Canyon Guidebook Critique

Canyons Near Sydney - by Rick Jamieson (3rd Edition)

A Critique by David Noble, Sydney University Bushwalkers.

page 1 - "In this book we include a guide to about 100 of the more popular canyons"

Counting up the canyons that are described and discounting creeks that are not canyons I get about 84

page 1 - "Some canyoners like to avoid the use of guidebooks"

The author described the first edition of this guidebook as a "pamphlet for scouts" at a meeting with me in the early 90's where he sought (and was given) information. (Also - a lot of this information he was given - he seems to have got wrong!)

page 1 - "we would point out that there are about 400 known canyons reasonably close to Sydney"

No evidence is given for this figure. As a person associated with axploratory canyoning in the Blue Mountains for more than 20 years I would dispute it. The author seems to have given map references for all the canyons he knows.

page 1 - "we have made many minor corrections in this new edition"

True, some minor corrections have been made but major ones seem to have been ignored.

page 2 - "About 1961 a party of Sydney University Bushwalkers (SUBW) successfully navigated Thunder Canyon ...members of this group included Colin Oloman, Jerry O'Burn and Peter Scott"

This trip was in 1960. The party consisted of Colin Oloman, Gerry O'Byrne and Dick Donaghey.

page 2 - "About 1961 the SUBW party of Oloman, O'Burn and Scott also did Kalang Falls"

The party was Colin Oloman and Gerry O'Byrne.

page 2 - "and a week or two later Rick Higgins and Terry Thomas abseiled into the bottom part of Claustral"

This was in January 1963 - over two years later! There is also no mention of the Kameruka Bushwalking Club party of December 1962 that abseiled down the first two falls in Claustral only to be stopped by a lack of belay point on top of the then blocked keyhole.

page 2 - "In the 1970's the Bushwalking Clubs formed the Canyon Committee"

This was in the mid 60's

page 2 - "Dave Noble and Chris Cosgrove and others who were on this trip (and were also members of SUBW) discovered many of the Newnes Forest Canyons in 1975 to 1977."

The dates should have been 1976 to 1979. They refered to the canyons they found as "The South Wolgan Canyons"

page 3 - "the best plan is to wear a woollen jumper next to the skin"

Woollen singlets or synthetic thermal singlets are best. Several thin layers.

page 6 - "On unexplored canyons where trees or rocks may not be available as rigging points, it may be necessary to carry rockclimbing chocks, pitons (and hammer) and even equipment for placing bolts"

This sort of equipment is not necessary for exploratory canyoning.

page 6 - "you can always tell a beginner because he will get the rope tangled"

This is the 1990's! There is no need for such sexist language. Girls also go canyoning.

page 9 - The (very short) "Ethics" section has gone - to be replaced by a four and a half line "Walk Lightly" section. Nothing on not placing un-neccessary bolts, painting exit signs on canyon walls, the damage caused by commercial parties, sensible limits on party size or publishing canyon route descriptions.

page 11 - "In 1977 a large fire burnt through all the canyon country from the Newnes Forest into the Bungleboori, and much of the Wollangambe."

This is probably a typographic mistake. The year is 1997. It was not "a large fire" but several fires - some of which were caused by the dropping of incendiaries in an attempt to put control the main fire. These caused fires not contiguous with the main fire.

page 11 - "If hazard reduction (controlled burning) was carried out regularly in national parks it could help reduce the effects of bad fires"

There seems to be little scientific evidence to support this. Regular hazard reduction burns can lead to the growth of vegetation that is actually more fire susceptical.

page 12 - "At present there is a threat to the access to canyons in the Wollemi National Park because of a proposal to make much of the area a wilderness area"

The area is (largely) wilderness. The proposal is to make it a "declared" wilderness area, protected by legislation. This will mean no threat to access - it may only restrict motorised access.

page 12 - still about access problems - "Hopefully the National Parks and Wildlife Service will reconsider these problems in the light of concerns of canyoners"

This should be "some (lazy) canyoners"

page 14 - "Joe's Canyon" - This is a pretty small creek - isn't it a bit over the top to devote one section of the guide to a creek with 50m or so of canyon. A mention of it in a section on Du Faurs Creek would suffice.

page 14 - Exit routes from Wollangambe - "This cliff is the exit point. If you miss this exit you must continue for a couple of hours to the next one"

I think the next exit to the south can be found in a much shorter time than this.

page 14 - Wollangambe exit - "The route goes up the gully a few metres and then up the cliff on the right hand side (tree roots for handholds - take care)."

A alternative route can be found nearby that avoids using the tree routes - this is perhaps safer.

page 16 - Wollangambe water jump - "Soon after the start is a 4m jump-in"

One metre would be more accurate (for the minimum drop).

page 16 - "You can also look at Serendipity Canyon"

This should be "You can also look at "Why don't we do it in the road? Canyon"

page 18 - "Serendipity Canyon (Why-Dont-We-Do-It-in-the-Road Canyon)

This should be "Why don't we do it in the road? Canyon (Serendipity Canyon)

page 18 - Why don't we do it in the road? Canyon - "It was discovered by Tony Norman"

This canyons has been well known for many years - especially the lower glow worm cave. Tony Norman was in the first party to visit the upper parts of the creek as far as I know.

page 18 - Why don't we do it in the road? Canyon "and renamed by Glen Robinson"

This should be "and given an alternative name by Glen Robinson"

page 19 - Why don't we do it in the road? Canyon. I think the bolts refered to in the description have been removed.

page 19 - Whungee-Wheengee Creek - "Named after a creek at Kanangra"

The creek at Kanangra is Wheengee Whungee Creek. This creek here was named to make it deliberately confusing with the Kanangra Creek.

page 20 "Water-Dragon Canyon"

I note that the author has finally fixed up the same mistake I made in an early Wild Canyon guide and later corrected.

page 22 - Bowens Creek North Branch - "The canyon finishes at the junction with Bowens Creek south branch"

This is incorrect!

page 22 - Short Creek - "This is a spectacular gorge with a short canyon section"

The canyon section is fairly long compared to other canyons. It is not particularly dark but it is sustained.

page 22 - Short Creek - "an 18 m abseil (followed by a swim) and a 27 m abseil."

I seem to recall the swim after the second abseil.

page 26 - Ranon Canyon - "Also known as the "Slippery Log Canyon"


page 26 - Ranon Canyon - "the first party thought that 'the waterfalls rained on the canyon'"

The name comes from the sun god "Ra" and the word "non" therefore meaning no Sun

page 26 - Ranon Canyon - "The routes in Mistake Ravine are all scrubby ...another canyon enters on the right (Ranon Brook)"

Which canyon is being described - Ranon or Mistake Ravine? The author seems to be describing the latter.

page 27 - Explorers Brook

The original name of the canyon in this creek is Buramin Canyon.

page 30 - Mt Hay Canyon - "It was discovered by a Catholic Bushwalking Club group in 1958. The first person down..."

The first party that I have heard of going down this canyon was a party from the Institute of Technology (now UNSW) Bushwalking Club in about 1956.

page 32 - Yileen Canyon - "An outstanding canyon"

this is a bit of an exageration!

page 35 - Newnes Forest Canyons "Many of the side roads are in danger of being closed by the National Parks if the Wollemi becomes a wilderness area. This would make access to many canyons very much more difficult."

Wilderness gazettal would not affect most side roads. Access to canyons would be unaffected. Motorised access would be affected slightly to some canyons.

page 35 - Glow-Worm Tunnel Canyon

This canyon is refered to as "Bells Grotto" in earlier sources.

page 35 - Wolgan View Canyon

This canyon seems to have many alternative names as well as this one.

page 36 - Sheep Dip Canyon

The canyon described here is not Sheep Dip Canyon - it is Twister Canyon. They are not the same!

page 37 - "Budgery Creek"

should be Budgary Creek

page 40 - Tiger Snake Canyon

The ring bolts that are mentioned, placed by commercial parties, seem to have been removed.

page 44 - Surefire Canyon - "If you miss this exit route and continue up the exit canyon you will come to an unclimable waterfall"

This should be "you will come to a difficult to get up waterfall".

page 46 - Thunderstorm Canyon - "This is a good canyon if you have a motor bike or mountain bike or adventurous 4WD"

The NP&WS have had a locked gate at the Natural Bridge for many years now. At times vandals have cut open this gate with welding gear. This does not make mechanised entry legal.

page 46 - Contradiction Canyon

The bolts placed in this canyon may now have been removed.

page 47 - Hole In The Wall Canyon - "so the canyon should not be attempted by very fat people"

This should be "so the canyon should not be attempted by very fat people that cannot climb over the tunnel, a very easy climb."

page 48 - Four Dope Canyon "follow the Bubble Bath track"

This should be "follow the Froth and Bubble Track" - but really there should be no track here at all - it is wilderness! Unforturnately guidebook descriptions can lead to tracks if they are too explicit.

page 48 - Bjelkes Mind - "Its straight and narrow"

I thought it was "narrow and twisted" - or at least that was the way it was explained to me by Rob Jung who went down the canyon with a Span party that gave it this name. This creek had been earlier visited by a SUBW party but they did not seem to think it significant enough to name.

page 49 - Bubble Bath (Froth and Bubble Canyon, or Luna Park Canyon)

The name of the canyon is Froth and Bubble Canyon. Also, it is not Luna Park Canyon. The author still seems to be very confused here.

page 49 - Dead Log Canyon

This should be "Dead Tree Canyon"

page 50 - Banks Canyon - "The canyon is named after Banks Wall sandstone"

This is only party true. It is also named after the bank on the side of the road that Doug Wheen (SUBW) crashed his car into on the way out from the canyon after the first descent.

page 51 - Crikey Canyon - "several swims up to 30 m"

The longest swim is about 8m

page 51 - Crikey Canyon - Called "Anembo" by Peter Treseder in 1976, and "Crikey" by Dave Noble in 1984 on the second descent."

The first SUBW party (consisting of Bob Sault, Tony Norman and others) to investigate this creek came accross its slot in late1981. They, with others, returned in 1982 and went through the canyon properly. I have talked to many of the party members and they all independently vouch that the canyon did not seem to have been visited before. In several places they had to throw down logs to form belay points. No rope marks or slings were found at any place. The canyon was named from a comment by Tony Norman: "Crikey, mother of God!" when he first saw the slot on the 1981 trip. Peter Tresider was unaware of the locaton of this canyon until I supplied it to him at his request in the mid 80's (he was at that time active in search and rescue and wanted to know where it was in case he was called out to a search there). Several years later, in a phone conversation, he told me that he had done a solo trip in the Wollangambe in the mid seventies and been down a canyon which may have been Crikey , but he wasn't sure and didn't know exactly where he had been. In light of the information given by the first SUBW party - it seems unlikely that Peter's canyon was Crikey. Signs of even a single solo party down a canyon, in my experience, can be very persistent.

page 52 - "The upper part of the North Branch is called Suboir Canyon"

This is wrong.

page 52 - "To get to Cesspit Canyon (which is not really a great canyon)"

It is, in my opinion, much better than some canyons given a fuller description in the guide.

page 53 - Many of the map references given for the canyons mentioned are wrong. This suggests that the author has not visited these creeks, or has been given wrong information.

page 54 - Pipeline Canyon. Looks like the author is missing something here.

page 54 - "Starlight Canyon"

The author should refer to this canyon by another name rather than this name used by commercial groups. The earliest name I have for it is "Newnes Canyon". It was refered to by this name by Tim Hager, Catholic Bushwalking Club, in an article in their club magazine in 1977. The earliest recorded visit I can find to the canyon was an SUBW party in the early 60's (Gerry O'Byrne et al). They did not name the canyon.

page 54 - "or Wallaby's Tail"

This should be "Wallaby Tunnel", the name given to the tunnel in Newnes Canyon by Bob Sault's SUBW party when they visited the creek during 1991.

page 56 - Firefly Canyon - "discovered by Dave Noble and Tom Williams in 1977"

Tom, myself and several others first visited the creek in 1979. But - what about the old spikes and ladders going up into the creek from below?

page 58 - "The northern end of the Glen Alice Fire Trail ... is now locked... This action has very effectively stopped access to about 100 canyons. The only way now is to walk or use a mountain bike."

If you can walk in then access has not been stopped. Most canyoners are bushwalkers after all. "100 canyons" - a figure that seems to have plucked out of the air with no evidence. The number of canyons that can be accessed from these roads is much smaller than this.

page 58 - "The whole area may become even harder to get to if it is proclaimed a wilderness area in the near future"

If it becomes harder to access by trail bikes and 4WD's then this is surely a very good thing. This is something that bushwalkers have been campaigning for for many years now. That is - the closure and re-vegetation of the Gospers and Hunter Range Roads. Access by bushwalkers and canyoners will remain unchanged- as long as they are prepared to walk in. Not a very big problem.

page 59 - "Mr Squiggles"

This should be just simply "Squiggle Canyon"

page 59 - "Snake Pit Canyon"

This one already has the name "PJ's Canyon".

page 59 - "Anaconda Canyon (Boa Contrictor Canyon)"

Boa Constriction Canyon is certainly not the same as Anaconda Canyon.

General Comment

It seems pretty sad that the author has not been able to check out all the information he has been given or obtained. Unfortunately there are quite a few "joke canyons" mentioned in the guidebook. That is - creeks listed as canyons with map references which are ceratinly not canyons. I don't know if people deliberately fed the author with wrong information or he has just made very careless mistakes.

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