What is Canyoneering?

So, what is canyoneering anyway?  Technical canyoneering is the activity of exploring canyons typically by following a watercourse that is responsible for creating the canyons in the first place through canyon carving.  Watersheds channel hydraulic energy that travels  its from high point to low point creating a channel/canyon/slot canyon through the given landscape. 

These watercourses can be flowing, or dry and only flowing during rains or snowmelt.  Unique challenges are present in these canyons that are divided into three types, dry, water in the canyon sans current, water flowing in the canyon.  These canyons are rated A, B or C respectably based on this criteria.  It is typical in class A canyons to find rappels as the primary issue, having to create potentially complex natural anchors to connect your ropes to as to descend these canyons. 

Class B canyons can host what we call “keeper potholes.”  These features can be daunting, as in technical canyons you are typically so deep into the earth that retreat and escape is impossible.  With the only way out to continue onward, these keeper holes can literally stop you in your tracks.  Imagine a swimming pool without a ladder or any features that is water polished.  Imagine the pool has no shallow end and is 20 feet deep with vertical walls, the water is drained out so that the water level is 8 feet below the top of the pool.  With no way around this, how do you get across it?  The answer is some complex problem solving, tossing bags of sand over the opposite lip to produce a counterweight, taping a climbing hook to a tentpole, whatever the solution you must be prepared ahead of time with what you may need, most important of all knowledge, as going back is not a option most of the time. 

Class C canyons have current and moving water, rappels down waterfalls, and all of the hazards that come through operating near swift water.  Rigging systems are typically releasable, allowing the canyoneer on rappel to be quickly lowered by the system if drowning on rope etc.

These factors are not limited within one rating or class of canyon.  You can find any of these hazards, for the most part anywhere, and this text is a generalization to provide a basic overview of what canyoneering is.  Descending canyons is exploration in its most true form, and requires many skill sets and ability to adapt to keep yourself safe.

Over the years many training groups have offered short courses to students, and it seems that people have felt these classes adequate substitution for years of mentorship and experience.  You cannot learn how to do these activities safely in three days, or in any quick way for that matter.  Please take time to build actual experience, and be safe, protect the land, and have fun.

About CenterFocus

CenterFocus is an adventure guide company located in Sedona, Arizona that specializes in custom, high adventure sports such as canyoneering, rock climbing, and backpacking. View all posts by CenterFocus

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