Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)
Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)
WHY do you want to Canyoneer?
Image Credit: gettyimages.com
There are MANY reasons why people want to do this sport. For some (like me) it has developed into an obsession. For others, they are slightly interested because their friend is dragging them along doing "cool" things. For another, it may be the exercise! Another, it may be for the fastest time through the slot canyon. But for the majority of people, they can put away their ego and do it simply because it's fun and they are seeing the mysteries of these slot canyons that 99.9% of the world's population will never see in person.
But canyons are not like single-use plastic water bottles. Once you are done, you simply throw them away. No! Canyons needs advocates and protection when it comes preserving them and allowing access for all.
Unfortunately, while some may think completing the Subway hike in Zion National Park was the most hardcore adventure they have ever done, there are some people who will openly mock them for how "easy" it is, and how it is not "true" canyoneering and how there are "way better canyons out there".
You know what - that is okay for them to say that, as it is there opinion. And it's okay for that person to absolutely LOVE the Subway. There is no need to defend your opinion. You like what you like.
And that goes for a lot of things in life. I'm not generally a big fan of fast food restaurants, however, I have this urge for Del Taco sometimes! People will tease me over it among my co-workers and that's okay. I like what like.
Don't feel like you need to respond to people who belittle your canyon because it was "easy" or that you are not hardcore enough to do Heap or Imlay canyons. (If we meet in person one day, I'll tell you some stories about the aforementioned online people and how they harassed others and beginners for asking beginner questions and descending "easy" canyons, but I digress.)
Truth be told, the worst thing you can do as a beginner, however, is to say that you know more about canyoneering than you actually do. That's very dangerous thinking! In fact, in can lead to situations such as beginners leading beginners. That's one of the most foolish things you can do in the sport. Take 30 seconds and think about why beginners leading other beginners is not smart at all...
As you gain more experience by doing more and more canyons throughout the years, you will most definitely do canyons that are considered "duds", "don't do it", "meh", or "that one sucks". In twenty canyoneering years, I have been through some very short technical canyons, canyons that are not technically considered slot canyons but rather narrow drainages with no real obstacles, canyons that have a long approach hike of 4+ hours with a short technical sections that ended too soon, and canyons that were a lot of fun but are not narrow enough to be considered a slot canyon.
Through all of those canyons, I have learned to appreciate them for where they are and what they have in them.
They all have different experiences or meanings to me. It's similar to hiking. Doing the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park is probably one of the best hikes in the park, but there are dozens upon dozens of other hikes that have their own personality, charm, and fun. I do not need to do Angels Landing every time I go to Zion NP.
You do not need to do only "the best" canyons. Yes, everyone wants to do the highest-rated canyons. They are ranked that high for a reason. But, there is also a lot of enjoyment, fun, and solitude in doing the lesser-known canyons.
Sure, it may have one short rappel or be a punishing hike through the hot desert, but choosing that experience is entirely up to you and what you like or want to experience!
Personally, I think variety is a great thing! It's the "spice of life" as people say. Variety is good because it helps you appreciate the "good" and "bad" ones more! Remember the saying, "that which becomes common, becomes uninteresting". So don't treat each canyon as "common".
Most beginners get bit by the "canyoneeering bug" hard at the beginning go through a lot of the canyons at the beginning and quickly get burned out in a few years. Time and time again on the internet forums we see that. People start off with no idea what the sport is, get incredibly passionate and obsessed, do 100 canyons in a year and get burned out. At one time they were incredibly active on the forums, participating in every topic, but once they get burned out, they rarely post on the forums or be involved with canyoneering.
My advice to keep this from happening to you is take it all in slowly. Learn all about the theory and how to tie the essential knots, wonder about different scenarios or predicaments that may arise in a slot canyon, and finally meetup with some fellow canyoneers that first year and do a handful of slot canyons. From there you can then decide if you want to pursue it more through advanced training, invest more money into canyoneering specific gear, and seek out a little harder canyon to grow and learn from.
Throughout those following years, you may own a canyoneering-specific backpack, multiple ropes, dozens of carabiners, hundreds of feet of webbing, canyoneering shoes, and a few wetsuits. That way you will be armed with most of the gear for a majority of the Colorado Plateau canyons. And should the invitation be sent your away or a desire (or obession) to go back out the following weekend, you will be ready! You will just need to decide on an appropriate canyon, bring your now experienced canyoneering team and off you go on your own adventure of a lifetime.
Taking this approach, you will soon have plenty of canyons to look forward to each year, while you increase your knowledge and skills.
Unfortunately, there are too many beginners rushing these things and getting themselves injured. In my opinion, the notion of "FOMO" (Fear of Missing Out) is a real anxiety for this upcoming generation. Lack of patience and understanding fuels this. There just is no need for that. It's completely unnecessary.
The canyons will ALWAYS be there (unless they are on private land) to be accessed. It's okay that you weren't the first. But you certainly won't be the last! Let the "FOMO" attitude slip away when you enter into canyoneering. You are not missing out. It will always be there. Just do it safely!
So, take your time, enjoy the canyon(s) that you are doing, "Just be" in the canyon, and please don't rush into doing the hardest canyons for your first or second canyon. If you do, the odds are highly against you in having something go horribly wrong that can lead to loss of life due to you overestimating your abilities and underestimating the canyon.
Be safe (#1 rule) followed by Have fun (#2 rule)! Enjoy where you are, thank those that are in your company, and enjoy the new adventure that awaits you!
Consider this again, WHY do you want to do crazy sport?