Mountain Project Logo

Transition to canyoneering


Original Post
Dr Strangelove · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 30

As a competent multipitch trad climber, how hard is this transition? It seems like most of the skills overlap but id like to hear from anyone who has made this transition to avoid getting in over my head. What are some specific canyoneering skills that are absolutely essential? are anchors generally natural pro only? Is a grade 4 too dangerous for a new canyoneer with a climbing background? I should add that I have experience with swift water rescue and extremely cold water. 

Joe Garibay · · Ventura, Ca · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 96

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

You know all of the bullshit bail rap anchors you have used getting off alpine routes in a storm late at night? Compared to canyoneering deadmans, chockstones, and other garbage, those were super bomber.

Ryan Marsters · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 981

It's more a sport for a technical mind than for an athlete. Not to say it isn't physical, but you might run across more pot bellied old dudes stemming along in canyoneering than you would in climbing. If you're good with rope systems, anchors, and technical logistics, cool. The rope and gear systems are different than in climbing.

Rappel efficiency and rope management are skills to get pretty dialed before delving into grade 4. Biner blocks, (proper) anchor building, tag lines, etc. Sand traps, water traps, and retrievable anchors are best to learn with someone experienced in using them. Same with doing class C canyons. Lots of ways to screw up there.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
HBTHREE · · ma · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 30

that top pic is awesome.... i feel like such a wuss now can only imagine how my eyes looked on a couple of shit bails that guys looking hella casual with a bag o dirt life support

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
HBTHREE wrote:

that top pic is awesome.... i feel like such a wuss now can only imagine how my eyes looked on a couple of shit bails that guys looking hella casual with a bag o dirt life support

Then there's this kind of anchor:

HBTHREE · · ma · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 30

meat backup thats f'ing great r u kidding me, i just spat up my beer, ahhh.... i should start adventure repeliing these assholes will "lower" with anybody

HBTHREE · · ma · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 30

just need a body, hmmmm not even a warm body 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
HBTHREE wrote:

meat backup thats f'ing great r u kidding me, i just spat up my beer, ahhh.... 

And that's as a backup. There are other situations where the meat anchor is the only anchor:

http://dyeclan.com/outdoors101/canyoneering101/?page=meat-anchor

Eshed Bootel · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 25

Sam,

As one who's been doing both for over 25 years I can say this:

There are many similarities between the two, but many differences as well. While your starting point as a competent multipitch-trad climber is much better than competent boulderer, you still have to learn many new techniques and tricks. If you're not into taking classes - Make sure you start by joining experienced canyoneers on your first year or two...


Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

I think canyoneering is what the leave no trace trads got into after they lost interest in or could no longer climb. It still retains the "nest of bleached tat is better than bolts" ethos. And all of those little tricks to get the rap line down with cords and pins and who-knows-what fuckery. Gah. Put some nice glue in titanium bolts. Luckily, there are plenty of popular canyons that eschew this nonsense and have good rap anchors. 

Merlin · · Grand Junction · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 10
Tim Stich wrote:

I think canyoneering is what the leave no trace trads got into after they lost interest in or could no longer climb. It still retains the "nest of bleached tat is better than bolts" ethos. And all of those little tricks to get the rap line down with cords and pins and who-knows-what fuckery. Gah. Put some nice glue in titanium bolts. Luckily, there are plenty of popular canyons that eschew this nonsense and have good rap anchors. 

I've never understood the "Its better to risk your life on a double rope rap off a pink tricam than to put a bolt in a hole in the ground" ethos.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476
Merlin wrote:

I've never understood the "Its better to risk your life on a double rope rap off a pink tricam than to put a bolt in a hole in the ground" ethos.

It shows you care about the environment? I think it's about leaving the canyon as sketchy as you found it, ie. being a real tough guy. I think they all have beers afterwards comparing how shitty their rap anchors were.

"Well, I once rapped off a dead horse!"

"Oh yeah? I rapped off the soul of the same dead horse leaving its body!"

"Whoa. No way."

Adam Fleming · · Moab · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 301

I remember the first time I went "real" canyoneering (not just hikes and easy raps) with my boss.  I start the first rap and he goes, "psh, you rappel like a rock climber."  He meant I leaned back too much, putting a lot of force on the meat anchor (aka, his body).  

Same trip, we do a sandtrap rappel.  I'm selected as the LPAR (last person at risk) because I'm the lightest.  As I'm sitting there backing up everyone else's rappel, I think to myself "Well, that guy's bigger than me and this thing is holding..." So I start scooping sand out.

I remember the first time my coworker rigs a fiddle stick rappel, then tells me I'm going last.  Before he goes over the lip, he says, "Oh, don't touch that rope over there, or you'll die."  I stayed away from that rope like it was covered in neurotoxin.

My first purely recreational canyon involved swimming through rotting debris (mostly pine needles and decaying logs).  We literally had to swat the stuff under water just so we could make forward progress.  I don't think I ever got the smell out of my clothes.

Canyoneering is sketchy, smelly, nasty, and fun.

Lots of overlap between climbing and canyoneering, but everything is done slightly differently.  Learning to rappel "lightly" is a good skill.  Like others have said, the anchors require more ingenuity and guts.  There's some specialized equipment (rap devices, rap anchors, throw bags, ropes).  Lots of canyons have stemming, bridging, or chimney sections.  Being solid on those climbing styles can make the day go smoothly.  There's also a lot of little things that you pick up along the way that make processes easier/faster.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

I was caving for ten years before I ever bought a pair of climbing shoes. We used single anchors back then without rebelays, so the ropes would rub when you jugged them pretty bad. We also used 11mm ropes. But things got better, the belays got put in places that didn't rub and bolts got used over natural pro like chockstones and stalactites. It made the whole experience of caving safer and a lot more aesthetic. Canyon folk are just stuck in the dark ages permanently. The sketchy anchor shit is all chest beating and showing off. 

Eshed Bootel · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 25

Tim,

First - Soul of the horse anchor - FUNNY!

Second - Just like in rock climbing (where we've had the eternal "to bolt or not to bolt" discussion), there are different points of view on Canyoneering ethics, methods, etc. Depends on the area and the local community mainly. There's a lot to be said in favor of (good, quality, safe) bolting anchors for waterfall rappels, but there's also a lot to be said about leaving no trace (and this goes for ANY outdoor activity). It also depends a lot on the individual's knowledge, experience and competent in what can/can't be used as natural anchors..

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

The standard no trace answer allows for tat to be left on climbs over bolts. So manky crap, old nuts, a fixed rigid friend, and some bullshit webbing is what you will find rapping from the Saber in RMNP for instance. The argument completely fails once you see how it is put into practice in reality.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Tim Stich wrote:

I think canyoneering is what the leave no trace trads got into after they lost interest in or could no longer climb. It still retains the "nest of bleached tat is better than bolts" ethos. And all of those little tricks to get the rap line down with cords and pins and who-knows-what fuckery. Gah. Put some nice glue in titanium bolts. Luckily, there are plenty of popular canyons that eschew this nonsense and have good rap anchors. 

+1

Even when there are bolts instead of tat, sometimes they are so inspiring:


Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Eshed Bootel wrote:

Tim,

First - Soul of the horse anchor - FUNNY!

+1!!!

Second - Just like in rock climbing (where we've had the eternal "to bolt or not to bolt" discussion), there are different points of view on Canyoneering ethics, methods, etc. Depends on the area and the local community mainly. There's a lot to be said in favor of (good, quality, safe) bolting anchors for waterfall rappels, but there's also a lot to be said about leaving no trace (and this goes for ANY outdoor activity). It also depends a lot on the individual's knowledge, experience and competent in what can/can't be used as natural anchors..

Here's a good editorial on the subject from Tom Jones, grandmaster of Utah canyoneering:

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/mag/issue1/bolts.htm

Merlin · · Grand Junction · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 10
Tim Stich wrote:

 Canyon folk are just stuck in the dark ages permanently. The sketchy anchor shit is all chest beating and showing off. 

Yup.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Other Sports
Post a Reply to "Transition to canyoneering"

Log In to Reply