VISITORS GUIDE: CANYONEERING IN WASHINGTON STATE
So, you want to go on a canyoneering adventure in Washington State, but you don’t know where to start. Wild Sky has compiled this guide of useful information to help you get started in planning your adventure.
FIrst: Study up on local ethics and tactics.
The first step of planning for a canyoneering trip to Washington State should be going to the Washington Canyon Coalition welcome page and read about local ethics and tactics.
Canyoneering in the PNW is rapidly gaining in popularity and visitorship. That is GREAT! We welcome all people who want to enjoy and care for our local canyons. But, as the saying goes; “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
PNW AQUATIC CANYONS ARE VERY DIFFERENT FROM DESERT SLOT CANYONS! The techniques employed in the SW are not always appropriate for PNW canyons. As a visiting canyoneer you may not be as competent in PNW canyons as you are in the desert SW. Wild Sky strongly endorses that you seek competent instruction in Class C canyoning before you attempt to lead a canyon in the PNW. V7 Academy is the Gold Standard in PNW canyoneering techniques.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO CANYONEERING IN WASHINGTON STATE?
Summer is by far the best time to go canyoneering in Washington State. There are many considerations you need to take into account before entering a canyon, but the main variable is the volume of water flowing through the canyons. In general the summer snowmelt and PNW summer drought means that there is an appropriate amount of water in canyons.
Some canyons that have low flows can be done in the spring or the fall, but this can be very unpredictable due to the rainfall that the PNW is famous for.
WHERE SHOULD I GO CANYONEERING IN WASHINGTON STATE?
There are many regions of Washington State that are suitable for canyoneering. The area with the easiest access and most reliable flows is the area around North Bend and Snoqualmie Pass. Wild Sky Adventure Guides is always available to help with condition reports, canyon suggestions, or to hire a guide for the added security of our expert knowledge.
Other areas of interest are the areas around Mt. Rainier and Mt. Rainier National Park, the Columbia River Gorge, North Cascades National Park, and the Olympic Peninsula. While there are canyons all around the state of Washington, the majority of canyons that have published information and community maintained anchor material are in Western Washington.
WHERE CAN I FIND INFORMATION ABOUT SPECIFIC CANYONS IN WASHINGTON STATE?
Before entering a canyon you are going to need to know detailed information about the canyon; where is the canyon, how do you follow the approach, what is the longest rappel, how much water is too much, are there any dangerous water obstacles?
The gold standard for canyoneering beta in Washington State is ropewiki.com There you can find information on all of the published canyons in the area. Rope WIki is a great resource and one that you should utilize to plan ahead and prepare for your canyon adventure.
HOW CAN I FIND CANYONEERING PARTNERS IN WASHINGTON STATE?
It can be difficult as a beginner to find a partner for your first canyoneering adventure. Unless you already have a canyoneering wetsuit, harness, helmet, canyon backpack, static ropes, etc…. It may be difficult to outfit yourself with the necessary gear. At Wild Sky we outfit you with everything that you and your group need to go canyoneering.
If you already have all of the equipment, know how to rappel, and have done canyons in other areas then it is possible to look for partners in the Pacific Northwest Canyoning Facebook Group. There you can find other experienced canyoneers that may be looking for partners. Be careful because it is difficult to vet the experience level of strangers on the internet, start with small objectives before getting in over your head with a stranger from the internet.
WHERE CAN I BUY CANYONEERING-SPECIFIC EQUIPMENT IN WASHINGTON STATE?
There are not many local canyoneering companies in the PNW. YET! Our recomendation is to buy gear online before you come on your trip.
For technical gear, (harnesses to ascenders and descenders) we recommend EXTREME GEAR. They are an affiliate page from the guys at hownot2.
IMLAY Canyon Gear and Canyoneering USA remain the gold standard for American Canyoneers. You can find almost anything you want that is canyoneering related at their online store. Wild Sky Adventure Guides use IMLAY static ropes and endorse IMLAY as a quality rope manufacturer.
The most difficult items to purchase in canyoneering are the canyon wetsuit and canyon backpack. Wild Sky uses and recommends SELAND wetsuits and RODCLE backpacks. They can be difficult to find in a store so we recommend that you make these purchases well in advance from a reputable website like Canyon Zone.
It can be very difficult to find canyoneering gear in stores in Washington State. Make sure that you are prepared with the equipment that you need in advance.
Do not expect to be able to buy canyoneering specific gear once you arrive to WA State. There are no canyoning specific brick and mortar retailers in WA.
American Alpine Institute: Bellingham: A great resource for basic canyoning hardware like bolts and hangars, harnesses, carabiners, 1″ webbing, and standard “climbing gear”. You may get lucky and find a canyoneering descender. Wild Sky employees have found canyoneering specific ropes here in 2022.
REI: Various Locations: Expect to find your basic climbing and vertical world equipment. Maybe you will get lucky and find a Petzl Pirana. Probably not.
Ascent Outdoors: Ballard, Seattle: A large selection of climbing gear. At times they have been known to carry canyon rope or descenders.
WHAT SHOULD MY CANYONEERING FIRST AID KIT LOOK LIKE?
This is a complicated topic beyond the scope of this post, but your First Aid Kit needs to be compact, easy to keep dry, and developed enough to help you when you need it. In general your First Aid Kit lives inside a dry bag in the bottom of your Canyon Keg. Some canyoneer specific supplies include; several thermal blankets, ductape, emergency flashlight, candle, lighter, emergency food, Ibuprofen, a Sam Splint, and a compression bandage.
In addition to a First Aid Kit it is important to have the material necessary to initiate an emergency response. An Emergency Satellite Transponder is an important piece of your canyoneering kit.
Coming to Washington State to go canyoneering is a great idea! There is a great number of canyons spread throughout the state. There is an active community working to expand the sport through guided outings, training programs, and meetups.
However a visit to Washington State does not come without its difficulties. Finding gear and partners can be difficult, so make sure that you are prepared with everything that you need before you arrive!
Wild Sky runs guided canyon trips in Washington State from July through September, if you are interested in giving canyoneering a try give us a call or send us a message, we are here to help!