The track notes on the site have ratings for difficulty, quality, wetsuits and time. Read the following to see what these ratings mean.
Rating canyons for difficulty is tricky. Canyons are changeable environments and can be quite different from visit to visit. Conditions under which you visit a canyon also play a big part. After rain, the rock may be slippery making for awkward scrambling, waterfalls may be more dangerous to abseil and swims longer or pools deeper. If you are not familiar with a canyon, you should wait until conditions are favourable to visit it. The difficulty ratings are at best a guide, and you should use your judgement when deciding whether you are qualified to do a certain canyon.
The main factors included in a difficulty rating are: number/difficulty of abseils, amount/exposure of scrambling, navigation to/from the canyon including some factor for length (but see Time below), how wet the canyon is.
- Easy - a canyon involving mostly walking, swimming or easier scrambling. Likely to have tracks in and out. Abseils if any are few and fairly straightforward. Note that even an easy canyon will probably be challenging for people who have done little scrambling.
- Medium - a canyon usually involving abseiling. Some of the following difficulty factors will be present: tricky or awkward abseils, exposed scrambling, difficult navigation to or from the canyon, long day.
- Hard - as for Medium, but more difficulty factors will be present and in greater quantities.
Many of my canyon track notes have a rating out of 10 for the canyon.
- The canyon ratings are completely subjective, based on how much I enjoyed a particular canyon, the quality of canyon, the length of the canyon and probably a bunch of other factors peculiar to me. Note the words I and me. So if you think I've rated your favorite canyon as a 1, 2 or 3, well that's what I thought of it. If you want your say, start your own web site!
- The canyon ratings are out of 10. Even the crappiest canyon gets a 1. If something gets a 0, then it's not a canyon (in my opinion again of course).
- Ratings are predominantly for sandstone slot canyons. I'm not so interested in comparing other sorts of canyons.
- Most of the well known canyons will probably get between 7 and 10. They tend to be well known for a reason.
- There's nothing fixed about the ratings. I can and do change my mind after revisiting.
- Note that a 3 or 4 doesn't mean a bad canyon, just not one I'll be racing back to visit too soon.
You can see a list of the ratings of some of the canyons I've visited.
Times are estimated based on a moderately experienced party of around 4-5 canyoners, including a couple of experienced leaders.
A small, very experienced and fast moving party may cut as much as half the time off the estimates, while a larger party, or a party with a number of inexperienced canyoners, could take up to twice the time. Any canyon that involves a long day should be avoided with a large or somewhat inexperienced party, particularly if there are many abseils.
Descriptive times used are:
- A few hours - 2-3 hours
- A short day - 4-5 hours
- One day - 6-7 hours
- A long day - 8+ hours
- Two days, three days etc
Whether to take wetsuits or not can be a difficult decision. A lot of canyons near Sydney do not have long swims, so wetsuits are not always needed. They are heavy and bulky, and often end up being more trouble than they are worth. However, there may be times when you wish you had them. If in doubt, it is usually better to take them and not need them, than to not have them and need them. See Keeping Warm for more info.
Descriptives used are:
- No - parties should not need wetsuits. Typically canyons with waist deep wades or less
- Not required - with appropriate care, most parties will be able to do without wetsuits. Typically canyons with some short chest deep wades and possibly a swim
- Optional - small, fast moving parties will probably be able to make do without wetsuits but larger or slower moving parties are advised to take them. Typically canyons with longer deep wades and possible short swims
- Recommended - most parties should take wetsuits. Typically canyons with longer swims as well as wades
- Lilos - both wetsuits and lilos are recommended. Typically canyons with many long deep pools
Many of the track notes have a brief paragraph or so on the history of the canyon. I have not footnoted these, but sources for this information include:
- Back from the Brink, Andy Macqueen
- The Golden Years, David Noble
- South Wolgan Exploratory Canyoning - Part 1 and Part 2, David Noble
- Journal of the Kameruka Bushwalking Club
and these are worth seeking out for further reading.