I had never even really heard of the sport Spaniards call barranquismo (canyoning or canyoneering in English) until I lived in Spain. But soon I found out enough about it to know that it was something I wanted to try.

Last weekend, four friends and I piled into a furgoneta with our guide and an experienced friend of his and headed to Huesca, the province of the Pyrenees in Aragón. In the next two days we journeyed through three different canyons near the southern part of Ordesa, one of the two Spanish national parks in the Pyrenees. Barranquismo consists of, essentially, the descent of a canyon with the natural obstacles this entails. It requires a fair amount of gear (see above photo): a full-body wetsuit with neoprene booties, a climbing helmet, a special harness with extra butt protection, boots or sneakers to wear over the booties, ropes, descenders, waterproof backpacks, lots of carabiners with webbing, etc etc. It’s the kind of activity that, unless you know someone with a lot of experience and/or equipment, you should do with a guide.

But don’t let this deter you! It is one of the coolest activities I’ve ever done. We rappelled tens of meters into pristine pools, slid down natural water slides, jumped off rocks into pools, swam under waterfalls, and waded through narrow canyons with moss-covered walls reaching high above us. My favorite was Garganta de las Gloces, and I found a video of some of the best parts of it. And this is another we did—Barranco del Furco—that shows some of the rappels.


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