An exhilarating day of hiking a canyon, rock pool jumps and a waterfall abseil.
Life is short, take a jump
Because Sydney has so much to offer when planning our trip, we created a list of things we wanted to do. That list included the traditional sights like the Opera house, the Harbor Bridge, Manly Ferry ride and Bondi beach, but also a couple more adventurous options. One of those adventures was canyoning in Sydney’s Blue Mountains. Because I had done a couple of canyoneering trips in Zion and really enjoyed it, we decided that this was just up our alley. However we did not realize that we were about to take our adventures to another level.
Blue Mountains adventure
So on a Friday morning we board an early train from Central Station Sydney to Wensworth Falls, Blue Mountains. The train ride is easy, just under two hours and on arrival at the little local station, our guide is there to drive us to the start of the trail. Because of a strong Western wind, it is a bit colder as we expected. Ryan, our guide, starts unloading the van and takes out wet bags, wet suits and water booties. Therefore we look a bit surprised as our expectations were of a hike in the mountains. In addition maybe some bouldering and then finally a rappel down.
Wetsuits and jumps
So Ryan explains that we have to leave anything that we don’t want to get wet behind in the van. But it still doesn’t totally dawn on us what we have signed up for, until later, when he explains what will be next. And at that point two words jump out at me…..Jumps. Submerged
Canyoning and abseiling
So based on Ryan’s instructions, we pack our wet suites, harnesses and helmets in the backpacks he hands us. Just before 8.30 we start our hike down towards the bottom of the canyon. We ask him to explain the difference between canyoning and abseiling (or rappelling, as we call it in the States). He tells us that canyoning is the experience of going through a canyon and that abseiling is a motion needed to get through it.
In addition Ryan explains the difference between the canyons in the Blue Mountains and Zion. Zion is a dry canyon in the desert but the canyon we are currently hiking is a wet canyon, with waterfalls and a lot of vegetation. In parallel he points out various plants and scrubs and after that casually mentions that the area is home of three of the most venomous snakes in the world. This doesn’t help to increase my confidence level and I wonder why I did not read the details entailed in this adventure.
A hike in the river
We reach the bottom of the canyon and Ryan tells us that it is time to change into our wet suites as we are about to enter the river. So suits, booties, helmets and harnesses, Ryan explains the basic instructions of rappelling. After that he outlines what comes before we do our rappel down the 30 meter deep Empress Waterfall. First there is walking and bouldering to the top of the waterfall. On the way we have 3 rock pool jumps, varying from 3 meters to 4.5 meters. My heart stops because I don’t jump. positively hate jumps. So to be sure I hear it correctly, I ask “so the jumps are optional, right”? However the answer is negative.
And so we enter the river and climb over rocks and wade through the water. Before we know it, we reach the first rockpool. This one is not too deep and fairly wide, so after Mandi jumps, I take a deep breath and follow her into the dark water. One jump down, not so bad.
Taking the jump
We reach the second rock pool. This one is narrow, dark and deep, 3.5 meters deep. Mandi takes the plunge into the black hole below us and my heart skips a beat (or two). Because now it is my turn. So I stand on the top, look down and say out loud what I am feeling: “I can’t do this”. Ryan tells me I can but I repeat more firmly “I can’t do this”. Mandi tells me from below that it wasn’t too bad and I realize there really is no way back. After that, I close my eyes, take one more deep breath, and take the jump. I surface and feel a rush of adrenaline, I have done it.
Sliding down a natural slide
After that, we walk on through the canyon until we come to the final rock pool, the 4.5 meter deep one. This is the last one before we get the top of the waterfall. To our relief Ryan tells us that the alternative to jumping, is sliding down a natural water slide. The slide is a lot of fun and I would have loved to do that waterslide 3 more times if I had the chance.
Rappelling down Empress Waterfall
Ryan is attaching the ropes to the hooks on top of the waterfall. After that he tells us to attach our karabiners to the rope. Because I have rappelled before, I offer to go first. To be honest, this is the part I have been looking forward to. And although I have rappelled before, it was not down a waterfall, but the basics are the same.
Once attached to the rope, standing on top of the waterfall and looking down 30 meters, I take one more breath before taking those first two steps off the edge of the cliff. After that, I settle into my harness and slowly begin making my way down. Initially I try to stay on the side of the falls, but Ryan yells from the top that I should follow the waterfall down. So I adjust my course until I am in the path of the fall and step by step I make my way down the canyon wall, emerged by the water. And above all I think this is one of the greatest experiences ever.
Read before you commit
A bit cold but above all insanely happy, we make our way back to the van. Later, over burgers in town, we reflect on the morning’s activity. We agree that we have taken our adventures to the next level. In addition we admit that if we had read the details, we might not have done it. In conclusion, I highly recommend this trip to people who like adventures, hiking, rappelling and trying new things. Take the jump, however read the details first.