17/01/2003 - report - photos - Thunder Canyon track notes

Participants: Tom Brennan, James Yorston, Jonathan Potts, Lisa McGinnigle, Matt Dowle

As per usual we met at the North Richmond bakery. It was about ten past eight when we arrived, for an eight o'clock meeting. I bet Jonathan that we would be the last of the three cars there, all of us coming from the North Shore. He went for second. I won.

Three cars did seem a bit excessive for five people, but Lisa was driving back that night, and we were going to need two cars for a shuffle for the next day's canyon as well.

James and I had a council of war and pretty quickly decided to do Thunder Canyon. Neither James nor I had done it and we were the ones with the most interest in the decision. We'd talked about doing Thunder for a while, but the other ones in the Carmarthen area had been easier to visit.

First we headed for the Claustral car park at Tomah South and dropped two of the cars there. We all piled into my car and drove just past Mt Charles. The ridge was not too bad near the top, but it got quite scrubby as we dropped down to Lightning Ridge, and then up the hill on the other side. Once we were on the flat section it opened out again and the walking was quite easy.

At the end the ridge swung down and to the south, and became scrubby once more. We hit a cliff line, and decided that we were a bit far west and should head east more. After some scrambling we got ourselves on to a ridge that continued down, ending in another small cliff. Jonathan and Matt dropped off the left side while James, Lisa and I skirted it on the right. That was a mistake. In a matter of minutes we completely lost touch with each other. Despite the fact that we couldn't have been more than 100m apart at any time, both groups were calling out but unable to hear each other. Once we got the cliff out of the way between us, we managed to re-establish contact, but there were a few moments of concern.

We finally reached the bottom cliff line but again couldn't see any easy way down. We traversed east again, and by some dodgy scrambling managed to get to about 6m above the creek, on a slimy slope. Matt scrambled down a few more metres but couldn't see a safe way down the last little bit. James was getting out a handline to throw over a branch when Matt's feet slipped from under him and he slid down the slope into the creek. He landed on his feet but overbalanced heavily on to his right arm, spraining his wrist. Luckily it wasn't too bad, and he was able to continue (not that there was too much choice!). Still, it made scrambling and abseiling a bit more difficult for him.

At this point we donned wetsuits, but then decided we needed a hack to move on. Getting a hack in a canyon is always a slightly dangerous proposition. I've heard of groups kicking the hackysack off cliffs. It becomes more difficult once you kick the hackysack into the water and it becomes sodden and waterlogged. Four people is not too bad, but we had five, so it took us quite some time. Success came eventually and we were able to continue.

Not far around the first corner, we saw up to the left what looked like a relatively easy abseil from the ridge into the creek, and figured it was probably the entry that was recommended in Jamieson.

The next couple of hundred metres of creek was fairly bouldery, before the first drop. We tossed up which way was best/most exciting for the drop, and ended up going for the narrow slot on the left. After harnessing up we set up the 60m rope and James and Matt descended. They were down before they decided they should check out whether we could all get through that way - there looked like the possibility it could be blocked. After a few minutes they came back with the all clear. The rest of us dropped down, by which time James had set up the next, short abseil.

A swim through a cave followed, before opening out into the main part of the canyon, a spectacular amphitheatre which narrowed to high moss-covered walls. I tried taking a few photos, and then we pushed on. There followed another couple of hundred metres more of high narrow canyon before it finished, all too soon, at the junction with Claustral.

I pushed for lunch here, but everyone else wanted to keep moving. There was a fair bit of boulder scrambling in the lower section. I lost my glove after it got ripped off my harness. I then made the mistake of stuffing it in one of my crabs - why I didn't put it in my pocket I'll never know. Predictably, it took less than a hundred metres to disappear. I went back to hunt for it, but to no avail.

There were a couple of drops with fixed ropes set up. I abseiled one of these, remembering the previous time when I'd jammed my hand climbing down hand-over-hand. It seemed quicker anyhow.

We fairly quickly reached Rainbow Ravine, and then just past it to the exit gully. We deharnessed and desuited and sat down for lunch, before the long hike back to Tomah South.