit; Bryden wanted to bash most of the non-perennial swamp at the top to be sure of missing none; we struck a sensible (?) balance between the two. At first, the creek was a scrubby, snotty gully. Fair enough, but half an hour later it was still a scrubby snotty gully. Half an hour after that, we were all seriously doubting the existence of a canyon in this area. At this stage, we decided the gully should be called “Noballs Canyon”. But where was Noballs, the official leader of the trip? He piked – something about a crook knee. We recalled Dave Noble’s picture of this canyon, taken from the ridge about a mile downstream, and looking up at the 10 foot cliff either side, we wondered if we were sucked in. A little later, Things improved. The creek fell 30 feet into a pool and good canyon conditions followed. A beaut 40 foot abseil took us down this and the canyoning hormone surged through our bloodstreams from an endocrine gland obviously unknown to medical science. Soon afterwards, however, canyon conditions faded and the scrubby, snotty gully returned. Rounding a left hand bend things began to look better again. We stopped and had lunch just after a small waterfall facing a large chockstone.

Soon after lunch, we could sense that “she was gonna go”. It sure did – the guts dropped right out of her. The five of us were peering over the edge of this spectacular waterfall trying to get a view of the bottom. Beyond the waterfallk, the canyon was confined between narrow, high walls with one enormous chockstone jammed at the top. Having established that two ropes would reach, we had to restrain Bryden from abseiling off tiny tufts of fern or saplings (“we abseil off smaller than this on Bluff Mountain”). I claimed leadership privilege, invested on me by Noballs when he piked, and went first.

The following incident is now well known and hardly needs to be retold. Bryden managed to impose some Bluff Mountain technology by tying a single fishermans knot in the abseil ropes. Before taking the plunge, I took a careful look at this knot and added a few half hitches. No doubt the editor will put some smart-arse comment in parentheses here. (No, I won’t. – Ed.) At the bottom of this magnificent waterfall, I savoured the virgin surroundings, unspoilt by the presence of man since the misty dawn of time. So, thrusting off my pack, I had a leak and checked out the next swim; meanwhile a broadheaded snake made itself comfortable on top of my pack. The others followed down the rope, some allowing themselves to be pounded by the full force of the parabolic arc of water where it strikes a round bulge of rock about 30 feet from the bottom. The total height is about 150 feet.

From here on the canyon was excellent, though little swimming was necessary. There were water jumps, balancing acts on logs to avoid swimming and some dark bits underneath chockstones. At one stage, we could see sunlight and thought the canyon was ending, but the bottom dropped out of her again and a 30 foot awkward abseil put us in a new constriction. Eventually the cliffs opened out and a most pleasant boulder hop down to Rocky Creek concluded the day’s activities. Here we made an early camp on a large grassy flat surrounded by large sandstone cliffs with the light of the setting sun on them.

The route out the following morning lay up a near vertical ridge giving enjoyable scrambling and good views of the Wolgan area. The ridge on top was covered in wiry Banksia and later Mountain Holly, giving sensual pleasure to exposed legs. We stopped briefly at a point where the canyon could be peered into from the edge of the cliffs of the upper rock band. The trip finished in the usual way with two schooners at Gearins and 20 cent scollops from Blue Mountains Seafoods taken out to the second sister for arvo tea.

And so we said farewell to Heart Attack Canyon as the sun chundered its yellow rays onto the bilious cliffs of Echo Point.