On Naming, and the Unfortunate Case of Upper Bowens Creek South Fork Canyon

Naming is important. We are offended when we hear stories of parents naming their children “Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii”, precisely because it breaks the sacredness of naming. We wish to leave our own names on things – whether stars or hills or insects. Early European explorers in Australia were seemingly overcome with the sheer number of places to be named in their language, leaving us with places named after themselves, landmarks that affected their journey (Mount Disappointment, Mount Warning, Foul Bay) or even just names that scrape the bottom of the barrel for description (Big Bay, Big Creek, Big Swamp, Big Ridge…). And of course we now discuss the significance of the adoption of original indigenous names for geographical landmarks in favour of their colonial ones.

There is an impulse to name everything, in order to ease reference to it. Thus, it is not good enough when rafting to simply say that you rafted Cataract Gorge in Tasmania, without being able to describe how you found individual rapids, including the Toaster, the Sandwich Press, and the Arse-Raper. Similarly, canyoning in in the Blue Mountains is too vague to give an indication of your experience, so we talk about the specific routes that are taken.

As such, it is disappointing to experience a place with a decidedly boring name. Such was the case for the second day of the Blue Mountains Extravagaza*, when – after our canyoning the previous day had been cancelled by the forecast of thunderstorms – we got ourselves ready to descend into the mighty…

Upper Bowens Creek, South Fork.

Our trip was led by Richard, famous for† his perpetually youthful appearance. (His actual age remains a mystery, and he has moved quite seamlessly between the Melbourne Mountaineering Club and our own Australian National University Mountaineering Club without apparently ageing a day. Some say that he cannot age, and that he has been in outdoor clubs since the beginning of time…)

In spite of the poor name of the canyon, it was a wonderful trip. There was an easy walk in along a foot pad between flowers (particularly the glorious Lambertia formosa, or Mountain Devil), a steep scramble down to the water, and then we donned wetsuits for the trip.

Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa)

Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa)

Half-way down the first abseil I locked off to take photos of those following me, though I soon decided that I was too bombarded by the waterfall for my very-not-waterproof camera to be pleased with. We pushed on, another group close behind, and chatted with them for a short while while we hand-lined down a small waterfall. Another abseil led into a more enclosed area, and then finally we reached the main abseil.

Richard, half way through this abseil, told me to come down next, and I soon discovered why. It was a wonderful enclosed chamber, and I did not hesitate to take dozens of photos and some video footage as well.

After this main abseil, we explored a short distance up Corkscrew Junction. Then, following Bowens Creek again, the path opened out into a coachwood forest. We followed the trail down to the second enclosed canyoning area, although this time there were no abseils, as Richard managed to find ways to scramble down through cave-like openings in the rocks. Brilliantly, the canyon was finished with a log slide/shuffle, at the end of which most of us ungraciously swung ourselves into the water.

This log was the beginning of the end of our section, and after changing out of wetsuits and lunching in the shade we departed.

Our only regret? That when describing our beautiful canyon, we had to call it the South Fork Canyon of Upper Bowens Creek. Naming is important!

Corkscrew Canyon, Upper Bowens South

* The Blue Mountains Extravaganza (BME) is the long-weekend adventure of the ANU Mountaineering Club (for a longer description, read Nick’s post). I spent the Saturday abseiling down Malaita Wall and sliding down Empress Canyon, the Sunday canyoning on the trip described above, and the Monday climbing at the Dam Cliffs.

†The phrase “- was famous for -” was first used by Muriel Spark in her novella The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

For another perspective on this same trip, check out Nick’s description.

For more photos, see my Flickr album.

My video of the trip:

The Fat Canyoners have also recently written about Corkscrew Canyon!

One thought on “On Naming, and the Unfortunate Case of Upper Bowens Creek South Fork Canyon

  1. Pingback: Trusting Your Life to a Carrot | words and wilds

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