What exactly is Canyoneering?

Adventure Fitness: What is Canyoneering?

Welcome back Jenn McAmis, an adventure and fitness blogger I adore! Last month she shared with us her best tips to Reframing a “Failed” Adventure. Today, she’s giving us a little tutorial: What is Canyoneering?  This is why I love the contributor program. I, myself, did not know what Canyoneering was. Now, I feel like I might need to explore a little more myself! Enjoy!

What is Canyoneering?

When you read this, I’ll be deep in Utah on a “Canyon Week” with friends. We’ll be going to Zion National Park, Escalante National Park, West Clear Creek Arizona and possibly more. Three years ago, I didn’t even know canyoneering was a thing. Today, it’s become one of my favorite outdoor activities.

The more canyons I adventure down, the more I recognize that I wasn’t alone in having no clue that people “drop canyons.” I’ve met few adventurous people that don’t absolutely love canyoneering once they know it exists and have tried it! It could be your newfound favorite adventure too?

Canyoneering 101

Canyoneering is basically starting at one end (usually the top so you’re going down everything) of a canyon and doing whatever it takes to get out to the other end. Side note: there is also “canyoning” which some people try to say is different, but I’m yet to find a distinction between the two that I really buy into! Hiking, rock climbing, rappelling and swimming are often involved. It truly is a “do whatever it takes” kind of adventure and that’s what I love. In canyons, there usually aren’t really trails, just a path of least resistance, so you often feel as if you’re exploring the unknown. Who didn’t dream of that as a kid?!

What is Canyoneering?

Canyons fall into many categories

The easiest way to think about them is technical and non-technical. A technical canyon requires ropes and gear (and the knowledge of using them!) to get through it. These are definitely not for absolute beginners and should always be respected and taken very seriously. A non-technical canyon is one that, surprise, doesn’t require special gear to get through. Two extremely famous non-technical canyons, which I’ve loved, are The Narrows in Zion and Buckskin Gulch in Arizona. You may not have to rappel, but they are absolutely breathtaking in their beauty.

Getting started in canyoneering

Getting started has become a lot more accessible in recent years. There are many guiding companies around National Parks that will do the technical work for you and keep you safe as you discover if canyoneering is for you. There are also classes that you can take to learn the skills to build anchors and successfully go down technical canyons. Look around where you live to see what’s available.

Last time I was in Zion National park, I met people from the Midwest that had taken a community college class on canyoneering and were on their first technical canyon adventure. Once you know it exists, there are absolutely ways to quickly jump in (pun slightly intended).

What is Canyoneering?

Safety is a huge concern

Of course, as with any outdoor adventure activity. At the end of the day, it all comes down to common sense.

  • Is it a good idea to go into a slot canyon when there’s a flash flood warning or even a slightly potential for rain? No.
  • Is it a good idea to jump into a pool you can’t completely see the depth of or what’s in it? Not really. Tip: It’s much smarter to  set an anchor and rappel safely into it.

Stick with the cliché of “safety first” or the motto I’ve adopted of “Better safe than search and rescue!” and your risks are low.

What is Canyoneering?

Does canyoneering sound like a fun adventure to you? Had you heard of it before? Are there any crazy outdoor adventures that you’ve seen on social media or heard of that you’d want to see unpacked a little bit more? Connect with me on Facebook and I’ll share the scoop with you next time!

Jenn McAmis, ACSM CPT

Jenn is an adventurer, outdoor addict, ACSM certified personal trainer and rescue dog mom living in Tucson, Arizona. She's been in the fitness industry for over 5 years and has recently developed a series of programs focusing on becoming the most fit you possible so that your life can be filled with the adventures you dream of.

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