Ok so technical canyoneering interests you but you have never
enjoyed a canyoneering route. Where do I start may be a question
you ask yourself.
As a first choice:
I highly recommend going with
someone experienced. You can gain knowledge of the basic skills,
but also pick up some finer points. An experienced canyoneer can
also introduce you to others who may become future partners.
Canyoneering is a group sport with a growing community involving
people from all over. Canyoning with various people can introduced
you to multiple styles and provide opportunities to learn varied
skills. You can also enjoy the friendship while being introduced to
some of the unspoken ethics and common courtesies.
As a second
If you do not know an experienced canyoneer, you can try
looking at various online canyoning communities. There are
meet up groups and canyoneering specific online communities. If you
don’t already know someone personally, these online communities are
a great way to meet someone. Join one, let them know you are new
and hope to find someone who can show you the ropes. The
canyoneering community can be very welcoming.
As a third choice:
can try taking a course to get the required skills. While a course
can offer you skills, it is in my opinion not as beneficial as
tagging along with someone experienced. Courses can be expensive.
When you are done with the course you are on your own and few
people remember all the finer points of what they were taught in one
course. People who learn first from a course can sometimes be
hesitant to later consider skills or methods that differ from what
they were taught.
Keep in mind courses can be VERY valuable. But
you will likely get the most benefit after you have gained a little
personal experience. Then you will be able to mentally absorb more
of what was taught and have an understanding that what you learn is
only one of many possible methods. You may also be shown things
that your experienced friends haven’t shown you yet.
As a fourth
choice – not recommended:
Books, web sites and other sources can
offer how to tips, route information and more. As informative as
these sources may seem, they will likely fall short of fully
preparing you for your journey. Nothing compares to person to
person learning in this sport. This is a good way to start getting
information, but may not be enough to prepare you for a safe and fun
If you are a climber or mountaineer type who is already
comfortable on rope, you have a head start and may be tempted to get
some route info from a source and just go for it. I urge you to
reconsider this. While climbing and mountaineering both involve
ropes and prepare you with a lot of outdoor skills and knowledge,
canyoneering is a different sport with skills specific to it.
Getting info from a book or web site then heading out on your own
also robs you of the potential benefits gained from the company of
Every area has a
unique character and along with that there may be specific skills or
ethics for canyons in the area.
generally has wide almost ravine like canyons involving a lot of
down climbing, natural anchors and generally dry. Zion is in
sandstone and generally has wide to semi narrow canyons with a mix
of down climbing and rappelling, a little pothole escape and a lot
of the anchors are bolted. North Wash and areas around it (The
Greater North Wash Area) are in sandstone but significantly
different than Zion Canyons. The North Wash canyons usually have
shorter rappels, a whole lot more down climbing, natural anchors,
some pothole escape and some narrow slots requiring one to squeeze
through or stem high up over the canyon floor. And the list goes on
with each area having its own unique flavor with specific skills and
ethics to go along with it.
The best place to start would be asking
a canyoneer who knows your skills and the area. Better yet, see if
they will show you around. If this isn’t an option try asking in an
online community. Or you can try to pick them on your own. Read on
if you intend to choose your own.
When getting acquainted with a new
area it is best to start with a few simple routes to get a feel for
what is in store for you as you play there. A canyoneer who has
experience with a wide range of skills may do well by simply picking
a level 3 canyon and going for it. This may not be the best
approach for someone having limited skills required for the area.
the surface it may seem that simply picking a few level 3 canyons is
all you need to do. Assuming all level 3 canyons are created equal
can lead to some epically long or difficult days! The canyon rating
system is helpful but inadequate to properly convey what a canyon
has to offer or challenge you with. Pretty pictures from a trip
report can also get new people into trouble if it lures them into a
place they are unprepared for.
For example Hard Day Harvey in the Ticaboo Mesa area is a level 3 canyon while West Blarney in North
Wash is also a level 3. To a beginner there will be a HUGE
difference in these canyons. Due to the combination of the length
of day and the skills required, Hard Day Harvey could go epic for a
new person, but it would be very difficult for West Blarney to go
When picking your first few canyons in an area new to you,
try picking canyons that are level 3, have a short time requirement
and are preferably not too far out in the back country.
On the note
of choosing an easy canyon; don’t just grab a map and go, be sure to
read some information about it first. For example a canyon may
require high stemming, difficult down climbs or difficult anchor
challenges. These and other factors are good to consider when
choosing canyons to familiarize yourself.
Know your skills and try
to choose canyons within your skill set. After completing the
routes, check your total times with the times stated on various
sources for the canyon. Canyoneering is NOT a race. But comparing
your actual times with the times given by various beta authors, can
help you make a more informed decision when choosing you next
As you gain confidence with the area and the skills required
you can branch out and enjoy all that the area has to offer.