Ever since I discovered that canyoning was a thing it has been high on my list of things that I wanted to do. (I don’t have a bucket list as such, but if I did it would be close to the top.) It has been a few years since I first found out about it and last year I decided that I was finally going to book a canyoning tour – but then another lockdown hit and I wasn’t able to. So going into 2022 I was determined to book a tour before the year got away from me. This was multiplied when I was walking in the Blue Mountains with some of my family and came across a group that was finishing up their canyoning tour at Empress Falls. The last part involved abseiling down the waterfall into the water below.
This was the last inspiration that I needed and I booked the tour shortly after – booking a spot for my sister as well. When she found out that I wanted to do it she was really excited to join me, so we were able to book a tour while she was visiting. We drove up the day before the tour and we got to Katoomba on the in the early evening you couldn’t see a thing, there was thick fog everywhere. We visited Echo Point to see the Three Sisters but we couldn’t even see an outline of them because the fog was that thick.
The next morning when we arrived at the meeting point we were told by our guides that there had been a landslide in the canyon that we were planning on doing. This meant that we weren’t able to do that particular canyon (which I was a bit sad about because it was the one that involved jumping into and swimming through the water and then finishing with the waterfall abseil), but we could still do a different canyon. We got geared up in our wetsuits and headed off (again, through very thick fog) to Juggler Canyon. It was a bit of a walk to get to the start of the canyon and then we dove straight in with our first abseil!
The first abseil was a fairly easy one to get us used to the techniques involved – and I’m glad it was a small one, because it didn’t stop me from slipping a bit and getting a pretty solid bump on my elbow. (I don’t usually bruise easily but I got a bit of a battle scar in this instance)
We had about 10 of us in the tour and only one person could go at a time down each abseil, so a lot of time was spent waiting at the top or the bottom for people to take their turn, but this was a great opportunity to get to know some of the others a bit better.
As we continued through the canyon there was a mixture of abseiling, climbing on and around rocks and even a zipline! My favourite abseil was definitely the last one. My sister and I were the last ones to do this one, so we spent a lot of time watching people disappear over this ledge and hearing the guides tell them to ‘jump’. I was definitely a little bit nervous and didn’t really know what to expect, but when it was my turn, I just decided to go for it. I slowly made my way down and then jumped and found myself hanging 20 metres or so above the ground. It was really fun and then I got to watch from the bottom as my sister took the leap.
When we finished our final abseil we joined the rest of the group that had already got lunch out and were enjoying a bit of a break. We joined them and then before long the first group started the trek back up to the car. A few of us waited a bit longer and then headed off as well. I was a little bit nervous about this part because I am not the fastest person when walking uphill and I was grateful to be with the second group that seemed happy to go a bit slower. The track soon joined the Grand Canyon track – which is a stunning walk that I have done a few times. We made our way along this track for a while (stopping to take some photos and our guide pointed out some interesting animals and plants) and then broke away from the Grand Canyon track to make our way back to the car. It was pretty steep uphill for a while and then eventually evened out for a bit. It was a relief to get back to the car and sit down. We drove back to Katoomba, which was still completely foggy – my poor sister didn’t actually get to see much of the Blue Mountains apart from the small part that we saw on the tour.
I really enjoyed the canyoning experience and I’m so grateful that I got to do it. I would love to do it again when the canyon that we were initially going to do is open – I love the idea of getting to swim/rock scramble through a more narrow canyon. I would highly recommend canyoning to anyone that gets the opportunity but be warned – it does involve some amount of climbing and rock scrambling. In my opinion it is totally worth the potential cuts and bruises as it provides a unique perspective of the Blue Mountains (or whatever location you are doing it in) that you don’t get to see when you are doing the other usual tourist activities or hikes.