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Thread: Group/Family Canyoneering Methods???

  1. #1

    Group/Family Canyoneering Methods???

    Help. looking for any tips/tricks for efficiently moving a small group through a canyon.

    So.... over time, my son and I have kinda devised our own, "way" of getting through canyons - who carries what, "chucking" the bags forward when possible, and I feel like we can move pretty efficiently (and safely).

    That came to a screetching halt yesterday when we had 3 extras with us (wife, friend, a 10 yr old).

    I learned a ton, but I still know there are LOTS of things I don't know that I don't know... Before the trip, I was most concerned w safety logistics and rope work... Well, that was the easy part...

    1. Electronics. I thought it beyond obvious NOT to bring things like an iPad... but, at the first rappel... we are contending with getting both a large, expensive DSLR and an iPad safely cushioned into our drybag... (which also completely eliminated our preferred method - throwing - of getting said bag down... I love the satisfying, "thud" of hearing that sucker hit the water too...) Anyway, my mistake for not checking at the car or telling them.

    2. Time....rappelling was mostly, "fine" but the PACE navigating elsewhere was painful... glacial... I exhausted myself walking backward checking on people... I had no idea how slowly *new* people simply walk through a canyon... "it's wet" - Luckily no one twisted an ankle... Again, this one is on me... Seemingly routine wet class 2/3 travel is slow...

    3. Food. I said, "Put stuff you want to keep dry in dry bag..." Yeah... you know where this is going... soupy trail mix... wet sandwiches ("...but it was in a ziploc?")

    The good news is everyone had a great time... The bad news (jk... kinda) is that they want to do it again...

    Help? I hate to be the dad-nazi and check everyone's backpack individually, but... and I believe in everyone should learn from his/her own mistakes... Unfortunately, that mantra was shouldered primarily by me yesterday...

    I have a new found respect for outdoor guides...

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    PLATINUM STATUS rockgremlin's Avatar
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    In situations where the trail and/or canyon is a long one, I'd double check their packs on the pre-trip inspection. Save the learning experiences for the shorter trips where you won't have to sacrifice your gear (or somebody else's) to save the dude who went unprepared.

    And I wouldn't shield them too much from the canyon-water sandwiches and the soggy trail mix -- using the appropriate gear is a lesson everyone has had to learn the hard way at some point.
    Where you are....Is not who you are.

    -circumstances

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    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Group/Family Canyoneering Methods???

    Quote Originally Posted by Scottweiler View Post
    Help. looking for any tips/tricks for efficiently moving a small group through a canyon.

    So.... over time, my son and I have kinda devised our own, "way" of getting through canyons - who carries what, "chucking" the bags forward when possible, and I feel like we can move pretty efficiently (and safely).

    That came to a screetching halt yesterday when we had 3 extras with us (wife, friend, a 10 yr old).

    I learned a ton, but I still know there are LOTS of things I don't know that I don't know... Before the trip, I was most concerned w safety logistics and rope work... Well, that was the easy part...

    1. Electronics. I thought it beyond obvious NOT to bring things like an iPad... but, at the first rappel... we are contending with getting both a large, expensive DSLR and an iPad safely cushioned into our drybag... (which also completely eliminated our preferred method - throwing - of getting said bag down... I love the satisfying, "thud" of hearing that sucker hit the water too...) Anyway, my mistake for not checking at the car or telling them.

    2. Time....rappelling was mostly, "fine" but the PACE navigating elsewhere was painful... glacial... I exhausted myself walking backward checking on people... I had no idea how slowly *new* people simply walk through a canyon... "it's wet" - Luckily no one twisted an ankle... Again, this one is on me... Seemingly routine wet class 2/3 travel is slow...

    3. Food. I said, "Put stuff you want to keep dry in dry bag..." Yeah... you know where this is going... soupy trail mix... wet sandwiches ("...but it was in a ziploc?")

    The good news is everyone had a great time... The bad news (jk... kinda) is that they want to do it again...

    Help? I hate to be the dad-nazi and check everyone's backpack individually, but... and I believe in everyone should learn from his/her own mistakes... Unfortunately, that mantra was shouldered primarily by me yesterday...

    I have a new found respect for outdoor guides...
    Thanks for the post!

    These small things add up to either make a trip enjoyable or not. Sure, everyone will survive - but when food is wet, dry clothes are now wet, phones are broken, etc. this is what puts the damper (or shine) on the trip.

    My very first time through the Subway (before I even know what canyoneering was) back in 1998, our scout leader told us to bring large trash bags to keep our packs dry. Well...that lasted about 2 potholes...and now everything was soaked. Lunch was ruined, clothes were wet, camera was wet. I wasnít happy. But at the same time, I should of known better but I was also 14 and a little naive. And in retro sight, I think my scout master was a noob leading a noob. Which is a bad thing to do when your life depends on it. Most of the time those trips work out, but thatís where those epics develop.

    But I think any tips I could give ya, would be more experience. And Experience in canyoneering just means more easy canyons. And with different people for some of those trips.

    The slow walking is sometimes due to poor footwear as in slippery shoes. I do that when my shoes arenít the best. But when im in 5.10ís, Iím fast. Invincible basically. ;)

    The biggest time killers in canyons are rappels, obstacles and just the walking through it part.

    Where I can, I suggest downclimbing. Iíve been in some canyons that took 30mins of a group of 4 to rap when we instead all downclimbed and took 5 minutes for all of us. Of course, safety is number 1 and downclimbing proficiency comes through experience. Just something to think about adding in where applicable. Donít make it mandatory.

    Those are just a few at the top of my head.




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    "There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
    "He who walks on the edge, will eventually fall."

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    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Group/Family Canyoneering Methods???

    I also do an ďaudibleĒ before trips, literally at the trailhead, with everyone gathered around and say something Like:

    ďWho has has the permit? Who has the keys? Everyone has 2 liters of water, who has the ropes, who has the first aid kit?, who has the water purifier? everyone have a headlamp?, everyone has food to eat?, do we all have drybags?, who has pull-cord?, anything else?Ē

    And we sometimes come across the, ďoh yeah, thanks, I almost forgot my headlamp (runs back to the car and gets it)Ē and so on.

    Thatís just a good practice to get in, in my opinion. You never know...(just like you were saying with an iPad in a canyon!)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ●Canyoneering 'Canyon Conditions' @ www.candition.com
    ●Subscribe to my friend Jeff's Youtube Channel - you can watch our adventures there.
    ●Hiking Treks (my younger brother's website): hiking guides at www.thetrekplanner.com
    "There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
    "He who walks on the edge, will eventually fall."

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  7. #5
    Thanks everyone! Super helpful... (and a good sanity check.)

    "Learning trips" are a great idea... Maybe a canyon w/a bail out point or two.... (I noticed enthusiasm fading after ~4th rappel.)

    yeah... footwear... I forget not everyone is wearing grippy approach shoes. In retrospect, making sure people have the right footwear would've saved a LOT of time...

    I really like the, "audible precheck" one and I can add it to what I already do. I have started forcing people to watch me zip the keys into a pouch in the backpack right after I lock the car doors because, inevitably, over a couple days of hiking, someone would, "accidentally move" them and I'd be infuriated... (until I once did it myself) Having the keys loose in a mesh pocket canyoneering could be disaster...

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  9. #6
    I've taken a lot of groups and a lot of new people through canyons. A few methods I have adopted over the years for moving quickly and safely with inexperienced people;

    Ratio of new to experienced people should be no less than 2(new):1(seasoned) if you can help it. In canyons with obstacles, downclimbs, and back to back rappels this is even more helpful on moving quickly.

    Leave an experienced person to assist everyone through a single obstacle and move past him/her leapfrogging each other through the canyon. Once they've helped a couple people through "their" obstacle they have it figured out and can more quickly assist the remaining people that need it.

    If I am going with new people and I don't already know their experience, strength, endurance, speed, etc... I will plan my day with multiple short canyons if the area allows it, rather than a long canyon. This way, if you take longer than expected you likely will still be out before dark. And if you are on schedule but some are tired, a group can head back to camp while others can squeeze another canyon in!

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  11. #7

    Thanks - follow-up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Utah Canyoneer View Post
    I've taken a lot of groups and a lot of new people through canyons. A few methods I have adopted over the years for moving quickly and safely with inexperienced people;

    Ratio of new to experienced people should be no less than 2(new):1(seasoned) if you can help it. In canyons with obstacles, downclimbs, and back to back rappels this is even more helpful on moving quickly.

    Leave an experienced person to assist everyone through a single obstacle and move past him/her leapfrogging each other through the canyon. Once they've helped a couple people through "their" obstacle they have it figured out and can more quickly assist the remaining people that need it.

    If I am going with new people and I don't already know their experience, strength, endurance, speed, etc... I will plan my day with multiple short canyons if the area allows it, rather than a long canyon. This way, if you take longer than expected you likely will still be out before dark. And if you are on schedule but some are tired, a group can head back to camp while others can squeeze another canyon in!
    Thanks. I can see where the 2:1 ratio would be good. My son was often frustrated, far ahead rigging or scouting and I was looking out for 3 people - not as easy as I would've thought ("handhold there - feet there... hey you, wait your turn... [third in line starts walking away]).

    Do you, "gear" everyone the same way? We had a climber with an ATC who wanted to double strand (separate thread). We generally had my son belaying from bottom, I'd check and go through the routine at the top ("yes, clip the anchor....") and check people's setup. ATS, 8, ATC... I feel like the, "participants" might've been less intimidated (and perhaps learned faster...) if everyone had the same descender? (I hate to buy even more gear, but this may be a prudent investment if these folks stick with it - and make my life easier ("remember, don't drop that ATC when ypu are getting off the rope at the bottom...").

    At the end of the day, I kbow nothing replaces experience... But I sincerely appreciate the insight here. I'll just need to relax and enjoy the process. Thankfully, we made it out before dark... Funny how quick a 3 hr canyon can turn into 6 and change...

    Thanks again,

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  13. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Scottweiler View Post
    Do you, "gear" everyone the same way? We had a climber with an ATC who wanted to double strand (separate thread). We generally had my son belaying from bottom, I'd check and go through the routine at the top ("yes, clip the anchor....") and check people's setup. ATS, 8, ATC... I feel like the, "participants" might've been less intimidated (and perhaps learned faster...) if everyone had the same descender? (I hate to buy even more gear, but this may be a prudent investment if these folks stick with it - and make my life easier ("remember, don't drop that ATC when ypu are getting off the rope at the bottom...").
    Thanks again,
    It just depends. I have a few extra Critrs and totems that I will lend out but if someone goes with me and says "that was fun, I want to do more" I will give them a list of things to buy.

    If people are really light weight and depending on rope diameter, material, stiffness etc... If they are really familiar with their atc or fig. 8, and that's what they want to use, then I don't have any problems with that. Especially with a bottom belay. Heavier people or thinner ropes, I will start them out with a z rig or other methods to add friction if I am out of loaner gear. If someone insisted on using their atc and then had an issue with single strand rappels I would point out the lack of versatility they have and z rig them. Hopefully it sinks in and they get a better device for next time (unless this is a one-time thing)

  14. #9
    When canyoneering with large groups of noob's I try to pick canyons with few rappels as they tend to be the real time suck. Even short simple canyons with multiple rappels are huge time sucks when you have to babysit every canyoneer. I've taken noob groups as large as 12 down canyons like Leprechaun, The Black Hole, Black Box, and Yankee Doodle and had no issue with time management. If the noobs like the experience then I'll suggest what gear to buy, what order they should purchase it in and where to get some experience.

    The type of rappel devise used should really be a non-issue to a talented leader. There is no reason it should take longer to rig an ATC over an 8 or one of it's variations, you should have no issues mixing and matching. I think most will agree the best rap devise is the one you know, have experience with and are comfortable using. If the rappel devise's being used, or the noobs, are giving you issues as a leader the problem might be you.

    And "chucking" the backpacks and bags is a terrible practice. I could detail you at least a dozen epics that begin with "we tossed the backpack/bag". That is probably the number three reason for an epic right behind "the weather was iffy and we got a late start". If you want to be a good, fast, and efficient canyoneer learn to climb with your pack on. Always taking packs on and off and chucking are a huge time suck if you are traveling with a group of skilled canyoneers. The very first thing I teach noobs is to canyoneer with the pack on and keep moving.

    Anyhoo.... food for thought.

    YMMV

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  16. #10
    PLATINUM STATUS rockgremlin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scottweiler View Post
    Thanks. I can see where the 2:1 ratio would be good. My son was often frustrated, far ahead rigging or scouting and I was looking out for 3 people - not as easy as I would've thought ("handhold there - feet there... hey you, wait your turn... [third in line starts walking away]).
    LOL you're doing God's work. Bless you for being so patient. That's hard work corralling cats -- especially when the cats are dispassionate and don't really engage.


    You brought up a good point -- it's a good idea to always bring spare biners and belay devices. Even if everyone has their own, you never know when/if folks might lose theirs somewhere along the route.
    Where you are....Is not who you are.

    -circumstances

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  18. #11
    Zions the "s" is silent trackrunner's Avatar
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    One thing to help speed things up with rope management is to have more than one working rope in the group and follow the Alpha and Omega method I learned from Tom Jones. The first shall be last and last shall be first. He can explain and add anything I may have left out. The rope managers will leap frog each other.

    As the manager of a rope I am responsible for managing the rappel station. Once I pull and bag my rope I rush through the canyon to get to the next rappel without a rope set, hopeful before those with out the rope. The rope carrier has the right of way at all obstacles and others will let her/him pass or rappel when carrier catches up to them.

    At the next rappel I then set up the rappel and manage the station. With noobs I would always stay at the top. Experience group I would rappel to the bottom if I beat everyone there with substantial time just to speed things along. This is where I grab a quick bite of snack or meel, drink, sit and take a rest. The rest adds up and allows me to be moving all other times.

    Another way to spread things up is to manage ropes as teams. Two to a rope. One pulls and the other bags. In a long canyon with a lot of raps it helps save energy. Plus it gives you an opportunity to trade off carrying the rope, pulling, baging.

    With noobs that need help navigating in canyon obstacles it helps to have someone else be the in canyon obstacles manager who is not a rope manager.

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