Location: Altadena area – Los Angeles, California
When you think Los Angeles, you think Hollywood. You think big city. You think sun, surf, sand, and superstars (of course!). Now add canyoneering to that list.
Canyoneering (or Canyoning) is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling/rappelling, and/or swimming.
Since we don’t have canyons close to Toronto, I figured I’d have to experience canyoneering on a trip – so why not in LA?
I signed my friends and I up for a Canyoneering adventure through Alpine Training Services via Kijubi.com (where there are plenty of activities and adventures to browse if you’re in California, Nevada, or Florida).
Our day started at 9am with a briefing and a drive to Rubio Canyon in Altadena where we packed up the necessary/provided gear (helmets, kids!) for the hike up the hills and the eventual descent by rope. At around 10am we started hiking some trails – flat ones to start off with, but the inclines started to get steeper (this is when one discovers how out-of-shape they are….).
After a mini training session where we rappelled down dirt inclines (for practice), we reached our first challenge – a 100-foot waterfall. Here’s where I got to test my new super cool shoes in water.
‘Super cool’ is my own personal opinion. I’ve received such comments as “omg those are so ugly” and “eew. wtf are those?”. I describe them as unconventional. Well, to each their own I guess!
Here, I present my Vibram FiveFingers SPRINT shoes which I purchased specifically for this canyoneering adventure. [Thanks to Off-track Backpacking's post for bringing these toe-shoes to my attention!]
Okay, so they look a little weird, but I choose function over fashion when partaking in activities that require good footing. I think our guide, Gavin, doubted my FiveFingers as he told me to bring along my spare set of runners (that I didn’t end up needing).
These toe-shoes are flexible and surprisingly comfortable. They form to your foot and you can definitely get a good feel of the surfaces you’re treading on (whether it be ground or wall). They were great on land and also in water (although the SPRINTs probably don’t keep you as warm as the FLOW model). My only regret is deciding to break them in on this trip – I should have followed the instructions/heeded the warnings on the box and done the breaking-in process beforehand. For hiking and canyoneering, I give them a thumbs-up.
So it took a while for everyone to make their way down the first waterfall but this wasn’t surprising since we were new at this – and a 100-foot drop is pretty intimidating. Our pace was slow and steady.
Your life is hanging by a thread – or rather, several threads which make a thick rope. It helps that our guides are very experienced – this fact calmed my nerves. They made sure our harnesses and ropes were secure before sending us on our way.
Walking backwards the entire time – thinking “right foot, left foot. right foot, left foot” .
Focused on being balanced. Putting equal weight on both legs. Maintaining a good angle from the wall.
Gushing water from above.
Mossy parts were to be avoided – because your foot could slip.
My foot slipped. I swung from side-to-side for a bit.
All I could do was try to find good footing and get back in position.
Compose myself. And keep going.
Until I felt flat ground beneath my feet.
(And then let out a huge sigh of relief).
After the first waterfall, the ones that followed were much easier – they were smaller and we were getting the hang of it.
An 8-hour day of Canyoneering is challenging, exciting, and tiring. We thought we would be able to rest for a couple hours after this adventure and do some evening activities – we were right and wrong.
Right, because we did end up going out. Wrong, because we were so exhausted from the days’ adventure that we didn’t enjoy ourselves as much as we should have.
Canyoneering takes a lot out of you, but if you’re looking to hike, take in some great views, and do something out-of-the-ordinary, it’s definitely a fun activity you’ll want to consider.
Our guides, Gavin, Travis, and Laura, have an obvious love for it and they were great at explaining the procedures for rappelling while making sure we were safe and aware of everything around us (those loose falling rocks can definitely hurt). You can check out their photos of our adventure here.