Two beginner trips in Empress Canyon

Party: Karen, Terry, Tony P, Silvia, Eva, Peggy, Albert, Lilian, Cathy and Chee — Albert’s photos

When my friend Karen left Australia for a year to study in Japan, I organised a farewell trip for her to Paradise Pool. This was so she could have a last experience of the beautiful Australian bush before she left the country. As a parkour girl, one of her fondest memories of that trip was the cliff jumping into Paradise Pool.

When Karen returned in February this year, I decided to throw her off an even bigger cliff. I organised a “Welcome back to Australia” trip. Empress Canyon, with its fun little water jumps and the spectacular exit down Empress Falls (via abseiling) would be the perfect thriller for her. As Karen and other members of the group were not SUBW club members, Albert kindly came on board to help with the trip and to supply the group with essential equipment and his own rope.


As half the group had never been abseiling or canyoning, Albert and I held some abseiling training at Wilson park. Everyone had been indoor rock climbing before, which isn’t the same, but at least they were familiar with the basics of using a harness.

From there it was a couple of minutes drive to the Conservation Hut where we would begin our Empress trip. When we arrived at the car park, we saw three mini buses which must have been from the commercial groups. They had just finished their trip, which was good timing for us. The abseil at the end tends to create a bottleneck with long waiting times at busy periods of the day.

The group took a while phaffing and getting into wet suits. Then finally we were off! We had limited sets of abseiling gear and experienced canyoners, so the plan was Albert and I would lead the trip twice, with 2 different sub groups. About half way down the track, we split up. Albert took half the group to the bottom of Empress Falls where they would have the best view of the abseil. In the meantime I set up the first group of beginner canyoners with their gear.  At this point, we also met up with Lilian.

At the start of Empress Canyon (photo Albert Chetcuti)
At the start of Empress Canyon (photo Albert Chetcuti)

When Albert returned we began the first of two runs through Empress Canyon. The first group was Karen, Silvia, Chee, Cathy, Lilian, Albert and myself. The second group was Eva, Terry, Tony, Albert and myself.

We all had an amazing time swimming, sliding, jumping and wading through the canyon. Some members of the group had never seen or experienced anything like Empress Canyon.

Inside Empress Canyon

It was not long until we reached the end of the canyon and the start of the waterfall.

I was first to abseil down the waterfall and Albert was the last. I found the abseil trickier  as the waterfall was really pumping due to recent rainfall. Water was pounding my face and eyes, it was hard to see at times.

We decided to get off rope two thirds of the way down the waterfall. A nice ledge to the right made this possible.

Empress Falls pumping with water due to recent rainfall (photo Albert Chetcuti)
Empress Falls pumping with water due to recent rainfall (photo Albert Chetcuti)

Once everyone from the first group had completed the abseil some people enjoyed a few water jumps into the pool at the bottom of Empress Falls. The first group then headed back up to the cars while Albert and I collected the second group for their run of the canyon.

We were very lucky to avoid any queues for both rounds. The commercial groups all finished when we started and there was one other private group that went through between our two descents.

The second group made it back to the cars just before dark at about 7.45pm.

At a ledge 2/3 down the Empress Falls abseil (photo Albert Chetcuti)
At a ledge 2/3 down the Empress Falls abseil (photo Albert Chetcuti)

After the trip we headed back home to Sydney to enjoy some luxuries after a day of cold canyoning: warm food, warm clothes and a hot shower.

At home, I also had the chance to inspect my volleys and decided to retire them (a pretty obvious choice). I estimate they had only been through about 10 canyons. No worries, I have 6 new pairs waiting for their turn to be wrecked.

Overall it was an adrenaline filled day and was a first-time abseil for some members of the group. The beginners really enjoyed their taste of SUBW activities and some decided to come back for more; as SUBW members.

My Dunlop Volleys fail after approximately 10 canyoning trips
My Dunlop Volleys fail after approximately 10 canyoning trips

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