By Danny Baggott @DAN_BAGGIE
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In May this year freelancer photographer and keen canyoner Eyleen Vargas, 36, took her camera with her as she risked life and limb to take on the slot canyons of Utah.
The sport involves practitioners making their way down canyons using a variety of disciplines including walking, climbing, swimming and rappelling.
She said: “There is no other experience quite like descending a deep slot canyon for the first time.
“It involves descending into deep, dark and narrow slot canyons, starting from the top, heading towards an exit-point further down-canyon.
“Often there is water flowing through the canyons, so the sport also involves swimming, wading and rappelling or jumping off waterfalls.”
Vargas has worked as a freelancer photographer for the last 12 years and currently lives in Costa Rica, but said the most beautiful slot canyons are located in Utah.
“They have been carved into red and orange sandstone by rushing water over the course of millions of years,” she added.
“With time, the water has carved long, winding passageways into the rock, forming fluted hallways, chambers and arches.
“Each slot canyon has its own personality, so to speak: some are bright and inviting; others are dark and foreboding.”
Vargas took up slot canyoning for the thrill-seeking experience and beauty of the landscape, but says she remains aware of the risks she faces.
She said: “There is always a little bit of fear – there are many risks involved with canyoning.
“A falling rock inside a slot canyon can be disastrous and a rappelling accident from a height can always result in serious injuries or even death.
“Then there are things like hypothermia. Depending on the time of year, Utah slot canyons can be completely dry, filled with snow, or by deep pools of freezing water.”
Eyleen wore a 7mm full body suit to stave off hypothermia, with the inconsistent weather also presenting a serious challenge.
She said: “A flash flood inside a narrow slot canyon is almost certainly lethal and can occur as a result of rains falling several miles away.
“There are a lot of unexplored canyons in my home country of Costa Rica, which we are tackling little by little, discovering new areas.”
"After finishing a slot canyon, I usually feel happy, but very very tired.
“No meal tastes better and no bed feels cosier than after a day of heavy canyoning.”