Freesteel Blog » Three canyons onwards

Three canyons onwards

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 6:42 pm Written by:

Deferred posting. [28 Aug] Long drive up the SS549 with five in the car up to Mondelli canyon. (Three of us had done the lower section a few days before where it had too much out of the water and ended with an annoying prussic to reach the road bridge). We headed for the top two sections on the wrong path which took us on a two hour walk up the steep hill.

First bit was open and quite scrambly on grass and dry rocks. Becka was not impressed. Then there was some treacherous in-water slipping around, which was even less amusing for certain people. Finally we got down a waterfall and passed a family having a picnic by the river at the halfway point. Now we entered the canyon properly and could see the point of the activity, with some rather magnificent toboggan runs. I remember one or two epic jumps, such as one that was a step off a steep ledge, where you could balance only by holding into a bit of rope tat. The drop was into a smooth pool of water that had water flowing into it from a short non-splashing chute. It looked deceptively near. Becka had just stepped off ahead of me while I was swimming through the previous pool. Ju baulked and abseiled down. I couldn’t be bested by Becka and had to jump.


Andrew took rapid fire photos of my fall which everyone was laughing over in the evening. Such incredibly bad posture in a multicoloured wetsuit with pink gloves, while wearing pants.

Each level in the canyon is like a new episode in a play. You can sometimes look back up one or two cascades and see the arch or wedged boulder like abandoned stage scenery where earlier everyone had been participating in a brief mortal drama.

Becka, being much too scrawny, began to shiver. None of my wetsuits fitted her properly. I hadn’t planned for that. Always seemed okay for caving gear.

In the evening I hacked four wide strips out of the extremely cheap and crappy Norther Diver wetsuit I’d bought for £40 (two slices out of the arms and two out of the sides of the body), glued and sewed them up till late into the night to get something that vaguely fitted her. It was still a bit rubbish. I’m not going to buy anything from there again, with their annoyed staff and cheap chinese products. I envied Si’s custom made wetsuit with its modern very stretchy Yamamoto neoprene. I must procure some of that stuff one day.

Following day was a trip to Gondo canyon in the Simplon pass, just the other side of the Swiss border. The petrol stations clustered just over there, except none of us remembered to bring our wallets.

Gondo was beautiful and included a huge rock arch over a lake and ended with a rather wet technical pitch with fast flushing water at the bottom where there was barely anywhere to stand. I pulled the rope down from there and it came with a half metre section of frayed rope in the middle.

Why does it always seem to happen with the last person? asked Si. No one ever seems to find frayed rope when they are abseiling.

Next day was Isorno Final, a quite stunningly dark and deep canyon. Near the end, after helping Becka get to the slippery head of the pitch where the rope started (everyone else had very long cow’s tails they could clip in from bolt to bolt), Andrew jumped.

It looked about 15 metres.

Si obviously had to follow him. Unfortunately he slipped sideways on the last step.

He didn’t seem to scream on the way down, like I do on normal jumps. For those who know how to do it, there’s usually some haste in doing jumps (his fantastic tumble was not caught on camera), because the longer you leave it and think about it, the harder it is to go through with it. Andrew explained later that he made the decision to jump when he got to the pitch, and then spent the rest of the time not looking or thinking about it.

Anyway, he survived with one small nick in his wetsuit and a bruise that looked like a shark-bite out of the side of his body. No canyoning for him for the next four days. Things were a little too sore.

The hydro-power projects are what makes many of these canyons possible to pass, by diverting most of the water out of them after it has done its job of carving the slot in the rock.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>