Friday the 5th December turned out to be a beautiful day, as Shane, Trev and myself (Jon) set out to do the first canyon of a two day canyoning trip – Waterfall of Moss Canyon. We first had to go via Katoomba, as I had to drop off some rental wetsuits at BMAC (Blue Mountains Adventure Company) from a few days earlier, which I was unable to return on the day due to running a bit late and getting there after they closed for the day. They fortunately didn’t charge me for the extra days I had them, so a big thanks to them, and I would definitely recommend these guys if anyone needs to rent some gear or for taking a proper guided trip of the outdoor, adventurous variety.
Once we checked in with the local police bushwalking registry, we were on our way and parked at the Mount Wilson Cathedral Reserve. Fortunately Shane knew the route, so we followed him down along the Wollangambe Two exit track towards the Wollangambe. As we approached a large rock outcropping halfway down the track, Shane started telling us about how he had previously had an encounter with a large brown snake in that area, and then within a minute of this, we stumbled over the very same (presumably) snake in the same position. A warning for other people, these snakes are dangerous, so keep an eye out when you approach this area!
We then continued a little further until we reached and swam across the Wollangambe, before using an existing hand-line to climb up a gully on the other side, as we then ascended the ridge in search of the start of the canyon. We lost the path occasionally, but eventually found our way along the ridge before eventually finding a small stream and an existing anchor point. We put on our harnesses and abseiled the first abseil, which was fairly straightforward. There were heaps of mossy ferns and greenery all around, as well of lots of old dead trees which had fallen in our path and required us to climb and navigate around.
The Canyon then slowly began to get much narrower, as we approached the next abseil, which was done from a tree on the right hand side. It was an approximately 8m, with a small overhang. At this point the canyon became really narrow, with the walls getting higher on both sides, and making for a beautiful, constricted section of canyon. The 3rd abseil we did was a relatively small drop, but it was made just a little trickier due to the fact we anchored off a tree a good 5 or more meters from the drop. We landed in a small pool of water, but it wasn’t deep enough to cause any real concern for us (we had not brought wetsuits along since canyon is primarily dry).
The canyon at this point was remarkably beautiful, very lush and green, whilst still being slightly dark and brooding. We were then funneled along to the next 2 abseils, which occurred in quick succession of each other, both around the 10m mark, down into small pools with ferns and moss all around, and a small trickle of water cascading down. Before we knew it, we walked a little further from the 5th abseil and we were at the Wollangambe, and bumping into another tour group which had did another canyon and were floating along the Gambe. In hindsight, we figured we may not have started the canyon at the ‘traditional’ starting point, as Jamiesons ‘Canyons Near Sydney’ says this canyon has 8 abseils, so we think we may have walked into it a little downstream from the start. Regardless of whether we did this or not though, it was a relatively short but still pretty spectacular little canyon.
All that remained was a 30m swim through the icy `gambe waters, wetsuit-less, back to the point where we originally crossed over the river, and then a walk back along the Wollangambe 2 exit track and back to our cars.
We were going to do Empress Canyon Next, however upon arrival we discovered the track was closed for a few weeks a s some plant rejuvenation projects were in effect, so we retired for the evening and went back to our hostel for the evening where we dined on some of Trevor’s sub-par cooking.
We had originally planned to do some canyons in Newnes, but we were all a little tired from the previous day’s shenanigans, so we decided to do a shorter, closer canyon. After doing some research (at least Trev and Shane did – I passed out exhausted after destroying the other 2 in a game of backgammon), we decided on Koombanda Canyon. We drove to the supposed parking area, and left our cars next to some train tracks, as we consulted our maps and plotted out a rough route to the canyon start.
There wasn’t much of a path, so we were effectively bush-bashing, as we made our way over a ridge. Fortunately, this walking was difficult but not very long, and after maybe 30 minutes, Shane navigated us to a small stream andright to the start of the canyon. There we found a sling around a fallen dead tree, from which we anchored and did the first 8m abseil into a small pool. The surrounding canyon was fairly open, but there was still a lot of debris scattered around which made for a somewhat more challenging walk, as we needed to climb down and over obstacles.
There was then a small 5m abseil with an overhanging section which was short but still fun. We approached some climb downs and some areas where we needed to bridge to keep dry, but eventually we had to get wet in a 10m swim which was cold to say the least (once again we had no wetsuits) but at least it was very refreshing and it seemed to get rid of the flies pestering us. The Canyon then came into its own, as it narrowed up and cut into the rocks, often leading us into hollowed out ‘halls’ of rock, with some very beautiful sections which reminded me of Grand Canyon in several sections. The sun pierced through narrow overhead slots, and made for a wonderful atmosphere.
We next approached a drop, where we found 2 potential anchor points from which to abseil. We chose to go down the first one, as it went down through a small narrow slot in the rock and into a deep pool probably 7 or 8 meters down. Shane went first and then Trev followed. The start of this abseil is a bit tricky due to the relative location of the anchor, but they both made it without major problems. Once down, they both checked the depth of the pool, and neither could touch the bottom, so I then jumped instead of abseiling, and I still couldn’t touch the bottom, so this is definitely jumpable, and a hell of a lot of fun too! Definitely one of the better canyon jumps I’ve done. The water was nippy to say the least, but the swim back to land was only a few meters, and it was well worth it, regardless of whether you abseil or jump (if you abseil from the 2nd anchor point, you may not get so wet).
After this, the constricted canyon continues for a bit before opening up into more of a stream, with masses of trees all around. We followed the creak downstream until eventually we hit an old abandoned coal mine, and the natural stream banks are suddenly replaced with artificial concrete banks. Its quite strange to witness this sudden change. We climbed out here, and started our walk back up an existing old dirt road back towards some railway lines and then back to our cars. This walk out was much longer than the one in, but significantly easier and with the spectacular views, it was rather pleasant. All up, Koombanda was a shortish but nice little canyon, which only got better and delivered more as we kept going further into it.
It was a great 2 days of canyoning, and a good time was had by all!
-Jon (Video by Trevor)