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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Claustral Canyon

This was a trip I ran under the auspices of Sydney University Bushwalking Club, but since all the club members on this trip were academics and the guest was a visiting academic, it felt like a 'Sons...' trip and so seemed suitable for inclusion. Claustral Canyon is generally acknowledged as the finest of the Blue Mountains sandstone slot canyons, and the exit track is so long that it is a decent bushwalk even if you ignore the canyoning! The entry track, however, is short and easy and despite stopping for some abseil revision for the less experienced members of the party we were at the first abseil down Calcutta Falls, pictured below, after about an hour.

There was not too much water flowing, so the abseils were straightforward, although abseiling into a dark hole is always a little intimidating for the inexperienced.  Here is Colin heading down:

Brian had gone down first to belay, and I was tied in at the top doing safety checks, as shown here.

This is Ingo heading down - his first canyoning trip.

Finally it was my turn. With eight people it took an age to get everyone down, and I was pretty glad to be moving!

The second abseil follows immediately, after a short swim across a pool. Here I am on the second abseil. Tristan went last on this one - hurrah!

We were now in the mysterious world of the Black Hole. Those of us at the end of the queue for the third abseil started to get cold despite our wetsuits as we waited in the darkness, knee-deep in the pool in front of the ‘window’. However, it was good to spend some time in that part of Claustral, as it is really one of the magic places of the world. We stared at the high anchor up above, presumably used when the ‘window’ is under water and speculated about what this spot would be like with that much water in the canyon – certainly challenging! We didn't get any useable photos, but here is a shot of the 'window' that I took on an earlier trip:

This is the cavern at the bottom of the Black Hole, illuminated by redlight, which worked well in these circumstances.

A few tens of metres further and we emerged in the main section of Claustral canyon.

From here there are several hundred meters of a perfect slot canyon, with beautiful, water-sculpted walls and lush vegetation hanging down. There are a couple of wades, but most of it is an easy, level walk. The yabbies (freshwater crayfish) are much larger and no doubt taste finer, than the ones you can buy in the shops. They are, of course, not for consumption!

We stopped for lunch at The Beach, where Claustral Canyon meets Thunder Gorge. The patch of sunlight was greatly appreciated.

From here there is an broad, sunny section of Thunder Gorge before it narrows into another slot canyon, including the famous Tunnel Swim in front of which Brian is standing.

This is the last climbdown and swim before Rainbow Ravine and the climb out

At the bottom of the exit we changed out of our wetsuits ready for the scramble up Rainbow Ravine.

And this is the last bit of scrambling in  the ravine before the track gets back to dry eucalypt forest.

Looking back from the Camels Hump you get no impression of the magic world we had just left behind. It is also still at least two hours, and a couple of short swims, back to the cars.

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