Australia’s Slot Canyons


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So picking up this month’s copy of National Geographic and flicking through whilst smoking my Sunday morning clay pipe and in full boudoir regalia, I came across an amazing article about canyoning. It’s pretty incredible how people purposefully launch themselves into canyons, with no real idea of how they’re going to get out and simply have the attitude ‘we’ll figure it out’. Pretty much my attitude in fact each time I place myself on anything with wheels or which requires a certain degree of balance and sobriety.

But I Love it. Want to do it. The very nice people at National Geographic have allowed me to include a small excerpt from the article to get your adventure junkie juice flowing, so check it.

“The Swiss have mountains, so they climb. Canadians have lakes, so they canoe. The Australians have canyons, so they go canyoneering, a hybrid form of madness halfway between mountaineering and caving in which you go down instead of up, often through wet tunnels and narrow passageways. Unlike other places with slot canyons, such as Utah, Jordan, or Corsica, Australia has a rich, deep heritage of canyoneering. In a way, it’s an extreme form of bushwalking, something Aborigines were doing tens of thousands of years before Europeans arrived. But without ropes and technical equipment, Aborigines couldn’t explore the deepest slots.

Today perhaps thousands of Aussies hike canyons, hundreds descend into them by ropes, but only a handful explore new ones. These driven individuals tend to have a rugby player’s legs, knees crosshatched with scar tissue from all the scratches, a penguin’s tolerance for frigid water, a wallaby’s rock-hopping agility, and a caver’s mole-like willingness to crawl into damp, dark holes. They prefer to wear Volleys—canvas, rubber-soled Dunlop tennis shoes—ragged shorts, ripped gaiters, and thrift-store fleece. They camp beside tiny campfires and make “jaffles” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Jaffles are sandwiches containing all manner of ingredients—including Vegemite. Above all they search for the most remote, difficult to access canyons. “The darker, the narrower, the twistier the better,” says Dave Noble, one of the most experienced canyoneers in the country. “People say, What if you get stuck in there? But that’s what you are after. To be forced to improvise to get yourself out.”

You can read the full article here.

Claustral Canyon

Veteran guide John Robens (at far left) leads a soggy team through a moss-covered passage in Claustral Canyon, a few hours’ hike from their exit point. Canyoneering is all about the serendipity of discovery, he says. "You walk for miles and suddenly you find yourself in this magical spot."

“It feels like being swallowed by the Earth,” says photographer Carsten Peter of the Black Hole of Calcutta in Claustral Canyon. Experienced canyoneers avoid it after heavy rains.

"It feels like being swallowed by the Earth" says photographer Carsten Peter of the Black Hole of Calcutta in Claustral Canyon. Experienced canyoneers avoid it after heavy rains.

Gardens of Stone National Park

In Gardens of Stone National Park, labyrinths of pagoda rocks—beehive-shaped formations sculpted by erosion along sandstone scarpments—present a treacherous obstacle for hikers but a wonderland of slots for canyoneers to explore.

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