Abseiling / Canyoning / SUBW

Galah Canyon: a glimpse of summer after a week of rain

Party: Tim Vollmer, Stephen Sheehan, Todd Harford, Saul Richardson, Ulla Heikkilä, Joshua Hill, Drew Morcom, Kosta Seiler — Joshua’s photos | Todd’s photos

Like most of summer, the week before this had been packed full of rain. So much so that the Colo River — which drains most of the canyon country — had hit about six metres the day before our trip. Despite this we decided to press on, choosing Galah Canyon for its relatively small catchment, spurred on by the fact that this was the first fine day in more than a week and we were guaranteed some impressive water flows.

We were rewarded with a spectacular day — once the morning fog burnt off — easily one of the best this ‘summer’.

For the Sydney folks the meet-up was a bit of a debacle, after Saul’s car broke down on the way to North Richmond. He eventually managed to limp it as far as Richmond, where we picked him up, but it meant we were about half an hour late. The loss of time made me even gladder that we’d capped the numbers at eight, turning away about four or five more keen people.

Sunlight streams into an amphitheatre at the end of the upper constriction (photo Joshua Hill)

The Orange folks, on the other hand, had set off the night before, enjoying a pleasant night camping at Barcoo Swamp, just a couple kilometres from our planned canyon.

Well, the entire night wasn’t so pleasant. At some point in the early morning a pack of dingos had apparently surrounded Joshua and Drew, making them rather nervous as a cacophony of haunting howls rang out for the best part of an hour from all sides of their camp.

Eventually we all met up near the camp site, making a quick drive to where our track turned off.

We set a cracking pace out the old, very overgrown fire trail, and before long were following the ridge to the west of the canyon. Thanks to the level of conversation our navigation took a back seat, so by the time we decided we probably should be thinking about dropping in we’d gone past the small upper canyon section.

We backtracked a short way along the top of the spectacular cliffs, soon hitting a gully which led us most of the way down. The small tree with three slings on it convinced us we couldn’t have missed too much, or at least no more than many other visitors do!

Kosta on the first abseil (photo Joshua Hill)

The abseil took us into a fern-filled amphitheatre right at the end of the upper constriction. Most of us reversed this a short distance, but the water was pumping so hard that no one was keen to try and haul themselves up a handline in the main flow of a waterfall to get the rest of the way up.

Once we’d finished admiring the stunning rays of sun we set off down the creek, enjoying some pleasant sections before a long slippery slab led us to the main constriction.

You can tell a lot about a canyon from how it starts, and Galah starts with a bang! There are a couple of abseil options, but we chose to drop about 30 metres from a tree which took us direclty down the middle of the pumping waterfall. From here it was drop after drop into an ever-deepening slot.

The water was really pumping (photos Joshua Hill)

The higher water levels made life a little harder, so after the next short abseil we set up ropes for the log slide and the little waterfall slide because it was impossible to tell how safe they were from above.

Just after this we came to the iconic waterfall abseil, which has a rather awkward start. We all enjoyed being pounded by the flow of water as we dropped down, with the little cavern behind the waterfall completely concealed by the curtain of water.

Next came a short drop down a log jam then a dip in a deep pool to get to the slippery final abseil which took us into the final cavernous section of the canyon.

Thanks to the big group, high water and less-than-optimal rope rigging (I kicked myself afterwards for not throwing in an extra 30m rope) we were all a little cold, so we had a quick final look around before finding a sunny slab of rock just after the constriction to pause for lunch.

Todd at the bottom of the first abseil (photo Joshua Hill)

Given it was only 2pm when we were leaving, we thought we should try and squeeze in a second canyon. The obvious choice was Closet, which is the next creek south, but the decision meant finding our own pass out to the tops.

For the lower section we used the standard exit which includes a rather exposed section climbed using a fixed rope (which would be pretty wild without the rope!). Just past this we pushed straight up and through the lower cliff-line.

The upper cliffs looked fairly broken, so we were hopefull of a quick pass, but a promising slot and ramp that cut most of the way up ended with a disappointing wall of rock, that while not a hard rock climb was well above what any of us would have been willing to free climb.

We followed the cliffs south for a little while, past a waterfall, soon finding a great little pass that took us to the ridge top without much trouble.

Looking down the impressive fern-filled constriction (photo Joshua Hill)

As we pushed on through the scrub, we realised time was slipping away, and given Ulla had an early flight in the morning (needing to fly to Antarctica to take ice core samples is the best excuse EVER for not wanting a late day) we decided just to press on back to the cars.

At the cars Drew and Joshua pulled out 8 ice-cold beers from an esky, which went down spectacularly, and made our thoughts move even further from doing another canyon.

Eventually we decided to just have a quick wash-off in Empress Canyon on the way home, so we dropped Ulla at Katoomba Station and raced down to the Conservation Hut.

We moved at a cracking pace, racing through the canyon, and were quickly at the abseil. The water levels were absolutely pumping — and were distinctly higher than what we experienced on our list visit — so we chose the safer anchor on the left. Even so the waterfall absolutely belted us as we made our way through the flow lower down.

After some final obligatory water jumps we packed up and raced up the track to the cars. Given the time, and the fact we’d already had our post-canyon beer, we said our farewells and hit the road just after 7pm.

The log slide from above and below (photos Todd Harford)

So much water was dripping from above it seemed like rain (photo Joshua Hill)

Abseiling down the most recognisable part of Galah Canyon (photos Todd Harford)

The group waiting at the top of an abseil (photo Joshua Hill)

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2 thoughts on “Galah Canyon: a glimpse of summer after a week of rain

    • Don’t worry, our weather has been pretty bad too. It is probably the wettest summer I can remember. While that limits our trips a little, it has actually meant the canyons are looking prettier than normal because of the extra water flow.

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