Sunshine and the white foam of a waterfall against the convoluted forms of the canyon wall ... Reviewing Simon Flower's new Cicerone guidebook Canyoning in the Alps on a rainy English November afternoon, made me long for a European holiday.
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This is a pleasantly chunky volume covering the canyons of northern Italy and Ticino, complete with mouth-watering photos and a methodical approach to grading and choice of route. The book is nicely set out for the user: each canyon description includes good details of the approach with a clear map and topo.
Canyoning In The AlpsNorthern Italy and Tocino
"A guidebook to the most celebrated canyoning descents in the alpine regions of northern Italy and Ticino (Switzerland), with additional routes in Austria, Slovenia and the Valais Alps. Routes are split into seven separate grades, for beginners through to experts. Includes comprehensive information on equipment, hazards and techniques."
Author: Simon Flower
For more information or to purchase this book:
Both the map and topo legends are helpfully on the endpapers so that you can keep your place and check the symbols as you go along (although the author suggests that you can avoid taking your shiny new book canyoning by photographing the relevant pages). There is comprehensive advice about risk and equipment, and a grading system which includes a star rating (“wow factor”), a composite technical grade including verticality, aquatic-ness and degree of commitment needed, and a ski-style overall rating, green to black.
"If toboggans, jumps, turbulent plunge pools and all manner of canyoning adrenaline push your buttons, this is for you."
Trips in the Dolomites also score a tick risk rating! A helpful appendix gives a full canyon list by the five areas covered (Val d'Ossola, Ticino, Lake Como, the Belluno and Friuli Dolomites, and the Carnic and Julian Alps), and a colour-coded route planning chart allows you to compare star rating with overall grade. Each regional section includes advice about the area and ideas for things to do on days off.
I was glad to see a geological history and notes on the rock – in my experience this is often found in continental guidebooks to various mountain sports and often omitted in the UK.
The book is aimed at the canyoning enthusiast – if toboggans, jumps, turbulent plunge pools and all manner of canyoning adrenaline push your buttons, this is for you. Although there are a few canyons described in the green and green/blue grades, those write-ups can be a bit lukewarm and I suspect that this is not where the author's heart lies. It would be an excellent guide for experienced canyoners who fancy an Italian excursion, or for new canyoners who are tough, unafraid of water and already experienced in abseiling. An introduction to the sport, it isn't; it's a goldmine of information for the keen canyoner, though. I am sure that come the summer there are going to be many more UK parties landing at Milan, Trieste or Venice with ropes, wetsuits and a copy of this book in a rucksack pocket.
About Ursula CollieUrsula Collie is a co-owner of Starless River, possibly the world's only travelling caving gear shop and a specialist importer into the UK of European caving and canyoning gear.