Ever wondered what it’s like to go canyoning in the Blue Mountains?

Andrew Mevissen and his mate delve deep and go abseiling in the Blue Mountains for a canyoning adventure before living it up at a five-star resort.

There’s only one thing I can sense above the pounding roar of the icy-cold, 30-metre-high waterfall I’m poised to abseil down and that’s the relentless, pounding beat of my heart. Donned in a wetsuit and perched precariously on the cliff edge, I’m told to lean back over the vertiginous void and start my hair-raising descent into the watery oblivion.

canyoning in the Blue Mountains
Empress Falls Abseil © Dale Martin

Leap of faith

Before I allow my feet to take the leap of faith and move them from the horizontal to the vertical, I pause, frozen in fear. I do battle with the rattled demons in my head screaming for me to abandon the white-knuckle exercise and retreat to my comfort zone up top. I look to my mate for reassurance, and he nods with encouragement.

It’s terrifying but exhilarating at the same time, I ride a rollercoaster of emotions. But it’s the excitement I go with. Heeding my thumping heart and not my timid thoughts. Adrenalin flows faster through my body than the thundering water spewing over the cliff into the inky pool in a chasm far below.

Shaking off my fears, I step back and start the plunge through the middle of the waterfall. Torrents of water pummel me from all angles. In the hands of an expert guide up top supporting my descent, I accept I’m completely safe and relish the spine-tingling thrill of it all. Then I inch down the face of the falls, eventually resting in the rainforest pool at the bottom. I did it! I feel invigorated, elated – so alive – and I want to do it all again!

Secret canyons and secluded gorges

I’m in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney at Empress Falls. The climax of a full-day canyoning and abseiling escapade offered by the award-winning and long-established Blue Mountains Adventure Company.

The dramatic, sandstone scenery of the Blue Mountains is spectacular but if you want to do more than take the obligatory selfie at the Three Sisters, then get off the beaten tourist trail and head to the secret canyons that snake their way across the mountains.

Carved over millions of years by relentless, running water, these secluded, twisting gorges, filled with lush rainforest and pretty pools, are special places of sublime, pristine beauty – and adventure.

Canyoning with Blue Mountains Adventure Company
Canyoning with Blue Mountains Adventure Company © Ken Anderson

Who can go canyoning in the Blue Mountains

You don’t have to be a seasoned canyoner to explore these hidden, mystique-filled water passages.

The day trip my mate and I join is tailored for beginners, beginning with a morning learning the fundamentals of abseiling. Confidence increases as we master the art of abseiling down cliff faces from three to 30 metres and with those skills in the bag, we head off to Empress Falls for the main event, beginning with a walk down to the verdant, cliff-lined gorge and then, in wetsuits, heading off-track to be enveloped by the lush darkened, other-worldly setting of the canyon, following our guide.

To the soothing soundtrack of birds, the breeze and the bubbling brook, and with sunlight struggling to reach the nether depths of the canyon, we clamber over rocks, jump into fern-lined pools and wade through the chilly stream before reaching the climactic abseil down mighty Empress Falls and my inevitable encounter with the limits of my comfort zone. But having mastered the drop over the falls, I realised that plunging out of your comfort zone – often literally – is far more than an adrenaline buzz. Doing things that scare us is vital for mental and emotional resilience and can help us navigate other challenges we face in life.

Secret canyons and secluded gorges © Lauren Storaker

Three celebratory cheers

At the foot of Empress Falls, admiring our accomplishment, my mate and I high-five fellow participants before trekking out of the gorge and back to the Katoomba headquarters of the Blue Mountains Adventure Company.

Fortuitously or perhaps intentionally located nearby are the alluringly refreshing ales crafted by the Mountain Culture Brewery and it’s here that we toast our canyoning triumphs before checking into the Echoes Boutique Hotel just around the corner from the Three Sisters in Katoomba.

Echoes Boutique Hotel luxury Blue Mountain retreat

Nestled on the very edge of Jamison Valley, the plush, subdued and rarefied elegance of Echoes Hotel proved the perfect, calming antidote for our day of outdoor adventure.

The hotel has just 14 rooms – each with breathtaking views – and the first thing my mate and I experience when we open our room’s door to the garden terrace overlooking the beautiful valley is the complete silence of the location. In a world full of noise, busyness and distraction, the overwhelming stillness is a soothing balm for the soul. We rest on the steps and breathe it in.

After a restful sleep, we feast on a hearty breakfast next morning at Echoes’ own hatted restaurant with stunning mountain views complementing our coffee. The beauty of staying at tranquil Echoes is that you can use all the facilities at the much bigger sister property, Lilianfels Resort, right next door. And that’s exactly what we do, working out in the gym, swimming in the luxurious resort’s gorgeous indoor and outdoor pools, and basking in the sauna and muscle-easing jacuzzi. It’s exactly what we needed after the high adventure of the day before.

Before we leave the mountains, we take the short stroll from Echoes Hotel to the Three Sisters Lookout and glance into the valley with a sense of quiet achievement that we developed deep into magical, out-of-sight canyons far below where everyday tourists don’t tread. Personally, we also dug deep. And came out on top.

Cost: Empress Falls Canyon and Abseiling daytrip is$295 including lunch and all equipment Blue Mountains Adventure Company, Katoomba.

Echoes Boutique Hotel, Katoomba: deluxe-view rooms from $429 per night.

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