Canyoning - Classic canyons in Spain, France and Italy
30th Jul 2012
A selection of scrambling, aquatic and roped descents by John Bull.
Cicerone are an unusual publishing house. They are an essential contributor to the world of outdoor guidebooks, primarily climbing and walking. Some might argue one of the major players even. But they seem to keep turning out guides that look and feel a little dated. True, they’ve moved with the times and use colour topos and maps, but there is something about virtually every Cicerone guide that has made me think that there is probably a new version due out soon. It’s really a simple matter of design and layout, the information contained between the covers being as up to date as any other guide on the shelves. This guide to Canyoning in Spain, France and Italy is no exception. The front cover is a dull olive green, with a relatively small and particularly uninspiring photo of two people deep in a dirty looking canyon with no sign of any water anywhere. To me, the cover of a guide is key – put on a large image of azure pools and smiling people in wetsuits and it’s got my attention immediately. But, we should never judge books by their covers…
Inside are 205 pages – pretty good value for money at £12. For such a wide ranging guide there are some unusual early chapter headings: the region and its wildlife for example. Not sure why there is a need to try to summarise the wildlife of such a massive and diverse area in a couple of pages, especially so early on in the book. That said, the chapter does make for interesting reading. There is then a chapter listing the various airlines that fly to the areas in the book. I don’t think that listing the likes of Ryanair. Monarch, and the multitude of other no frills airlines that operate in Europe is that useful given that anybody travelling to the region will most likely be net-savvy enough by now to find out for themselves. Of more use is a list of the airports, train stations and local towns and cities that one should aim for if visiting a particular area. This is something that is all too often lacking in other guides. There’s also a section of ferries for Corsica and Sardinia. The section on equipment tells us a lot about the author, in that he is clearly a part-time canyoner. Despite the fact that there is an entire industry out there servicing the sport he simply says that you’ll need some basic climbing gear and a wetsuit. Not even a helmet. Strangely we do get a longer section on equipment (though still no mention of a helmet) a few pages later on, complete with some basic techniques on abseiling and other useful techniques. There’s actually so much information in the initial chapters that it’s not until page 48 that we arrive at the first of the areas and any actual routes.
The routes themselves are described in fairly basic detail, with starts, finishes, times, and difficulty levels all included, but very few detailed route descriptions and the photos are pretty uninspiring. That said, there aren’t many guides to canyoning in these areas, so if you are interested then £12 is not a bad price to pay for what amounts to an awful lot of information. I’m off to Mallorca in September and was planning a little jaunt down the Torrent De Pareis, but I will now be planning a trip down the Gorg Blau and Sa Fosca too…
UPDATE SEP 25 2012
JUST BACK FROM MALLORCA WHERE WE 'USED' THIS GUIDE. WE HAD INTENDED TO GO DOWN SA FOSCA, BUT COULD NOT EVEN LOCATE THE START OF THE GORGE AS THE INFO IN THE GUIDE WAS INCORRECT. THE CENTRO ELECTRICO BUILDING DOES NOT EXIST. THERE IS A WATER BOTTLING BUILDING IN ROUGHLY THE PLACE WHERE THE ELECTRICO BUILDING IS MARKED ON THE MAP BUT NOWHERE TO PARK THERE AND NO DISCERNIBLE PATHS NEARBY. WE FORTUNATELY FOUND SOME FRENCH CANYONERS WALKING DOWN THE ROAD WHO TOLD US OF A FIXED ROPE THAT ACTS AS AN ESCAPE ROUTE FROM HALF WAY DOWN THE CANYON (ESCAPING BEFORE THE MAIN DARK SECTION). THIS FIXED ROPE IS ROUGHLY 250M LONG AND TOPS OUT ABOUT 5 MINUTES FROM THE ROAD, THROUGH A SMALL GATE ABOUT 300M FROM THE VIEWPOINT IMMEDIATELTY SOUTH OF ESCORCA. WE DESCENDED THE ROPE AND FOUND OUR WAY INTO THE CANYON. THE GUIDE WAS EFFECTIVELY USELESS. BE WARY IF USING IT FOR ANY OTHER CANYONS.