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Exploring Dalpura Canyon

Colin
August 27, 2015

It has been some time since I had been rappelling (or climbing for that matter) and I was in need of a refresher course when it came to gear and rigging.

So after a couple of back and forths with my good friend Zacc Larkin, we decided to head up to the Blue Mountains for a day of all things ropes, rigging and rappelling. Zacc is a master climber and fantastic outdoorsman, so I knew I was in for a good day out in the woods.

The plan was to head up to one of Zacc’s go-to climbing spots in the morning for a warm up, and then down to Dalpura Canyon for a bout of canyoning.

But, weather gods can be fickle and down right annoying sometimes. We had hoped for a sunny beautiful day, but instead the weather forecast called for a torrential downpour.

Because water travels in the path of least resistance, the bottom of a slot canyon it not where you want to be if there’s rain falling. It doesn’t take a lot of precipitation to turn those pools of calm clear water into raging torrents carrying trees and boulders through the tight canyon.

When Zacc picked me up in the morning it was raining, not hard but there was rain falling. After a short discussion we decided to drive up to the mountains and play it by ear, the worst case being a rain hike.

As we gained altitude the rain subsided and we even saw a bit of blue sky out to the west. The updated plan was to knock the canyon out first and climb after, which also meant I was taking the accelerated ropes, rigging and rappelling course.

As we descended into the Grose Valley we bushwhacked our way down to the beginning of the canyon.

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As we worked our way down the gorge, it wasn’t long until we found water, and in an effort to delay getting wet as long as possible, we walked along the walls of the gorge looking for a place to abseil down.

There’s a rule of thumb among climbers in the Blue Mountains, and that rule is you can rappel off anything bigger than your thumb. Lucky for me Zacc doesn’t adhere to that rule, otherwise we would have been tying off to some pretty sketchy trees.

Not finding a way to around, we backtracked — it was time to get wet.

Not being totally prepared for the amount of water we were going to encounter, I had worn some heavy duty boots, the kind if they filled with water would weigh 20-pounds. So before we set off Zacc kindly offered me an old pair of his “all terrain off road canyoning shoes.” They’d seen better days but with some roadside repairs, they survived the day.

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The landscapes around us were extremely varied; sometimes we were bushwhacking through thick brush, but around the next corner there would be a forest of gum trees that led into swimming and wading through tight streams and ponds.

It wasn’t long until we reached the entrance to the canyon, which from above, just looked like a hole in the ground. Zacc rigged a rope around a fallen tree, which was already covered in slings, and let me rappel down first. 

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After we landed in a pool of very cold water we headed down the canyon, which was covered in bright green moss and thriving with plant life.

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After about an hour of walking we reached the exit of the canyon. Cold, and drained we stopped to shed our wetsuits, wash out our shoes and take on some food. As we unpacked the dry bag we made a terrible discovery, somewhere along the way we’d nicked the bag, and it had been taking on water the entire time. The hole was close to the bottom, and guess whose clothes were at the bottom of the bag.

Luckily, to dry off we had a big hike out of the canyon. It was a bit of a sufferefest as we gained mass amounts of altitude in a very short period of time, which ended in a short scuffle up the side of a pagoda.

From there it was an easy hike up an old 4×4 track back to up the highway, and eventually to the car.

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Tired and hungry, the torrenting rain that’d been threatening all day started to fall just as we reached the car. We quickly packed up our gear and headed off to grab some well earned greasy food.

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Shot of the Day

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Gear:

This was my first experience with a waterproof housing. Not owning one myself I hired the Aquatech housing from a local camera gear supplier. It worked flawlessly though it was still nerve wracking submerging my camera, and it took two of us to unscrew the lens port from the housing because I’d made it so tight.

It’s also profoundly difficult to change camera settings on the fly, especially not being accustomed to using the housing controls.

For those that have never been in a slot canyon before, they’re dark (very dark), which made things somewhat difficult. Zacc was moving quickly, so I was tip toeing the line of how slow a shutter speed I could use without experiencing and motion blur. The lack of light also required and EXTREMELY high ISO.

This particular shot was captured at f/4, 1/160th, and anISO of 12,800. I had never shot with such a high ISO before and was a little scared to see the results. And just as I feared, when the photo popped up in Lightroom the noise was terrible.

After some basic corrections and noise reduction in Lightroom, I moved the photo into Photoshop. Here I did some more advanced noise reduction via the red, blue and green color channels. The result looked great considering where it started, but it was a little soft. I’ve never been a big fan of Photoshop’s sharpening tool, so instead I opted to use a High Pass Filter.

I duplicated the layer, changed the blending mode to overlay and popped a High Pass Filter over the top set to 4.8px. This brought back enough detail without adding more unwanted noise.

For more photos from the trip check out the gallery below, and make sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

[envira-gallery id=”1566″]

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