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Thread: Canyoneering question?

  1. #1

    Canyoneering question?

    Hopefully this is the right place to post this, I have a question about canyoneering anchors. So I'm looking at buying my own gear for some trips this summer, and I'm trying to visualize what is necessary. I've been canyoneering in the past and have done some anchor practice with knowledgeable friends, and I'll practice rigging anchors on some smaller adventures before I go do a more remote canyon. But here's what I'm having trouble with: assuming you take enough webbing and quick links to set up new natural anchors at every rap, that could quickly turn into a lot of "just in case" webbing you're taking with you. I've seen recommendations to take anywhere from 50-100' of webbing to be safe, but say you are setting up 2 new anchors at every rap that both require 30' of webbing, and you have to do that 5x. That's 10 sections and 300 total ft of webbing you're taking. Naturally it helps to have beta either from a recent trip report or having been there before yourself, but I'm just curious how I can avoid starting out with buying and filling a backpack with a pile of unnecessary webbing.

    I suppose in canyons that get more traffic it's less of a concern, but you obviously still want to be prepared in case there's a bad anchor, or you could end up stuck. So how much preparation is right?

    I decided I wanted to give some technical canyons a try after going through Ding and Dang canyons last fall with some friends. I've done that trip many times and was really disappointed to see almost every drop bolted. The reason I always loved that canyon in the past was it is non-technical but challenging. Apparently it finally saw too much traffic and at some point in the last year or two and somebody decided to bolt it. Really disappointing.

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  4. #2
    You're really over thinking this... if you're a noob doing the trade routes you 'might' replace a couple anchors a year.

    And please don't add webbing "just to be safe" as that's what noobs do and it does nothing but create a rats nest of webbing in the canyon.

    Hope that helps...

  5. #3
    I've kinda got a funny thing in regards to bolts...on one hand I think they're convenient and (if installed properly) very safe. Safety is key, in my mind. It sure would be nice to go thru Imlay without any bolts in it...but the fact that they are there makes it mighty convenient. People are always going to be "getting into" Canyoneering and I think we'd be seeing regular epic rescues if bolts were the exception, especially with easy access canyons.

    There are plenty of places that you can go "au naturale" if you wish...build anchors and hook up Fiddlesticks until you can't do it anymore. Bolts don't bother me very much...trash and poop is more of a problem, IMO.

    Now getting to webbing...I don't think I've ever carried more than 100'...in fact, most of the time it's at least 50' (always in the pack) and make sure everybody with me has at least that much as well. Works fine that way...the only time we've carried "tons" of webbing is if we're doing something that has know, long runouts. If you're going to dive into something with no beta and it looks to have some drops, then 150' should be enough...but I've never encountered one that needed that much.

    Make sure you buy a Sandtrap if you haven't got one.
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  6. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Byron View Post
    Make sure you buy a Sandtrap if you haven't got one.
    Why?!?

    I've been canyoneering for 35 years. I pioneered and/or named many of the popular routes in Utah. And I never once found the need for a Sandtrap or Fiddlestick... just more shit to go wrong. I'm a strong believer in KISS (keep it simple stupid).

    As for bolts it's a mixed bag... I was fortunate enough to do most/many of the Utah classics before they were bolted. The skill level required was much great back in the day. Canyoneering the trade routes has pretty much become paint by numbers. It's not better or worse, just much different.

    Now get off my lawn!

  7. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe View Post
    Why?!?

    In a way, I hear ya. I was canyoneering at least 10 years before the Sandtrap existed...what was that? 2002?

    But once I started going with people that actually deploy them, it is a great tool. It's a way to save webbing, in particular...and in some cases a lot bomber than what you would otherwise tie to. I'm a fan of the thing, but it's certainly not needed on every hike.
    Hey Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old times sake?
    Sorry Sal. Can't do it.

  8. #6
    So you're saying a lot of canyons already have bolts - it makes sense that that would render most of my question moot; I was going off of the articles I've seen that say you should be prepared to not rely on bolts that were improperly placed (although one would naturally hope this is the exception) or that go into detail about the natural protection options. The same articles claim that bolts are frequently damaged or removed by flash floods. If lots of canyons already are bolted, that's actually a disappointment by itself if I'm honest, doing some problem solving to set up anchors sounds fun to me, but maybe I'm weird. Don't we go out there to get away? Having bolts everywhere seems a little too Disneylandish to me, I guess I'm a couple decades late to the party.

    So are a lot of bolts turnkey then? They already have webbing and quick links so all you need is rope and a few carabiners most of the time? The few times I've seen bolts they haven't had anything attached, so I would still need webbing and links? I didn't think webbing was easy to retrieve.

  9. #7
    The trade routes are all well traveled and already rigged, sometimes with bolts and sometimes with natural anchor. For the most part you just need to be able to examine the existing anchor and evaluate if it's safe or not.

    One of the few times this might not be true is if you are the first through following a massive flash flood, but this is extremely rare.

    When doing trade routes I carry 50' of webbing and a couple of slings and never had any issues. YMMV

  10. #8
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    Everything in Zion is well bolted(usually)
    You need to become an expert at bad anchor identification and new anchor building.(your life depends on it)
    Now--just because a canyon is mostly or completely bolted, in no way suggests you are required to use said bolts.
    In fact it is great fun to figure out alternative anchors.

    Once you leave the confines of ZNP, anchoring takes on a new meaning and you must become proficient at using alternate anchoring(natural anchors)

    I'm not saying canyons outside of Zion are not bolted, many are but the game level is turned up a notch in regards to anchors.
    Learning natural anchor building skills, including a sand trap(love em), are what will keep you from an un timely death.
    I believe most all deaths/accidents in canyoneering come from the lack of good anchor/rigging skills.
    Natural anchor building skills are a great, fun part of canyoneering, you can still use them in most any canyon--get educated, have fun.
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  11. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by color View Post
    Don't we go out there to get away? Having bolts everywhere seems a little too Disneylandish to me, I guess I'm a couple decades late to the party.
    About 15, really. It was around 2005 that I noticed the sport really taking off. Kelsey had published his first (a quickly second) editions of his Slot Canyoneering guides and people have been complaining about bolts ever since.

    Just get out an start doing them. You'll figure it out easy enough. A course would be a good idea...or look into going on the North Wash or Zion Rendezvous, sign up to be guided and ask a lot of questions...they'll learn ya.

    Before Sandtraps, these were always fun. It's called a Deadman...and in other cases you just have to improvise.

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    Hey Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old times sake?
    Sorry Sal. Can't do it.

  12. #10
    ^^^Speaking of deadman anchors...there used to be a pretty hefty looking deadman anchor in the bottom of a pothole at the last rappel out of Mindbender. The problem is....when that pothole holds water, how do you double check that anchor? Do you dare just rappel off the end and pray it's stable? I would say no. But then again, there aren't an abundance of available anchor materials in that location iirc.
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  13. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by rockgremlin View Post
    ^^^Speaking of deadman anchors...there used to be a pretty hefty looking deadman anchor in the bottom of a pothole at the last rappel out of Mindbender. The problem is....when that pothole holds water, how do you double check that anchor? Do you dare just rappel off the end and pray it's stable? I would say no. But then again, there aren't an abundance of available anchor materials in that location iirc.
    Ha! Plenty of times we just yank on them to make sure they don't move. First person down is the guinea pig.
    Hey Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old times sake?
    Sorry Sal. Can't do it.

  14. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by rockgremlin View Post
    But then again, there aren't an abundance of available anchor materials in that location iirc.
    There is an over abundance of anchor material at that rappel... Folks seem to forget you can use a meat anchor (partner assist) for the first man down and than farm anchor material from below. Come on guys... this isn't rocket science....

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