What is Canyoning
The simplest definition of canyoning is descending a watercourse using a number of different skills.
The sport of canyoning requires a team approach to safely descend these amazing locations and there are few better feelings than completing a descent efficiently and safely with a dynamic team of likeminded people. In some cases, you will be one of a small number of people who has even ventured into some of these environments and seen the world from a unique perspective.
Types of Canyon
There are a large variety of canyons across the world. High vertical with large, steep descents. Dry canyons formed by ancient rivers. Aquatic canyons with high volumes of water and challenging hydraulics. Some are deep slot canyons while others are big open bowls. They all have unique features and challenges requiring different skill sets that will be covered below.
Rappeling / Abseiling
Abseiling is the controlled descent of a rope using an appropriate descending device (Descender). However, other rigging skills are also necessary to get a group of canyoneers down safely. The ability to rig systems to avoid obstacles, mitigate rope abrasion and remotely aid team members are a fundamental skill. Rescue techniques involving ascension, or the use of rescue lines is also desirable.
A unique feature of canyoning is that abseiling is often carried out in the flow of a waterfall. The challenges of abseiling a waterfall are completely different to dry abseils. Becoming inverted or trapping a foot in a waterfall is completely different to being on a crag, so the skills and processes can be alien to a pure mountaineer
For many, jumping into pools is the biggest adrenaline rush on a trip. Arguably, jumping also poses the biggest risk of injury, so a correct jumping technique is vital along with a pool inspection to ensure that there are no hidden dangers. Therefore, another required skill is the ability to free dive, so a team member can descend by abseil to inspect the pool.
The power of erosion can form some of the best water slides in the world. As water is channelled on some of the softer rocks long smooth flumes can form. So lie back and enjoy the ride (as long as someone’s checked the pool!)
In some cases, there may be no suitable anchors to set an abseil, so down climbing may be required. Interestingly, it can be more challenging than climbing upwards due to the fact it’s difficult to spot the footholds below. Again, the team approach can help, and less confident climbers can be belayed and afforded some protection.
Sometimes, there’s a large pool to cross, especially at the bottom of a large waterfall. Slot canyons often have narrow deep channels that require swimming.
Most canyons have a number of features (e.g., waterfalls) that are connected by flatter sections that require to be walked. These are an integral part of canyoning. These provide their own unique challenges. Avalanche debris, or scree fields can make this environment challenging. It can also be where team management is especially important, a loss of focus in these sections can result in a sprain that quickly makes the trip a rescue mission.
These skills allow us to go safely into an environment few others experience. In a canyon, you may not be far off the beaten track but you’re in a completely different world to the people who have walked up to admire the view from a footpath.
A flowing trip down a canyon is an awesome experience but it is also important to stop and admire the environment we have the privilege to experience.