he relatively new sports of canyoning and canyoneering were largely unknown until the 1990s. Even now, they are more popular in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, than in the USA. The terms are often used interchangeably. We use the term canyoning for our adventures in New Zealand, Australia, Colombia and Israel. Below our listed tours, you will find more information on theses sports.
These are the most typical definitions of the two terms among experts:
Canyoning: hiking, jumping, leaping, rappelling, and sliding down a usually wet slot canyon, with pools of water, running water, and/or waterfalls. In most cases, these canyons require climbing gear and are often termed Technical Canyoning. Traditionally, these types of canyons have been pursued in Spain, France, New Zealand, and Australia.
Canyoneering: hiking and scrambling through relatively dry tight slot canyons. In the southwest regions of the US, these canyons usually have dry stream beds at the time of hiking and become filled with rushing water after thunderstorms (requiring close attention to the weather). Standing pools of water may be encountered. Hikes through these canyons can vary from a simple hike to a full-on technical climbing/rappelling assault, depending on the difficulty rating of that canyon.
So to sum it up, these canyon explorations are Adventure Travel with a capital A! Every canyon varies, but the following description, from our New Zealand trip, is typical.
First, you’ll put on a wet suit. You’ll be in and out of the water repeatedly; without a wet suit, the constant evaporation will quickly chill you. The wet suit also provides protection against scrapes if you get too close to a rock wall.
Then, you proceed into the canyon. On our New Zealand trip, that means hiking briefly uphill, then over through forest to a spot where there’s easy access to the water.
Now, you start down. First comes a water slide. For centuries, water and sand have ground a smooth slot into the rock. It’s as easy as your first time on the slide in kindergarten …. and probably about as scary. Just sit at the top … push off … and splash! it’s over! You laugh, and watch the next person come down.
You dog-paddle through a basin of water, climb over a few rocks, and soon arrive at the next challenge: A water jump. You stand at the top of a small waterfall and look down. Here, the water has cleaned out a round pool, ten feet below. Your guide points to the deepest spot, and tells you to jump. Splash!! Two down.
Next the guide secures you to a safety line and you inch along a wall, as the river descends below you. Just ahead, a giant boulder has lodged itself between the canyon walls, as the river shoots down a waterfall to a pool 80 feet below. Somehow, incredibly, you end up right on top of that boulder, safely secured by a belay rope, but nonetheless find yourself gripping the rock with all your strength.
When the time comes for you to descend, you shuffle over to the guide. He ties you into a new safety rope, unties the rope anchoring you to the rock, and belays you as you rappel a hundred feet, with the waterfall thundering beside you, into the pool below.
There’s more: On one waterslide, you can’t even see the bottom when you push off from the top. You may rappel through the next waterfall. Much of canyoning’s appeal stems from the fact that every canyon is different; each will present its own special features and challenges.
How safe is canyoning?
Any outdoor sport is inherently riskier than, say, watching television. (Physically riskier, that is. We would argue that television presents a bigger risk to your brain.) If you head out into an unknown canyon with just a rope, a buddy, and a lot of optimism, you’re definitely in high-risk territory. Most canyoning is done with guides, who are intimately familiar with every pool, slide, and waterfall in a particular canyon. Use of a qualified guide will greatly reduce, but will not eliminate, the risks of canyoning.
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