Ranon Canyon (or how Bjorn nearly died…)

Party: Tim Vollmer, Bjorn Sturmberg, Joshua Hill and Mike Gray

The day started innocuously enough, with an easy meet up and a car shuffle before setting off down Mistake Ravine, but it was about as close as I have come to tragedy in a canyon.

Having done Claustral Canyon, and seen the beautiful waterfall abseil at the junction with Ranon Canyon, this day trip was high on my to-do list. A short bash down a gully and we were at the first drop, although a slip as I pushed through ferns nearly gave me a shortcut, with a fall of five metres into the upper canyon section narrowly avoided.

The upper section of Mistake Ravine is lovely, with nice canyon walls covered in lush ferns. At the junction with Ranon Brook we glanced upstream, but avoided the temptation to scramble up the small drops and explore further.

There were a couple short abseils / hand-over-hands before the creek opened up a little, with the proper constriction soon appearing in front of us. We moved along the side a short way, dropping down to a large tree on the edge which looked a perfectly strong anchor, even if it was a low and awkward start.

Things started to go awry when I got my hair stuck while ogling the attractive walls on the way down, but the real problems started a few minutes later after I had walked slightly upstream to check out a small waterfall at the start of the constriction.

Bjorn had come down after me, and was still near the rope when Joshua managed to knock loose a large, flat chunk of rock. I heard a shout and came back around the corner to discover Bjorn with a huge gash on his leg. It turned out the rock, weighing at least a kilo, had missed his head by a whisker and struck him just above the ankle, peeling back a large chunk of flesh.

Unfortunately we were already past the point of no return and had no choice but to complete a rather long and somewhat difficult canyon with a fairly seriously injured person.

Mike and I were of no use, not being fans of blood and gore, but thankfully Joshua came to the fore (possibly trying to make up for nearly killing Bjorn) and started using some of his first aid skills honed on elderly folks from Orange who regularly have serious falls in the supermarket. One technique I hope wasn’t from the supermarket was his first response: cutting the end off a condom and attempting to roll it over Bjorn’s leg! It allegedly works well for arm wounds (and as an excuse to keep some rubbers in your first aid kit) but the leg was just too big.

In no time the wound was steralised and bandaged, and we were moving towards the iconic pothole abseils that lead to the junction with Claustral.

In a second blow to the trip Bjorn’s dry-bag pack broke while doing these abseils, so I had to strap it to the top of my bag.

We briefly explored up the always-spectacular Black Hole of Calcutta before stopping for some quick lunch on the rock at the junction. Thanks to the unseasonably cold day we didn’t dally for long.

We continued down the unsurpassed constriction, skipping the side trip up Thunder to the glow worm tunnel due to Bjorn’s injury, before hurrying towards Rainbow Ravine as thunder started to echo over the mountains.

Bjorn set off up hill first as he expected to be slowest (although for some reason which I don’t exactly recall he still carried one of the ropes) and despite his injury we didn’t see him again, eventually finding him near the top of Camels Hump avoiding the storm in a small overhang.

From here is was an easy enough trip back to the cars. Between the late finish and the injury there was no pub trip, instead Bjorn headed back to Sydney where he spent most of the night in hospital. After receiving about 8 stitches, which took until the wee hours of morning, he finally got to head home.

I on the other hand grabbed two hours sleep before Michelle woke me up to head into Kings Cross for some clubbing and drinking to allow her to work up the Dutch courage needed to nude up for Spencer Tunick at the Opera House that morning. (A trip Bjorn also hoped to take except for the unforeseen rock incident.)

The same cold weather which had dogged the canyon the day before was hanging around, and we shivered with about 7000 other people as the cool breeze blew across our naked bodies.

Little did we know a short distance away a future Fat Canyoner, Kosta, was busily making out with an attractive naked stranger, but that is a story best told around the camp fire…

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