Table of Contents

Editorial ---

Features ---
The Grim Swim

Hole Sweet Hole

Alternative Anchoring

Wet Canyons
of Colorado

Gear ---
Beyond Helmets
and Harnesses

Technique ---
Double Coil

Book Reviews ---
Kelsey Plateau, 4th ed.

Van Tilburg & Annerino

History ---
The Black Book


News and Safety




Over the Edge:
Self-Help Guides to Canyoneering

Canyoneering: How to Explore the Canyons of the Great Southwest
John Annerino
Stackpole Books, 150 pp, $14.95

Canyoneering: Beginning to Advanced Techniques
Christopher Van Tilburg
The Mountaineers, 139 pp, $18.95

Book Reviews by Charles Wyman

Today is your lucky day.

You've just completed a 60 foot rappel into Kolob Creek Canyon an hour or so ago. After slogging through knee-high current where you thought the water would only be up to your ankles, you come to your second rappel, this time over an 8-foot waterfall into a pool with real current.

You set up the rappel, but somehow you get sucked into the whirlpool at the bottom and get tied up in your rope. You're caught like a mouse in a washing machine.

Wait, stop the tape. You get another chance. Today is Groundhog Day.

Would either John Annerino's Canyoneering, How to Explore the Canyos of the Great Southwest or Christopher Van Tilburg's Canyoneering, Beginning to Advanced Techniques prepare you to evaluate the risk and deal with it appropriately, if you could replay the tape?

Not particularly. Neither book articulates any clear idea of canyoneering skills or how to apply them.

Annerino's book is more a natural history of canyons than a guide to canyoneering. The first five chapters feature a number of historical etchings (there is even a photo of a Spanish soldier) in a meandering description of canyon country, geology, and a history of canyoneering.

He touches on the technical aspects of canyoneering only in his last chapter and in a cursory fashion. His discussion of risks and skills required amount to little more than a list. His discussion of rope work is relegated to an insert with headings for hand lines, rappelling, and belaying. No knots, no problem solving.

He lists the basic risks and hazards-flash floods, heat exhaustion, poisonous snakes and insects-but nothing that gives any sense of guiding judgment on how to cope with those risks, other than the obvious advice ("Stay out of dry washes and canyons during summer monsoons").

This is not a book for anything but a glancing introduction.

Van Tilburg's Canyoneering was published a full year after Annerino's natural history and claims on the back cover to be a guide to "all the skills for all the thrills!" Van Tilburg makes more of an attempt than Annerino to provide a guide to basic canyoneering skills. The book is organized into two sections: Planning and Preparation and Canyoneering Skills.

His descriptions of risks and hazards are reasonably complete. In fact, the first section of the book, Planning and Preparation, provides a good beginner's introduction to navigation, first aid, weather, and equipment.

But the big frustration - he never develops any subject to the level of detail that would be helpful to someone who has experience and is looking to develop knowledge of the sport.

This only gets worse in the second half of the book, Canyoneering Skills. Yup, you'll find some knots, a couple of rigs for rappelling, a drawing of prussiks for ascending. But where is the section on rappelling through current, or a waterfall? Or how to get back up the rope when you're caught? Or hook out of a pothole?

Out of 37 pages devoted to canyoneering skills, I found less than 15 devoted to techniques. Van Tilburg excuses himself by referring readers to Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills for more a more complete discussion on skills, but in his own presentation doesn't even attempt to describe the nuances of technique in canyoneering.

In the end, why did he even bother to discuss techniques if he wasn't going to tell us how to use them?

Freedom of the Hills is a much better manual for our hanging canyoneer. The problem with hanging is that it doesn't improve with time. If we could replay the tape, that's the book I would reach for.

Charles enjoying winter in Zion
Charles Wyman searches for redrock canyons in the wilds of Connecticut, and when he makes it out west.

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