Blue Mountains canyons were once rarely visited, pristine places, but social media has helped change all that by broadcasting hidden places to the wider public.
Long-time canyoners are reporting damaged trees, discarded toilet paper and people’s ablutions out in the open for people to tread in.
In a bid to better look after the canyons and help foster safe and responsible canyoning, a group of committed canyoners has established the NSW Canyoning Association.
President Julie Burton from Bathurst said there was a huge number of people accessing canyons who were unaware of “bush etiquette” and were ill-prepared.
“We’re seeing people who might have gone on one guided canyon trip and think they can do it themselves so they buy a rope and harness and follow a well-trodden track to get into the canyon, but often it’s not easy to get out. Without certain skills and knowledge to recognise the way through the bush they might miss the way out and get lost,” Ms Burton said.
“Twenty-four years ago when I started canyoning you would see 100 people a year. Now canyons are getting thousands of people through them. They’re getting trampled to death.”
Ms Burton frequently visits canyons in the Blue Mountains and says she’s seen trees pulled out and damaged from people using incorrect anchoring techniques, discarded toilet paper and people “leaving their business for people to step in”.
At Wollangambe canyon near Mt Wilson people will drift through the canyon on a floating device and leave it behind because it’s “too heavy to carry out up the hill.”
She hopes the association’s website will become a one-stop-shop for information on safe and responsible canyoning, be a voice for the canyoning community, and provide access for members to recommended canyoning practices and links to international canyoning associations.
Ms Burton is also the moderator of the OzCanyons Facebook page which has more than 2000 members.
The association is affiliated with Bushwalking NSW, and was able to get off the ground with a $2000 donation from Bendigo Bank, Katoomba.
There are a number of canyoning associations around the world, but up until recently Australia was not among these. In Australia climbers have an association, as do cavers, but not canyoners.
The association also plans to hold a canyoning festival in Blackheath in February 2019, where information on safe canyoning will be made available along with access to canyoning training resources.
Information about the NSW Canyoning Association can be found at: http://nswcanyoning.org.au/.