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What is Canyoning and How to Take Part

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 14 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Canyoning Rock Climbing Rock Climbing

Canyoning is gaining an increase in popularity as an outdoor adventure activity. Often referred to as ‘gorge walking’ in some parts of the world and as ‘canyoneering’ in the United States, canyoning is, in broad terms, an activity which encompasses a range of techniques used to descend gorges, ravines, mountainous rivers and waterfalls. These can include walking, rock climbing, abseiling, swimming, diving, sliding, jumping and scrambling.

Although not strictly regulated in the same way as mountaineering or rock climbing, the activity in the UK is recognised by the British Mountaineering Council which can provide you with more information and there are several specialist outdoor activity centres which cater for this particular type of adventure canyoning.

Equipment & Clothing

If you are planning a canyoning trip through a professional outdoor activity centre, they should be able to provide you with all of the necessary clothing and safety equipment such as a wetsuit, helmet, buoyancy aid and a waterproof top. However, the one thing that can almost certainly be guaranteed is that you’re likely to get wet so it’s important that you take your own swimwear with you, a spare change of footwear and some warm clothing to put on over the wetsuit.

Depending on the terrain, some of the more technical descents will require abseils and the use of rope work so whilst certain centres do offer canyoning experiences to inexperienced groups such as stag and hen parties, there are adventure canyoning programmes which are aimed predominantly at those who have more of a grounding in rock climbing or mountaineering although the general emphasis tends to focus more on the ‘fun’ side of things as opposed to the ‘difficulty’ which is why it’s becoming increasingly popular with people of all ages and abilities.

Therefore, when it comes to equipment, it's not an activity that requires the same amount of preparation as you'd need with, say, rock climbing equipment.

Skills Needed For Canyoning

As previously stated, the level of skill you need for a canyoning adventure very much depends on the type of terrain and obstacles you’ll be facing. However, at the very basic level, most people can take part in the activity in much the same way as most people can go on a whitewater rafting trip providing that you’re relatively fit, are not afraid of heights or water and it’s obviously preferable if you can swim even though flotation devices will be provided.

The idea of canyoning is to get down the gorge or ravine in the safest way possible although that can often mean jumping off cliffs into plunge pools, for example, which obviously constitutes a major part of the excitement. So, a healthy attitude for safety whilst enjoying the adrenalin rush of adventure is probably going to be your greatest asset if you’re going to enjoy this kind of activity.

It’s also a group activity and not a sport you should be attempting alone so if you don’t have a group to go with, the British Mountaineering Council will be able to advise you of one or more groups you can join relatively close to where you live.

Where Do People Go Canyoning?

The main canyoning areas in the UK tend to be dictated by the type of terrain that is best suited to this form of rock climbing activity. Therefore narrow gorges with numerous drops and those areas containing waterfalls are ideal. It will probably come as no surprise to discover that certain locations in Scotland, Wales and the Lake District are all extremely popular locations in the UK for canyoning and there are several outdoor activity centres which include it in the range of outdoor adventure activities they offer. There are also many countries abroad which also cater for the activity.

Whatever level of canyoning you choose to do, you’ll be accompanied by a qualified instructor who will guide you throughout the activity. And, if you wish to take on more challenging descents, there are advanced programmes available which will also incorporate rope work and more technical rock climbing techniques and the use of rock climbing equipment as well as those which focus more on route finding, navigation and other skills more commonly associated with wilderness adventure.

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