Rowan Peck’s canyoning checklist

Canyon preparation — beginner trips

Canyoning is a lot of fun and takes you to some really spectacular areas, but being prepared is important for your own safety and enjoyment, and that of the group.

Minimum gear list:

This list is a minimum. If you feel you need to bring more do so. Remember that you need to carry it.

1) Easy day trips — walkthrough:

Hire gear or bring your own:

  • Large day pack
  • Helmet
  • Waterproof bag. Two garbage bags, one inside the other will do, though dry bags are better. Anything not really well sealed WILL GET WET. Items that need to be kept waterproof can be shared between the dry bags

Personal gear for your backpack:

  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle(s) (1 litre minimum) (filled)
  • Personal first aid kit. For example: Band-Aids, Panadol or equivalent, Triangular Bandage, and any personal medications
  • Sunburn cream
  • Matches or lighter
  • Torch/Headlamp — this is NOT optional. It will be used if the canyon trip involves dark sections, or is to be at night or the exit could involve walking in the dark — which covers most canyon possibilities. It might be used anywhere else too. A head torch is best.
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Sandshoes or other shoes that are good for walking in water and on slippery rocks. Dunlop Volleys are not bad. Sandshoes are better than boots for swimming in, where swimming is required. Do NOT wear synthetic soles unless you know they are great on slippery rocks.
  • Wear socks, as sand will get in your shoes when in the water and if you are not wearing any socks, will abrade your skin very quickly. Socks are also warmer than bare feet in sandshoes
  • Swimming costume
  • Thermals if you feel the cold
  • Dry clothes. Some for walking in and out of the canyon if you like. Shorts, T-shirt, thermals, warm fleecy top, and maybe warm pants if the day is overcast/windy, or if you feel the cold.

Group Items – arranged as per trip notes:

  • (Optional) UHF handheld CB radio (40 channel)
  • First Aid kit
  • Ropes etc in case some of the clambering is too hard for some of the group
  • Map and compass
  • EPIRB or satellite phone

2) Day trips — abseiling / wet:

Hire gear or bring your own:

  • Large day pack
  • Helmet
  • Harness or tape to make a harness
  • Karabiner and descender
  • Wetsuit, for wet canyons!
  • Waterproof bag. Two garbage bags, one inside the other will do, though dry bags are better. Anything not really well sealed WILL GET WET. Items that need to be kept waterproof, can be shared between the dry bags

Personal gear for your backpack:

  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle(s) (1 litre minimum) (filled)
  • Personal first aid kit. For example: Band-Aids, Panadol or equivalent, Triangular Bandage, and any personal medications
  • Sunburn cream
  • Matches or lighter
  • Gloves for abseiling. An old pair of gardening gloves will do. One glove per hand minimum
  • Torch/Headlamp — this is NOT optional. It will be used if the canyon trip involves dark sections, or is to be at night or the exit could involve walking in the dark — which covers most canyon possibilities. It might be used anywhere else too. A head torch is best
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Sandshoes or other shoes that are good for walking in water and on slippery rocks. Dunlop Volleys are not bad. Sandshoes are better than boots for swimming in, where swimming is required. Do NOT wear synthetic soles unless you know they are great on slippery rocks
  • Wear socks, as sand will get in your shoes when in the water and if you are not wearing any socks, will abrade your skin very quickly. Socks are also warmer than bare feet in sandshoes
  • Swimming costume
  • Thermals if you feel the cold
  • Dry clothes. Some for walking in and out of the canyon if you like. Shorts, T-shirt, Thermals, Warm fleecy top, and maybe warm pants if the day is overcast/windy, or if you feel the cold
  • Prussic loops or ascenders, if you know how to use them

Group Items – arranged as per trip notes:

  • (Optional) UHF handheld CB radio (40 channel)
  • First Aid kit
  • Ropes, spare abseiling kit
  • Map and compass
  • EPIRB or satellite phone
  • Ropes, spare abseiling kit

3) Day Trips — non-abseiling / wet:

  • Large day pack
  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle(s) (1 litre minimum) (filled)
  • Personal first aid kit. For example: Band-Aids, Panadol or equivalent, Triangular Bandage, and any personal medications
  • Sunburn cream
  • Matches or lighter
  • Helmet
  • Gloves for abseiling. An old pair of gardening gloves will do. One glove per hand minimum
  • Torch/headlamp — this is NOT optional if the canyon trip involves dark sections, or is to be at night or the exit could involve walking in the dark — which covers most canyon possibilities
  • Wetsuit, for wet canyons!
  • Waterproof bag. Two garbage bags, one inside the other will do, though dry bags are better. Anything not really well sealed WILL GET WET. Items that need to be  kept waterproof, can be shared between the dry bags
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Sandshoes or other shoes that are good for walking in water and on slippery rocks. Dunlop Volleys are not bad. Sandshoes are better than boots for swimming in, where swimming is required
  • Wear socks, as sand will get in your shoes when in the water and if you are not wearing any socks, will abrade your skin very quickly. Socks are also warmer than bare feet in sandshoes
  • Swimming costume
  • Thermals if you feel the cold
  • Dry clothes. Some left in the car and some for walking in and out of the canyon. Shorts, T-shirt, Thermals, Warm fleecy top, and maybe warm pants if
    the day is overcast/windy, and or if you feel the cold. A second pair of dry socks and shoes left in the car.

Group Items – arranged as per trip notes:

  • (Optional) UHF handheld CB radio (40 channel)
  • First Aid kit
  • Ropes, spare abseiling kit
  • Map and compass
  • EPIRB or satellite phone
  • Ropes, spare abseiling kit

For all of the above trip types:

In a separate small bag for the car:

  • Dry clothes left in the car. A second pair of dry socks and shoes, dry shorts / pants and a warm top and T-shirt, underwear.

Optional personal items:

  • Map case, compass, maps as appropriate to route
  • A copy of the guidebook pages
  • Camera
  • GPS etc for gadget junkies

Don’t bring much in the way of valuables, and don’t leave any valuables in your car.

Non-waterproof cameras, watches, wallets, etc., can be taken, but remember the waterproof dry bags may leak! If used properly, they normally are OK, but the risk is there.

Check with your trip notes to see what maps, guidebook pages, cameras etc might be coming with others, or ask your trip coordinator.

Overnight trips:

  • Sleeping bag, tent, sleeping mat, dinner and breakfast, cooking gear, toiletries, extra clothes etc etc per your usual camping approach, as not already covered above and as per the separate trip notes
  • Extra / easily refillable water bottles. Most overnight trips will require re-filling water containers in the canyon and return to the campsite. Extra 2 litre capacity minimum if cooking

Other information:

Risks:

Canyoning, like many outdoor activities, has inherent risks. The mains risks within the canyon include:

  • Slippery rocks on which we walk all the time
  • Submerged obstacles — care when swimming and walking in water is needed
  • Hand over hand climbs on fixed ropes up or down small drops
  • Jumping into pools from above (which although lots of fun, needs to be done carefully as submerged rocks are hardly ever soft things to hit)
  • Getting too close to edges of cliffs and other drops where the surface is usually slippery (always use a safety attachment line)
  • Falling rocks and trees have been known to occur — even the odd kangaroo falls into a canyon from above. Be aware of noises from above
  • Snakes are relatively common in canyons and in the tracks on the way in and out. Most that you might meet will be venomous. Be alert to snakes on rock ledges, in shallow pools or any sunny spot. Leave them alone and give them a wide berth. A quiet snake you can see is much easier to avoid than an angry one you cannot see
  • While you are in the canyon and on the way in and out, you need to assess your capability all the time and be satisfied that you are comfortable doing what is required. If you are not comfortable, it is no problem to rig a safety rope or something extra of the sort to provide assistance. Do not be shy in suggesting if you think anything needs some extra safety precautions — it is much less trouble to rig them up than to rescue someone who is hurt, even if it is only a twisted ankle or knee
  • Near edges of cliffs or drops, stay back at least 1 ½ body lengths unless attached by safety line. It is very easy to trip and continue over the side if you are closer
  • Canyoning is physically challenging and not for people who are not reasonably fit. There is usually a walk and climb in and/or out, and within the canyon itself clambering over, around, and under rocks and other interesting obstacles can be hard work. For easy canyons, the target level of fitness for guidance is to be comfortable doing a 5km bushwalk.
  • Do you have any medical conditions that the group might need to know about? For example: Injuries you already have had that may recur, or asthma, diabetes, allergies (bee stings, nuts, Penicillin), etc. You will be asked at the start of the trip

Travel times:

Some typical travel times from central Sydney (City, Chatswood, Balmain) to the main Canyon areas:

  • Mt Tomah – 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Mt Wilson – 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Zig Zag Railway (turnoff for Newnes plateau) – 2 to 2.5 hours
  • Newnes Plateau Fire Trail – varies acording to road conditions, weather etc but about an hour from Zig Zag railroad turnoff to the end of the Glow Worm tunnel road

Communications:

Mobile phone coverage is:

  • patchy along Bells Line of Road to Mt Tomah, but improving all the time.
  • Usually available around Mt Tomah area, and along Bells Line of Road as far as Mt Wilson and in parts along the rest of Bells Line of Road to Zig Zag Railway and into Lithgow, and across the causeway to Mt Victoria from Bell.
  • Non-existent in the Canyon itself and outside major traffic routes in the mountains.

In the canyon and bush generally we will carry some handheld UHF radios in case we need them, plus an EPIRB or Satellite Phone.

Please advise your mobile number beforehand. Remember that the phones won’t work in many areas however, and that you could be driving for an hour or two before you get back to coverage depending on where you’re starting and environmental factors.

Who to tell at home and what to tell them:

Participants should leave a copy of all notes and maps with a contact person (reliable friend or family member), with details of the cars we have with us. We are not overdue until mid the next morning, since if someone sustains a relatively minor injury the walk out will be very slow and we may be forced to stay overnight in the bush (although we won’t be doing this unless we absolutely have to).

In case we are delayed getting back, it’s also handy for someone else to be able to advise your contact person.

If we have not returned to our cars by 11am of the day after we are due back and made contact, it’s time to come looking.

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