September 12, 2022

All About Canyoning You Should Know 

 

During the last few years canyoning has undoubtedly become one of the most popular outdoor activities. And for good reason! All over the world, discovering gorges and canyons, this experience allows a total immersion in nature and to disconnect from our fast lives. Far away from everything, we find ourselves face to face with pure nature, ideal to recharge our batteries.

 

Canyoning is also a very complete outdoor sport that includes several practices. It is a mix of caving, hiking, climbing, but also white water activities such as jumping off a cliff, swimming in the currents or sliding down the corridors in toboggan mode. 

 

The different levels of difficulty of the canyons as well as the accompaniment of professional guides allow everyone to go canyoning, including children from 6 years old. Canyoning is above all a human adventure that is most enjoyable when shared with family or a group of friends.

 

This complete guide to canyoning gives you important information and advice before you set out to discover the magnificent canyons. Canyoning is still a wilderness activity that can be dangerous if you are not careful. Learn everything about how a canyoning trip goes, what equipment is needed, who can and cannot canyoneer and find out where the most beautiful spots are.

 

What is canyoning?

It is simply the most complete outdoor sport there is! Canyoning combines caving, hiking, abseiling, climbing, but also white water activities such as jumping off a cliff, swimming in the currents or sliding down the corridors in toboggan mode. 

 

Discovering magnificent gorges is an activity that often begins high in the mountains and then descends with the water flow. Don't forget that, except for some beginner canyons, the approach walk and the return walk are also part of the experience and can be more or less long.

 

Canyoning or Water Trekking?

The term water trekking is often used as a synonym for canyoning. But is it really the same thing? No, not quite. Even though it is very close, there is a difference between canyoning and aquatic hiking.

 

As part of the sport of canyoning, water trekking is a name coined to describe canyons without verticality and with more water parts. In this activity, walking, jumps and slides are alternated. Ropes and harnesses are not normally required, as there is no rappelling.

 

Generally speaking, the water ride is considered particularly suitable for families with young children. However, there are both beginner canyoning and difficult water tours.

 

Canyoning or Coasteering?

Coasteering is another derivative of canyoning. Instead of being surrounded by a canyon and descending into the white water you advance diagonally and jump from cliffs and rocks into the ocean.

 

Like canyoning, this adventure activity combines jumping, swimming and rappelling. Climbing is more present with coasteering.

 

A little history of canyoning

The term "canyoning" was probably first used by a member of John Wesley Powell's expedition on the Colorado River in the United States in 1869. 

 

Many of the canyons that are now descended for pleasure were once traveled by indigenous people. The natives probably wore primitive clothing, were either barefoot or wore sandals or moccasins. The ropes used generations before made difficult vertical descents possible by simply using hemp and manila ropes. We can say that our ancestors were very brave!

 

Canyoning is practiced all over the world and each country has probably developed its own version of it.In the United States, hikers, climbers, and paddlers explored the canyons in the 1940s and 1950s. As a result, techniques and equipment have evolved in unique ways in different countries.

 

How does a Canyoning trip work?

Canyoning is not only a fun sport but also a technical one. When canyoning, different methods are used: swimming, hiking, sliding, rappelling and jumping.

 

Canyoning is often done in wild, isolated gorges and in difficult environments. That's why it's recommended that you do this activity with a certified instructor who guides you through the canyon and helps you overcome the obstacles.

 

Before setting out on your adventure, the instructor will equip you (you will find details of the equipment below) and give you a short training on canyon walking and rappelling techniques. After a short or long approach walk (depending on the location of the canyon) you arrive at the starting point of the canyon trip. 

 

It is important to know that once the descent has started it is almost impossible to turn back. With the exception of beginner canyons, these often have escape routes. Depending on the canyon, a walk back to the car will be necessary at the end of the activity.

 

In addition to being an unusual and very fun challenge, canyoning is appreciated for its immersive character. Surrounded by wilderness, being away from it all disconnects you for a few hours and allows you to focus on the only mission of the moment: to advance through the canyon.

 

What are the obstacles during the Canyoning?

During your canyoning trip, you will be doing jumps, slides, swimming, walking, rappelling and climbing. 

 

Jumps: often jumps are the fastest way down a waterfall. However, it is never mandatory to jump. With beginner canyons, you can often bypass the jumps on foot. For other routes you always have the option of rappelling if you are not comfortable jumping. 

 

Depending on the canyon the jumps can be 5m, 12m or more. Normally the height of the jumps is indicated when you book the activity. Please also note that the jumps depend on the season and the weather. 

 

We invite you to trust your instructor who will advise you according to your physical condition and the conditions of the day.

There is a technique to jumping in canyoning to reduce the risk of incidents. Before jumping, look at your landing point and test the grip of your landing foot by pushing on it. Then push hard on your legs to jump. When you are in the air, your body should be shaped like an i (straight and sheathed). 

 

Your arms can help you keep your balance. Before entering the water, bring your arms to your body and bend your knees slightly. If you're not used to jumping: when you bring your arms to your chest, hold them tightly and slide one of your hands over your nose to keep it from filling up with water. And splash!

 

The slide: you will probably have to go down one or more slides. As the name indicates, the principle is to lie down and let yourself slide on the water. To do so, you have to take the "Mummy" position: squeeze your legs and cross your arms over your chest. And splash! 

 

Don't try to brake, it can be dangerous, as you could hurt the rocks at your sides. 

Depending on the canyon, there are even abseiling slides. You abseil down a waterfall. At the heart of the waterfall, you let go of the rope to slide down the slide. Total immersion with the waterfall going over your head!

 

Abseiling: your guide takes care of the installation of the rope, but it is up to you to hold the rope during the descent and to decide the speed. Feet on the rock, leaning back, you walk backwards on the wall until you reach the ground or the water basin. Our advice: once in the void, never let go of the rope until you see your feet on the ground! Abseiling is often used in mountaineering, climbing and caving.

 

Walking: another technique to advance in the canyon is the simple walk. The canyon corridors are sometimes less than one meter wide and several meters high. Be careful with your ankles: the canyon floors can be extremely slippery!

 

Whitewater swimming: Swimming is another technique often used during your canyoning adventure. Although not all trips require swimming, you should enjoy being in the water and it is recommended that you have a minimum level of swimming. 

 

Often you will have to go through fast and shallow water sections. To avoid getting stuck by your foot or hitting your tailbone, a defensive swimming position is recommended. Get on your back with your feet pointing downstream and use your arms to steer yourself in the right direction.

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