We didn’t get to Newnes on the Friday before Australia day until about 11:30am, so it was a pretty late start. We decided to pick Firefly canyon because it had a few easy abseils (good because this was going to be Josh’s first time abseiling) and wasn’t described as a ‘long’ day or anything like that - hopefully we would be able to get back before nightfall!
We walked from the camp site along the road to the gate, then through the industrial ruins to the large gully we were meant to walk up. I was hoping to find a track, but alas, none existed - it was a gully bash the whole way up. The first bit was just bashing through thin shrubs, the occasional stinging nettle etc. I stumbled across a Bower Bird nest (first wild one I had ever seen) scattered with the usual assorted blue decorations. As the gully increased in steepness we found ourselves climbing up boulders more and more and bashing through shrubbery less and less. We got to the first cliff line pretty quickly, but our excitement at that achievement died just as quickly as we realised that the first cliff line was nowhere near the last one - this hill seemed to just keep on going up!
After a while we eventually reached the final cliff line - it was a rather frightening cliff line to reach after an hour of climbing; one that didn’t have any apparent way up it! It was a sheer cliff (with over hang) and it seemed to carry on like that in both directions. Not detered (we trusted Jamieson!) I sent Jake out to the right up a little ascending ridge of boulders that might possibly show a way up. He climbed up a little and reported that it was a no go. I told him to keep going. I was right :p
The way was up a very narrow crack between a large slab and the cliff line. You could cold chimney it, or shimmy through it and step up some conveniently stacked chock stones and climb to the top of the slab. Once atop the slab, you then had to jump over the crack and climb up a short cliff to get on to the very top of the cliff, but it was easy enough (if not incredibly dangerous simply because of the exposure). We scrambled up the next pagoda rock section and finally reached the top of the ridge where we saw a prominent little cairn.
We started down the other side, and found most of it was down steep difficult drops, but we zig-zagged regularly and managed to find a way down without needing to abseil anything. We did use a hand line at one point, and had to make some hairy jumps, but made it without incident. Once we reached the main creek, it was reasonably easy going. Bashing our way through the creek, picking our way through the millions of spider webs (which we had been doing the whole way up and down either side of the ridge now that I mention it), we pressed on until it started to get wet before putting our wetsuits on. A short while later we reached the first abseil and dropped down that into a nice chilly pool.
As I said above, this was Josh’s first time abseiling - he’s an incredibly capable guy and done his fair share of physical activity, so I was confident he wouldn’t have any problems - but of course you still put all safety into place. I talked him through it from the top while Jake was below on belay. The abseil wasn’t too difficult and so was a great start for him. He dropped over without any problems and we were on our way. The second abseil was only a short distance after the first one, and we got to practice again. The third one, not far again, then the fourth one…then the fifth one…When we came to our sixth abseil we decided that we must be at the end and there must be another way down. We were right, and a track headed off down the true left side of the canyon.
We descended the final drop down the gully at the end of the canyon pretty quickly and found the track heading back to the ruins. We didn’t get back to the camp until after 8pm (that’s what you get for starting a canyon at midday!) . Jamie seemed to really enjoy his first canyoning trip, and Josh did well for his first time abseiling ever.