FreezeFest 2014: Kanangra

Do you like pushing the boundaries of human endurance? Or putting into practice the old adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? How about rejecting the accepted wisdom that says wet canyoning is only a summer sport? If so, then FreezeFest is the trip for you.

FreezeFest 2014: Kanangra
When: Friday night, July 18, through to Sunday July 20, 2014
Where: Boyd River campground

It’s taken a while to hit, but over the last week winter has well and truly arrived. Not only has snow been dumped on the ski fields, but it’s even fallen in parts of the Blue Mountains, including on the Boyd Plateau. With the proper arrival of winter, it can mean only one thing: it’s time for FreezeFest!

This year we’re heading out to Kanangra, with the higher altitude promising the coldest possible conditions. There’s a range of canyoning options available — from the obvious challenge of Kanangra Main, through to a shorter wet canyon in Dione Dell, or the dry option of Kalang Falls. You’re also welcome to simply join the festivities at camp and then go bushwalking during the day (or even come for a day then flee back home to warm up again, although you may be mocked…).

FreezeFest 2013 base camp -- Barcoo Swamp (photo Shaun Nielsen)

FreezeFest 2013 base camp — Barcoo Swamp (photo Shaun Nielsen)

How do you get involved?

FreezeFest is a completely informal gathering of canyoners. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from, you’re welcome to join in (as long as you’re suitably mad!). You will need to be reasonably fit and experienced, given the usual challenges of canyoning are amplified by the cold.

Ideally you’ll lock in a few friends to canyon with you, but if you’re on your own there’ll definitely be some other people to tag along with. You can do whatever canyons you chose before joining the FreezeFest crew around a big rowdy campfire (essential for fighting off the winter chill). You’ll also need to bring all your own gear, both canyoning equipment and camping needs.

Given the limited number of suitable canyons at Kanangra, there may need to be some cooperation to stagger groups so that we don’t end up with big delays, particularly in Kanangra Main.

Keeping warm around the campfire (photo Ian Lu)

Keeping warm around the campfire (photo Ian Lu)

The history of FreezeFest:

The first Aussie FreezeFest was held in July 2012, with about half a dozen hardy canyoners braving freezing conditions (with wind chill it stayed below zero all day). In 2013 the event expanded substantially, with a total of 23 people canyoning over the two days (a handful even got snowed on at the end of a night canyoning trip).

Our Blue Mountains festival of winter canyoning was inspired by what has become an institution in the US. Over there “Freeze Fest” has been going for just over a decade, with the “bad idea that caught on” growing from four people in its first year to close to 100 these days. (They do get snow and ice in their canyons, so we have it pretty easy by comparison.)

The first year we got plenty of comments along the lines that canyoning is a summer sport, that we’d freeze to death, or simply that we’re idiots. While they were all valid points, we proceeded to completely ignore them. The result was everyone having a really great time.

For a local twist a few of us even decided to up the ante on the Yanks by doing one of the canyons, Serendipity, in the nude. That tradition continued in 2013, with seven of the hardiest FreezeFesters performing the feat in Twister Canyon at night!

Everyone had a blast, and at the end of the weekend there was unanimous agreement that we needed to head back again in 2014 to celebrate the middle of winter with some wet canyoning. We’ve learnt a bit about what gear is needed to make it more comfortable, so we may even be able to push into some longer, colder, wetter, harder canyons!

Useful info:

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