Saturday, February 18, 2012

Facebook Drawing Winner

We have reached our 400 fan benchmark on our Facebook Page and have had a drawing for a Rappelling Starter package.  If you are a fan on our page, you were automatically entered into the contest.  Check out our page and "Like" the page to be entered into our next drawing when we hit 800 fan's.  Thanks to all the great clients and customers we have had over the past years.  We are looking forward to meeting many more of you and serving your outdoor recreational needs.

The winner of the contest will have one week to contact me via e-mail to claim his/her prize.  I will need a size of harness and a current shipping address to send the harness to.  Congratulations.  Send your e-mail to

Check out our Courses at:
Check out our Store at:
Check out our Guided Trips at:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Canyoneering Hype and Mishaps!

Leprechaun Canyon Accident -
Escaping the Subway-
No Man's Tragedy-
Stuck in Chambers-
Cheating Death in Blue John-
Woman Seriously Injured in Canyoneering Accident- Mountain Rescue Blog
Oak Creek Canyon Accident- Article
Tourist Trap - Outside Magazine Online Article

I have been contemplating a post along the lines of accidents for a long time now and after an article I read this morning, it all seemed to surge back to me that there are a lot of outdoor adventurer's who are not quite taking the recreational sport of Canyoneering as serious as it should.  After all, Canyoneering is simply rappelling right, it's not like Climbing where you have to rely on belayer's and multiple tie in points and your own strength to get you out.  Right?  Wrong!

Canyoneering entails many of the same skill sets required for Climbing, just in a different use or setting.  As I began to look for articles to link to regarding Canyoneering, a lot of old memories came flooding back to me as I re-read stories that impacted me in an emotional way the first time I read them.  Every time I hear of an accident regarding a Canyoneer, I cringe a little at the same time as I am mourning with the friends and families of those devastated by the incident.  There have been many accidents and some deaths over the past decade inside canyons.  Many of these canyons were visited before these tragic moments and have been visited since.  Regardless of what some may say, a huge / vast majority of Canyoneering accidents are avoidable and / or preventable.

I linked a couple of articles at the beginning for a perusing few that want some reading time.  I am not going to comment on any specific accident or article.  I understand that every situation has many variables and there are many ways to look at things in hindsight.  I simply provide them as a basis to start researching for those interested in some of the past incidents.  What I do want to do is offer 10 pointers to make sure that your next Canyoneering adventure goes a little bit smoother and is enjoyed by all participating.

#1 Let others know where you are going, when you plan to be back, and have a check in time/SAR call out deadline point.  Leave maps and GPS coordinates with your contact people so that they can get help to you as fast as possible.

#2 Plan for more time in there than what the route descriptions says.  Take extra food and water and have enough that you could go overnight if necessary.  Most Canyoneering routes are only day trips, so plan to spend a night.  Carry an extra fleece jacket, an emergency bivy sack or at least a space blanket.

#3 Carry a PLB.  A Personal Locator Beacon costs a minimal amount and units like the SPOT come with an additional insurance plan for covering rescue costs.  There have been many rescues in Blue John Canyon since the release of the movie 127 Hours, that the SAR teams are starting to charge for emergency services.  SAR budgets are limited in size and quantity, and once they run out for the year, you don't want to be the one left sitting there when you are hurt.  A good PLB Unit will help ensure that rescuers can zero in on your exact location and help to get to you faster.  (As a note, they don't work in deep canyon that don't have a clear view of the sky.  Units in this environment will need to be handed off to an able body of your group for them to continue down canyon to an adequate place to use.  Also, make sure that everyone in your group knows where the unit is located in your pack and how to operate it).

#4 Have a first aid kit with you.  You can't carry enough to plan for all emergencies, but you had better plan for some.  With the kit you carry, make sure you know what is in it, and how to use it all.  It won't do you any good to go buy a kit off the store shelf and throw it in you pack and not know what is in it.  Don't buy anything that is over your personal skill level.  If you don't know how to do stitches, don't buy a suture kit. It would also be beneficial to improve your knowledge.  Take a WFR or WFA class (Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness First Aid)

#5 Watch the Weather forecast.  Be mindful of the seasonal changes in the local weather patterns for the area and what the cloud movements are.  Know how to do some on site weather forecasting.  Know the signs of a potential flash flood or and impending one.  We had an article here on our blog several years ago written by Dave Buckingham.  It is a good read on flash flood awareness:  Flash Flood Awareness.

#6 Know your equipment, how to use it, what it's for, and how not to use it.  Have the proper, and proper amount of equipment with you.  That extra Carabiner may weigh another couple of ounces, but it doesn't do you any good when left in the car.  Know your equipment inside and out, forwards and backwards.  Know your equipment better than the manufacture that made it.  By this I mean that at times in your Canyoneering experience, you may get so exhausted and so tired that you became a bit delusional and or may become traumatized by others having problems.  I want you to be able to have the motions of clipping into a rappel so dialed in that you can do it in your sleep because sometimes that may be how you are feeling.  I want you to be able to rappel when you are not sure what is going on with the situation.  I want you to be able to set an anchor and throw a line with out losing the rope down the canyon and being stuck on the ledge.

#7 Canyoneering has two kinds of hazards:  Subjective and Objective!  The true risk comes when those two hazards meet in one place.  Know the hazards and avoid making them combine to create risk.

#8 Know the canyon rating systems!  When you plan a trip these will help you understand the risk ratings and the potential hazards at a glance.  Don't however rely only on the ratings when choosing a canyon to do.  Look at the route descriptions and the hazards and pitfalls outlined.  Understand what it takes to get through the canyon.  Evaluate your own personal knowledge / experience level and then that of your group.  Put them all together to understand whether or not that canyon is a good choice for you to attempt.  There are many great beginner canyons out there.  Don't' jump head first into ones that seem to be the most popular if you are not ready for it.

#9 Get some training.  While I might be a bit biased towards this, don't hesitate to seek out some expert advice and help.  A few hundred dollars spent is well worth bringing you home to see your family again.  Find a group of experienced Canyoneers to tag a long with.  As long as your not touting yourself as a self proclaimed expert and know it all and willing to carry the ropes on several trips, there are plenty of groups out there willing to let others join them.

#10 Know how to find your direction.  Proper orientation would have saved quite a few Canyoneers an unplanned night in the wrong canyon.  Know how to read a topographically map and carry one of the area with you.  You can print off maps on your computer now and place these into your dry bag in case you need them.  Know how to use a GPS and understand the difference between Lat/Long and UTM coordinates.  Know how to use the GPS and Map in tandem and navigate yourself in and out of a canyon environment.  Know how to find your way back to civilization and don't forget to mark where you parked your car at.  This will save some unwanted time wandering the area looking for your ride after you are tired and exhausted.