3. Do Your Research
“One component of the technical canyoneering course that I teach is hazard mitigation and avoidance,” says Hagedorn. “Moving rocks, potholes, quicksand, flowing water, rattlesnakes — these all need to be taken into account.”
Flash floods are one of the single biggest hazards in canyoneering. So having a knowledge and understanding of weather patterns and local forecasts is essential. It’s also a good idea to study topographic maps and look for possible escape routes.
4. Know Your Limits
Be aware of your personal skill set and limitations as well as those of your group. Make decisions that are smartest for the entire team. And don’t fall prey to “summit fever.” If conditions aren’t right, you can always come back and try another day.
5. Bring a Friend (Or Ten)
“Even with 25 years of experience, I still don’t go out in Robbers Roost alone,” says Hagedorn. “There are a lot of potential hazards out there, so you’ll need to leave details of where you’re going and when you’re likely to be back with friends and family.”
“In a place like Zion, you’re required to have a permit, so a ranger will know where you’re going,” he continues. “In Robbers Roost, all that goes away, because no permit is required and you’re much more on your own.”The bottom line is: wherever you go, you’re safer as part of a team.
6. Be Present
Canyoneering requires a lot of problem solving, so it’s easy to get caught up in your own thoughts. Take a moment to stop and look at the nature in front of you, whether it’s the desert blooms, the rock formations or the intense blue of the sky.
“Soak up the beauty and remind yourself that it’s a privilege to be there,” says Hagedorn.
For the related story with guide Chris Hagedorn, read A Path Through the Canyons and watch the full video-feature Permit of Solitude.