Canyoneering Skinny Canyon Warning
The "Skinny" on skinny slots. Wow!! Sums it up nicely. Ok it's
Some canyons are extremely skinny and are not a good choice for
everyone. If you are claustrophobic or just plain too big, Do
Not go into one of these canyons. Two classic examples of
skinny canyons are Shenanigans and the Middle Fork of Leprechaun
Canyons. Both in the North Wash area of Utah.
It seems to be a common rule of thumb to say that people over 180
pounds should not go into skinny slots like Middle Leprechaun and
Shenanigans Canyons. That rule of thumb may be a general concept but
can be misleading and or just not descriptive enough. It depends on
body shape in comparison to where it lines up with canyon shape. The
180 pound weight limit is a good starting point for a cut off but
this is with height weight proportionate people. If you are 5 foot
and weigh 160 pounds, you might not fit.
A friend of mine is a little taller than I am and about the same
build, both pretty close to (ok slightly over) that 180 pound limit.
We were together with others one day in Middle Leprechaun then in
Shenanigans the next day. We both had very different perceptions as
to which canyon was the skinniest.
In Middle Leprechaun I had a few spots where I needed to squeeze -
push - wiggle - bend - and move up or down to fit. Shenanigans on
the other hand I found tight but not too much effort at all. In
Shenanigans I just slide on through and in a few spots had to gently
squeeze through with most of the air let out of my lungs and all was
golden. So for me both canyons were tight but I found Middle
Leprechaun to be the tighter of the two. The tight section in
Middle Lep was shorter in duration though.
In middle Leprechaun my friend needed to do all the same squeeze -
push - wiggle - bend - etc just as I had to. But when we got to
Shenanigans and got into the tight portion of the 4th narrows, he
had significant trouble getting through. He was stuck in one spot
for about 10 minutes trying to figure how he was going to fit. He
tried the brute force method which proves useless very quickly.
Luckily a smaller person was in front and was able to help work the
puzzle with him on where to move to get through. At one point my
friend needed to take a knee and travel a few feet on one knee
(looked very uncomfortable). It was a little difficult for him to
get up from the one knee position in that confined space. Help
from behind proved useful again to help get him upright.
What this tells me as to which is the skinniest canyon....... the
same answer you get with so many other things; It Depends!
It seems it depends on the body shape and on canyon shape. The body
shape difference between my friend and I is the chest. He has more
of a barrel chest than I do, which led to most of his issues. I
suspect in women the main difference would be the hips and butt.
Plain old chest size still doesn't account for why I thought Middle
Leprechaun was tighter than Shenanigans. That would be more canyon
shape in relation to body shape. If the big part of your body lines
up with a narrow point in between the walls you're going to have
issues. But if you are shorter or taller, your big part may not line
up with that narrow spot.
Another lesson on this is the big people should have a little person
on each side of them, if your group size allows. Assistance can be
very useful from in front and from the back.
It is still recommended that the Middle Fork of Leprechaun is done
first. The tight section is not as long and it will be easier
to get someone through if they are having trouble. If they are
mentally stable and are able to fit through Middle Lep, then carry
on to Shenanigans.
When planning a trip through one of these skinny canyons, bring the
right gear along. Squeezing through the tight sections will
tear up clothing, back packs and anything else you take with you.
Elbow pads and knee pads are a good idea to add to the gear list.
The pads will spare you a lot of pain as you stem between the walls
on down climbs or simply stemming between the walls to move down
canyon. The back back you use needs to be as small as possible
so it can fit through the tight stuff as well, think small day hike
backpack. Even small packs become a burden as you try to drag
them along with you. The material the pack is made from should
be something heavy like cordura or denim. Also wear clothing
you do not mind being ripped to shreds. So when planning gear
for the skinny canyons.... Think small, tough and disposable.
Everything you take in there will begin to be ripped apart.
As a fun side note:
When in one of these skinny slots you find it is sometime a lot of
work to move through. Along with the work is an over load to the
senses as you realize just how tiny and constricted these places
are. With the work and awe happening at the same time these skinny
slots sweep every thought of the outside world right out of your
head; you truly are living "in the moment"! Don't be surprised if
your weekend venture feels like a weeklong vacation after doing this
type of slot for the first time. All in all I loved these canyons. I
can see myself going back into the narrow spot in the 4th narrows of
Shenanigans and sitting down for a picnic with friends. It is awe
inspiring to say the least to lay on the floor in there and just