For the Blue Mountain Canyoners
Hey get the hell out of the canyon in heavy rain.
The Blue Mountain canyons are
incredibly beautiful. I try to describe them in word pictures but have
not yet learnt how. I have read many excellent descriptions of canyons
but none have captured the essence of what I, see, hear, smell, touch or feel
or imagine and dream. Many now find them a spiritual place, I
don't. I am told that in the past, aboriginals regarded them as a place
not to go because they are the home of spirit people, I can understand that but
I feel welcome, in most. If you care to stop and listen you may hear the spirit people whispering out loud to you, from here, then there, then there, then over there!
I have seen may fine pictures and
photographs that capture a moment of one place, but that place is always
changing. At the same time I have a sense of history, timelessness as
these place have been there for millions of years. How can the one place
be timeless and constantly changing? Who cares, as long as they are
Have I seen changes in the canyons
due to use over the years? You bet I have: -
- moss all gone;
- sand from the access tracks silting up everything;
- safer more reliable belays;
- trees, tree ferns, other plants destroyed and lost;
- yabbies disappearing from some creeks or even sadder now ignoring passers by in others;
- loose rocks, snags and annoying logs removed.
Are the canyons changed by use still beautiful? Yes of course.
My approach to canyoning is to make every visit an exploration, even when I know thousands of others have been through before.
When I go to a canyon for the first time I only read enough so that I can find my own wayin. Of course if I find a track
I follow it. For two very good reasons: -
1) I don't want to damage the environment any more by breaking a new track and
2) Bloody hard
work pushing through dence scrub.
When I lead a canyon I do it in such a way as everyone is exploring and getting the unique to them experience. I get them
to find the way through, locate anchor points, workout where to throw ropes. In that way I am allowing them the wonderful experiences I have
but more importantly they are learning the things they will need when they are leading.
I don't give grid references, track notes, or details, because I don't want to take away the pleasure others will have exploring for
themselves and finding their own way. Thus they develop the skills required for exploration, discovery and adventure.
How and why canyons flood
Many canyons have extensive areas
of sphagnum swamp in there head waters. These swamps hold vast volumes of
water bound within the vegetation and mosses. Normally these release
water slowly. This is why canyons flow all the time even after extended
dry spells. During heavy rain the swamps hold much of the water that
falls on them but water falling on normal ground runs off and funnels into the
creek system (some of these creeks run through the swamps as creeks).
This water can quickly fill up the very narrow canyon sections to a height of
many 10s of meters.
As I said above the sphagnum
swamps hold vast volumes of water and normally this releases slowly but there
is a mechanism that can suddenly release a lot of this stored water
unexpectedly. The exact mechanism is only speculation at this stage but
it is thought to be related to a sudden change in ph. What can cause a ph
change in such a large buffered system is hard to imagine. Whatever the
cause be aware of sudden rises in water levels and be prepared to find a high
spot in a wide section of canyon.