Abseiling-into-a-canyon

My First Time Canyoning

My First Time Canyoning: What you need to know. 

Well, you’ve finally found it. Here is my answer to ‘What can I expect?’ and for me what is canyoning? I learnt so much during my canyoning adventure, much more than I was expecting.

“I didn’t expect to learn skills that I could use in everyday life.”

I wanted a fun day out, but my fear was always stopping me. WOW! I would have missed out if I hadn’t tried canyoning.

Canyoning is high adrenaline, fun and adventurous. I found it a great way to reinvigorate and an opportunity to escape the humdrum of everyday life:

“I didn’t realise it at first, but I had more bounce in my step afterwards.”

Canyoning in Cumbria for the First Time

My first time canyoning; how to sum it up, well… ‘Dynamic’ appeared to be the word of the day. (This mainly related to my movement on the rock – which probably wasn’t that dynamic, but did improve as the session progressed!) 


After happily saying, ‘Yes’ to canyoning, it then turned into questioning:

a.‘What is it then?’
b.‘What do I have to do?’
c.‘What experience do I need?’
d.‘Where will it take place?’


I have climbed, ghyll scrambled and abseiled before, but to say canyoning is a combination of all of these would probably be wrong. It is a sport in its own right, using and applying a range of specific skills. I couldn’t believe how easily I learnt these new skills; they were explicitly taught in a clear and effective manner. This allowed me to apply them and progress throughout the whole experience. All of this took place in the beautiful Lake District, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

my-first-waterfall-abseil

My Briefing

My introduction to canyoning began with a relaxed meeting including drinks and nibbles for breakfast. Oh, and don’t forget that essential element – a chance to use the loo, well it’s important to me. The meeting included a briefing, the briefing was vital, it really helped alleviate my nerves and gave me an opportunity to ask questions (I asked a lot). During the meeting, I tried on my wetsuit and boots – "super, at least I knew they fitted” - it ensured my wetsuit was snug and my feet cosy and comfortable. Furthermore, it allowed me to learn some basic skills, without being in a canyoning environment.

Choosing a canyoning adventure where there is a briefing is a must!

The benefit of practising first before being put in at the deep end (almost literally), meant that I was able to practise skills in my own time without thinking about the environment. I had my questions answered and demonstrated. It gave me the confidence to believe (with a clear mind) that if I can do this on dry land without a canyon in sight, I would still be able to do it when in the canyon. Having NEVER canyoned before, this also allowed me to realise that what was being asked of me was NOT that difficult.

practise-abseil
Taking the Plunge

On arriving at the canyon, I had another chance to practise abseiling (lowering myself on a rope). I practised moving quickly from rock-to-rock to ensure I felt more stable and confident. I also felt more mentally focused, yet relaxed and ready to go.


Instructions were Clear & Concise

Which is good, as canyoning truly is a participating sport. It is definitely NOT a sport where you are a passenger, you are continually involved. Abseiling down alongside my first waterfall, thrill and concentration were in equal amounts. However, as I descended underneath the waterfall, the thrill intensified, as I experienced the temperature of the water and the strange ‘unexpected expectation’ of getting wet. I thought I would never do this sort of activity and yet here I was bouncing with delight and excitement-quite literally. My fears were very quickly put aside (washed away).

instruction-before-canyoning

After the initial cold, I can honestly say the wetsuits did their job. They were AMAZING! Bearing in mind the car temperature said 5˚, I was warm within minutes! Even more importantly – in my opinion – was that although my feet were wet, they were warm and more importantly my boots were still on.

I cannot overstate how FAB the boots were. Wellies and trainers move over, no more rescuing footwear and emptying water continually. These plain, ordinary boots were great (although I was told they were specialised boots, I didn’t realise just how good they would be); my feet felt normal – which in wellies they just don’t! I felt confident, safe, and they were grippy without being cumbersome. I now fully appreciate why they are classed as specialised canyoning boots. 

My mindset was firmly established, I was definitely up for this adventure.


Further Fun and Excitement

Moving on, more water, more wetness, more opportunities to jump, slide and yes – be dynamic! I’m not sure I would ever class myself as dynamic (yet here I was being reassured all was fabulous). I also learnt that there are many ways to descend a waterfall - out went the old theory of abseiling.

On one waterfall, I even managed to abseil while sliding on my side! However, my absolute favourite part was the zip line. Officially it is called a ‘guided rappel’, but to the uninitiated, a zip line works just as well for me. It entails crossing from one side of the canyon to the other attached to a rope (the zip line), on my particular zip line you needed to abseil across as well. The faster I abseiled, the quicker I went and the more thrilling it became. When reaching the other side and realising what I had just achieved, it gave me a real buzz, I immediately jumped at the chance of having a second go (almost literally).

My-first-waterfall-abseil
Then I was faced with a jump. I don’t know about you, but standing on the windowsill of my house would make me wince. Never mind standing on the rock edge of what seemed a deep precipice. OMG was my immediate thought. I have to jump from here to there, “You have to be kidding right?” NO. I reflected upon what I had achieved during the day, I listened to what was being explained to me - and jumped. What a buzz!

Participation is the key, the more you listen and learn the more you do. It is about learning and doing active participation.

The perception is that canyoning is extreme, and to be honest there are parts where it may be viewed as extreme:

   • extreme excitement,
   • extreme adventure,

   • extremely fun!

   • extremely wet!


abseil-on-your-side

My Final Thoughts
Some of my fears in everyday life were very similar to my adventure

   • The what if?
   • Will I be able to do that?
   • What if I can’t?


The fact that I overcame (I wouldn’t say conquered) many of my fears in the canyon, left me with a positive feeling. It’s this feeling and emotion that I know will help me in moving forward in my future (a bit twee sounding I know, but true).

To sum up, I would say that my introduction to canyoning was:

   • exhilarating,
   • fun
   • high adrenaline
   • extreme


Not just from the constant moving – think dynamic! The stunning location of the canyon, with beautiful views, transported me well away from the humdrum of everyday life. I had more bounce in my step and felt reinvigorated. Canyoning is a natural advance from ghyll scrambling, which I have experienced - yet I think ghyll scrambling is not a pre-requisite.
What I would say though is to use the best kit possible. Water-filled wellies and flimsy wetsuits would hinder not help, and warmth is wonderful!

So what are you waiting for? Feel the exhilaration, take the plunge, experience canyoning.

Written for Mountain Rat Adventures by ​Rachael

Feel the exhilaration, take the plunge, experience canyoning.

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