canyon in the world is different. This variety, and unpredictablity,
is what makes the sport of canyoneering so exciting. While there's
no such thing as a "typical day" of canyoneering, this
description will give a sense of what you can expect if you go
canyoneering with a guide who's familiar with the canyon.
a knowledgeable local guide, canyoneering is an exhilarating,
sometimes scary sport, but the actual risks are lower than they
may appear. It's also possible to go canyoneering without a
guide. On that level, canyoneering requires far more advanced
skills and judgements.
site is sponsored by Alyson Adventures, which offers outdoor adventure
travel for gay men, lesbians, and friends. Our trips in Australia
and New Zealand include opportunities for canyoneering (or canyoning,
as it's called in those countries.) Here's what you can expect
if you try this exciting new sport. This description of from our
Boomerang! trip in Australia. Similar techniques
are used in other canyons.
-- the art of sliding down a rope, with a mechanical device
to control your speed -- is one of the most common canyoneering
techniques. In some cases, particularly if the first rappel in
the canyon is tricky, you'll practice rappelling on dry land.
rope is looped around a tree or other secure anchor, near the
edge of a cliff, with both ends dropping to the ground below.
You, as the rappeller, put on a harness, consisting of a rugged
waistband and leg straps with a loop in front. You can comfortably
hang in this harness, suspended on the loop. (You've seen it done
in movies.) A metal carabiner, or clip, goes through the harness
with the guide watching to be sure it's done right, you attach
yourself to the rope in such a way that, with a simple hand motion,
you can control the rate at which you slide down the rope. You
can easily bring yourself to a complete halt, as you descend,
any time you want.
moment of truth comes as you back off the edge of the cliff. The
first step, committing yourself to the rope, is scary. Then, it's
all downhill. After a couple more practice descents, it seems
like second nature. Now you're ready to go canyoning.
so many adventures, canyoneering begins as you wiggle into
a wetsuit. You'll be in and out of water through the day: Except
in the warmest of climates, the evaporation would leave your teeth
chattering if you weren't wearing a wetsuit.
that, the wetsuit provides protection against abrasions as you
move through the canyon. The first canyoneers used wetsuits
designed for diving, surfing, or other water sports. More recently
a few specialized companies have begun manufacturing wetsuits
that are reinforced in the areas where canyoneering creates
the most wear and tear: Elbows, knees, butt.
sports sandals are the usual footwear, and a helmet is generally
considered a must. (Guides typically provide the helmet and wetsuit,
and you're responsible for footwear, but ask in advance to be
sure.) The rope and any other necessary equipment is generally
provided by the guide.
regroup in a pool of water at the bottom of the canyon. Those
who got hot during the hike, and peeled off the top half of the
wetsuit, now pull it back on. Everyone puts on their helmet.
downstream is the top of a small waterfall. We walk over: This
looks like a good chance to use those rappelling skills.
we're not gonna. This, the guide announces, is a natural water
slide. Over the centuries, the steam has smoothed out a channel,
and the falling water has created a pool at the bottom, deep
enough to absorb our plunge. The guide goes first. "Push
off, then just keep your elbows in," he advises, and one
by one, we follow.
the next waterfall, we use a different technique. The water at
the base of the waterfall is shallow, the guide explains. On this
one, you balance on a rock at the top of the falls, then jump
out, into the deeper water. This time, he stays at the top to
help steady us, and he goes last.
waterslides and jumps follow, each one different. One particularly
long slide is particularly daunting: Because of the way the rock
curves, you can't see the bottom until after you've pushed off
and started down. Happily, the guide goes first here.
you dogpaddle through deeper pools. Other times, you walk over
sand bars or maneuver through rocks that have long ago tumbled
from the canyon walls. The canyon gets deeper and darker. Occasional
rays of sunlight streak the narrow, undulating walls.
small waterfall rushes over a boulder. It's too short for a
normal rappel, but the guide sets up a rope to help you get
we reach the spot where our narrow canyon ends, midway up a cliff.
You sit in a pool of water and admire the ferns and convoluted
stone patterns above, as the guide sets up anchors for the longest
rappel of the day.
hundred and twenty feet! You make your way over to the end
of the canyon, and clip into a safety line that will protect you
should you slip. You look over the edge. This is nuts!
is all you can think. If there was some other way to get to dinner,
you'd do it. But there's not.
you clip into the harness, pull back with your brake hand so that
you won't start your descent till you're ready. You step into
the stream, lean back, and begin rappelling.
practice sessions were a good idea! The rock is slippery here.
Water splashes your face. Ten feet down, the cliff face recedes
and you're briefly hanging free. But you can control your speed,
and the guide has a safety line as backup. Slowly you make your
way down... down... and then, you finish.
everyone is down, you learn why a double rope is used for rappelling.
Everyone takes hold of one of the ropes and pulls. The other end
is pulled up, toward and through the anchor, and a moment later,
the entire rope has fallen to the base of the waterfall, ready
to be coiled and carried back.
on this site:
On related sites:
a day or two of canyoneering on our trips in Australia
or New Zealand.
hiking site includes
a FAQ page about climbing ropes, and other useful information
to Alyson Adventures
site for details of forthcoming outdoor trips.
to gay adventure travel home page
our full gay adventure travel catalog