A not so gentle but extremely refreshing summer activity is one way to describe canyoning! Plunge yourself into mountain streams via a series of abseil descents, jumps and natural water slides.
Canyoning in Hakuba is an exciting and exhilarating activity from May to October. Canyoning is the sport of descending, well, canyons. Slide down waterfalls and splash in to deep pools that have been carved by millennia of fast flowing water.
Canyoning involves swimming, jumping, abseiling, using ropes, and cascading down whitewater chutes. Late spring and early summer have the highest water flow. There is some hiking involved to access the canyons, but about 80% of the time is spent in the water. Come and see why everyone is raving about canyoning in Hakuba.
Generally, as water and time flow together, a passage is carved into the bedrock creating narrow gorges of sculpted walls and pristine pools. As the water continues downwards, the canyons are usually scattered with chutes and waterfalls, providing fantastic water-slides and cliff jumping opportunities for us along the way. This fantastically fun activity can be enjoyed by most ages and skill levels – you need not be a great swimmer or athlete to get the most out of it, as specialised equipment has been designed to keep us safe, buoyant and somewhat warm!
The notion of this sport may be relatively new to you, and that is largely due to the fact that it is, indeed, quite a new activity. The origins of canyoning as a sport came from groups of intrepid adventurers in the regions of Southern France and Spain in the early to mid 1990s. Finding themselves captivated by arcane adventures in these weaving waterways, they began to develop methods of negotiating the pools, drops and waterfalls safely. It was soon realised that by using equipment such as ropes and harnesses, a person could continue their journey downstream – whilst having gallons of fun in the process! This culminated into the formation of the Commission Europeene de Canyon, evolving to the ‘CIC’ as it is known today, which provides guide training, sets international standards for canyoning operators and thus put the sport on the map worldwide. Undoubtedly though, bushwalkers and explorers would have been using similar methods to navigate the canyons years before it was established as a sport.
It was not long before canyoning made it’s way to Japan, an ideal place for it due to the large volumes of winter precipitation and mountainous landscapes. Far from being a foreign concept – walking through ravines is a common past-time here. ‘Sawanobori’, or ‘Shower Climbing’, is a well established activity with over 100 set routes. Traditionally, the journey is an upwards one, and is generally considered tamer than canyoning – with less fast-moving water, chute-sliding and rope assistance. As each year comes and goes the popularity of canyoning increases as people discover for themselves the excitement that can be had.
Hakuba is home to our ‘Kamoshika Canyon’, nestled in the base of the Northern Alps. The ravine’s water runs fresh from the snowfields above it, providing us with beautifully blue basins as well as much needed cool-downs in summer’s sweltering heat. The smooth swirls of the rock have been etched from volcanic basalt and as the water has travelled it has eroded multiple features for us. With water pouring over 10 meter waterfalls and plunging into pools below, combined with the numerous slides and chutes, the opportunities to abseil, zip line, swim or jump are plentiful.
I believe that in the years to come the industry of canyoning will continue to blossom and develop as more people discover the magic that is to be found hidden in landscape around us. It is an experience unlike most others, far removed from the background noise of urban life, into a place of sublime exhilaration. It is a brilliant blend of stunning surroundings and adrenalin-pumping action: an opportunity to dive into Mother Nature’s wild and beautiful playground.
By Nadine Wilding