What is canyoneering?
Canyoneering is an adventure sport that combines multiple outdoor activities such as hiking, boulder-hopping, and waterfall rappelling to traverse down a canyon, typically formed by a river.
When is French Broad Adventures open for canyoneering?
Canyoneering trips are available on Wednesdays through Saturdays from May 3rd through November 25th.
Where do we go?
You will be meeting your Canyoneering Guides at Black Dome Mountain Sports, 30 minutes prior to your trip time. When you get there (use the main entrance) feel free to look around the store and pick up any last minute items you may have forgotten. Your Guides will be in or around the “Conspiracy Lounge” portion of the store (the left side of the building) getting things ready for your trip – or just ask a Black Dome employee where to look. Once everyone is ready, your Guides will drive you to the canyon, about a 45 minute scenic trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once you complete your adventure, your Guides will bring you back to Black Dome, where your car is parked. Incidentally, the Conspiracy Lounge at Black Dome is an outdoor-themed beer and wine bar that makes for a great watering hole after your trip.
Is canyoneering safe?
While any outdoor activity has inherent risk, at French Broad Adventures our top priority is always reducing and mitigating any risks. Our company has been a leading outdoor adventure provider for over 35 years now, and we bring that collective experience to our newest adventure. In addition to their varied backgrounds in climbing, rigging and rope access technology, all of our Canyoneering Guides have been trained by an ACA (American Canyoneering) ProGuide, in the ACA’s Single Pitch/Fixed curriculum – the first class held East of the Mississippi! Also, your Guides have advanced training in first aid, so you can rest (play!) easy knowing you will always have a Guide on your trip with a minimum of a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) Certification. But don’t forget that you are responsible for your own safety too; listen carefully to safety briefings and always follow your Guide’s instructions – because a safe trip is a fun trip!
What about medical or health conditions?
Because you will be in a wilderness setting where access to definitive care takes longer than normal and cell service is minimal, we do not recommend that folks participate if they have a medical condition that could require urgent care. If you need any fast-acting medications such as en epi-pen, diabetic glucose or an asthma inhaler it is imperative that you bring them along on your trip.
Do I need to be in good physical shape to canyoneer?
Yes. Time in the canyon averages between 3-5 hours depending on the size of your Group. You will be outdoors on steep, boulder-strewn and potentially slick terrain (what fun would a waterfall be without water?) A good indicator that you are physically fit enough for canyoneering is that you can comfortably walk 3 miles on a rugged trail carrying a light pack, comfortably hike on uphill and downhill slopes, can climb or descend 5 flights of stairs, and can climb a ladder with ease.
Do I need to have previous canyoneering or rappelling experience?
Not necessarily, but a familiarity with climbing, ropes or rappelling (even if it was at a camp, climbing gym or challenge course) may help you feel more comfortable with the activity. Of course, your Guides will give you a demonstration and safety briefing prior to the start of your trip, and will assist you throughout the day if you have any questions.
Are your trips suitable for families?
Yes, being outdoors is always a great family activity! We do however, ask that all canyoneering participants be at lease 14 years of age. So if you have younger family members we recommend our ziplining, whitewater rafting or calm water trips.
Is tipping my guide or other staff appropriate?
Our Guides are providing a professional service to you, your family, or your group. Guides depend on tips as part of their salary. A good rule of thumb is to tip your Guide as you would a server in a restaurant, 15-20% of the trip, but of course any tipping is always at your own discretion. Gratuity is deeply appreciated.
What should I wear?
We recommend that you wear loose, comfortable clothing that is not bulky (because you will be wearing a harness). Multiple, thinner layers are preferable, as weather conditions can change rapidly throughout the day. You will have some opportunities to add or subtract layers if needed, so plan to carry them with you in your pack (we will provide you with a small backpack). You may also wish to bring a light rain shell, especially if there is rain in the forecast. We don’t require pants, but if you choose to wear shorts we recommend they be a longer style so they don’t get bunched up in your harness. Try to avoid wearing cotton or denim as these fabrics do not breathe or dry well; choose wool or synthetic materials (such as polyester, dry-fit or wicking materials) instead. Bring socks, and just let us know what size shoe you wear. The only shoes you’ll ever want to wear canyoneering are Astral brand, based right here in Asheville. We are so convinced these are the best shoes for this type of outdoor activity, we are going to provide them for you! Also of note: if you need anything for your trip, chances are they sell it at Black Dome Mountain Sports. You will be meeting your Guides there, so feel free to shop for a great new piece of gear – they’ll even give you a discount while you’re there; because they are an awesome local outfitter, and they’re excited about canyoneering too!
What do I need to bring?
We ask that you do not bring valuables or anything that you would mind having lost, wet, or broken. Your cell phone is unlikely to work in the canyon, so we suggest that you don’t risk bringing it. If you would like to take pictures of your trip, we suggest instead that you bring small a waterproof/shockproof camera or a disposable camera. We will pack water and a light snack in your pack for you, but you should consider bringing a “brown-bag” style lunch (i.e. a sandwich or wrap) and/or your favorite energy bar (i.e. Clif, Lara, or Rx bar) or trail mix if you’d like something more substantial. An extra water bottle or sports drink is also okay to bring if you think you might need it. But keep in mind that you are responsible for carrying your own things, so pack light. We do not recommend that you bring hiking poles, since they are very difficult to manage while on rappel.
How long is the trip?
The length of your trip is going to vary greatly depending many factors such as the size of your group as well as their comfort and ability levels, but plan on a round-trip time (time spent in the canyon, plus transportation to and from your meet-up spot at Black Dome) of 4-6 hours.
Can I wear glasses or a hat?
If you need prescription glasses or contact lenses, please wear them. Sunglasses are also a nice item on a sunny day. We do suggest that you have a strap for your glasses though, as they can fall off and get lost easily without a strap. You are also welcome to wear a hat for sun protection, just make sure it is low-profile enough to fit under a helmet. Light knit hats and baseball caps are usually fine, but things like bulky winter caps and wide-brimmed sun hats/visors can be a little difficult to fit under your helmet comfortably.
I can’t swim. Can I go canyoneering?
Though swimming is not typically a component of this trip, canyons on the East Coast are often blessed with more water than their desert Southwest counterparts. Being able to rappel down canyons with waterfalls is part of what makes this trip so spectacular. If river levels are high, it is possible that the water at the base of the falls may be waist-deep, and that there will be opportunities to swim. Therefore we do not suggest that those with an intense fear or aversion to swimming go on a canyoneering trip.
I am afraid of heights. Should I go canyoneering?
Put simply, no. A healthy respect for heights is welcome, and we can work with someone who is working on “getting more comfortable” at height, but if you have an intense fear of heights this is not the trip for you.
Will I get wet?
Yes, so dress accordingly. You will not be likely to get completely drenched, but plan to have your feet wet; we will be wading through the riverbed in ankle to shin-deep water. We will also be rappelling through, or adjacent to, waterfalls, so you will spend time in the “spray zone”.
Is there an age or weight limit?
We ask that all participants be at least 14 years of age, and those under the age of 18 be actively accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Though there is not a specific weight limit, participants must fit in to a climbing harness with a waist measurement between 18-45″ and a leg measurement between 10-28″.
Are trips cancelled when it rains?
No, we are going to get a little wet regardless, so trips will go rain or shine. However, we would not begin a trip if there are adverse storm conditions such as lightning and thunder or high winds. We will do our best to monitor weather before and during the trip, but storms can form quickly and unexpectedly in the mountains, so dress accordingly.