(well sort of my first)
Before excepting a new position in Brisbane, I’d done a bit of research and identified about a dozen canyoning (abseiling?) trips in the Brisbane area; most were in the so called Border Ranges – the mountains that (at least near the coast), form the border with NSW.
There was a bit of turmoil to what I’d actually be doing on the weekend: A wedding? Paragliding at Rainbow? Canyoning? After a late night I rose with the plan to explore a couple of creeks. After over two months getting settled into life in Brisbane I was really itching to get out for some wet, vertical adventure. The weather was amazing and it seemed fitting that both creeks I visited involved starting in NSW and crossing over the border/watershed into QLD…Without knowing anyone local to go with, I did a bit of research into how to access my chosen creeks and soon was on my way to pick up my gear from a friends place… and then as it turned out, return to the city for my wetsuit… lucky the first trip should be very short!
A couple of hours later, via a steep, winding, unsealed road, I reached a tiny border crossing complete with a stack of cameras. Parking near a cattle grid, I jumped a fence and continued along the rabbit proof fence. The cool mountain air was refreshing after a hot week in the city – I was still concerned about how I’d cope with hot Brisbane temperatures.
As it turned out access was very straight forward with a road essentially all the way to the top of the falls and first abseil.
Gearing up I was soon on my way. Trampling some greenery on the way down, I dropped into a pool surrounded by a small amphitheatre. The canyon itself was very short so I decided to prussic back up for some practice and a photo. My inefficient setup showed that I certainly needed some more practice! It was a wonderful spot and I was really enjoying being back out in nature.
To access the anchor for the second waterfalls was a bit exposed, well not really exposed, but the rock was quite slippery. I slid down cautiously on my bum with a carabiner at the ready to clip in. In high water this would not be an easy anchor to reach I reckon.
The abseil was fun and much more in the flow than the first pitch.
After the second abseil the anchor for the final pitch was sadly at the end of the pool. It was a short trip but actually perfect for the day. I continued down the creek until it was looking difficult to exit… exiting earlier would have been a better choice (depending what you’re looking for). I considered continuing downstream but due to the late hour I decided to climb up a fig tree clinging to the cliff face and just managed to made it up!
At the top of the slope I found an easy pass through a cliffline and was soon back on the track. As the light failed I was accompanied by fireflies and soon settled down for a night in my van.
I was actually cold during the night, and slept in perhaps a little longer than I should have…
Stopping in at a camp ground to use the toilet I continued for an hour or so down mixed sealed and unsealed roads with plenty of cows. And then I arrived at the turnoff to Dead Horse Mountain Rd. It was a descent walk up to the border so I figured I’d try drive the first k or two which looked relatively flat. So in my large Ford Transit I proceeded down a narrow track, the vegetation soon brushing either side. Not keen on reversing out I pressed on regardless… Turning around wasn’t really an option. In less than 500m (after a deep muddy puddle I just managed to spin my way through), I passed a small side trail and decided that would do. Reversing back however I was soon bogged… but managed to spin my way forwards again. It took about an hour to build up a poor quality corduroy road with branches and recover from multiple bogged attempts before I victoriously reversed into the side trail. I decided not to try the more intimidating mud puddle; I really needed to get going and that could be a future-me problem.
The road was far more overgrown than I expected and even with a 4WD it would have taken days with a chainsaw etc. to make it up. After crossing a creek I began climbing up the other side of the valley, battering my way through the vegetation. All of the sudden my legs exploded in pain. Youch! I turned around to see some type of stinging tree fallen across the track. I later found out is was probably a Gympie Gympie. I could certainly feel the effects of this venomous plant. It seemed the poison travelled in the lymphatic system as I soon had pain either side of my groin. I wondered if this is what it felt like to be bitten by a snake? Trying to put the pain out of my mind I continued up the ‘mountain’… and down the other side. I saw quite a few goannas and heard many more. Some roos too. It took almost 3hrs to reach the creek.
Strangely as I walked down the final spur I could hear voices! Sure enough I soon spied a group of canyoners gearing up in the creek below me. Hopefully they’d let me join them and not worry about the helmet I’d forgotten in the car.
After some brief introductions they left me to gear up – I figured I may as well do as the locals do. Sure enough I caught them at the first drop just around the corner. I ended up joining them for the entire descent which was a nice change from my solo trip the day before.
For the first pitches the canyon remained quite open. Normally there were many fun slides I was told. But it was now full of branches and fallen trees that most weren’t possible.
Right: The first abseil. Top Left: The third pitch. Bottom Left: The fourth drop – into the canyon proper.
After four or so abseils we arrived at the canyon proper. The serpentine shape the canyon made through the volcanic rock was subtly different to what I was used to. Before the long drop, the green rope which already seemed prone to tangling got horribly knotted in a small hydraulic – it took me ages to get it undone.
The longest drop followed. When I got down I pulled my rope partly down so that it would be less likely to get tangled but the next person dropped into the water for the last few metres and the rope slid through the anchor a bit so that one end was too far from the bottom. We discussed what to do and ended up pulling it to avoid any complications. The others had a couple of ropes up top anyway.
I was happy to be wearing a wetsuit. Instead of rushing to do the final abseil and find sun, I could enjoy my surroundings. The others who had chosen to go wetsuit free were visibly cold at times. For an efficient group they probably aren’t required, but the canyon itself is not overly long so you really want to take as much time as possible 🙂
Pleasant creek walking followed when we exited the canyon. At a confluence we changed, enjoyed snacks and exchanged details. The others had taken a much shorter approach than me and I was soon alone again trudging back up the hill and down the other side. Again it took about 3 hours to make the return trip, I tried a slight variation, but it too was very overgrown. It was properly dark by the time I got back. I was still worried about getting back through the mud puddle but enjoyed a quick meal before lining my van up, reversing back as far as possible and flooring it. My only hope to get back out was speed and momentum. For a second I thought my headlights went out as a wave of dirty water engulfed the windscreen snuffing everything out. It reminded me of some of the roads I’d driven in WA – in particular the storm I got caught in on the Trans Line. Keeping my foot down I had reached the other side when visibility returned. I paused to reorder some of my jostled belongings and was happy to be reunited with a sealed road with a better understanding of my vehicles capabilities and limitations.
I had about three hours of driving ahead of me. I stopped at Taco Bell for some fast food and did a load of laundry on the way. Midnight was a little later than I’d hoped but I’d be fine 🙂
All in all, I think it was a good introduction to the canyons of SEQ. Feel free to contact me if you’re in the area 🙂