Claustral (Calcutta) Canyon
What can be said about Claustral that hasn't already been said? It isn't the most popular abseil canyon for no reason!
The upper half of the canyon is nice, and wets your appetite for the journey to come.
One of the highlights of Claustral are the three abseils into the "Black Hole of Calcutta" (Calcutta Falls). This constitutes three abseils in a row into a narrow slot that has to be seen to be believed. If that isn't enough, the next km of canyon will blow you away.
To get the maximum effect at Claustral you really do have to get there at the right time of the day when the sun is almost directly overhead. This makes an already great canyon trip into a spectacular light show you will never forget.
Claustral Canyon trip Report - 17/1/04
We arrived for an early start at 7:30am. A large party of 9, 3 who had done
canyon before, one beginner, and the rest reasonably experienced.
After signing the logbook, we departed at 7:45am with the weather looking a bit
suspect to the west and generally overcast and fairly miserable. With a fair bit
of rain in the last few days we were hopeful for some higher water to make
things a bit more exciting. We were the first ones in, and as it so happened,
the last ones out.
The cleared track on the private property entry down the hill was starting
get overgrown. A far cry from the freshly bulldozed sight we saw last season.
Upon entering the National Park and canyon track proper, it became clear that
the recent rains had really made the forest come alive with lush new growth. A
stark contrast to the barren wasteland last season.
We were quickly caught up by another group of 4 who we let pass. Down towards
the creek was a new fallen tree with a big "10/03" carved on it. As we entered
the creek, it became obvious what the enemy of the day would be - leeches. We
had time to stop and admire the magnificent lush green creek, while peeling off
Water levels didn't seem up on last year, and this was confirmed at the first
deep wade. We suited up at the tree root downclimb and were again passed by
another private group of 4. A small group of 3 from BMAC also suited up here, a
female lead and two paying customers who had done a few canyons before.
The two water jumps were fun, with one of our group taking the steep slide
option on the right side of the second jump. The water in the upper half was
There were a few in front of us at the abseils, so we explored the ledge on
left above. We also let another small group go through ahead. There were slings
around the tree on the platform, and also a ring bolt on the wall. One of us
traversed a narrow ledge on the left wall over to another platform. There is
another ring bolt half way along the traverse. From this second platform it is
apparently possible to abseil to the bottom of Claustral, bypassing the falls.
While playing around up on the ledge, we were caught up with by a large group
from High'n'Wild. They seemed a bit reluctant to tell us how many they had
exactly, but there were at least 9 or 10 all up, with two guides. They abseiled
off the slings on the ledge and followed us down the main abseils.
The water level in the abseils was higher than previous trips, but nothing
get really excited over. The canyon in general however was just so lush and
greener than previous years. By this time the sky that we could see had cleared
completely, and it was a perfect canyoning day.
This time around we took and used two larger ropes (40m + 50m), instead of
ususal 3 ropes, and rebelayed off the second abseil. We got everyone down fairly
quickly. Next to the keyhole was a single solitary incredibly bright green glow
worm which we all marvelled at.
Our lunch stop was as the corner of Thunder canyon on the beach. We again met
one of the other groups came back from exploring up Thunder. We had plenty of
time up our sleeve so decided to go up Thunder as well. A few chilly swims made
us think we made a poor choice, but we were soon rewarded with a spectacular
cavern. The main abseil presumably drops into here? There was no water flowing
down the obvious waterfall path on one wall, although the wall was wet and
We explored the glow worm cave behind the "waterfall" and also the other little
glow worm cave half way along the canyon.
Thunder was a very worthwhile side trip, taking just a little over half an hour
We continued down Claustral, exploring little bits along the way and taking
photos. At the second last and most tricky hand-over-hand (just before the
tunnel swim), we found the fixed rope had been either cut or it had snapped.
Only the sling remained, with a short bit of rope ending in entrails. We rigged
our own temporary 8mm handline and made it down as the High'n'Wild group closed
in on us. Most of our group abseiled the drop, not trusting their grip on an 8mm
line, but a couple chose to hand-over-hand it.
I tried a new technique of going down all the little hand-over-hands. I went
face forward, pack against the wall with the rope over my shoulder. I felt much
safer and in better control this way.
The water level in the tunnel swim was fairly low.
At the exit we changed out of the wetsuits and were soon met again by the
High'n'Wild group. The leader of the group had a nasty looking gash on his
forearm, I guess proving to the punters that accidents do happen to the best of
One of our group magically pulled a large heavy rock out of the bottom of her
pack, much to amusement of everyone present. The old "rock in the pack" trick
gets a laugh every time! Nobody owned up to the gag though. How long she carried
that for was anyones guess.
We eventually split into two groups for the walk out. The water in Rainbow
Ravine was just above knee height.
At the tricky climb up we let the High'n'Wild group pass us, as we were in
Due to a spillage with one of the water bottles, we just ran out of water before
we reached the cars - bugger. A member of the group had problems on the walk
out, so I ended up carrying her pack in front of me, hugging it. It was actually
quite good, with the weight on the front counter balancing the weight on my
Back at the cars just after 5pm. An excellent trip, and about as long as we
anticipated with such a large group, almost 10 hours. The lush green fertile
ferns and growth certainly made for a new experience both in and out of the
Claustral Canyon - Sat
Dec 11th 04
(Dave, Nicole, Robin, Cameron, Lachlan, Michael, Darren & Tracy)
The group included 4 who had done the canyon before (2 who remembered
the canyon :->), and 4 excited wide eyed first time canyoners. 2 had
driven all the way from Melbourne just for this trip.
After a weeks worth of rain and thunderstorm, along with watching on
the radar rain pass over Claustral on Friday night, I had all but
abandoned hope of doing Claustral on Saturday. I had all sorts of backup
canyons planned for the day and packed all the rope ready to do anything
at the last minute. The only hope we had of doing Claustral was if the
conditions were absolutely perfect. The forecast (depending on which one
I read) was for clear skys and afternoon thunderstorms, but I didn't
Sure enough, Saturday morning bought us perfectly blue and warm skys,
so off we headed for Claustral. After the obligatory stop at North
Richmond bakery we arrived 30 minutes late at 8am to find Darren and
Tracy at the carpark ready to go.
There was a BMAC group of 8 who had just gone into the canyon, and
another guy waiting for two friends to turn up.
By 8:30 were were packed and ready to go, signed the logbook and headed
in. BMAC had also signed the logbook which was good to see.
The sun was strong and the skys were still blue as we entered the creek
to find normal water levels. Here we encountered the main obstacle for
the day - leeches.
After a quick stop we headed off into the upper creek and caught up to
the BMAC group much quicker than we anticipated. They were suited and
harnessed up ready to go so we swapped places with them and suited up
just before the first climb tree-root climb down.
To our amazement, Robin decided to go sans wetsuit and left it in his
pack, it was to be the source of much amusement all day.
We made our way along the upper half of the canyon, jumping and
scrambling, the beginners were really having a ball.
A few pools were a big murky, I guess not helped by the BMAC group in
front of us, but the majority were fairly clear and deep.
We caught up with the BMAC group again at the abseils so we went to
play up on the ledge above to give them time to get down.
As we were harnessing up and getting ready to go another group of 3
came along so we let them play through. They said they had a few people
pull out due to the weather.
The skies were still blue so we had no hesitation in continuing.
There was a bit of extra water flowing down the falls than normal, and
this made things a bit more interesting and exciting but not dangerous.
We got through the abseils reasonably quickly considering our party size
and the number of beginners, and also the fact that the sun was directly
overhead just after midday giving an incredible effect into the slot. As
I stood belaying on the thrid drop I could hear screams for the camera
to come through, obviously something good was happening up ahead.
As I emerged from the Balck Hole of Calcutta there was the entire group
going ape snapping photos of the magnificent shafts of light penetrating
the depths. The green moss giving the most lush and green light I have
It was hard to convince the beginners to save the camera for the
delights of further down the slot.
The next section towards Thunder juntion was even more incredible, with
the sun teasing us by dissapearing just as we were saying Cheese, but it
reappeared just as quickly. All of the beginners said it was beyond
their wildest expectations, and even I was impressed, this was the best
I had ever seen Claustral look. I think we must have spent an hour just
Robin did some amazing dives into the water (complete with backpack)
and swam for dear life to avoid the cold water. Lachlan tried to emulate
with some big belly flop like dives much to everyones amusement.
Lunch in the sun came at Thunder junction and we decided the give the
glow worms a miss this time around and continue on. Normally at this
point we have a half a dozen parties pass us, but today we had the
canyon to ourselves.
The second hand line climbdown before the tunnel swim proved as tricky
as ever, several thought about abseiling it but it would have been just
as tricky. I helped Nicole down by standing under the pounding water and
grabbing her as she dropped down. We got down unscathed in the end. The
extra water certainly made it exciting.
Then it was on to the tunnel swim. Robin dived in and swam faster than
Thorpie, surely setting a new tunnel swim traverse record. The rest of
us with wetsuits leisurely swam and admired the chockstones above our
A few swims and jumps later and we were at the exit point by 3:15.
After getting out of the suits we headed up Rainbow Ravine and started
the climb up towards Camels Hump. Half way up we heard a clap of
thunder and instantly knew we'd be in for a wet walk out. Sure enough,
as he hit camels hump the rain came down and rolled in across the
valley. The good news was that the change kept the temperature and
humidity down and this was my most enjoyable Claustral walk out ever, as
I always seem to do it in 35-40deg heat.
I got an extra 3 leeches for my trouble coming up Rainbow Ravine, and
only one of the group avoided the little suckers.
I played the usual trick with the beginners, making them think we had
to go back down into the valley and back up again to the microwave
tower. There were many sighs of relief when the natural bridge magically
Back to the cars and a dry change of clothes by 5:30pm.
Around 9 hours all up car to car.
What an absolutely awesome day out, the combination of the extra water
and being there at the right time of day made all the difference. I
would say it was easily my most enjoyable canyoning trip to date.
Other Pics & Info:
These photo's are courtesy of Matt & Sonia :)
Part of the 1km canyon section after the falls (Note the two people in the photo for scale)
Awe-inspiring stuff indeed. Dave & Nicole.
Matt at the Ranon exit, just after the Black Hole..
on the first abseil into the "Black Hole of Calcutta"
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