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Questions from another newbie

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Matt Baxter, Mar 31, 2019.

  1. Matt Baxter

    Matt Baxter

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    Hey all, first time posting and had some questions I was hoping you all might be able to answer.

    Moved out to AZ for a job a few months ago and in my desire to experience more of the outdoors discovered this wonderful sport. A few weeks ago I took a two day intro to canyoneering course which covered a lot of the basics of anchors & rigging, rappelling, rating classifications, leave no trace ethics, etc., and have since purchased a lot of the requisite gear and spent my evenings practicing tying different knots. Now I want to get my boots on the group and acquire more tangible experience.

    My questions are:

    1. How did you find a group to run with? Here, or on MeetUp? Facebook? Reddit? Or did you just cross paths with other adventurers over time and they became your go-to canyoneering partners? I'm having a heck of a time finding more experienced groups to go explore with (which I understand; a lot of people don't want to take a rookie under their belt given the at times precarious nature of navigating more technical canyons). Should I just pay for more led tours to get my experience level up?

    2) Did you start off slow? I'm going to be exploring some class 1 canyons solo just as a form of conditioning, but for higher ratings I'm not yet comfortable going solo. Any recommendations for easy, "entry-level" (i.e., no - or at best only a few short-drop - rappels) canyons in AZ?

    3) I still need to purchase a rope. Recommendations for brand/length/diameter? My course instructor said 120' - 150' would be more than sufficient to begin with.

    4) Anyone in the Phoenix area know of any climbing gyms that have dedicated rappelling stations? I'd like to practice rappelling in more of a controlled environment.

    Thanks for any advice, and hope to see you guys out there.
  2. Zach Olson

    Zach Olson

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    Welcome to the group! I'm certainly no expert but I have a few thoughts.

    1. I'm sure there's just as many ways to find canyoneering partners as there are canyoneers. For example a few years ago at the drop in of Pine Creek @Craig (a total stranger at the time) walked up to our group and asked to join us. After a great day he left us with a canyon business card and joined us the next year for a Capitol Reef trip. So maybe approaching strangers in a parking lot is a winning strategy :)

    In my experience most of us are eager to share technical skills as well as learn new skills. The best thing you can do in the beginning is probably to be a good rookie. Canyoneering is a team sport and it's in the experienced canyoneer's best interest to build up new people's skills so they can get out more. If you do get on a trip with experienced people showing an eagerness to learn and work as a team can go a long way to getting invited on a second trip.

    2. Rule #22: Always bring a meat anchor. I know some people go solo but it's not for me or most the people I meet. Best to have a buddy for technical terrain. There's probably beginner stuff in the Phoenix area but I haven't done much there so I don't know specifics.

    3. Maybe wait to buy a rope until after doing a canyon or two. Buy a 200ft rope and bag. You gain alot of versatility with that length and open up alot more canyon opportunities. The second rope you should buy is a shorter 60'-100' working rope.

    4. Not sure if a climbing gym is going to meet your needs. When I was learning we practiced on friendly cliffs, sturdy branches, decks, apartment balconies (bad idea)... Best to find somebody who has some anchor building knowledge or throw a rope around a sturdy tree above a drop and tie a bowline.
    Craig likes this.
  3. Craig

    Craig Feeling My Way

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    Matt, I can feel your pain. As Zach mentioned, a few years ago I resorted to ambushing likely looking groups as they started their approach. The trick is to not look like a newb. Even if you have never descended a canyon, make sure you have practiced, practiced, practiced everything you have read about. There is no excuse for you to not know important advanced skills like ascending, passing knots, adjusting friction, etc. Make sure you feel competent with these skills. Then when you do get into a canyon, you won't be overwhelmed and your partners won't be too worried about you. Don't falsify your canyoneering experience. Be honest and friendly.

    I found that experienced groups enjoy helping the less experienced as long as you are not a burden. I think the best skill to acquire, in order to not be a burden and to impress your new group, is the ability to navigate. If you can show the experienced group to the top of the canyon, then you are already part of the team. You can practice your navigation skills solo.

    But be careful whom you ambush. If you have practiced your skills properly, and studied anchor building, and read every thread on CanyonCollective, then you will be a more experienced canyoneer than probably half of the people out descending canyons. Some people have no problem just grabbing some random gear and some random beta and jumping into a canyon with no more experience than watching a Youtube video. Don't be like them; don't go with them. If you find a group, make sure they have the right attitude. If they seem nervous, disorganized, and trying to psych-up each other, then you should be asking them questions about their canyoneering resume and preparing to back out. Don't go with anyone you have a bad feeling about.

    I agree with Zach, buy a 200' Imlay Canyon Fire and a rope bag. Go to the climbing gym to practice climbing and especially down-climbing.

    If you have the money, I recommend professional training. Take some skills classes from people like Jared or Bret of North Wash Outfitters. I'm not much for led tours but taking Canyon Rescue or Canyon Leadership courses can be very useful for people like me that don't live in Utah or Arizona.

    You are not alone. I still struggle to find people to go out with. But if you stay interested long enough, you will meet plenty of active and competent canyoneers.
    Yellow Dart and Preston Gable like this.
  4. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Location:
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    I had a number of outdoor adventure type folks in my peer group and it was fairly easy to draft victims, uhh, I mean partners into the canyon thing.

    2) Did you start off slow?

    Not really, but, was a fairly saavy climber. Heaps with a friend who'd never really done a technical canyon was my second canyon. First was over 10 years prior and was the Left Fork into the Subway.

    3) I still need to purchase a rope. Recommendations for brand/length/diameter? My course instructor said 120' - 150' would be more than sufficient to begin with.

    Can't go wrong with a 60m rope. You can cut it up later if you need shorter lengths.

    4) Anyone in the Phoenix area know of any climbing gyms that have dedicated rappelling stations?[/QUOTE]

    I've been to a couple of gyms in Phoenix and they typically don't have rappelling. Most gyms don't.

    Rally a crew to get out to Camelback.
  5. garthkevin1

    garthkevin1

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    I've been to a couple of gyms in Phoenix and they typically don't have rappelling. Most gyms don't.

    Rally a crew to get out to Camelback.[/QUOTE]Garth here in Phoenix. I've got a real nice cliff in Lookout mountain preserve. It's about 35' nice landing area and the bonus no traffic like Camelback. Anyone interested PM.

    Sent from my GT-N8013 using Tapatalk
  6. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

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    Although sometimes flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt do the trick. ;-)
    Craig likes this.
  7. Matt Baxter

    Matt Baxter

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    Location:
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    Thanks for the responses, all. Good advice all around.
  8. Southern Canyoneer

    Southern Canyoneer Desert Hiker

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    If I remember right Craig was posted up in the parking lot of Pine Creek sitting in a folding chair listening to surf music ambushing anyone who looked like a canyoneer. I found this picture of him actually.

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  9. pyle762

    pyle762

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    Canyon Monkey likes this.
  10. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Location:
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    I don't agree with the advice to not look like a noob. I think don't be a know-it-all is better advice. Be honest with your experience and skill level. However, I believe Craig is saying be prepared and have adequate practice prior to joining a group. I agree with practice climbing down climbing. Find some hiking that requires some class 3/maybe easy class 4 and be comfortable with it.

    1) Early on I made my own groups, including my main partner my GF/now my wife. There are plenty of easy canyons to do in AZ (Jug, Chris Creek, Minow, etc.) that are not too committing. You just missed the AZ Rondy, that would have been a great place to meet others.
    2)I was a climber in my younger days, so I had ample rope experience. For the first year we did many canyons just the two of us. It was great because we became very efficient. We always left details of where we were going and what we were doing.
    3)Wait or buy a 200ft rope. You will kick yourself if you buy something too short and you limit yourself. Don't buy anything less then 100ft. You will eventually have plenty of short ropes. lol
    4)No gyms. Beardsley Boulder Pile, Teddy Bear wall at South Mountain, Papago Buttes south east of the amphitheater, lookout mountain...all have decent practice areas.
    Matt Baxter and Craig like this.
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