Dave's Blue Mountains Canyoning Page - Empress Canyon


Empress Canyon (Valley of the Waters)

Empress is a great beginners canyon, and has pretty much everything you could want in a canyon, namely:
- short car drive, easy and short walks in and out, easy navigation, jumps, slides, scrambles, swims, nice constricted sections, and a great 30m waterfall asbeil.
No wonder it's one of the most popular, if not THE most popular commercial and beginners canyon.
A great canyon to do if you only have half a day to spare too, as it can be done in around 2-3 hours car to car, and it's the closest canyon to Sydney at Wentworth Falls.

The only downside is that it's popular, very popular. If you get the canyon to yourself then you are very lucky.
Go early to avoid the commercial groups, and if you do encounter them, pass them at all costs!
You will almost certainly have a bunch of tourists watching you do the abseil, as it ends in a pool right next to the very popular Valley of the Waters tourist track, where hundreds of tourists can walk daily.

There are two parts to the canyon, the upper part and the lower part. The upper part adds a great 4m jump, a tricky hand-over-hand, and a few scrambles and slides. Most people and commercial groups only do the lower section however.

Enter the upper part by parking off West St from the Great Western Highway, and follow the "Nature Track" past Edinborough Castle. You can also come in via the Nature Track from Conservation Hut. Once you come under a large overhanging cliff, look for a track leading down the gully, it's marked with an "8" on a post. Follow this track down into the creek. Suit up here. Unfortunately this track is now completely eroded away, and it's a sludge pit of mud and grass you have to wade through. There is some talk it will be closed soon to allow it to repair.
There are a few slides and some nice creek walking before you hit the good but very short canyon section. There is a 4m climb down a fixed rope into a pool, followed by a jump and some scrambles. The upper canyon section ends with an exciting compulsary 4m jump from a low ledge on the left into a large sandy pool. You have to crouch under the ledge to jump. You then walk out into Lillians Glen (signposted) where most people suit up and start the lower section.

The lower section has many tricky climbdowns and jumps, take care. Harness up where there is a large pile of fallen trees, it's more convienient here than at the end of the canyon which is very close. When you get to the waterfall, clip into a safety line. There is only safe room on the edge for 2 people, the others can stand back on the other side of the pool and wait their turn. The second last pool has a small slide and an optional big jump from a ledge on the left.
There are now new chains installed on both the left and right hand walls, put your rope through the center ring. A 60m (exact) static rope will JUST reach the bottom pool with some weight on it. If your rope isn't 60m at least you will not reach the pool. You can make the 30m abseil as easy or as hard as you like. The more you move to the right (out of the waterfall) the easier it gets. There are many ledges on the way down so it feels more like 3 x 10m abseils. You can also choose to move further left and go straight down the falls. You don't have to land in the pool, there are several points to end the abseil on the right. The new right hand side abseil is better and more exciting IMHO than the old left hand side, as it takes you directly in line with the water, and doesn't pull you out to the right as the left hand chains do.

You conveniently abseil right next to the Valley of The Waters tourist track, so it's a releatively simple and short climb back up the steps and ladders to conservation hut, about 15-20minutes.

Allow about 3 hours for the round trip. Shorter if you just do just the lower section.

If you are keen you can walk about 10min back to Lillians Glen and do the canyon again!

60m min rope, shorter if you are happy with a shorter abseil.. Dry bag. Safety lines. A short handline and some tape may come in handy

Here is the Garmin MapSource GPS Log file for the walk in from West St.


Nicole comming down the face of the lovely 30m Empress Falls at the very end of the canyon, using the bolts on the left of the photo (right hand canyon wall at the top). This is the new set of bolts, the other set brings you down furthe to the right, out of the water a bit.
The further you go to the right the easier the abseil gets.
It's a lot easier than it looks, it's a slope with many places to stop.
You don't have to land in the pool at the bottom, you can hop off at several other points on the right hand side on the way down, there is a tourist track right next to this.


Empress Trip Report - 21st Feb 04

Normally Empress Falls would not require a trip report, but this trip is worthy
of a mention.

Three of us started our just after 9:30am from Conservation Hut. Usually we go
in via the Nature walk circuit, but decided against it this time as we wanted to
stay out of the sun which was starting to get really hot. So we opted for the
Empress/National/Wentworth track instead. Two of us suited up at the carpark,
but left the top half hanging down.
As short as it was, the walk in seemed longer and a bit more exhasting (esp in
the heat) then our usual entry, but we stayed out of the glaring hot sun almost
all the way.
When we got to the overbridge we could hear a group already in the canyon below.

At Lillians Glen we had plenty of time left, so decided to continue along the
track to do the optional upper half of the canyon.
We dropped in off the track at the "8" marker down the famous eroded gully. The
gully was indeed eroded as always, and still a bit muddy in places.
The water was a god-send in the heat, and we happily did the slides and had no
hesitation getting in the water. The theme for the day was yabbies, they seemed
to be everywhere, big ones and baby ones.
The water was crystal clear and clean, and surprisingly, the most water I had
ever seen.

The upper half started with the slides down the rocks, then some nice creek
walking as the canyon closed in on us. Then we hit a 3-4m hand-over-hand down a
fixed rope with knots into a waist high pool. It is a shame there are rocks at
the bottom, as the jump here would have been most welcome.
Just around the corner was a short but tricky climb down into a deep pool, with
Nicole opting to do a short jump into the pool instead, hitting nothing but
Then it was around the corner to the 4m jump into the lovey sandy bottom pool.
Colin opted to do a big run and jump, with Nicoel and myself taking our usual
route of crawling to the small ledge on the left and taking the leap from there.
Colin checked out the bottom of the waterafll and determined that the rock did
in fact curve back under, so a slide down the water chute might just be
We also climbed back up rocks on the left and did several more jumps into the
pool, almost the same height as coming from the canyon.
We later found out from info maps back at Conservation Hut, that this pool is
known as Asmodeus pool.

The complete upper section was all over in a rather dissapointing 10-15 minutes
or so. But was worth it for the extra fun bits.

The traditional bottom half of the canyon was as fun as usual, with the extra
water level making for a refreshing trip. We could not feel any of the heat that
the tourists above us were feeling.

The first jump was great fun, if a little shallow, but we jumped out as far as
possible to the deeper bit and kept our legs up. Nicole landed on her back to
great amusement of all.
The next tricky climb down Colin and I avoided by taking the somewhat more
exciting option of bridging the slot with hands on the right wall and feet on
the left slab. Walking our way along the wall and then jumping off the nose of
the rock on the left.
Nicole, being somewhat vertically challenged, chose to slide down the slab on
the left into the deep but small slot under the waterfall.
The next big jump off the nose of the rock into the deep and narrow slot is one
of the highlights of the canyon. We all jumped and then climbed back up under
the chockstone we jumped from, through the waterfall and jumped again - great
At the end of this pool someone has placed a 3-4m long fallen metal hand rail
across the pool on the left. Presumably to give the customers some extra
"tightrope walking" fun.

Before we knew it the canyon was over, it seems to get shorter and shorter every

We did the obligatory slide down the water chute into the 2nd last pool. Colin
also climbed up on the left to do the big 3-4m jump into the same pool.

At the abseil we ran into another group who were abseiling on the left chains.
They had no wetsuits, no helmets, no gloves, being led by an Amercian guy who
wanted to know how big the drop was as his rope looked like it didn't reach. It
reached as a single for the others, but he had to cut the abseil short short
going down on the double.
He had the most unusual abseiling technique we have ever seen. His harness
consisted of one end of the rope tied around his waist several times, with the
rest of the rope going through the ring on the chains. He then used a carabiner
with an Italian Hitch and let the rest of the rope slide through his hand to
control the descent. This resulted in the rope continually being pulled under
tension over the edge of the rock as he descended.
Not being short of time, we let them go down and then rigged on the right hand

We got down the drop ok, with the edge being rather tricky as usual. I was the
last one down and was slightly terified as I watched the rope scuffing itself
over the very sharp edge. This edge could easily badly damage or even snap a
rope under extreme conditions, and I don't think I'll be doing this drop again,
I'll use the right hand chains next time. I don't remember it being this sharp
last time, recent damage to the rock perhaps?

As I was just about to abseil, another group turned up behind us with a large
pink 11mm rope. They proudly proclaimed it was brand new and just cut off the
reel this morning.
When I climbed out of the bottom pool I noticed that the water was starting to
foam up. The entire pool turned foaming white! This subsequently flowed down the
creek as well.
The foam had the consistency of some sort of soap, and our suspicions were
confirmed when the other group got down and said it was most likely the dry
treatment on their new 11mm pink rope wearing off!
It couldn't have been anything else really. When the rope was removed from the
waterfall, the foam slowly dissipated.
In the mean time another group of two came down in parallel on the left hand

A few big jumps into the pool later we were out of there and back to
Conservation Hut just after midday for a refreshing Sorbet.

A great half days fun, and we never tire of doing Empress. It's short, has has
everything a good canyon should have.

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