Claustral Canyon

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T2
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Claustral Canyon

Post by T2 » 04 Jul 2018, 22:12

Summary: Claustral Canyon is one of the most impressive canyons in the Blue Mountains, with a stunning series of abseils through the Black Hole of Calcutta followed by a long, sustained constriction.

Difficulty — Medium
Time — 10+ hours
Distance — 8 kms
Elevation — 350m (much of this is done twice!)
Number of abseils — 3-6
Longest abseil — 15m
Swimming — Yes
Quality — 10/10

Access:

Drive west along Bells Line of Road. Soon after crossing Mt Tomah the road passes to the right hand side of Mt Bell. Just after Mt Bell the road turns sharply to the right. Pull in approximately 50m after the corner in a large parking bay. There is also parking on the opposite side of the road if you are coming from the west.

Entry:

From the car, walk 50m towards Mt Bell. The track starts just before the bend in the road. There is a NPWS logbook about 10m along the track. The track crosses a large rock outcrop before skirting around Mt Bell. It goes down a spur a short way before following a minor ridge to the south. It then turns left and goes down into a gully. Follow this gully to Claustral Brook. Pay attention to this junction, as you will need to recognise it when exiting the canyon.

Canyon notes:

Following the creek requires some scrambles and wades. There are a couple drops of several metres that are down-climbed or potentially jumped, depending on water levels.

Before long you reach the abseils. The first is about 10m, down a hole, and finishes with a swim. The next drop starts immediately after the swim, from a ring bolt on the right. It is also about 10m. These abseils can be combined, but the pull down can be difficult. The third abseil goes through the “keyhole” and down a stunning 15m drop. The anchor is a long sling tied around the arch. This hole can get blocked by debris, turning it into a swim. If this occurs, you can still use the same anchor to abseil from the top of the arch. All three abseils have ledges near the bottom that allow you to get off rope before going into the water. This section of the canyon can be very cold, so it is recommended you take additional ropes — particularly for larger groups — to speed up the process.

Following the abseils, a short swim takes you into a deep, dark, spectacular section of canyon which continues until the junction with Ranon Brook. Following this the deep, narrow canyon continues for about 700m and provides great opportunities for photography.

Where Thunder Gorge joins from the right there is a nice sandy beach that provides a pleasant lunch spot.
It is possible to reverse Thunder Canyon for several hundred metres to the base of Westerway Falls. Explore around the base of the falls and you will find some enjoyable tunnels and caves, complete with stunning glowworms.

The creek opens up for the next 500m, but is pleasant walking. There are a number of awkward climb downs once the creek begins to narrow. There are two larger drops of about 5m, both of which can be carefully downclimbed or alternatively abseiled from slings on the right. Be cautious of the fixed rope that is often located on the left hand side of the second drop as this downclimb can be dangerous in higher water and has resulted in the death of an experienced canyoner. What was traditionally a long, dark, cold swim of about 50m through a dark section of canyon has become much shorter in recent years and all but 20m can generally be waded.

Soon after, you will see an obvious sloping waterfall coming in on the left. Go beyond this about about 50m, through a final swim, before the exit gully appears on your left. This is easy to miss if you are not paying attention. There is plenty of space here on rock slabs to remove wetsuits and have a snack before heading uphill.

Exit:

Scramble up about 20m before traversing left under the cliff (don’t make the mistake of continuing straight up as it gets increasingly steep and dangerous). This traverse takes you into Rainbow Ravine, which you should follow upwards.

There are a number of tricky scrambles as you head up, which may require teamwork for members of the group who are not confident scramblers. Higher up, where the traditional exit route involved an awkward climb up tree roots (and usually fixed tapes), it is better to instead turn right and follow a foot pad under the cliffs. After following the ledge around the point, an obvious ramp allows you to walk up through a break in the cliffs. (This alternate route not only avoids two tricky scrambles, it avoids an area that has become seriously eroded due to canyoners).

Continue on the obvious track which goes up to the east of Camels Hump. When you reach the saddle, ignore the false tracks and turn right. The track continues over a small rise before coming to a minor saddle. Turn left here, following the track down a steep gully until you reach Claustral Brook.

Continue downstream for some time, ignoring a number of minor gullies that come in on the right. Following the junction with the larger Dismal Dingle, the creek continues to drop through several small canyon sections. This part generally requires some short wades and swims. About 100m past an unavoidable swim you will see the gully you came down in the morning joining from your right. Head up this gully and back to the car following the track you entered on.

Be aware that the exit alone will take most groups three to four hours, so a late start may see you finishing in the dark.



User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 220
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales
Contact:

Re: Claustral Canyon

Post by T2 » 25 Jul 2018, 16:08

Tom Brennan has some good track notes for this canyon available here: http://ozultimate.com/canyoning/track_n ... ustral.htm

Also valuable is his map of the Carmarthen Canyons.
carmarthen_canyons.pdf
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