Canyoning: Going down the Ticino Canyon

I am equipped with a thick wetsuit, special boots, a helmet and climbing gear including a cover for my bottom which lets me slide better over the wet rocks. We are in the middle of the Boggera Canyon in Switzerland’s Italian part Ticino. And the only way is … down.

I have no idea what is waiting for me. Literally. This is a surprise from my boyfriend to take me on a real adventure. We arrive at the base camp of our canyoning experts, who take us to the Boggera canyon in Ticino. The landscape around us is fabulous, woods and rocks and a number of steep canyons in between.

The gear to save my life

We are introduced to our guide Ricky, who easily explains some parts of the adventure we are soon to meet. He shows us how to equip ourselves with the gear. The gear that should save our lives – but if we do as we’re told, nothing is going to happen to us, of course. Soon we are all zipped up in thick wetsuits and even neoprene socks, shoes with a special grip to make us walk safely in a wet environment, a helmet and climbing gear. What looks utterly funny is the cover for our bottoms, which we are using to slide down the natural rock formations in the canyon. My heart rate is rising.

After a short car drive, we get out and walk for about 20 minutes within the thick trees of Ticino. My group’s fellows are apparently much faster than I am, I have difficulty keeping up with their pace. My fitness is definitely not bad, but it becomes obvious that I am the weakest link in this group. Already exhausted we arrive at a beautiful natural pool of crystal clear water. We pack ourselves into our equipment and then it’s time to jump into ice cold water.

Ready to hit the … ahm rock?

Our guide easily jumps into the cold water, dives down to the bottom and comes out with a great smile. I am the complete opposite. Slowly I walk into the cold water that is slow but surely making its way beneath my shoes and socks. As my whole body is in the water it’s even creeping through the zip and down my spine, a shiver that does not seem to end starts. However, the material is exactly made for this and after a couple of minutes, my body heat has done it right and has warmed up the cold water between my skin and the wetsuit to keep me warm for the entire adventure.

Right away, we are in the middle of a quick test for all the challenges that Boggera will present us with. We jump from a rock, we slide down a little natural rock slide and we exercise our abseiling skills. So we are ready to go!

Jumping, sliding, abseiling

I love hiking and climbing, but I am not an expert in any of those disciplines. My weekends are often spent on mountains, either hiking, climbing or just going for a nice walk. But all of this did not prepare me for my present challenge. Jumping from a rock that is five meters above the water. I cannot see what is beneath the surface of the water and I am getting nervous. I start a peculiar dance as I am not sure how to jump.

Ricky is very patient with me and shows me the best strategy to overcome my fear. “With confidence”, he says, “you can do this!” My confidence was somewhere left behind, I suppose, as I wiggle myself from left to right and back and forth. Finally, I am taking the leap and crush into the cold water. It is so cold that my heart seems to skip a beat but as I surface, my fellow canyoners are clapping and cheering. I feel sorry that it took me so long to jump and I am convinced to be faster next time.

Natural Beauty

Abseiling is my favorite part of it all. I already know how to do it from climbing, and it is even more fun to do it in the middle of a waterfall. This is easy and lets me enjoy the wonderful nature of Valle di Cresciano. But it does not take long and the next challenge is frightening me. A natural water slide. It looks beautiful and fascinating, especially when you know that this is not human made – it’s all made by the water crushing down the rocks of the canyon.

However, it makes me feel uncomfortable and I need Ricky’s shouts for confidence before I can do it. I feel like a child, as everyone else is eager to slide down the rocks. It fills me with respect for nature, as this is nothing manmade, it is just real and I feel like a coward. Finally, I do it anyway, with a lot of negotiation with myself, a great deal of struggle and my heart in my boots.

Challenge accepted – and proud of it

I did it! Yes! The final steps are very challenging. We have the option to jump about 10 meters into a tiny pool or do the abseiling. I immediately raise my hand for the abseiling part, and luckily, I am not the only one. Others jump the 10 meters and I am in awe – I could not imagine doing this! The group is happy but exhausted and finally I take on the challenge to slide down an even uncannier slide. I am surprised nobody hurt themselves as I watch it from the bottom. Amazing!

Would I do it again? Definitely, and I did a couple of weeks later in the Tyrol, Austria with my friends. However, Boggera has this natural beauty with smoothly formed rocks and a setting unlike anything else I have seen so far.

Boggera Canyon: A quick description

There are 5 levels of difficulty when canyoning, Boggera is rated with number 2. You will be in the canyon for about 3 hours, depending on the group size and its pace (if you have people like me, hesitating for a couple of minutes, your tour lasts a bit longer :-)). You need to be physically fit and have no open wounds or mental issues. It takes a lot of confidence to go down the canyon, but the group will support you anyway. You will get all the equipment you need and are even invited for a snack and a nice chat with you fellows afterwards.

Do not plan too much after the canyon. I fell asleep in a park in Bellinzona afterwards, as my energy was sucked out completely. I guess, it was not the physical exercise that made me so tired, rather the adrenaline pumping through my veins.

A clear thumbs up for this adventure! I would do it again 🙂