Ratings

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The canyons published here are primarily rated using the American Canyoneering Association’s rating system, which is predominant in North American canyons. However, we are also looking at rating them using the French system, which more thoroughly delineates both the “vertical” aspect and the “aquatic” aspect of canyons.  Because BC canyons are much more watery in nature than the canyons of the Colorado Plateau (where the ACA system was developed), the European system seems to be more in line with our requirements here.

I have made an attempt, below, to translate the original French document (located here – PDF) into English, using a combination of Google Translate and my own rudimentary French skills.  I then had a French-speaking friend look over it and make suggestions… By the way, the collection of documents on that website is excellent; the FFME (Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l’Escalade – or French Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) has done quite a bit of work at codifying practices for canyoning.  Their collection of canyon-related documents is here.

Note: Some of the following are attempts to find a suitable translation:

  • The term “appuis” is used a couple of times – while is translates literally as “support”, here the term “footing” is used instead.
  • “Siphons” are referred to.  Here in BC, I’ve not yet seen a siphon – it as a spot where the water drops through a hole – like a drain – that the canyoneer must follow, like a very short tunnel. This kind of feature is probably more common in limestone canyons than in the granitic rock found in southwestern BC.
  •  “Siphon technique” is also used, as a separate feature – I am assuming this, as a “technical siphon”, to refer to a siphon that must be rappelled through.
  • In another translation that I have consulted (Chucky’s Adventures, in New Zealand) in the Commitment section, he refers to the time for escapes as how long it takes to escape the canyon.  I have translated it as the longest time it would take to reach an escape point from anywhere in the canyon.  I’m sure we’re talking about the same thing, but phrasing it differently.

Canyon rating system :

The listing is for an ordinary or average flow, during usual descent season, therefore relatively low level, without necessarily being at lowest water.

It is based on a group of 5 people who have not previously descended the canyon, and whose level of proficiency is in line with the technical level of the canyon.

It refers to a common and sensible descent, for the sake of safety and efficiency of travel (for personal interest, the canyon could be descended in a more difficult manner, but this will not affect the listed rating).

The canyons are rated as follows:

  • The letter “v” followed by one digit, 1 to 7 (scale may be expanded upward) for the difficulty in the vertical character.
  • The letter “a” followed by one digit, 1 to 7 (scale may be expanded upward) for the difficulty in the aquatic nature.
  • One Roman numeral for commitment and duration: from I to VI (scale may be expanded upward).

So, for example, canyons could be rated:  v2 a3 III, or v5 a6 V, or v4 a5 II.  (For simplicity, we can omit the letters and just use the two digits and Roman numeral:  2.3. III,  5.6.V, or  4.5.III …)

The highest level for which the canyon matches one of the criteria, in each column, determines that category’s rating for difficulty.

On a route, avoiding an obstacle or using a specific technique (e.g. a guided rappel) may lead to a lower rating. Jumps are, in general, considered optional.

TABLE OF DIFFICULTIES:

DIFFICULTY

v : Vertical Character

a : Aquatic Character

1

Very Easy

No rappels, rope not normally required.No climbing / downclimbing. No water, or walking in calm water. Swims optional. No jumping, no sliding.

2

Easy

Easily accessed and performed rappels, of no more than 10m. Easy climbing / downclimbing with little exposure. Swims not exceeding 10 m in length, in calm water. Easy jumps of less than 3 m. Short or low angled slides.

3

Somewhat Difficult

 

Vertical sections with low water flow. Rappel ends in pool with swimming in calm water. Easily accessed and performed rappels, of no more than 30m, separated, at least, by ledges permitting regrouping.  Handlines that are easy to set. Technical hiking that requires particular attention (precise footing) and route finding that may be unstable, slippery, uneven, cluttered, or in water. Sections of low exposure climbing / downclimbing (up to 3c – 5.3 YDS), which may require the use of a rope. Swimming not exceeding 30 m in calm water. Travel in low current. Easy jumps of 3 to 5 m. Long slides, or slides on moderate angles.

4

Fairly Difficult

Vertical sections with low to medium water flow, causing balance problems or blocking.  Difficult to access rappels, or rappels in excess of 30 m. Series of wall rappels with comfortable stations. Management of friction necessary on rappel. Difficult handline construction, rappel or base of rappel not visible from rappel anchor, or rappel ends in flowing water. Sections of exposed climbing / downclimbing of up to 4c (5.7 YDS) or A0, and / or requiring the use of belaying techniques and progression. Prolonged immersion causing some heat loss. Moderate current. Easy jumps of 5 to 8 m. Jumps with difficult trajectory or landing, of up to 5 m. Siphon of at least 1m in length and / or depth. Long or steep slide.

5

Difficult

Vertical sections in medium to strong water flow, difficult passage requiring management of trajectory and / or balance, Series of wall rappels with airy stations. Crossing pools during the descent. Slippery or obstructed rappel location. Difficult rope escape (in swimming situation….). Exposed climbing / downclimbing to 5c (5.9 YDS) or A1. Prolonged immersion in cold water causing significant heat loss. Travel in fairly strong current, swimming or floating, stopping or swimming against the current is disrupted. Unavoidable hydraulics, such as eddies, recirculations and holes that may trap canyoneer for a short period. Simple jump of 8 to 10 m.Jump with difficult start, trajectory, or landing, of 5 to 8 m. Siphon of up to 2 m in length and / or depth.

6

Very Difficult

Exposed

 

Vertical sections in high to very high water flow. Consistent cascade. Very difficult passage, requiring effective management of trajectory and / or balance.Difficult to construct rappel stations. Tricky natural anchor stations.  Difficult to access rappel anchors (very difficult handline installation…). Exposed climbing / downclimbing to 6a (5.10 YDS) or A2.Slippery or unstable footing. Rappel into very turbulent water. Travel in strong current, swimming or floating, stopping or swimming against the current is difficult. Hydraulics, such as eddies, recirculations and holes may trap canyoneer for a moderate period. Easy jump of 10 to 14 m.  Jump with difficult start, trajectory, or landing, of 8 to 10 m. Siphon of up to 3 m depth and / or length. Technical siphon (translation note: possibly a siphon on rappel?) up to 1 m with possible current or prospective path (translation note: possibly change in direction?).

7

Extremely Difficult

 

Very Exposed

 

Vertical sections in very high to extremely high water flow. Very substantial cascade. Extremely difficult passage, requiring specific planning and management of the rope, trajectory, balance, footing and rhythm.Exposed climbing / downclimbing above 6a (5.10 YDS) or A2. Frequent barriers and limited visibility.Rappel may pass through, or end in one or more pools with strong water movement.Breath control: Sections that require holding ones breath. Travel in strong current, swimming or floating, stopping or swimming against the current is extremely difficult. Hydraulics, such as eddies, recirculations and holes may trap canyoneer for a prolonged period. Easy jump of more than 14 m. Jump with difficult start, trajectory, or landing, of more than 10 m. Siphon over 3m in length and / or depth. Committed technical siphon ((translation note: possibly a siphon on rappel?) more than 1m with current or path (translation note: possibly change in direction?) or no visibility.


TABLE OF COMMITMENT / DURATION:

Warning, these time references must be adjusted for the actual profile of the group.

 

COMMITMENT / DURATION

CRITERIA 

I

 

Ability to escape flash flood easily and quickly. Easy exits present in all portions of the route. Travel time of the canyon (approach, descent, return) less than 2 hours.

II

 

Ability to escape flash flood in ¼ hour. Escapes no more than ½ hour apart. Travel time of the canyon (approach, descent, return) between 2 and 4 hours.

III

 

Ability to escape flash flood in ¾ hour. Escapes no more than 1 hour apart. Travel time of the canyon (approach, descent, return) between 4 and 8 hours.

IV

 

Ability to escape flash flood in 1 hour. Escapes no more than 2 hours apart. Travel time of the canyon (approach, descent, return) between 8 hours and 1 day.

V

 

Ability to escape flash flood in 2 hours. Escapes no more than 4 hours apart. Travel time of the canyon (approach, descent, return) between 1 to 2 days.

VI

 

Ability to escape flash flood takes over 2 hours. Escapes are more than 4 hours apart. Travel time of the canyon (approach, descent, return) more than 2 days.

 

In accordance with federal safety guidelines, the practitioner must always be discerning and remember that the canyoning environment can be changeable. Some floods, especially, can significantly alter the nature of the canyon, to the point of changing the initial rating …