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Raps:3-6, max ↨98ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Oct-May, BEST Nov-March
A high quality canyon with everything. Close to Leura this canyon includes two abseils of 26 & 30 metres on approach and a single abseil of ~15 metres in canyon actual. Navigation in the canyon is straightforward with many scrambles, jumps (optional), swims and even a small cave along the length of the canyon. The canyon has several opportunities for impressive photographs. The exit involves three small rock climbs (Ewbank grade 16, 12, 19) of which the 3rd one usually has a hand-line to assist the climber. Lead rock climbing and belay skills are required. Take 5 quickdraws.
- Straightforward access from Leura along Mt Hay Road (dirt road - usually does not require 4WD).
- Park at approx -33.66932, 150.34927 (area was blocked off in Oct 2023, some spots on the road)
- There's a park gate near -33.640, 150.347. If it's closed, this adds ~4km to your walk (~2km each way)
- Check Mount Hay Road for closures/current road conditions
- Walk north on an old closed fire trail until -33.6655, 150.3473
- Branch right / north-east onto a footpad (flagged with pink tape in 2020)
- Please do not use the previous canyon entry point from the end of the firetrail that proceeds through a sensitive wetland
- Follow the small path along the ridge in a northerly direction. When the ridge drops off more sharply, descend westward down a poorly pronounced ridge.
- Find the first anchor at about -33.6589, 150.3467
- Canyon entry involves two sequential dry abseils of approximately 26m and 30m each (abseil 1 and 2) down the canyon cliff-line
- Anchor 1 is a rope sling around a rock bollard
- Anchor 2 is bolts on cliff wall
- After abseil 2, walk northwards down slope towards creek. Wetsuits can be donned near here
- Abseil 3 is the start of the canyon and is approximately 20m in height (from highest anchor to creek floor when the bowl is not full)
- Abseil 3 anchor slings exist on River Right, River Left and River Centre (inside a small boulder cave) (in flow)
- River right - sling on horizontal board. Approx 10m. Proceed through pothole and out window on side
- River left - sling on tree. Approx 15m
- River centre - sling on boulder. Approx 10m. Starts in small boulder cave. In flow. Objectively hazardous and requires experience in navigating in low light and turbulent waterfall water that limits visibility.
- The canyon dynamics at the bottom of the 3rd abseil can change significantly. In low water conditions you will land on creek-bed. In high water (after significant rain event) you will finish in up to 5m of water.
- In high water conditions abseil 3 can be jumped from the window in the rock on the river right line. First person must check depth.
- The river centre line contains a large pothole with side window opening into the creek. This window can be submerged in high water conditions. If you land in this pothole in high water conditions you may need to extract yourself from the pot (while water crashes down on you) or be prepared to swim underwater through the window
- In very high water conditions the pool at the bottom of abseil 3 can be aerated (providing low buoyancy) and strong current
- The river centre line on abseil 3 also contains smaller "squeeze" pothole + window that connects on the river left of the larger pothole + window. This smaller "squeeze" pothole can be very difficult to see. This pothole/shoot is small. Avoid - high risk of getting get stuck and potentially drowning.
- Two near-miss incidents have occurred in river centre line of abseil 3 in recent history. Do not underestimate it.
- Proceed down canyon for 500m negotiating scrambles, jumps (optional) and swims
- Optional jumps are down-climbable in low flow conditions but bolts are present for high flow conditions
- Check water depth before attempting any jumps due to submerged hazards
- The exit is to the right on approaching Arethusa Falls, up the spur that divides Arethusa from the river entering right (Alpheus Canyon)
- Proceeding down Arethusa Falls will result in a very very long walk out through the Grose Valley. Exit via Rodriguez Pass walking track up past Beauchamp falls to Evans Lookout
- Bolt plates are not required. All bolts are eye bolts or hangers. The remaining carrot bolt on pitch 1 is used as a foothold.
- Depending on party size the exit route can take a few hours (approx 3 hours)
- Exit route involves 3 small rock climbs of about 20m (meandering), 20m (meandering) and 6m, followed by 3 hand-over-hand scrambles/climbs
- Rock climbing pitches have a Ewbank grade of 16, 12, 19.
- The rock climbing routes are closely bolted
- Sometimes hand lines are present on parts of these climbs to assist inexperienced climbers but do NOT rely on this. Lead climbing skills are mandatory.
- Participants should still be belayed for safety
- Rock climbing shoes are not required
- No more than 5 quickdraws are required per pitch
- The hand over hand scrambles/climbs are rigged with ropes to assist canyoners.
Standard exit (dry)
- Find the first pitch on the spur between Arethusa and Alpheus
- The first pitch can be divided into two short pitches at a ledge. This can aid pack hauling and party speed.
- From the tree at the top of the first pitch, follow the path up to the cliff face and to the right
- The second pitch goes up about 5m then traverses left along a ledge traverse
- From the tree at the top of the second pitch, follow the path left as it traverses under the cliff and around the corner towards Alpheus canyon
- The third pitch of about 6m is on the right and climbs up to a ledge. Alternatively you can avoid this climb by taking the Alphius canyon exit variation. See notes below.
- After the third pitch, follow the traverse line along the ledge, then find the first handline to scramble up a 10 metre slippery gully
- After the gully walk up to the next cliffline, then proceed left, following the cliffline.
- Find the second handline, to climb a short vertical face approximately 2.5 meters tall.
- Proceed up to the next cliff-line and proceed right along the cliff-line till you find a third hand-line for a small 4 meter climb. Walk left for about 10 meters as it ramps up to the cliff-line.
- Proceed right and up to the ridge.
- Enjoy the view. Walk up the ridge to pick up the entry trail.
Alpheus canyon reverse variation (wet)
This variation allows you to experience the notable portion of Alpheus canyon. It contains a number of beautiful pools of which only the first is a required swim.
- Follow the standard exit track notes until the base of the third rock climbing pitch
- From the base of the third rock climbing pitch proceed to walk up Alpheus canyon for a couple meters towards a small deep pool
- Swim across the pool towards the river left (right if looking upstream) where a log can be used to climb up between two boulders
- Proceed approximately 10 meters to a handline assisted climb on the river right (left if looking upstream)
- The hand over hand climb is split into two parts by a small ledge. The second half has a couple of bolts to assist the climb.
- After the hand over hand climb head along the river right approximately 30 meters to edge of a large deep pool with a ~6m waterfall
- This waterfall is the first waterfall in Alpheus canyon and has a handline for descent. It is known to be slippery and it is not advised to climb it.
- Cross the creek to the river left between two large boulders with a crack between them
- A small scramble on the river left will bring you to the ledge at the top of the third rock climbing pitch mentioned in the standard exit
- Walk downstream on the river left along the ledge bypassing everything you’ve just traveled up, until you hit the first handline scramble up a 10 meter slippery gully described in the standard exit
- From here follow the standard exit track notes to finish the exit
Trip reports and media
- The Fat Canyoners - Arethusa: visiting a new canyon in the New Year 22 January 2018
- The Fat Canyoners - Arethusa and Alpheus Canyons 18 March 2013
- OZ Ultimate - Arethusa Canyon 19 September 2003
- Sleep When We Are Dead - Arethusa 26 February 2017
- Vimeo - Arethusa Canyon 25 February 2017
- YouTube - Arethusa Canyon - 09 Jan 2022
- YouTube - Arethusa Canyon in the rain
- YouTube.com : Richard Pattison, Arethusa Canyon movie