A Complete Guide to Canyoning

Canyoning can offer you a thrilling adventure coupled with breathtaking views and stunning scenery. You’ll immerse yourself in a world of beautiful gorges and waterfalls, all while participating in an adrenaline-filled experience.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about this exciting activity.

What is canyoning?

Canyoning is a fairly new sport that has only been on the adventure scene for a few decades and involves the descent of a river system or a gorge using various techniques and methods. It is practised in demanding natural environments that can be either wet or dry.

A mountain range includes different types of geological features with or without water, which can be classed as:

  • canyons
  • ravines
  • gorges
  • caverns
  • caves
  • ice waterfalls

Through canyoning, you can navigate your way through these exciting features. Usually combining swimming, walking and climbing, you’ll often find yourself abseiling or rappelling down waterfalls. There are often magical hidden features to uncover as you move through these impressive outdoor environments. You should also prepare yourself for some terrifying jumps!

How does it work?

Canyoning consists of ascending to the highest point of interest or possible point of ingress and then deploying various techniques to descend to the lowest point of the canyon or interest. The activity involves technical descents and requires abseils (rappels), ropework, technical climbing, technical jumps, and/or technical swims. This sport frequently takes place in remote and rugged settings. It can involve navigational and other wilderness survival skills, though most adventurers practise the sport with certified instructors who are on hand to help.

What are the different canyoning techniques?


Abseiling is the controlled descent of a steep slope usually attributed to climbers. They would normally abseil back down the rock faces that they’ve climbed. Abseiling involves the use of a rope and a belay device to ensure a controlled descent from spots that are too high or too tricky to simply jump off of.

Bridging, chimneying and stemming

When it comes to making your way through the passage between canyons, there are several techniques to make the process easier:

  • Bridging involves using your body to form a bridge to fill a gap between two rock walls.
  • Chimneying requires you to put your back against a wall face while your legs stretch out to place your feet against an opposing wall.
  • Stemming has you placing your left palm and foot on the opposite wall from your right hand and foot.


Canyoning involves a lot of outdoor rock climbing. It will have you climbing around and over rocks and boulders and other kinds of terrain as you traverse through the canyon. Make sure you’re physically prepared to meet these challenges.

Jumping and sliding

Jumping involves you vaulting off of a cliff face, usually straight into a river or pool beneath the cliff – this might pose a challenge for those with a fear of heights but it’s an incredibly exciting part of your canyoning adventure. Meanwhile, you can expect to slide down flowing rivers into a pool at the end of it.


Swimming is obviously an essential part of the canyoning process and you’ll need to ensure you are able to do this. At some points you may even need to dive under rock formations to continue on your canyoning route so it’s important that you are confident in your swimming abilities.

What is the history behind canyoning?

Canyoning can be traced back hundreds of years to a period where explorers and settlers navigated across the early American deserts. They were faced with a maze of canyons in the southwest, and so had to use ropes and anchors to ascend and descend these giant structures. Modern-day canyoning resurged in the 1960’s when mountaineering and rock climbing equipment was invented – and has now developed into a popular sport around the globe.

What is the difference between canyoning and gorge walking?

Gorge walking is similar to canyoning, as you’re making your way through a river, jumping and sliding, either up the river or down it. It is often considerably shorter and less adventurous. Canyoning involves only going down the canyon, and features greater heights, bigger drops and often ropes.

Who can go canyoning?

In essence, anyone above the age of ten can go canyoning. You’ll need to have a reasonably good fitness level. It’s also worth pointing out that the water temperature is often very cold, and someone sensitive to cold may not enjoy the activity (although you will be wearing a wetsuit). Another consideration is that once you begin the course, you have to finish it. There is no way out, so even if you get tired, you will have to keep going. Many canyoning courses require long walks back as well to the activity centre. Some routes also include high jumps or abseils, which cannot be avoided. Some easier routes do have alternate paths and tougher sections can be avoided – the best thing to do is inform yourself before the activity begins. This activity requires a lot of concentration so it’s important to not be too fatigued and ensure that you’re not ill or hungover.

You should note that in many countries the maximum group size is limited to 8 people. This is important because the instructor needs to be able to watch each participant carefully to ensure their safety. Groups larger than 8 are not often suitable. It’s also important that everyone in your group has roughly the same fitness level, as it is not usually possible to split groups up once you begin, and everyone must be able to finish.

People with extreme vertigo, or previous bone injury, back injury, heart problems, or ankle issues are not recommended to join. You should make your activity provider aware of any other special medical issues and they can help you decide if canyoning is okay for you.

What’s extreme canyoning?

Extreme canyoning is a more advanced form of canyoning that involves more difficult routes and rougher terrains. This option is better suited to participants of a higher mental and physical fitness level.

What equipment do you need to go canyoning?

The equipment you’ll need to bring depends largely on where canyons are located and how steep the descent is. You might be asked to bring along special gear according to your skill level and the amount of difficulty you expect to encounter. This equipment will need to be durable and able to withstand a lot of wear.

Here’s some common gear you’re likely to come across:

Mountaineering helmet

A helmet is the best way of ensuring you don’t sustain a serious injury – mountaineering can be dangerous and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Canyoning rope

Bringing along a canyoning rope is essential to tackle the sport’s unique environmental challenges. You should seek a true static rope or semi-static rope made of a hydrophobic fibre such as polyester or polyamide. This material will hold up over time and provide a smoother rappelling experience.


This is an activity where you’re likely to get wet, so a wetsuit will definitely come in handy. Many wetsuits come with extra padding in the knees and elbows and some even feature a hood, so you don’t have to worry about becoming too cold.

5mm neoprene socks

These allow you to move in the water while maintaining proper body temperature.

A harness

This will be fitted with lanyards and a descender which will be useful for progressions on ropes.

A bag and a waterproof container

You can use this to put your lunch in for day trips or your valuables.

A lifejacket

This will assist you if you get into difficulties in the water.

You should also bring a pair of closed-toe shoes that will get wet, a swimsuit, a hair tie for long hair and glasses if you must keep them and picnic lunch and a bottle of water for day canyons.

Get in touch with Honister Slate for an unforgettable canyoning experience

If you’re ready for an adrenaline-packed canyoning adventure, Honister Slate can help. Located in the heart of the Lake District National Park, our canyoning adventures offer a chance to explore nature’s own waterpark. Conveniently situated just 15 minutes from our base at Honister Slate Mine, canyoning is the perfect way to experience the breathtaking natural structures that make up this historic site. Each of our canyoning sessions are led by a team of experienced guides, assisting you as you journey through waterfalls and abseil down rock faces for an unforgettable adventure. Contact us today to book your slot for this amazing Lake District climbing adventure!