I really don’t think it should be debated. Canyoneering needs a permit system. I often bitch and complain about not getting permits but every year something happens that continually pushes me into the arms of a permit system. During my 9 years as a canyoneer, I have seen several things that just blew me away. Dumb things! I will admit I have made dumb mistakes and had some interesting experiences result from them. These are not the dumb mistakes I am talking about. Canyoneering is a dangerous activity and even the most experienced guides have bad things happen. Here are the types of people that need it to be regulated.
The Accelerated Expert
One of the most dangerous things I have seen, over and over again, is how fast people become experts. The list of people who go canyoneering once, and start putting trips together and leading people into canyons is baffling. I can list at least 10 people who fit this mold. They go canyoneering once, put event invites on facebook and the next thing you know, they are leading canyons with their extensive experience;,gained by sitting in the back and spreading rumors on their only previous canyoneering excursion. (pause so you can read that over and over until it sinks in). That is right, people! There are people out there who go canyoneering once, don’t even pay attention, and then become experts within 15 minutes of getting home. With the rage of social media, they are doing outreach to get other people to go canyoneering and learn from them. I believe its perfectly ok to put yourself in danger,but this type of person really causes dangers for others.
The Class Master
Classes aren’t much better. Classes teach you a lot of valuable technical information. Some of it is very basic and invaluable. Other information is unneeded and flashy to make people feel like they get their money’s worth from the highly- overpriced classes. The problem, with classes, is ,someone without common sense or experience, who thinks they know everything or know enough, is just as dangerous as the person who doesn’t know anything.
The Seasoned Outdoorsman
“You don’t have to worry about me, I have been hiking for 40 years”. Canyoneering is not hiking. It involves hiking and about 20 other activities. These people usually have pretty good, common sense or survival skills, but they often underestimate what canyoneering really requires. I had been backpacking for 20 years before I started to canyoneer, and could have been considered “seasoned” Canyoneering was a completely different beast altogether. I even planned doing a few canyons, early in my canyoneering era, due to this mentality. For one reason or another, the trips never happened. Now I thank God that they didn’t. I had no idea the danger I was putting people in.
I have a couple friends who I refuse to take canyoneering anymore. They are more concerned with the appearance of coolness, aka: zipping down the rope as fast as they can (it makes for great film footage), or undoing the anchor to show a group, full of attractive girls, how an anchoring -system works. That person was so pre-occupied with the chics, that he forgot to put the anchor back the right way. Almost leading to an injury.
I have been lucky in my canyoneering years. We have had freak accidents that resulted in injuries. With the popularity of the sport increasing, so do the amount of problems. We have cases with graffiti in canyons, excessive garbage, and bolt wars. In Mexico, If you want to go canyoneering ,you have to hire a guide, It is the same with most cases in Europe. The Navajo Nation has blocked canyoneering in some of the most amazing canyons there are.
I am not proposing we go to these extremes. I don’t even like the permit system, but I think its time some sort of regulation was worked out.