18/01/2003 - report - photos - Ranon Canyon track notes

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

It didn't take us too long to decide which canyon to do on the Saturday. James suggested Ranon, and I agreed. This was despite the fact that we had done the Claustral exit only the day before, and both James and I had done Ranon Brook and Ranon only a bit over a year ago. Matt's wrist was still sore from his fall the day before, and he decided to sit out the day's activities.

We headed to Tomah South first, to drop a car off for the shuffle. There were three other cars at the parking area for Ranon Brook and one for Ranon. Given that only the Carmarthen Labyrinth and Bowens Creek areas were open, we tried to guess the numbers of cars at the Claustral car park. I guessed 5, figuring that people would avoid Claustral. Jonathan guessed 10. Jonathan was right - exactly! D'oh. Nothing much to worry about in any case. We figured that since we weren't doing any of the Claustral abseils we wouldn't have too many hold ups.

Driving back past Mt Bell, we parked at the Ranon parking area. Leaving the car with Matt we headed up the hill a bit and into the bush. Pretty much straight away it was a bush bash and pretty much straight away we got ourselves "off track" if you can call it that (given there's not a track in the first place).

We managed to get a small creek between us and the ridge we wanted to be on and paid the price in flailing around in waist high ferns and the like. Jonathan took a slightly different route down to James and I, but only succeeded in rolling across some sword grass and getting cut up as a result. After what seemed a fairly silly amount of time (although it probably wasn't very long at all) we bashed our way onto the right ridge and down to just above the creek.

Jonathan headed left and James headed right to look for a drop in point. I called Jonathan back after I could see the bank he was on had a large precipitous drop into the creek. James managed to get himself into the rough and was struggling to play himself out. Jonathan and I backtracked up and around and we found what looked like a reasonable slope to drop down. In fact, it would have been good if the log I had my eye on for my feet had been leaning solidly against the face. Instead it happily rocked out of the way and I was left cursing and dangling on my arms in mid air. Without much choice I dropped to the ground - which luckily was solid only a couple of feet below. I leaned the log against the face and we all scrambled down into the creek.

A couple of hundred metres of creek walking brought us to the first drop. It looked a bit dodgy, but after throwing a handline over a tree branch, there were relatively easy steps down. We scrambled down the next couple of drops fairly straightforwardly and heard voices just around the corner. There was a party of three, two guys and a girl, making their way back out, having done Ranon Brook. Given that it was not long after 11am, they were going to have an early finish. They were a bit disappointed at the thought that it might be a bush bash out up the hill.

The next half a kilometre or so was very nice creek walking. The canyon is not particularly narrow or deep, but it is lined with very green ferns, and it is very flat, easy walking. We barely got our feet wet. We hit the junction with Ranon Brook and stopped in the sun for a bit of a snack.

A rather brave lizard looked like he wanted to take the three of us on. Presumably the junction was his territory, and it was his sun as well. After a bit of effort in getting moving again, we left him happy as ruler of his domain.

After some more creek walking and a bit of rock hopping we reached the first abseil, into a section of canyon. It was only about 6m, but it was into a pool, so we took the opportunity to suit and harness up. The drop was fairly straightforward, but the canyon section ended fairly quickly. Another drop quickly followed, also about 6m, but with a long thin log leaning the length of the drop. James went first, bouncing all the way. There was a section in the middle of the log that leant against the wall, which meant some tricky manoeuvering, as you couldn't straddle it the whole way. We made it down and continued along a little further to another pile of logs.

Scrambling down into a cave we realised we were at the big drop. We could see tapes around a tree up to the right, but decided it would be more fun to go directly down the falls. Last time we had taken two 60m ropes, but we remembered that that had been excessive, and had only brought a 60m and a 20m. Throwing the 60m through the slings around the large chockstone, James headed down first. Down the falls, through the first pool and over the edge, he yelled back that we would just descend this section and rerig from a lower anchor for the next bit. Jonathan and I followed, into a cave with a large boulder which was the next anchor. The final drop was similar to the first bit - down the falls, through a pool and over the edge into Claustral. Pity no-one was wandering past in Claustral at the time, as it is quite a spectacular entry.

The next section is one of the most spectacular sections of canyon around. There is about 700m of continuous high-sided, deep, dark canyon. I've walked down it twice before but it is still fantastic. There was only the one swim - right at the start - and then the walking was quite easy to the Thunder Canyon junction at Carmarthen Brook. I suggested lunch, but the others wanted to reach the end at least, so we pushed on.

The walking from here was pretty easy - we'd done it all the day before, so we knew which sides to walk, where to scramble and the quick ways down. The final pool approached pretty quickly and we swam across to the exit. There was a High'n'Wild group there already, stripping down as well. We said our greetings but decided to get the jump on them so we weren't stuck behind on the scrambles out. I didn't even bother taking my wetsuit off - I figured it could wait til we found a decent lunch spot.

We quickly exited out of Rainbow Ravine - again advantaged by having done it all yesterday. Pretty soon we reached a good lunch spot, and found another commercial group, this time from BMAC, there already. I chatted for a while with them - seemed like they had one guide, three trainee guides and two customers. They also mentioned that Carl Scully (NSW Minister for Transport) was in the High'n'Wild group behind us. Given that all of us are cyclists, we were hoping that they would catch us up, and we could carry on a loud conversation critical of the policies of the current government to cycling infrastructure. Unfortunately they never turned up, even after a fairly leisurely lunch on our part.

Continuing on up the familiar track, we caught up to the BMAC group again right near the end and chatted with one of them back to the cars, where Matt was waiting.

After realising we hadn't completed our customary canyon hack, we set ourselves a challenge of a left and a right foot from everybody, followed by a volley into the boot of the car. How hard could that be? Forty minutes later we had had a few opportunities but our shots on goal had hit the woodwork, so to speak. The BMAC group had long since given up watching us in amusement and left. Finally we nailed one and were able to start the long trek back to Sydney.

Another successful weekend!