Video: Exploring The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is truly epic in scale. Not only does it stretch for more than 277 miles in length it is also as much at 18 miles wide at certain points and plummets to over a mile in depth as well. It is indeed one of the true natural wonders of our planet and attracts millions of visitors on an annual basis.

But what many of those visitors don’t know is that there are a series of smaller canyons that twist and wind their way across the region. Most of those side canyons have never been explored and even in the 21st century they remain mostly unmapped and unseen by man. Recently a group of explorers dropped into those twisty, narrow passages and filmed their adventure. The full documentary of their expedition will debut at the 5Point Film Festival in a few weeks time but the trailer for the film, entitled “Last of the Great Unknown,” can be viewed below. It gives us a glimpse into this amazing place and what these modern day explorers had to go through to plumb its depths.

Last of the Great Unknown – Trailer #1 from Dan Ransom on Vimeo.

Switzerland moves to make adventure travel safer

Switzerland has made a move to improve safety in the country’s adventure travel sector by requiring all tour operators to employ licensed guides and carry insurance to cover their clients. The new law doesn’t go into effect until January 1st, 2013, but operators are already taking steps to comply with the mandate. Until then however, anyone can still lead mountaineering, rafting, or canyoneering expeditions.

The new law is in response to a 1999 accident that left killed 21 people, including three guides. The group was cayoneering in Switzerland’s Interlaken region when a sudden storm caused a flash flood through the gorge they were explorering. A wall of water washed the travelers down the narrow canyon, where they eventually drowned. The guides’ lack of experience and training was partially blamed for the fatalities.

Two years later, six employees of the company that organized the excursion were convicted of manslaughter because of the accident. During their trial, it was revealed that they didn’t have any official safety guidelines and that the guides had not been fully informed about the dangers of the weather conditions in Interlaken. For most of the guides, it was their first season working there.

Following the very public trial, the Swiss government tried to pass legislation to improve safety in the travel industry, but the members of parliament were unable to come to an agreement on what exactly should be done. Now, ten years later, they’ve finally been able to address the issue properly.

Over the past decade, the adventure travel industry in Switzerland has implemented its own requirements for outfitters who voluntarily joined a “Safety in Adventure” program. But the new law requires all operators to meet the standards, which include a specified amount of training for employees and insurance that covers the clients while under their care.

These moves should make for a safer environment for travelers looking to get an adrenaline rush, and should help the Swiss tourism industry as a whole. As the adventure travel market grows, and matures, these kinds of regulations are likely to become more common and important, and it is good to see Switzerland lead the way in this area.

[Photo credit: Terra 3 via WikiMedia]

Canyoneering in Southern Utah

Canyoneering is a common word used to describe an outdoor activity that is rising in popularity. It generally involves exploring remote slot canyons, found in a variety of locations around the world. These narrow, twisting, rock corridors are often mazes, requiring navigational skills to successfully negotiate. Along the way, hikers may be requiried to scramble, rock climb, swim, or even abseil their way over and around any number of obstacles.

One of the premiere places to explore the activity in the U.S. is in the deserts of southern Utah, as writer Tony Perrottet recently discovered while writing this story for the New York Times. He traveled to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument where he discovered three very remote slot canyons where the trails were unmarked, water was scarce, and there wasn’t another person in sight.

Perrottet was following in the footsteps of adventuer Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh, who would eventually found the Explorers Club, but as a teenager, Dellenbaugh and a few friends, mapped the first route through the iconic canyons of southern Utah, making all kinds of discoveries along the way.

Some of the other top spots in the U.S. to go cayoneering include Zion National Park and the San Rafael Swell, both are also in Utah. Arizona, New Mexico, and California aslo have a number of great places as well. On an international level, cayoneering is popular on nearly every continent, with great routes in Australia, New Zealand, eastern Europe, and any number of other places. For more information, checkout the American Cayoneering Assocation.