By far, the most common injuries in the Narrows stem from hikers losing their footing and falling down. Not only are river rocks wet, round, and extremly slippery, they are also prone to unpredictable shifting, making walking much more difficult than usual. Common injuries resulting from the tricky footing are sprained and broken ankles; less common injuries include dislocated and separated shoulders, sprained wrists, and various knee traumas. Bodily injuries aside, hundreds of expensive electronic items, such as cameras and GPS devices, die each year when their owners fall into the water without protecting these items. To avoid harming yourself or your belongings, following these three steps:
1. Choose the Right Footwear
Good ankle support, aggressive tread, and protection against sand and rocks are important qualities in Narrows footwear. Many who enter the Narrows with bare feet, thong sandals, or "sport" sandals make poor and painful progress because their footwear hurting them, instead of helping them. We have worked with 5.10 to develop the Canyoneer 2, a shoe tailor-made to out-perform any other shoe in amphibious canyon environments like the Narrows.
2. Use a Walking Stick
What could be more helpful in a slippery environment than a third leg? Though you can make it through The Narrows without one, it is a lot less fun. A walking stick helps you maintain balance, probe the depths of unknown waters, and evade close-call tumbles. We recommend a single, solid, wooden hiking stick versus lightweight trekking poles because the burly sticks hold up much better and cost much less in case of breakage (common for trekking poles, due to constant levering between river rocks).
3. Protect Your Valuables
By sealing your camera, video recorder, watch, GPS, etc. in waterproof drybags, you dramatically decrease the risk of water-induced loss or damage. We recommend wrapping any particular valuable in 1 or 2 plastic bags first, then putting the package inside a waterproof drybag. At Zion Adventure Company, you can find a wide variety of waterproof storage solutions, including drybags, dry packs, camera bags, and camera boxes.
Even on sunny summer days, when temperatures in Springdale can be 105º, Narrows hikers are vulnerable to hypothermia. Water temperatures in The Narrows rarely break 65º, and hours of direct sunlight are limited, causing aire temperatures to be 10º - 30º colder inside the canyon. Because The Narrows is a conductive environment, with water and air constantly drawing heat away from our bodies, we can lose heat 4 to 12 times faster than usual. In early stages of hypothermia, we feel cold, begin to shiver, and our bodies grow tense in an attempt to warm up. As we grow colder, our brain begins to slow down, causing unclear thinking, poor decision making, and a lack of coordinaton. Every year, many Narrows hikers succumb to hypothermia; you can avoid it by following the these guidelines:
1. Wear Synthetic Clothing
Fabrics like fleece, polyester, and wool maintain heat much better than cotton, especially when they are wet, and they dry much more quickly as well. Make sure to dress in synthetic materials for you hike, and to bring an extra layer or two, depending on the season. A warm hat does particular wonders for a cold person. If you don't have your own fleece layers, we have plenty available for rent at Zion Adventure Company.
2. Consume Plenty of Food and Water
Staying warm means burning calories, so make sure you have plenty inside you. It can be difficult to drink water when we're cold, but we need it to metabolize our food. In fall, winter, and spring, it's a great idea to bring a thermos of hot chocolate or tea into the Narrows with you!
3. Bring Extra Clothing Layers, Including a Warm Hat
PLEASE bring extra clothing with you, even if you're sure you won't need it. MANY Narrows hikers have been shocked at how much heat they can lose in the river. If the cost of a rental is prohibitive, we will loan you one for free.
Flash flooding is the most dramatic and drastic risk involved in desert canyoneering. Every few years, people are killed or seriously injured when they find themselves unaware of and/or unprepared for canyon flooding. Fortunately, we can avoid such tragedies by recognizing conditions with high flooding potential AND having the right knowledge and equipment to identify and mitigate a flooding situation.
Please read our Flash Flood Education page.