Canyons in the Blue Mountains have all been initially descended without bolts. For the most part, particularly in the sandstone canyons, bolts are not required. Anchors are generally readily found. These are commonly trees and chockstones, but can also be logs and threads. In a small number cases anchors may need to be constructed - passing down logs, building a deadman, or constructing a cairn are some of the man-made anchors you will find. Strong climbing or scrambling skills may allow some drops to be bypassed altogether without abseiling.
There are a number of northern Blue Mountains sandstone canyons which have one or more bolted anchors. These are listed below, along with some details about the bolts and bolting. If you have more details on this (when, where), please feel free to contact me and I can include or update the information. Thanks to various contributors (Dylan Jones, Craig Flynn, Edwin Emmerick, Clint Felmingham, Richard Delaney, Owain Williams).
Many of the bolted anchors are unnecessary. There are alternative natural anchor options that are acceptable.
There some argument for allowing bolting where the environmental outcome is superior. For example, where it prevents trees from being killed from root compaction, or significantly reducing rope wear on the rocks (from the point of view of the rock!). Very few of the bolted anchors below fall into that category.
There is also an argument that a bolted anchor can be aesthetically less intrusive than a large mess of slings. This has to be weighed up against the permanent damage that bolting causes.
Bolting is not currently permitted in canyons, without the approval of the NPWS.
All up there are around 17 abseils across 11 canyons where bolts are regularly used to descend the canyon. Of these 17, probably only 5 were in existence in 2000. The other 12 have been placed since then. This includes the Grand Canyon bolts, which were placed by the NPWS.
Bolts or artificial anchors that are not normally used, and for historical interest only, are in italics
- NPWS installed bolts on the abseil, on both sides of the creek. These were installed in 2002, but replaced existing bolts on the left side of the creek.
- NPWS installed bolts on the abseil. The current chains date from 2005, and the bolts from a year or two earlier? Previously canyoners used a tree, which fell down around 2002.
- Bolts on a ledge on the left for the second abseil in the canyon section, after the first drop to the pool. Unnecessary since the abseil straight down the middle has a large tree anchor. Circa 2014.
- Bolts on the ledge high on the left for the final abseil. Unnecessary since you can scramble or handline down the creek and abseil down the main falls. Circa 2014.
Plus an old piton above the last bolted abseil.
- Bolts and chains at the one abseil, on the left. Pre 1998?
- Bolts at the third abseil in the side creek, previously a large dead tree with a long backup. Somewhat unnecessary as the abseil can be walked around. Installed circa May 2016
- Bolts and chains at the abseil leading to the chockstone. Originally installed prior to 1998, replaced circa May 2016
- Bolts and chains on the chockstone abseil. Originally installed prior to 1998, replaced circa May 2016
Also bolts on the exit climb, placed around 2000? A second belay bolt was added in around 2015.
Bolts on the exit climb. There are 2 on the first pitch, 3 on the second pitch (plus an older carrot) and 5 on the third pitch. Circa 2010?
Also on the climbing exit, 5 bolts up to the right before the first pool in Alpheus Canyon, to ascent to and traverse a ledge. Circa 2012? And at least one more on the upper cliffline. There are also older bolts in Alpheus Canyon.
Also an old bolt on a short downclimb in the canyon. Not generally used. May have been for reversing the canyon.
- Bolts on a ledge at the bottom of the big abseil to get the last 10m or so. The bolts are somewhat unnecessary since you could either bring the rope required to do the drop in one pitch, or rebelay off the tree on the ledge. The bolts don't seem to be well placed for an easy start. Installed circa 2014.
Spikes in the exit tree, and possibly bolts for a belay?
- Single bolt on the right at the first downclimb/jump in/abseil. Circa ?
- Bolts on the left at the first abseil into the Black Hole. These replaced a log which had been there for many years. The bolts are fairly unnecessary since there are plenty of options for thread anchors. Circa 2014?
- Bolts high on the right at the second abseil into the Black Hole. There was only one bolt up until ??. It is possible to do this second abseil either by combining with the first, or by using a long thread anchor underwater below the first abseil. Neither option is ideal due to rope drag and possible rock damage.
- Bolt on top of the Keyhole. However, the abseil is normally done from the slings around the Keyhole.
Apparently there have been at least 7 bolts removed from the first abseil, 2 from the second abseil, and 3 from the Keyhole, all prior to 1997. There may have been others. Also there are bolts on a ledge to the left above the first abseil to traverse above the Black Hole.
- Bolts at the second abseil. Few options for natural anchor, though the first and second abseil can be combined depending on the choice of anchor for the first abseil. Circa ??
- Bolts at the second main abseil. Previously the anchor was a log jammed in the crack, with a tricky start. Circa mid-late 2000s? (between 2006-2011)
- Single bolt at the first abseil in the lower section. The bolt moves slightly. This used to generally be a tricky abseil. It has had various natural anchors, most recently a long sling from high on the right. The bolt makes the abseil fairly straightforward. Circa 2003. Replaced with double bolted anchor in Jan 2018
- Single bolt at the second abseil in the lower section. This abseil used to be from a log, now decayed. Circa 2004.
Whungee Wheengee has previously had bolts in the early/mid 1990s?, removed 1996.
While not bolted, Deep Pass Canyon has a variety of steelwork (spikes and chains) to assist with climbing up through the canyon.
- Bolt on the second abseil? Pre 1998
The bolts in Tiger Snake Canyon are not frequently used.
- Bolts on top of the pagoda above the first abseil/climbdown in the upper section. Circa?
- Loose? bolt on the right above the next drop, not used. Anchor is pile of logs, or drop can be climbed over.
- Loose bolt at the top of the abseil down the creek into the lower section. Most parties do a longer abseil from higher up.
There have previously been other bolts (6?) removed in around 1996.
- Bolt at the top of the abseil into the canyon. Fairly unnecessary. Circa 2008?
- Bolt and nut at around the eighth abseil, a 13m one curving around to the left. Probably mid 2000s?
Other canyons that have previously had bolts
Why Don't We Do It In The Road (5 bolts). All bolts removed 1996. Apparently there is still a carrot bolt (or two?) on the traverse just before the river.
Wollangambe (5 bolts). All bolts removed 1996
Du Faur (Clatterteeth) (11 bolts). All bolts removed 1996