Thoughts on Beating the Heat

// by: Emma Graham

When it comes to beating the heat of this ridiculous, record-setting summer there are a couple of possible options that let you get things done outside:

  • Climb or hike in shady surroundings, say on a north face that’s hidden from the sun all day, or a trail that’s all below treeline and hence under the forest canopy, out of direct sunlight;
  • Get up really early – hike or climb at night and be done by the time the sun hits you; or,
  • Combine climbing with water sports and go canyoneering!

It’s this latter option I want to discuss. Heading down a narrow slot canyon canyon with wetsuit and harness on, jumping into some pools, scrambling down where you can’t jump, or rappelling if you can’t jump or scramble down. Nothing, to my mind, beats a bout of shivering on a day the air temperature closes in on 40C, if only because unlike the shivering you do on ice climbs in winter, it’s so easy to stop in the summer. Just get out of the water.

Canyoneering was a sport that didn’t really get done much in southern BC until pretty recently. I gave it a whirl in the 1990s after seeing some films at the touring Best of the Banff extravaganza, but in the last few years it’s really taken off, to the point where tourists are now coming to BC just to go canyoneering. It’s a fun, hybrid sport that combines hiking, climbing, scrambling, swimming, cliff jumping and rappelling, and it also takes place in some of the same places that ice climbing occurs, albeit at the opposite time of the year.

Most of the developed canyons around southwest BC are on the North Shore or in Squamish, but there are a few good ones in the Fraser Valley, as well as an enormous potential for more to be developed if you like to explore. In particular, Lost Creek and Norrish Creek behind Mission offer great introductions to the sport as you don’t need a rope to get down either one, and there is road access to both the top and bottom ends of the canyon.

In early July, after checking it out the year before, some friends and I descended the spectacular canyon of Deneau Creek on the Coquihalla just north of Hope, and there are lots more unexplored canyons to do in this area and south of Hope. Deneau took a few rappels to get down and some of the others out there, like Flood Falls, might require bolted rappel points and other hardware-intensive solutions to the problems they pose – not to mention the trouble of getting in to the top!

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If you want to take up canyoneering, I’d suggest renting or buying a wetsuit, using a helmet (jumps can go awry) and possibly a life vest or other flotation, bringing a drybag along with some food and dry clothes, wearing wettable, sticky-rubber shoes or sandals, and always going in a group. Static ropes can be better for canyoneering than dynamic climber’s ropes too. Odd things can happen in canyons and it’s more fun with friends than to go alone. Check out Norrish and Lost, head to West Van or Squamish to try Cypress Creek, Box Canyon or Britannia Creek (plenty of details online), and if the bug bites you hard after that taster for the sport, check out one of the many unexplored drainages around Hope.

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