An exhilarating day of hiking a canyon, rock pool jumps and a waterfall abseil.
Life is short, take a jump
Sydney has so much to offer that 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. As I had done a couple of canyoneering trips in Zion and really enjoyed it, we decided that this was just up our alley, not realizing that we were about to take our adventures to another level.
Blue Mountains adventure
On Friday we board an early morning train from Central Station Sydney to Wensworth Falls, Blue Mountains. It is an easy train ride, just under two hours. At arrival at the little local station, our guide is there to drive us to the start of the trail. It is a bit colder as we expected, with a strong Western wind. Ryan, our guide, starts unloading the van and takes out wet bags, wet suits and water booties. 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
Ryan explains that we have to leave anything that we don’t want to get wet behind in the van as everything is going to get wet. It still doesn’t totally dawn on us what we have signed up for, until later, when he explains what will be next. Two words then 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 explains that canyoning is the experience of going through a canyon and that abseiling is a motion needed to get through it.
On our way down Ryan also explains the difference between the canyons in the Blue Mountains and Zion. Zion is a dry canyon in the desert, the canyon we are currently hiking a wet canyon, with waterfalls and a lot of vegetation. He points out various plants and scrubs. He then 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 it is time to change into our wet suites. We are about to enter the river. Suited up in wetsuits, booties, helmets and harnesses, Ryan explains the basic instructions of rappelling. Next he outlines what comes next before we do our rappel down the 30 meter deep Empress Waterfall. We will enter the river and walk and boulder to the top of the waterfall. On our way we have 3 rock pool jumps, varying from 3 meters to 4.5 meters. My heart stops. I don’t jump. I hate jumps. So to be sure I hears it correctly, I ask “so the jumps are optional, right?”. The answer is negative.
And so we enter the river and climb over rocks and through 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
But then we reach the second rock pool. It is narrow, it is dark, it is deep, 3.5 meters deep. I see Mandi take the plunge into the black hole below us and my heart skips a beat (or two). Now it is my turn. 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. I close my eyes, take one more deep breath and jump. After I surface I 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. It is a relief when Ryan tells us that the alternative to jumping, is to slide 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. He tells us to attach our karabiners to the rope. I have rappelled before, so 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.
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. Then 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. Step by step I make my way down the canyon wall, emerged by the water, thinking this is one of the greatest experiences ever.
Read before you commit
A bit cold but insanely happy, we make our way back to the van. Over burgers in town, we reflect on the morning’s activity. We agree that we have taken our adventures to the next level. We also agree 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 but read the details first.