The thing about being an adventure and adrenaline junkie is you’re always wanting to switch it up, try something new. Luckily, the stunning Canadian Rockies are the perfect playground for a huge variety of thrills all year long. And on a Sunday in June this year, what started as a rainy and chilly morning turned into a glorious, heart-pounding experience as we embarked on a new way to traverse the mountains, forest, and waterfalls: canyoning in the Rockies!
While canyoning involves turning waterfalls, gorges, canyons, streams, and boulders into your personal playground with rappelling, jumping, sliding, climbing, our expedition started out with a beautiful hike. We donned the outfits and gear provided to us: full body wetsuits, dry sacs with climbing harnesses, and helmets, and set out on an incredibly scenic hike featuring beautiful forest surroundings, bridges, creeks, and huge rock formations. Our handy dry sac provided a safe space for phones and camera gear so we could capture the excitement of the day. Luckily, we wore hiking shoes with solid grip, as the morning rain upped the challenge level, especially on the steep sections of the trail.
We may have started out chilled, but as the rain cleared out, we ended up peeling off layers of the wetsuits, which were definitely doing their job in keeping us warm! After a couple rest stops and water breaks, we reached the summit of the mountain in about an hour and soaked in the gorgeous views, now complete with sunny blue skies.
Finding Our Footing
Now it was time for the real fun to begin. We suited back up and slipped on hour helmets and harnesses, which came with and extra protective layer, and we’d soon know why – canyoning involves getting pretty up close and personal with rocky surfaces, so our full body covering gear definitely saved us some scratches and bruises! Our guide conducted a demonstration in which we got to try our hand at the basic techniques of rappelling and receive tips on posture, hand placement, and procedures with the ropes, to best stay safe and have an amazing time.
One of the great features of this tour was the gradual escalation in challenge and risk. As we began to make our way back down the mountain, the art of canyoneering involved taking bigger and bigger steps, starting out with short drops, fun slides into chilly water, and small sections of climbing without the use of the rope and harness. As the obstacles got bigger and more difficult to navigate, our guide patiently encouraged each person, providing suggestions on where to step and reminding folks about proper technique and safety. As our confidence grew, so did the adrenaline coursing through our veins as the drops got longer and steeper, the pools of water deeper, and the rock faces slicker from the rushing waterfalls. And this meant one very important thing: we were ready for the grand finale and by far the most thrilling and challenging section of the trail: a sheer 80 foot rappel down a powerful waterfall!
One by one, we shuffled to the edge of the huge waterfall with our guide to take a peek at what we were about to do – this provided an opportunity to map out the course of the rappel and to really get the heart pounding as we stared down into the water rushing along a completely perpendicular cliffside that seemed to stretch on forever. But our guide assured us – all the skills and techniques we’d just learned and used would be put to use in the very same way – just for way longer and without any pointers – the roar of the waterfall would pretty much drown out anyone’s voice!
Hooked up to the harness and rope, we each took our turn, first dropping to a small landing, and then pivoting towards and then away from the waterfall to navigate the rest of the way down, step by step (or knee by knee for some!) down the slick, steep surface, building a rhythm with the climbing rope and our own bodies. It was a truly thrilling experience of scaling this huge natural site in reverse, feeling the excitement and the sense of being a total badass. Some bounded down the waterfall quickly, and others took their time to pause, look around where they were, and up at where they had just been. You couldn’t help but grin when you touched down in the pool below and craned your neck to witness your own epic accomplishment. At this point, the adrenaline fully set in and each person was greeted at the bottom with whoops, high fives, and maybe even some celebratory dance moves!
Riding the Adrenaline High Back
We were in no real hurry to leave the site of our triumph, so we took some time to take pictures, congratulate each other, and stare with envy and admiration at how easily the guide rappelled down. After one more slide to another pool of water, it was time to hike the rest of the way back down and let ourselves dry off and warm up once again.
If you love mountaineering, hiking, or rock climbing, canyoning should definitely be on your list of mountain activities to try out, and there’s no better setting for giving this a go than in the majesty of the Canadian Rockies. Connect with one of Live It Up’s Adventure Visionaries to plan out a riveting canyoning adventure of your own and experience this amazing thrill for yourself!
Credit: Shannon Blais and CWE/BVC