Canyon Leader 1 Skills Checklist


Original document from the ACA's resource page.

OBJECTIVE: The development of intermediate level canyoneering / problem solving skills, basic canyon leadership techniques, group efficiencies, and competence in straightforward companion rescues.

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


  • Construct, evaluate, rig, test, backup, and use dead man anchors.
  • Construct, evaluate, rig, test, backup, and use cairn anchors.
  • Demonstrate how to backup / test a marginal anchor.
  • Apply sequencing and friction to utilize otherwise marginal anchors.
  • Set up and use human anchors. Explain why, when, and how to properly sequence this type of anchor.


  • Set up and use releasable twin rope system (jester, joker), 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 Dynamic Courtesy Rigging to facilitate hands free rappel start and trouble-free rope retrieval. Explain why, when, and proper usage and how to avoid rope grooves in soft rock.

Core Rope Work

On Rope Techniques, Teamwork, Companion Rescue

Participant Coaching / Teaching

  • Coach / Teach a person to basic rappel.
  • Coach / Teach a person to basic bridge; stem; chimney, and downclimb.
  • Belay a climber; climbing up, a.) using rope from human anchor (hip belay) 10ft or less b.) using rope from fixed anchor.

Emergency Response

  • Activate EMS system Non-Life threatening (Local SAR; Emergency Contacts).
  • Activate EMS system Life Threatening or Time Critical (Local SAR; Emergency Contacts).
  • Contact Rescue - Rappel on secured rope to provide assistance to person stuck on rappel; provide foot loop to free stuck gear (Not a pick-off).

Canyon Leadership

  • Weather – interpret Radar, Water Vapor, & Infrared Satellite Imagery
  • Perform Pack Checks (for selected canyon) – check for appropriate: Water; Food; Clothing; Footwear; Equipment; First Aid Supplies; Technical eBag (extra hooks, webbing, rapides, Potshot, etc.).
  • Model / Teach: basic bridging; stemming; chimneying.
  • Manage participant fearful of rappelling (from bottom).
  • Set Safe zones / gates – move group from safe zone to safe zone (keep group together).
  • Recognize and treat symptoms of Hypothermia.
  • Recognize and treat symptoms of Hyperthermia.
  • Wilderness First Aid - perform: a) Splint a lower leg injury; b) Stabilize & Horizontal Evacuation.

Problem Solving Scenarios

  • Scenario 1: Shirt / Hair stuck in rappelling device.
  • Scenario 2: Tangled roped and/or rope doesn't touch the ground.
  • Scenario 3: Late start - move group expeditiously.
  • Scenario 4: Horizontal Evacuation of lower leg injury - stable patient; normal conditions.

Specialized Skills for Class A/B Canyons

OBJECTIVE: Provide students with the advanced personal and group canyoneering skills needed to become effective problem-solvers in Class A/B canyons.

Class A/B Canyons — Pothole Escape

  • Escape a pothole using partner assist techniques.
  • Escape a pothole using counter-weight techniques (pot shot; pack toss). Toss single Pot Shot as simple pothole counter weight, simple ascend out.
  • Escape a pothole using aid hooking techniques.

Specialized Skills for Class C Canyons

OBJECTIVE: Provide students with the advanced personal and group canyoneering skills needed to become effective problem-solvers in Class C canyons.

Class C Canyons — Core Skills

  • Assist swimmer(s) while maintaining separation with sequencing, tag lines, throw bags, and/or flotation devices.
  • Jumping into water (Max distance 10ft./10ft. Min depth) identify hazards/depth, correct body position ("Pencil" technique).
  • Cut self off of entangled rope in water (10 sec max).
  • Swim for 4 minutes without floatation.
  • 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.
    • Students should descend intermediate to advanced canyons with competent mentors, taking on progressively more anchor, rigging and problem-solving responsibilities.

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