Weather for Canyoners

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)

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Davies Canyon

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.

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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

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Whungee Wheengee Canyon

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!