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An exhilarating, heart-pounding adventure and introduction to technical canyoning: Rappelling Coon Bluff, AZ

The amazing state of Arizona is known as canyon country and is home to many beautiful and diverse slot canyons with sheer rock-walled cliffs, deep natural pools, and stunning waterfalls and cascades. Many of these beautiful canyons are still relatively unknown, rarely visited, and not far enough off the beaten track to be accessed in a day’s drive. To descend into these traverse canyons is what “canyoning” is all about, which consists of walking, climbing, jumping rocks, climbing, swimming and rappelling, rappelling being the most technical of all canyoning skills and also the most dangerous. Canyoning thus becomes “technical canyoning” when the use of ropes or rappelling is required to safely continue the descent and exploration of a ravine area. So if you’re looking for more adventure and more of an outdoor challenge and the ability to explore more of Arizona’s beautiful and remote rocky canyons, then you’ll want to see how to learn to rappel where you’ll begin your journey into the exciting world of canyoning! technical!

Rappelling is defined as “a specialized climbing technique used to descend mountains or cliffs through the use of a controlled slide by a climbing rope anchored to the top of the cliff ledge.” either with a guide or on your own. Having recently been introduced to the sport of canyoning, I was inspired to continue improving my canyoning skills so I can explore more of these remote canyons. So when a local hiking group called the Hiking Hikers Hiking Group (also known as Triple H) announced that they were offering an introductory rappelling class for beginners at Coon Bluff Recreation Area on the Lower Salt River, I signed up fast and! moved!

Located about 17 miles northeast of Mesa, on the beautiful Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest, Coon Bluff Recreation Area is a scenic and popular spot for camping, picnicking, fishing, and also wildlife and bird watching. . Along the river’s slopes and its lush riparian habitat, they say it’s very common to see bald eagles, turkey vultures, and even wild mustang horses roaming in from the desert in the early morning hours. To visit Coon Bluff Recreation Area, a Tonto National Forest Day Pass must be purchased at a cost of $6 per vehicle. You can purchase a pass before you leave either online or at your local sporting goods store, such as The Big 5 Sporting Goods.

So, on a bright, clear November weekend morning, and after stopping to pick up a pass to the Tonto National Forest, I headed south on I-17 from north Phoenix to meet up with my good friends and co-workers. excursion for our first class of rappelling and adventure. . We learned that Coon Bluff, with its 92-foot sheer vertical rock-wall cliff, is also a popular spot to practice rappelling skills, whether you’re new and a beginner just starting out or more experienced and advanced. Being someone who has a real fear of heights, I was like, oh my gosh, 92 feet? I was so nervous I wasn’t even sure I could keep going, at least not without a big push from behind!

After picking up our last friend in Gilbert in the East Valley, we were finally ready to leave for Coon Bluff. To get to Coon Bluff from Phoenix, directions say take Route 60 East to the Power Road exit, then head north on Power Road, which becomes Bush Highway. After about 12 miles on Bush Highway, you will first come to Phon D. Sutton Recreation Site Road, but go another ½ mile and turn left onto Coon Bluff Recreation Area Road. We turned left and arrived at Coon Bluff around 1:40pm, just in time for our 2pm session beginner abseiling class

We parked in the Coon Bluff Recreation Area parking lot, where we also met up with a few other class members who were just starting to arrive, including our good friend and fellow TLC Hiking member Dan Myers and his daughter. We headed out, gathered our packs and gear and after posing for a quick group photo, we began the short hike up the trail to the river’s edge at the base of the cliff and 92-foot rock wall we would soon be descending. The closer we got as we got closer, the higher it seemed as well. From the river bank, while we waited for everyone to arrive and for the class to start, we enjoyed seeing how there were still people remembering the morning class that day. Wow, I thought as I looked up in amazement. From the ground, looking up, you would use it as if it were 200 feet away!

Soon everyone arrived and just a few minutes later our event organizer and instructor, professional world mountaineer, Michael Marin, arrived after having called them both to the bottom. In this introductory rappelling class, Michael stated that we were going to learn all about rappelling technique, anchor selection and construction, knot tying, equipment, terminology, what to do, what not to do, and how to get out of a fix. you get into one. But most importantly, Michael started by emphasizing the importance of safety, safety and even more safety when it comes to remembering whether you are new and learning or a seasoned canyoneer or mountaineer. Carelessness is the leading cause of accidents and fatalities and can be prevented by learning essential skills correctly and always using common sense, he said.

After laying the foundation of safety first in everything you do when it comes to learning to rappel, we were then introduced to the equipment and gear we would need and use for our first rappelling adventure. A list of the basic equipment you need for rappelling that can be purchased at a local REI store is: 1) a well-fitting harness, prices range from $40-$55, 2) a locking carabiner, $10-$20 , 3) a harness for rappelling device like a figure 8 or ATC, $15-$30, 4) a 5ml prusik cord, for $10, and last but not least, and the most expensive piece, your climbing rope, that for technical canyoning, and for beginners, a non-stretch dry-treated rope is suggested, ideally 9 to 10 ml and 60 meters or 180 feet long, and has a price range of around $160, without include the string bag you’ll also need for around $40. Also, when it comes to packing gear and venturing into wet canyons for technical canyoning, backpacks cost around $129, and to safely store your gear and accessories, having a dry pack is essential to prevent water leaks and you’re done. be it big or small. prices range from about $10 to $20.

With our harnesses and gear safely and securely on, we were taken to a tree behind us where Michael had ropes safely anchored and ready for us to begin learning rappelling technique and practice, while still on the ground, how the equipment works and why. as well as giving us all the possibility and the opportunity to feel comfortable with the way of using the rope through the rappelling device. No need to “get down to business,” he demonstrated, just guide the rope behind you with your right hand back, then release the pressure and resistance for more speed, or hold it tighter behind you, adding more pressure and resistance to the brakes. , to slow down or stop completely. Once you understand how to use this technique, all you need to do is sit back in your harness and trust that your gear will work for you. After everyone had a chance to practice and felt comfortable enough to continue, we were given the go-ahead to start practicing our first real live rappelling!

We followed Michael as he led us up the trail to the top of the bluff and what a beautiful view it had over the entire Lower Salt River Valley. Wow absolutely beautiful! After some last minute tips and advice on installing anchors, how to install them safely, where and what types are best to use, both natural and artificial, we walked the edge of the cliff where Michael introduced us to the dual system. ropes that we were going to use and he told us about the importance of redundancy when doing any type of rappelling or mountaineering, especially for beginners, like us.

We were now ready to begin our first reminder. Michael asked, “Okay, who’s going first?” After taking a quick look at the edge of the cliff to take a photo of my friend Scuji waiting below, I could barely see him. That’s when my heart started to race and my palms started to sweat. Wow, I thought, that was a very long and straight way down too! I had so many butterflies and the longer I was there the more nervous I got. So I quickly jumped into line behind my friends Carolyn and Bob and when I was starting to shake like a leaf, I walked to the edge where Michael hooked me onto the rope and motioned for me to yell downstairs, “secured?”, then, after hearing the call back, “assure”, he said to call back saying, “remembering”. As I kept my eyes locked on Michael’s, I kept asking, “Am I doing okay?” and as he repeatedly replied, “yes, you’re doing good, you’re doing good, keep going!”, and with his confidence and assurance, I began to walk slowly towards the side of the cliff, bending over and putting my harness back on at the same time. All the time I was pulling the rope behind me with my right hand to keep the speed slow and the descent steady, but not once looking down, just concentrating intently on what I was doing until about halfway down I heard a call from my friend Scuji who was yelling at me: “Laura, look to the left!”. I hesitated and then reluctantly looked down so I could take a photo. It was at that moment that I realized that I was really doing it! Now it started to feel easier and I even felt comfortable enough to drop the rope a bit and pick up my speed, swinging off the wall a bit as I continued to get closer to the ground. Wow, what an amazing and exciting experience! Once I got safely to the ground, my good friend Bob was there waiting to help me unhook and again I was instructed to call back to the top, “rope off” so the next person would know I was done rappelling .

Having completed my first withdrawal, I waited for the rest of my friends and classmates to safely do so. My friend Dan came first, then Scuji, as well as the rest of the remaining class members, as he continued to take as many photos as he could, capturing their early memory experiences for them. As the last members came down, the sun was beginning to set, and by 6 pm the last person had arrived and the ropes were released to indicate that the class was officially over.

It was a great day and amazing experience and a great class organized by the Hikers Hiking group (aka Triple H) and taught by our friend, world professional mountaineer, Michael Marin. An exhilarating adventure that will get your heart pounding, palms sweaty and an excellent introduction to rappelling and technical canyoning that I will never forget! So if you are looking for more adventure and more of an outdoor challenge and would like to be able to explore more of Arizona’s beautiful and remote rocky canyons, then I highly recommend learning to rappel and start your adventure into the exciting world. of technical canyoning!

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