Progressing in Canyoneering

Once you have done your first slot canyon, catch the bug, and desire more (and more), you probably will start to look at harder canyons to do.

This is a normal reaction as we humans want to challenge or push ourselves to the limits.  But in canyoneering, this can be disastrous if you over-estimate your skill and under-estimate the canyon.  This happens ALL the time. Some veterans even do this, because they get complacent.  "How hard can it really be?"

Well...really hard and physically exhausting!  Can you imagine a 12+ hour day for doing a slot canyon?  What about a 16+ hour day?  While some canyons are not that long in length, those hours are also accounting for the approach and exit hike.

Some tough canyons will physically exhaust you and then you have a 3+ mile exit in the dark back to your campsite or car.  It's not fun where you just want to collapse on the hiking trail but still have an hour or more of bushwhacking, walking on uneven terrain, and going up and down hills with heavy packs on.

With the harder canyons not be done as much as the easier "trade" canyons, you will need to load up for "bear". In other words, bring multiple ropes, plentiful carabiners and webbing for every person, potshots to escape out of keeper potholes, ascending equipment in case a rope gets stuck or just to escape out of a pothole, thick wetsuits, and a bivy (in case a unplanned night occurs).

But it surely is memorable!  This is just a very small taste of the realities of harder canyons.  But some of the most intense, challenging and fun obstacles will lay inside.

If you just want to stay within the easy realm with some minor moderate obstacles, then most "trade" canyons will whet your appetite.  But it also comes at a price - possibly more people, possibly dealing with fees and permits, and less of a "wilderness" experience.

The more remote canyons will most likely not see other visitors for days, weeks, or even months so you MUST go in being prepared for everything and anything.  Carrying 30-50 lb packs is the norm.

These harder canyons are typically listed as a "V" from the Canyon Ratings, "R" and "X".  There is some ambiguity in the definition of those ratings, because as I have mentioned it before, every canyon is different and unique from each other.

Some canyons may be suitable for most intermediate canyoneers, but the canyon may contain one hard obstacle or some high-stemming for a couple hundred feet and thus get the higher rating.  Then comparitively, another canyon may have long periods (hours worth) of stemming and is more physically demanding then the aforementioned canyon and will get a higher difficulty rating.

One of the weaknesses of the Canyon Rating system is that it kind of blurs the harder canyons and lumps them all together and so people can mistakenly think "well, I have done Heaps Canyon now, surely I can do the King Mesa slots or Egypt 4, Raven, etc."   The problem is that again...each canyon is different and presents its own problems unique to itself.

My recommendation for doing harder canyons is GO with someone who has done them previously, everyone in your group is self-sufficient, plan on a LONG day, and do research on each canyon individually and read about its obstacles and commitment.

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