Party: Tim Vollmer and Joshua Hill — Rocky’s photos
Despite a rainy week in the mountains the weather had completely cleared by Monday, offering us a spectacular sunny day which was the perfect weather for a fun morning splashing about in a short but beautiful canyon.
Thanks to a change of roles at work, and subsequent change in hours, I’ve decided to try and use my free Monday mornings to explore some of the shorter, easier canyons near Sydney this summer. There are actually quite a few of these I haven’t done, probably because I never want to waste a good weekend in a short, easy canyon.
Empress Canyon was decided on as the first one, chosen because Joshua had never done it, I’d only been there in rain, it is one best avoided on busy weekends when the crowds swarm to it and because all the rain meant the iconic abseil would be absolutely pumping.
We met up at the Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls at the very relaxed time of 9am, suiting up and heading out to Edinburgh Castle Rock so that we could drop in to the short upper canyon section. I’d forgotten just how short it is, but it is still totally worth doing, with an enjoyable little climb-down and a very cool water jump providing the two book ends to this lovely little constriction.
We walked downstream a short way, along the very pleasant creek, past the point where the tourist track (and entrance to just the lower section) crosses it and into the main canyon.
Other than the final abseil Empress is an easy walk-through canyon, which means you can reverse it if you have a group who aren’t comfortable on ropes, and while not super narrow it has quite sustained, high walls covered in lush green ferns.
Towards the end we enjoyed the water slide into the second last pool, which we did twice, before heading to the big drop.
We chose the abseil anchor that runs straight down the falls — after all, what’s the point of doing a canyon like this in high water if you just go next to the water — and in no time we were going over the edge.
Wow! The waterfall was really pumping, with the water pounding on my head as I started to descend. The helmet was kind of handy, although it did nothing to stop my ears, nose and mouth ending up full of water.
The lower we got the more the flow turned to spray as it bounced off the rock, but the force of the water was still pretty intense each time we swung directly through the main stream.
Joshua enjoyed himself so much he scrambled half way up the falls to have a second go, grabbing the ropes with the help of a long stick.
With the sun shining down we decided to have a play, doing water jump after water jump from both sides of the falls into the beautiful swimming hole at the end of the canyon. It got us a few bemused looks from the steady stream of tourists on the Valley of the Waters track, but that didn’t bother us in the slightest.
Eventually we looked at the time and realised it wasn’t even midday yet, so we decided to have another run-through of the lower canyon section. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes to head up and around and we were back in the creek.
The abseil was just as fun the second time, possibly more, and Joshua decided to do a spectacular leap into the pool below from almost 10m up the falls.
Time was still on our side so we had more of a swim and even tried out some tandem water jumps and some simultaneous leaps from opposite sides of the pool.
Eventually it was time to leave, so we did the 15 minute walk back to the cars, pausing along the way to admire the spectacular views into the Jamison Valley, before a quick change and a trip to Leura for some tasty grease.
Despite the extensive play time and late start I was back in Sydney and ready for work by mid afternoon, which made it a pretty impressive way to start the week.