In the adventurous trend sport of canyoning, you make your way through the deep gorges (canyons) of mountainous regions and use a variety of forms of transport.
From climbing, swimming, diving and sliding to jumping and abseiling, everything is included: a true adventure hike through untouched nature and steep gorges! Apart from the undeniable thrill, the focus is on experiencing the natural environment up close and personal, making this activity a unique, active and nature-loving experience.
Of course, there are one or two questions regarding canyoning which we would like to answer here.
For whom is canyoning suitable?
In principle, canyoning can be done by any person. Decisive for the suitability is especially the chosen canyon, which decides on the degree of difficulty and the type of the individual obstacles.
Fortunately, the Swiss gorge landscape offers the perfect route for every level. Simpler gorges make it possible for everyone to try this trendy sport, even without any previous knowledge.
Many places also offer tours for the whole family, although the minimum age for children sometimes varies slightly. In most cases, however, children should be at least 12 years old to participate in the gorge adventure.
More difficult routes in Swiss gorges (especially in the south) are particularly popular with experienced climbers and gorge hikers, as they offer spectacular and challenging excursions at a professional level.
Either way, whether you are a beginner or an advanced climber, it is advisable to take a guided tour and let yourself be taken to the most impressive and spectacular spots in the canyon by local gorge hikers who know the area well.
Sporting requirements also depend on the degree of difficulty: the more difficult the canyon, the more enduring and sporty you have to be. However, you should be physically fit, as even on easier tours you need surefootedness, fitness and stamina to master them.
The weight limit is usually 125kg and the requirements are usually called “physically fit”. The exact requirements for canyoning are set out in the General Guidelines for Canyoning of the Swiss Outdoor Association.
You should have swimming skills for most tours, but they are sometimes not necessary on very easy routes. On these beginners’ tours it is also possible in most cases to avoid excessively demanding elements or to progress on alternative routes.
However, once you have reached a higher level, you will need to be able to swim to jump into the crystal-clear rivers or down the natural waterslides. Fear of heights is also rather unsuitable for this sport, as one regularly abseils from high cliffs, jumps down from high platforms or generally tries to climb in the heights of the gorges.
So, to experience the adventurous world of canyoning in the Swiss gorges, you should pay attention to the degree of difficulty of the gorge, bring physical fitness and swimming skills with you, be not afraid of heights and book an adapted tour.
How does canyoning work?
Normally at the beginning of your adventure you will be introduced to the different important elements of canyoning by the guides. In canyoning many different forms of locomotion flow into each other.
You will be shown the basic techniques of rappelling, jumping, sliding and much more. The experienced guides can help you with questions or problems and will make sure that your canyoning trip will be an absolutely unforgettable experience. Afterwards you prepare the multi-part equipment together.
To be able to hike the canyons, you will need some equipment. Besides complete neoprene clothing (suit, socks, depending on the weather jacket) you should wear good shoes, an alpine helmet, a life jacket and special canyoning equipment. Most providers provide such equipment completely.
In most cases you should only bring a swimming costume, a bath towel and a small rucksack. However, this varies from provider to provider, so you should clarify in advance what you need to bring.
Most of the bases are located near the gorges, which can be reached in short trips. Once you have arrived at the canyon and before you really get going, final safety instructions and explanations are given.
From here the adventure begins: climbing, sliding, jumping, swimming and a full load of fun in the nature!
How safe is canyoning in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, booked tours are always accompanied by very competent and experienced guides, which makes canyoning very safe. If you follow the instructions of the guides and adhere to the safety regulations, nothing stands in the way of an unforgettable and great canyoning experience.
Certified or licensed providers can be found at the FOSPO (Swiss Federal Office for Sport). How the training of the guides is regulated and what has to be observed in terms of safety can also be found in the General Canyoning Guidelines of the Swiss Outdoor Association.
As with all activities in the medium-risk range, under which canyoning is usually counted, there is naturally a risk of injury.
An extreme sport should of course not be underestimated. Sometimes stones can come loose or you can slip. But even these risks can be kept to a minimum by letting the guides guide you.
To ensure a safe canyoning day, the advice centre for accident prevention recommends that you choose a professional provider, choose a tour adapted to your abilities, wear safe equipment and only hike through the canyons when the weather is stable.
A tour with a trustworthy and approved provider ensures that these measures are adhered to and guarantees you the highest possible level of safety for this nature sport.
Where and when can you do canyoning in Switzerland?
The season for canyoning in Switzerland can be limited to around April or May-October. In the more southern areas the season sometimes starts earlier than in the Central Plateau due to the weather. In the summer months the water level is not too high and storms are less frequent, which are ideal conditions for canyoning.
However, even in the summer time you should pay attention to the weather and water conditions in the canyons. In case of thunderstorms, rain or melting snow, canyoning tours are not carried out because the weather conditions are too risky. If the weather is suitable, nothing stands in the way of a canyoning tour in Switzerland in the summer months.
The canyons in which canyoning can be practised are created in a completely natural way by flowing waters making their way through the massive rock formations, thus forming the steep and rugged gorges.
This is why there is almost always a river or a WIldbach in a canyon, which is responsible for this natural spectacle and brings beautiful waterfalls and pools to light. Especially in alpine regions, which are based on rock, such canyons can be found. Due to its mountainous landscape, this naturally makes Switzerland one of the hot spots.
The most popular places for canyoning are on the one hand in Central Switzerland, where in the area of the Pre-Alps there are wonderful gorges for beginners and families, and on the other hand around Interlaken and in Canton Ticino.
Interlaken scores particularly well with its centrally located canyons, where even beginners can get their money’s worth. Even beginners can find rappelling heights of over 10 metres or slide down endless natural water slides.
The gorges between Lakes Thun and Brienz also offer jumps of six metres into the clear blue water pools. The famous Saxeten Gorge, for example, is one of the highlights for gorge hikers around Interlaken.
In Canton Ticino, even professionals get their money’s worth. The regions shaped by the Alps offer canyoning enthusiasts challenging and grandiose routes that lead through perfectly polished rock formations and into emerald-ground water basins.
Deep rock crevices, high waterfalls, abseils of over 25 metres in height and simply fantastic views of the valley make the Ticino gorges, such as the Iragna or the Boggera Gorge, real top destinations for the sport of canyoning.
Switzerland offers several hot spots for the popular action sport. There is a suitable route and suitable challenges for almost everyone. And of course there’s an extra portion of fun on top!
Canyoning is the perfect way for physically fit people to get closer to nature in a very special way and to get an adrenaline kick in a class of its own.