Falls Creek

14th January 2022

v5a5IV***

Hollyford River / Whakatipu Kā Tuka Valley,

Fiordland National Park

 

Descent with Paul du Temple, Rachel Jones, Patrick Timm, and Strahn Neill.

Slightly hesitantly, we set off for a descent of Falls Creek, knowing it was by far the highest grade and most intimidating canyon for me so far. As we started the walk in up the Falls Creek Route, we passed the pool of the final waterfall. Straight off the bat, the seriousness of this canyon was apparent. The overhanging slippery edges surrounding that pool mean that if you end up in the water, the only way out is the pour-over and down a very bumpy slide. After an hour or so of further walking, we entered the stream bed and followed the innocuous flow downstream for about ten minutes along easy ground.

Suddenly, the stream tips over an edge and plunges 80m into the depths of the canyon. Beside the flow is a two-pitch abseil, with a hanging re-belay about 55m above the pool. We’d read the guidebook and brought dive masks to wear for the descent, allowing us to vaguely see through the intense spray, and swim out through the significant waves at the bottom. What a way to begin a canyon.

Continuing through the canyon, we squeezed, clambered, and abseiled through many boulders, before once again the flow vanished, this time into “The Black Hole”. From the anchor, the bottom can’t be seen, and nor can any light. You enter into the unknown, descending into darkness slowly enough to let your eyes adjust, but quickly enough to get avoid being pummelled by the flow for too long.

After following the light at the end of the tunnel a few more pitches brought us to the inescapable pool we’d seen on the walk in. The rock was as slippery as it looked from below, but we all managed to sidle around the bottom without falling in.

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Rachel descending the lower pitch of the initial 80m waterfall, with the flow of the river thundering down beside her

360° photo taken from the re-belay, 25m down the 80m waterfall

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Beyond the first waterfall the canyon opens up slightly

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Paul shuffles his way through a gap between boulders

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

For most of the descent, the canyon is enclosed between very high, steep walls

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Further in, the full flow tips into “The Black Hole”

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Patrick descends into the darkness and spray of “The Black Hole”

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Rachel and Strahn celebrate in the light at the end of the tunnel

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

Near the end, the canyon appears to mellow, but there are still dangerous pour-overs to be aware of

Falls Creek 14th January 2022

The final abseil takes you down to a beautiful, yet inescapable, blue pool

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