It is easy to explain the sport of canyoneering; one drops into a canyon, progresses down the canyon, and either climbs or hikes out of the canyon.
In it’s simplest form, it is much like kayaking; with a “put-in” and a “take-out”. Except, rather than floating downstream and navigating obstacles, one manipulates and contorts one’s body to flow with the ripples of the canyon walls. Rather than waterfalls, one is confronted with complex rappels over cliffs, where the landing zone is completely obscured from view.
Through a newbie lens, it feels risky and dangerous in the “I don’t know what I don’t know” sense. And yet, even though I am still in the thrillingly steep upward section of the learning curve, I heartily recommend canyoneering. Especially, if one gets the chance to go canyoneering with Jill, see her picture below. Jill is a very good teacher and our trip was amazing!
Having previous rock climbing, scrambling, and/or caving experience certainly helps as well! Other skills such as navigation with maps using gps/compass, climbing techniques, athleticism, flexibility, and ability to judge distance are invaluable.
In canyoneering, unlike climbing, it is essential the group work together to overcome obstacles. Some obstacles can be negotiated with the talents of 1 or 2 members, but others require the strength of the whole group. This team aspect of canyoneering is very attractive. It is one of my greatest joys to see how people pull together to solve problems; how every member of the team can be a valuable contributor to a successful canyon adventure.
Gear is important too! I was fortunate to have elbow and knee pads, a helmet, my alpine bod harness, a comfy pair of sticky rubber approach shoes, summer gators, and some sticky palmed gardening gloves.