WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST AND IT IS QUITE POSSIBLY BORING!
Disclaimer: Make your own decisions when you’re deciding whether to head out on a trip. There are so many more factors than just these to consider!
Sydney has been wet recently. I mean really wet. I mean crazy thunderstorms dumping 30-90mm of rain in an hour wet. With all of this weather the facebook group OzCanyons has been buzzing with discussions about whether it is safe to canyon and what canyons are best. While I can’t help with that info – as a few people like Tom mentioned it really is a decision for the group to make based on experience – I thought I would share a few thoughts on weather resources to help make decisions about whether or not to head out. Like all meteorological discussions remember that ‘the forecast is always correct, just a day or month out’ so take everything with a grain of salt and remember there is no substitute for knowledge or experience.
In summary my process for making a decisions would be the dot points below – the rest of the post will explain some of the resources I use in consideration.
- Check the forecast –if it is crazy I’ll call it.
- Check the radar – because I like the image and it is useful (but only at the last minute I guess)
- Check recent weather data – work out what has been happening recently in the area I am going to – if there has been a lot of rain or storms recently I’ll make a call.
- Check individual rain gauge data – because the popular weather stations aren’t always close by.
- Check the forecast maps and forecasts again with the background knowledge of what conditions are likely to be at the moment.
- If I still haven’t made a decision – check with an expert (like the OzCanyons Crew)
Davies Canyon is located deep in the Kanangra Boyd National Park a few hours west of Sydney. Hard to access, hard to do, and exceedingly hard to walk out of it isn’t a canyon to be undertaken lightly. It is easily the hardest canyon any of us had ever done.
Setting out at 7am Dom, Josh and I walked out along the Thurat Tops Plateau and followed the ridge out to the turn off described in the OzUltimate guide. Walking along the ridges was fairly easy but as soon as we started our descent into Sally Camp Creek the steep shale slope made going hard, and the chance of falling and damaging an ankle feel ever present. As it had rain a lot in the past week we knew the water levels were going to be fairly high, but hearing the river from a few hundred meters above the valley floor gave us some reason to be concerned.
As it turned out the water level was only an inch or two above the normal water line (based on moss and Creek algae guesses) and we decided to head on down through the canyon. The canyon is hard, I might have mentioned that already but was we passed through we encountered the most exposed canyon abseil I’ve ever done suspended from a narrow arete to the side of a massive waterfall and another shorter abseil were the anchor sling was set inside a small torrent of water!
Abseil 1. Photo by Dom
What a year… I mean really… What a year!
There hasn’t been anything that has happened this year that I really expected, or planned to happen when I was thinking about what 2015 was going to hold in store. It has been a year of epic changes in life and circumstances. They’ve been almost entirely self instigated, and generally speaking I didn’t really consider the consequences of the decisions and actions I have made in advance which may in hindsight have been a mistake but that is what happens sometimes I guess.
Looking briefly ahead it seems as though 2016 may have to be a more responsible and considered year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be lots of adventures and good times so I think I will be able to manage this. I certainly hope I will be able to.
So onto the potted summary of 2015…
To make it easier I have added a favourite photo (not the best but my favourite) from each month, and have linked each photo to a blog post I didn’t dislike.
January to March
I pretended to have a normal life, with a job, a house, a girlfriend and very occasionally a social life.
I went for some rides, a few short walks, snorkeled and did quite a few canyons. Oh and I went to Fiji!
January – a very wet walk on Middle Head
March – Fiji and cyclones
April to May
I stopped pretending to have a normal life, planned to go on an adventure and spent a fair bit of time in Western Australia. Continue reading
Sometimes you whimp out of adventures, sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t, but sometimes you make the right call and get that combination of factors that makes for an amazing day out. Yesterday was one such day as five friends and I headed down into the Wollangambe for the second of the two main lilo sections (Wollangambe 2), having down Wollangambe 1 late last year.
Friday had seen heavy rain through parts of the Blue Mountains and although not dramatic the river level was probably about 4cm higher than normal. 4cm doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to speed up the flow of the river and submerge just a few extra rocks so that many of the rapids could be (somewhat) comfortably run without getting off our lilos. So after a rather late start we reached the Wollangambe, suited up and started making out way down the canyon with plenty of excitement.
Three of our party had never cannoned before and had bought some less than durable lilos for the trip so as we floated, scrambled, jumped and swam our way down the canyon, not only was the the usual excitement of falling off, trying to stay warm and wondering if that ominous rumbling from the sky was coming your way, but we kept tabs as lilos became 5 and then 4. Kudos to the guys for sharing lilos and then swimming the last section of with their rather disposable lilos!
Anyway we reached the canyon just as the rain and thunder became more than just a slight concern and made our way up, and up, and up towards the cars!
Thanks everyone for joining me!
Navigating rapids and scrambling over the rocks
Getting started. Wetsuited up and getting used to staying on the lilos. Sam needed a bit of practice.
Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.
In this section I decide not to follow my pack through the rapid, it was a little tight and I probably would;t have been able to stay on the lilo!
Thinking time, Picking a route through the rocks isn’t always that straight forward. Sometimes you also just have to admire the surrounds.
James and Kat
Playing at Serendipity Junction
An easy section.
On Sunday I had the pleasure of joining Tom and a troop of six other SBW members on a pleasant and most enjoyable 11hr canyoning trip through Geronimo and Horseshoe Canyons in the Blue Mountains.
It was a rough start to get to the canyon on time after a last minute discovery that the gate to Euroka Campground doesn’t open until after 7:30am. Arriving at the canyon meeting point 20 minutes late prompted a very brisk walk down to meet the rest of the group at the Pagoda before Wollangambe 1 entrance. After joining the group we all continued down to the Wollangambe River and back up the other side towards the canyon entrance. Tom’s expert navigation meant that could just enjoy the walk and lament the lack of coffee that morning.
Anyway we were soon in the creek and preparing for our adventure by donning our wetsuits and harnesses. Given the warm weather, and my intentions to experiment with canyoning I had chosen to wear my exciting multicoloured thermals and a thin weskit top instead of the heavy weight wetsuits I normally wear. At the start of the day this was a a great idea as the canyon was relatively dry and the sun was out, but as the day cooled down the clouds came out I started to fill the chill and by the end of the day in Horseshoe Canyon I was well and truly cold. Anyone who notice how grumpy I was I apologise!
Anyway here is a selection of photos. I had actually taken my nice new helmet cam through the canyon but the outcome and photos were rather disappointing so here is the limited selection that seemed to work. For more photos see Tom’s Post on OzUltimate
On Saturday a rather large collection of rather motley friends assembled at Mt Wilson fire station for a moderately adventurous adventure. Despite my best intentions of planning and being organised we arrived well caffeinated about 45minutes after we had intended, and hence set out for the canyon proper a tad later than 9am. In our crew of 11 were friends from scouts, friends from Alice, friends of friends and well friends. The rather splendid weather meant for an enjoyable and meander-ful trip down the Wollangambe at a not particularly rushed pace, though I must concede there were surprisingly few food stops for one of my trips!
Anyway enjoy the photos. A massive thank you to Tallia, Ez and Alison for playing photographers!
Luckily for us the weather was warm enough swimming was necessary in our wetsuits or it got a tad warm!
It was a hard life floating down the river.
The crew. Thanks everyone for an amazing day out!
My happy place!
Walking in looking decidedly spritely. It is almost always downhill to a canyon which helped!
On Sunday I re-entered the most fascinating world of canyoning. Chris, Nicole and I headed off bright and early in the morning towards the Blue Mountains and the Mt Wilson Cathedral of Ferns.
After several stops for second breakfast and coffee we arrived respectable time, loaded our packs and wandered up and down hills to get to where we thought the canyon should be. Ferocious bush fires last year, along with big storms over the past month meant that almost all sign of the once clearly defined track has disappeared and the bush was full of the sound of groups wandering aimlessly towards the creek line hoping to find the traditional abseil entry point. Having reached a creek, and working on the principle that all creeks lead down hill, we walked straight down into the water and bypassed what should have been the biggest abseil of our trip.
Once wandering down the side creek into Whungee Wheengee it dawned on Nicole that so far the trip was no different to hiking. After some discussion it was decided that really it is called a canyon when you got wet intentionally. Eventually though the water started getting deeper, and colder and we decided it was time to don wet suits and starting treating the canyon like we meant it. Scrambling through lots of fallen logs and branches would become a theme for the trip as traditionally easy walks around some pools were choked with debris, but all in all the canyon was still pretty clear and easy to navigate with the right gear etc.
The highlight of the trip was of course the glow worms. Glow worms are cool! There isn’t anything else to be said about it, and in several sections of this canyon the displays were absolutely beautiful as we swam through dark tunnels. I am told canyoning at night can be spectacular for this reason, and I have to say this canyon made me want to find out!
Thanks to Chris for leading our little party through the canyon, and thanks for Tom from OzUltimate for making his notes available on the canyons. It is a nice comfort for the slightly out of practice to have a reliable source of info!
Nicole in the green. Spot the track!
Side Creek, we kinda missed the abseil entrance by a bit…
Nicole and Chris in the canyon.
No matter where you are there is always time for tea and hot chocolate!