I imagine a lot of the canyoneering world out there is wondering, “Should I be canyoneering during a pandemic?”
It’s a question worth asking, and I think many of us would fall upon different answers.
But if you must canyoneer and you’re interested in helping to slow the spread of Covid-19 (I hope so!), here are my thoughts on how to canyoneer considerately during the pandemic.
Now is not the time to descend a canyon in party mode with 20 people. Given the nature of canyoneering, isolating yourself from your group is going to be near impossible. Try to stick with groups of 3.
If we want to contain the spread of the virus, traveling as little as possible is important. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have options locally for canyoneering routes. In this case, it’s worth considering other activities.
If you absolutely must travel to go canyoneering, I expect dispersed camping in your small groups of 3 or 4 would present the lowest risk. Bring all the food and water you need to limit stops as much as possible. Again, if you must.
Ropes are gross
Everyone’s hands are consistently on and off ropes, webbing, anchors, carabiners and other hardware we use for canyoneering. So what do we do about that?
Seriously consider keeping hand sanitizer in your pocket and applying after each rappel. Bring soap and extra water to thoroughly wash your hands before snack breaks. Try not to touch your face, but as I think we’ve all become keenly aware of lately, that’s very hard to do.
Adjust your technique
Partner assisted downclimbs, thigh-belays, and other “touchy” techniques can be replaced with rappels. Proper rope bag stuffing etiquette is now to NOT hold the bag open for your friends. Let them stuff it themselves.
Be extra safe
I know. You’re safe already. You triple/quadruple/quintuple check everything. Just also keep in mind that a search and rescue operation is the last thing emergency personnel need to be doing right now. Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.
If you’re sick stay out of canyons, stay home
Even if it’s just a runny nose or scratchy throat. Maybe it’s just allergies, but maybe it’s not. If you have very mild cold symptoms, you could probably find somewhere quiet to go for a walk or hike where you won’t potentially expose anyone. This is simply not possible in the technical canyoneering environment.
And if you have anything worse than that, just relax, and stay in bed.
In case you find it relevant, I do have a Masters in Public Health from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. But these are just thoughts that I wanted to share.