Aspirant Skills Checklist


Original document from the ACA's resource page.

OBJECTIVE: Through training and mentoring, increase of technical personal skill sets and expanded situational awareness and to introduce group leadership roles, associated technical skills and instructional techniques.

NOTE: Skills Checklists are cumulative in nature. Students must know all the skills from the 'Core' Checklist in addition to the skills listed here.

  • Read contour lines on a topographic map; identify terrain features (hills, saddles, ridges, drainages), determine relative steepness of grade, identify potential high ground and canyon escape routes.
  • Identify relative size of a canyon watershed using topo map.
  • Orient a map with compass and terrain.
  • Use GPS to determine grid coordinates, mark waypoints and go to waypoints.
  • Plot grid coordinates on a topographic map.
  • Prepare and use a canyon topo.

Knot Craft

  • Tie and inspect; Frost knot in webbing.
  • Tie and inspect; Ladder with webbing.
  • Tie and inspect; Bowline with Yosemite finish.
  • Tie and inspect Inline knots; (i.e. Alpine butterfly, Directional Figure Eight).
  • Tie and inspect; (a) Munter hitch, (b) Mule hitch or two half hitches.
  • Tie and inspect; (a) Klemheist, (b) Asymmetric Prusik (with a VT Prusik or equivalent).


  • Understand and apply good principles of anchor location; DEAR (Dry, Efficient, Accessible, Rope Retrieval).
  • Understand and apply good principles of anchor identification, construction, friction, and testing.
  • Identify, Evaluate, and rig single-point natural anchor (i.e. tree, boulder, arch,) a). using a cinching wrap - wrap 3 pull 2, b). redundant wrap (i.e. Basket with overhand knot at focal point) Explain the pros and cons and demonstrate how to safely test single point anchors.
  • Identify, construct, rig, and evaluate/test multi-point natural anchors using EARNEST.
  • Rope Retrieval: Mitigate standard rope retrieval challenges with "courtesy loop".
  • Rope Retrieval: Anchor a partially retrieved rope (pull side).
  • Rope Retrieval: Ascend a partially retrieved rope (rappel side).


  • Set up and use releasable single rope system (contingency), including three parts: (1) friction mechanism to allow controlled lowering, (2) tie-off that is releasable under tension, and (3) identifying risks and setting safety to mitigate those risks.
  • Set up and use blocked rope systems (carabiner blocks) for rappel. Explain the pros and hazards of using blocks and steps that should be taken to avoid accidents.
  • Set up and use double rope system (Toss ’n Go) for rappel. Explain the pros and cons of double rope systems (Toss ’n Go).
  • Describe methods for safely setting initial rope lengths for wet and dry landings i.e. estimating height, rigging releasable, lowering first person, above water level.
  • Demonstrate how to safely and efficiently reset / adjust rope length.
  • Identify and demonstrate how to change abrasion points as needed to protect rope/webbing from abrasion and soft rock from rope grooves/damage.
  • Set up and use Static Courtesy Rigging to facilitate trouble-free rope retrieval. Explain purpose, proper usage, and application.
  • Set up and use a safety line to protect a traverse.


  • Set up and use a Self belay using alternate methods / techniques (auto-block). Understand and explain the pros and cons of using a self-belay.
  • Belay a climber; climbing down, a.) using rope from human anchor (hip belay) 10ft or less, b.) using rope from fixed anchor.

Signals / Communication

On Rope Techniques, Companion Rescue

  • Ascend a fixed rope using friction hitches; single strand, double strand.
  • Ascend a fixed rope using mechanical ascenders; single strand.
  • Transition from rappel to ascend and from ascend to rappel.
  • Pass a knot while rappelling. Pass a knot while ascending.
  • Demonstrate rappelling on a Guided Rappel (set up by a competent person). Explain safety concerns and mitigation.
  • Safely lower an incapacitated rappeller via Bottom Belay.
  • Rappel with pack securely hanging from harness.
  • Demonstrate safe rappel start off of extended courtesy rigging.
  • Safely and effectively zip line gear over/around obstacle. Describe scenarios for usage.
  • Shift rappeller from rappel line to top rope belay line.
  • Release contingency block and lower a person, using hands free backup (i.e. friction hitch attached to the anchor or to the harness of the person in control of lowering; avoiding rope grooves in soft rock)
  • Perform controlled rappel up to 200'+ adding friction mid-rappel; communication - whistles or radios; hanging packs.

Canyon Leadership

  • Identify and assess flash flood risks associated with a selected canyon.
  • Perform initial gear-up 'Buddy Checks' (Safety check) and at 'Buddy Checks' every rappel.
  • Canyon Basic First Aid / CPR: a) Stabilize injury / Treat for Shock; b) Go for help; c) Basic injury management.

Swimming, Jumping, Waterfalls

  • Swim 50 yards with gear, without floatation.
  • Jumping into water (Max distance 8ft./8ft. Min depth) identify hazards/depth check, correct body position.
  • Describe and safely demonstrate basic Waterfall Rappelling Techniques.
  • Describe basic waterfall/stream hazards such as foot entrapments, strainers, siphons, undercuts, recirculating currents, rope entanglement and appropriate methods for mitigating / dealing with them.

Recommendations After Training

  • Practice technical skills in low-risk conditions, such as on clean and low angle "slab" type environments or on vertical terrain with an effective Top or Bottom (Fireman’s) Belay.
  • Increase technical skill sets, expand situational awareness, and begin introduction to Canyoneering Leadership all through skill practice sessions, workshops, and mentored canyoneering opportunities.

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