Saturday, 5 July 2014

Of waterfalls and Canyoning

What is canyoning or Canyoneering?

Many of you may have never heard of Canyoning. In the USA they call it Canyoneering. It is one of my favourite things to do. If you love waterfalls as much as I do you are going to love it too! It involves travelling down a mountain canyon with flowing water by using various methods, walking, scrambling, swimming, climbing, jumping or abseiling (rappelling). Canyoning usually involves rope work to negotiate waterfalls along the canyon.

Cobcrofts Cascades -  NSW Australia

It usually involves donning a wetsuit, climbing harness and water shoes and setting off at first light with a small group of people. You then follow the river downstream, scrambling over boulders, wading or swimming through pools, or walking along the bank through glades of ferns and orchids. Sooner or later you will come to a waterfall. Sometimes it might be possible to negotiate it and climb down the steep bank to one side or the other, sometimes not. Either way, you would probably prefer to pull out the ropes and set up a descent rope. Then you abseil (rappel) down beside or under the waterfall and continue down the river.

Claustral Canyon - Blue Mountains NSW Australia

I love canyoning because it takes you to some of the most beautiful, wild, untamed places on the planet. Canyons are often remote, difficult to access, and a fair amount of skill and experience is required to get there. This is partly why I love them so much. While some canyons are used by commercial groups and may have high traffic on them, most are very secluded and private. It often gives one the feeling that you are the first person that has ever set eyes on what you are seeing. The sense of discovery, and exploration is exhilarating. I also love the technical aspects of the challenge.

Grand Canyon - Blue Mountains NSW Australia

Slot canyons

Canyons can occur in many different types of rock - basalt, limestone, granite, or sandstone. Where it cuts into soft rock like sandstone it often forms slot canyons. These canyons are often very narrow and deep, carved deep by the river flowing through. They twist and turn and have fantastic shapes carved by running water.  

Grand Canyon - Blue Mountains NSW Australia


There are many potential hazards to canyoning, but please don't let these dissuade you from giving it a go. Canyons can be very easy grade 1 canyons that take a few hours to complete or a many day highly technical expedition through some of the world's wildest country. Start out with some easy ones and then progress to harder challenges as your skills improve. Canyoning is becoming a lot more  popular and you can usually find a commercial group running canyon trips or at least a canyoning group which you could join if you are in the areas where some of these canyons exist.

The squeeze


Sliding down a natural waterslide, jumping off large boulders into dark bottomless pools, feeling the weight of 100m of falling water drumming on your head as you bounce down the smooth slippery cliff face, swimming through long cold dark pools with the steam from your body rising between sheer rock walls, it brings a level of awesomeness few have ever felt! It brings out a wild, primeval part of me. The discovery of new things at every bend, the wonder of what lies around the next corner, the awesome power and majesty of falling water, the deafening noise at the bottom of a large waterfall and the wind that it generates. The chattering teeth and the shivering bodies of your group as you huddle together in a small patch of sunlight that found its way through the slot. It truly is like nothing else on earth.
I have travelled the world - rafting the mighty Zambezi River under breathtaking Victoria Falls in Africa, tramped through Iceland on a photography expedition, Dived on the gorgeous tropical reefs of Vanuatu, and Skied in USA, but canyoning will always be one of my favourite things to do!

Have you ever been canyoning? If the answer is no, would you do it?


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