Why do I still bother doing canyons? (Formigas)
It’s been more then 8 years since I am in love with canyons. This is part of my life, feels like it is my baby. But from time to time I become afraid that I am loosing this passion. I had visited hundreds of canyons around Europe and its surrounding islands. Some of them where amazing, lots of them supernice, some average and of course there were canyons that I would never return to… But I don’t keep a list of “don’t do canyons”.
But this is a story of a canyon that reminded me why I still love this activity. Decision to do canyons in Sierra de guara in this time was not the smartest move. Most of the nicest canyons is full of water and can’t be done without being fully experienced and a bit mad. One of them is Formigas. Beside fact that the canyon is forbidden until the 30th of June, the water level was extremely high. But we got the intel that experienced guide did it with three clients on previous day. Well, it didn’t took long for us to make the decision: we will do it.
We slept on the parking below the canyon. And that was an experience of its own. While we cooked dinner there was a little fellow who decided to pay us a visit. It was a fox. From the beginning it observed us from the distance and we also kept an eye on it. One of the guys brought up the funny fact, that there is Slovenian caver, that is afraid of foxes, like it would be the devil itself. Who knows why… But the little fox used the time while we were distracted by joking about the poor guy and it grabbed the whole box with food and started pulling it towards its den. Luckily, the fox’s getaway after the robbery was quite noisy and we detected it. We run after the fox and it left the box where it was, but our sloppiness took its toll. Fox took the cheese. But still better to miss one cheese than whole box of food. After this encounter we got better understanding of the guy who is afraid of foxes. And the fox was saved of being overweight.. 🙂
I must say that stories like this are definitely increasing my appetite for the canyons. But Formigas canyon made it clear why I still love it. Like I mentioned, the water level was high. But we estimated that it is still doable. And we couldn’t be more right. It was pure joy. I am used to the canyons in the lime stone. Grey rock, algee and green water. But this was a bit different story. Canyons in Sierra de guara are also formed in conglomerate. That and combination of yellow soil makes nice yellow deposit on the bedrock. It is an awesome contrast with a green water. I was enjoying every detail of a canyon and couldn’t wait to see the forthcoming section.
Beside amazing aesthetic orgasms I had my testosterone pumping while doing descents into the pools full of eddys and hydraulics. Landing in the wrong place could be lethal. Jumping in the water needs to be done in front of the mushroom that is formed by the hydraulic. If there is an eddy, you have to know how to swim out of it. But I am writing this, so you can do the math :). This is the first time that I confess that the whitewater rescue training, that is obligatory to become a canyoning guide, was really helpful.
High water is not for anybody out there. We had a team member that was totally psyched about it. She was really uncomfortable with it and after some time se started seeing skull shapes in the walls. She couldn’t take it anymore, so she decided to exit the canyon where it was possible. I always encourage acts like this. They show that you do canyons with your head and not with your pride/ego. And that’s how you should be doing them.
During the descent I discovered I have a new passion – doing the canyons in the higher water flows. It is like climbing harder mountains – you have to have new challenges. And Formigas helped me realising that. If you are in Sierra de guara region you have to do it. But high water level is only for the experienced canyoneers, remember that!