This was a canyon within a canyon, a narrow slot that knifed its way through solid basalt walls and plunged over multiple waterfalls. The river is then ejected out of the end of this section to plummet over the final 80m (265ft) drop to the valley floor. We dubbed this the Inner Sanctum. I did a Google search to see how they defined "Inner Sanctum", these are some of the descriptions.
- · A sanctum is a holy place inside a temple or sacred place. If you refer to someone's inner sanctum, you mean a place which is private and sometimes secret, in which they can be quiet and alone.
- · It's the deepest, safest place one could be. Your inner sanctum is your safe place.
- · It just means..The inside of something. "Sanctum" I believe is Latin for Sanctuary which is really a place of solitude and safety which can apply to many inanimate objects.
It seems that we picked an apt title for such a place, although a lot of people would not consider it "safe".
|Inner Sanctum Falls|
It began at 'Inner Sanctum Falls' At the top of this photo you can make out a person peeking around the edge of the rock. This is Steve, he is at the top of the Inner Sanctum where the mini canyon starts. Then Andy is halfway down the photo and Kevin at the bottom. I am standing at the top of the next waterfall as I shoot this photo. This was a very dry year and the water was very low. It was mildly challenging in places but mostly just a lot of fun. However, the unknown around the corner was always a concern to me as trip leader. You see, there are no guidebooks here, no photos, or videos of past trips. There were no past trips. No-one had ever seen what we were seeing. I know that for certain because without placing bolts in strategic places along the way there was no way through here.
After taking the photo I step to the right and descend the next waterfall, around the next corner.
After detaching from the rope I swim along the canyon a short distance and look back to see Kevin reach the bottom. The sunlight is streaming down the narrow crack illuminating our path, and casting eerie shadows on the walls. It isn't until later when I get my photos developed (yes this was long before digital cameras) that I see the guardians of the canyon on the walls. Do you see the lion on the left side and the eagle on the right? It is as if the king of the beasts and the king of the birds are guarding the entrance to the last section of the Inner Sanctum. I name this one Guardian Falls.
There are many small drops in this section, some are easy jumps, others more of a squeeze. Finally we hear that familiar roar that we know is Lower Falls. It is a tricky escape from the rivers clutches as we tie onto a line and scramble up onto the edge of the falls.
|The approach to Lower Falls|
We actually spent the night very close to the spot in the photo above one year. We did not plan to stay here, we just ran out of daylight. We had no choice but to bolt ourselves to the wall and hung in our harnesses just out of reach of the water. The top of the 30m waterfall was just a couple of feet from where I slept. There were only three of us that year, and it was a magical experience. There was a full moon that night and it lit up the canyon like a spotlight. It was surreal, something I will never forget.
|The edge of Lower Falls.|
Once we are of danger and on dry ground again we tie to a line and scramble around to the left side of the river where there are some good solid trees in order to descend the last pitch. The last drop down Lower Falls is spectacular. It is about 80m (265ft) drop to the pool below, we have just been through a very difficult challenging section of river and is the culmination of 7 yrs of persistence. I lay back on my way down and soak up the warm sun on my back. It is great to be out in the sunlight again.
The dark area right above where the water comes out is the bottom end of the Inner Sanctum. As you can see, you have to watch your step as you come around that corner or you could quite easily be swept to your death over the edge. Lower Falls is split by a protruding rock near the top and thunders down into a gorge that is much wider from here on. The cliff behind the waterfall rises another 200m (660ft) to the rim of the canyon far above. We came down that way one trip in order to get a good look at the top of the waterfall and determine if there were any possible anchors we could use here.
After reaching the valley floor again, it was just a few more miles walk to the car and home again. We had finally done it! We were a part of the canyons life for such a short time, but it will always be part of my life. Experiences like that are priceless.