How to do canyoning
Canyoning or torrentisimo consists of the descent of streams and narrow rocky gorges carved by water. Diving, sliding on the toboggans, climbing passages, breathtaking descents in pools of crystal clear water are the salt of this group sport of undoubted explorative charm, which has the advantage of promoting socialization and lots of fun. An activity of great appeal but potentially dangerous that requires technical skills of speleological and mountaineering derivation combined with specific knowledge of the gorge and river environment. This is why the answer to the classic question how to do canyoning is very delicate.
To enlighten us on this topic I asked for help from a true professional in the field, Marco Pivani from Enemonzo (IT), Alpine Guide of “In Mont mountaineering school” specialized in canyoning who will talk about this new way to experience the river, the rock and the mountain. A relatively new world of canyoning in Italy but which seems to be experiencing a real boom in recent times.
How to do canyoning: eight questions for Marco Pivani (Italy)
Who are you and how did you start canyoning?
I live in Enemonzo, a small town in Carnia, where as a young boy I had begun to play with the vertical. The passion for the mountains has entered my way of living and thinking and has conditioned my choices and my life. So the time has come to make it a profession by attending training courses to become an Alpine Guide.
The first experiences of canyoning date back more or less 30 years, when as children we explored streams with the curiosity that can be had at that age. The main purpose, however, was to get on or off without even getting your feet wet … A sort of primitive canyoning without wetsuits and equipment but certainly useful for developing instinct and refining balance, sensitivity and flair in finding the path better and safer.
Today using special techniques and equipment if it is possible to tackle the descents of the streams directly into the water. Everything has changed since then but the desire to explore has always remained that of the past.
How to start canyoning?
You can start from scratch without problems, obviously facing the experience gradually and better if accompanied by really expert friends or by certified professionals in the sector. Furthermore it must be considered that canyoning is a sport that lends itself to being practiced in small groups because it promotes socialization and fun. Absolutely avoid improvised DIY and solo descent without the necessary experience.
Required question … What are the main dangers in canyoning?
The main dangers of canyoning are related to the inhospitable environment in which it takes place. Water, sometimes swirling and sometimes cold, the descent of vertical zones, slippery rocks, the water flow of rivers, the change of weather, are factors that must be known and addressed in advance.
As for the mountain in general also for canyoning it is right to distinguish two types of dangers:
The objective dangers depend on the natural laws that characterize a given environment. In the specific case of canyoning, there are sudden floods (flash floods), cold water, a sudden change in the weather, and falling rocks.
The subjective dangers are attributable to errors of assessment or to psychophysical deficiencies of people.
This category includes technical inexperiences (wrong rope maneuvers, double ropes stuck under a stream of water, etc.), swimming difficulties, unpreparedness in relation to the course (it is not known, the excessive water flow, it is very long, etc …), the impossibility of going upwards, etc.
Objective dangers can be reduced, but not completely eliminated. Those subjective instead depend on the level of preparation of the people. For this reason it is never appropriate to face a canyon without adequate technical preparation and without the necessary equipment.
Is a specific physical preparation required to practice canyoning?
It is not necessary to possess particular athletic skills and even to practice a specific training. Preferential qualities are however a good resistance to prolonged efforts and good swimming and climbing abilities. The cold and the little habit of moving with a wetsuit can cause a higher energy consumption than can be expected. The itineraries have an average duration of between 2 and 8 hours.
What equipment is needed for canyoning descents?
The materials used in canyoning are of different types. There are those that have to do with water, like the neoprene shoes and the wetsuit that must guarantee the thermal stability of the wearer: fundamental elements also to survival, in the event of an accident, which therefore cannot be replaced with poor materials of doubtful reliability. Then there is the helmet, not just any one but approved for falling rocks, because we are in the mountains and it can happen. The specific harness, which cannot be the same as climbing because it must also be adapted to water. Then descenders, ropes that have a color, a length and a particular seal because they are used in water.
Obviously in order to obtain maximum safety from these materials it is important to know how to use them properly, adapting their use to the type of obstacles and the aquatic environment in particular.
Is there a table of canyoning difficulties for climbing?
Yes certainly also for the canyons there are scales of difficulty mainly linked to three different factors:
Verticality. The letter “v” followed by a figure from 1 to 7 (leaving the ladder open upwards) due to difficulties related to verticality.
Aquaticità. The letter “a” followed by a figure from 1 to 7 (leaving the ladder open upwards) due to difficulties related to aquaticity.
Commitment and duration. A Roman numeral from I to VI for commitment and duration (leaving the ladder open upwards)
On an itinerary, the fact of avoiding an obstacle or using a specific technique (guided descent …) can determine a lower quotation. Jumps are generally considered optional.
The evaluation applies to an average or ordinary flow, in a period of normal practice, therefore with a relatively low level but not necessarily in the dry period. It is also meant for a normal and reasoned practice, in a context of security and efficiency of movements (a personal search for increasing the difficulty will not add anything to the initial quotation).
To close … which is the most beautiful place where you did canyoning?
The canyon I have yet to descend, the next … Everywhere in the world …
Thanks Marco and good canyoning to all!