Abseiling / Canyoning / SUBW

Jugglers, Grand and Empress Canyons

Party: Sky Reidy, Ulla Heikkil, Monica Wang and Peggy Huang — Monica’s photos

Individually Jugglers, Grand and Empress Canyons all have their merits but in combination these three pack a punch!

After a somewhat chaotic start, which involved picking up ropes at North Richmond (kindly lent by Todd Harford), buying three trays of mangos and driving around the Blue Mountains National Park via the Bells Line Road, we arrived at our destination — Medlow Bath.

We were pumped after amusing ourselves on the drive with the USA Navy Midshipmen version of Gangnam Style and some truly dreadful singing… which only got worse as the day went on.

The log slide in Jugglers Canyon (photo Monica Wang)

First up was Jugglers Canyon. We hit the trail after stashing our mango trays under the car to protect them from the sweltering heat.

It is only a short walk-in to the canyon and after startling a small brown snake we soon came across the entry point, a large burnt — but living — tree, which led us to the cool gully below.

We all agreed that Juggler’s is an excellent beginner’s canyon. The first few abseils are very easy, allowing the beginner to build confidence.

The pool that some people got wet in! (photo Monica Wang)

Then there are a few fun abseils, particularly the one down the waterfall and under a log which leads to a deep pool below. With care (and good shoe tread), you can walk along the ledge and avoid getting wet in the pool. This proved to be an amusing spectacle for our group; 2 dry and 2 wet.

The final 20m abseil is really nice, despite the awkward start. We all enjoyed the overhang and the view. Not a bad canyon after all…

The exit from Jugglers Canyon is via the old Tourist Track, which leads to the start of the Grand Canyon.

On the Tourist Track (photo Monica Wang)

It’s a pleasant walk alongside the Grand Canyon, its cavernous delights tantalisingly just out of sight.

It would be impossible to miss the anchor at the start of the Grand Canyon. In fact, I’m almost certain that you could spot it on the satellite image of Google maps!

With the temperature in Katoomba hitting a high of 30 degrees Celsius, we relished the descent into the cool, dark canyon. Peggy had a lot of fun with this one, treating us to a fabulous acrobatic display.

Peggy on the abseil into Grand Canyon (photo Monica Wang)

Being a hot day, I enjoyed splashing through the water and jumping into pools. Ulla on the other hand, pointed out that she left Finland to avoid cold water, but enjoyed it all the same!

Peggy seemed desperate to avoid the water at all costs, demonstrating her parkour skills in a daring leap across a particularly deep pool.

The Grand Canyon is spectacular. Every turn revealed stunning scenery, light dancing off deep pools of water onto sandstone, fern-lined walls. Too soon we reached the 30m swim, leading to the canyon exit.

Sky and Ulla in Grand Canyon (photo Monica Wang)

To return to our car, we exited via the Pilchers track. This track is overgrown and not sign-marked which could make it difficult to locate. Having been here previously with Todd, I knew to basically head right, up to the cliff line after leaving the Grand Canyon.

It’s intriguing to see the remnants of the stone-lined trackwhich Mark Foy, the founder of the Hydro Majestic Hotel, had cut in 1907. We zigzagged our way to the top and before we knew it were back at the car.

Should we complete the trifecta: three canyons in a day? Absolutely! We piled into the car and started reversing, then heard Peggy exclaim ‘what about the mangos’? Oops… 1 mango down, 29 to go!

A narrow section in Grand Canyon (photo Monica Wang)

A short time later we arrived at the Wentworth Falls Conservation Hut. We suited-up and made the dash down to the start of Empress, arriving at 4:45pm. Being so late, we wondering if we would have this gem to ourselves?

With Ulla setting a cracking pace, we jumped, slid and splashed our way through the canyon in 15 minutes, meeting two parties at exit abseil. It was just a short wait until the left anchor was free however, probably hurried along by our woeful singing.

Going down the rabbit hole in Empress Canyon (photo Monica Wang)

Ulla set-up and descended first, followed by Peggy, myself and Monica.

Here we witnessed the most amusing sight of the day, seeing Monica ‘race’ down the waterfall against the guide from the other party.

By now we were all knackered and facing the walk back up to the Conservation Hut. Ulla pointed out that the National Park recommended timing was only 15minutes and that of course, we would be less than that! Monica and I had our doubts, however Ulla was right – she timed us to the top – 11 minutes. Now we have a benchmark for future Empress Canyon trips!

Monica ‘racing’ on the abseil in Empress Canyon

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