A small group of us headed out to a heavily fogged Mt Tomah in the Blue Mountains early last weekend to do Gaping Gill, a canyon listed in Jamieson’s “Canyons Near Sydney” guidebook. We parked at the Claustral Canyon parking area and checked all of our gear was in order before heading out along the beautiful grass covered ridge that takes most people down to Claustral Canyon. Instead of following the track all the way though, we were to continue along the top of the ridge, eventually heading straight south-west into the bush once we reached the end of the ridge.
This sounded easy, but the regularity of patches of lawyer vines in the area made this simple task really painful… After scrambling over a small moss covered boulder field, trying to avoid getting ripped apart by the lawyer vines while also trying to avoid slipping and twisting an ankle on the large boulders, we navigated our way across the top of the cliffline and found our way into Gaping Gill Gully.
Once in the rainforest section of the gully, the going was so very much easier and we quickly walked down the steep hill into the increasingly narrow ravine. The plants around us were beautiful, and the everything was so fresh and clean. We climbed over rocks, down tree roots and all of the usual canyoning sort of stuff, but it was true what we heard about Gaping Gill - “It’s not a really a canyon”.
The two abseils are both beautiful - I mean really beautiful - and not too difficult either, although both are quite high (about 20m and almost 30m on the second one). And the gully can get quite narrow at sections , stuck between two vertical cliffs either side - but these narrow sections are brief, and the ‘canyon’ feel is really not there. Gaping Gill is really just bushwalking down a narrow gully with a couple of good abseils thrown in for entertainment.
Of course once we were at the bottom of Gaping Gill we needed to walk up Thunder Gorge to the exit track. Thunder Gorge is far more canyon-like than Gaping Gill, and involved getting wet in waist/chest deep wades a few times. Just as Gaping Gill was a truly beautiful gully to walk through, Thunder Gorge is equally beautiful. So just because something may or may not be ‘technically’ a canyon (whatever that even means), don’t doubt for a second that the walk is worth it. (probably only the one time though ;))