Core Skills Checklist


Original document from the ACA's resource page.

OBJECTIVE: Provide students with the fundamental canyoneering skills necessary to join a competently led group into canyons rated up to 3A/B III and supervised introduction to technical canyoneering skills.

Logistics and Safety

Leave No Trace Ethics

Rope and Equipment Care

  • Understand and apply good rope care practices.
  • Demonstrate coiling a rope; (a) Alpine coil, (b) Canyon coil.
  • Stuff and use a rope bag.
  • Understand and apply good equipment care and handling practices.

Basic Knots

Intro to Anchors and Rigging

  • Evaluate and rig existing fixed artificial anchors (bolts) using the acronym EARNEST (Equalized, Angle, Redundant, No Extension, Strong, Timely).
  • Identify, Evaluate, and rig single-point natural anchors (i.e. tree, boulder, arch) using a) simple webbing wrap, b) cinching wrap (i.e. wrap 2 pull 1, Girth hitch).
    Explain the pros and cons of each and demonstrate how to securely back up & test single point anchors.
  • Set up and use a releasable/contingency system for rappel. Explain the hazards/risks of using releasable systems and steps that should be taken to avoid accidents and mitigate risks.
  • Identify & explain the variables and situations (scenarios) that dictate safely setting rope length to the height of a rappel. Demonstrate setting the rope length for safe descent for each scenario using appropriate communication and applicable rigging techniques.
  • Set up and use edge protection to protect rope from abrasion and soft rock from rope grooves/damage.
  • Identify, assess and mitigate basic rope retrieval challenges (crossed ropes) including minimizing or avoiding rope grooves/damage to soft rock.
  • Prep ropes for retrieval & successfully retrieve rope and prep for transport (Coil or Bag).


Climbing, Spotting, Handlines

  • Move on 3rd and 4th class terrain (scrambling - rock climbing terrain).
  • Move on 5th class terrain (rock climbing terrain).
  • Demonstrate chimneying, stemming, and bridging techniques.
  • Spot a climber; climbing up, climbing down.
  • Understand and use partner capture (climbing down) andpartner assist (climbing up) techniques for short vertical problems.
  • Understand and apply appropriate use of a hand line.
  • Understand and apply appropriate use of a friction hitch safety on a hand line.

Rappelling, Belaying, Self-Rescue

  • Understand and explain the risk and tasks associated with being the first rappeller.
  • Set up and use a self belay with a Valdotain Tresse (tied with a VT or equivalent).
  • Rig rappelling device for correct friction on 8mm to 11mm ropes, single and double strand, understand the variables that contribute to friction requirements.
  • Rappel; control speed while rappelling, apply brake to stop mid-rappel.
  • Rappel using different the starting positions that include a) traditional (standing) b) sitting c) soft start (body friction/smearing); explain when such a start should be used.
  • Add friction while rappelling.
  • Lock off rappel device while rappelling.
  • Lock off while rappelling using leg wrap.
  • Demonstrate proper bottom belay (Fireman's belay).
  • Demonstrate proper belay commands / verbal communication techniques.
  • Demonstrate appropriate rappelling practices to minimize rope abrasion.
  • Rappel with pack on and off. Describe scenarios for both situations.
  • Use rope grab (friction hitch or mechanical ascender) and foot loop to remove tension from rappel device to free stuck gear while rappelling.
  • Perform controlled rappel up to 150'+ adding friction mid-rappel; communication - whistles or radios; hanging packs.

Swimming, Jumping, Water Slides

  • Create and use flotation with gear available.
  • Swim 50 yards with gear, using floatation if necessary.
  • Describe and identify water hazards.
  • Safely perform water depth check; AKA "dipstick". ***No jumping!***
  • Jumping into water (pool) using 'standard position' (feet first, arms slightly out). ***5 feet maximum height*** (5ft min depth).
  • Perform wet rappel disconnect in water.
  • Water slides; identify hazards, correct body position.

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.
  • Join well organized groups with competent Leader(s) descending easier canyons rated up to 3A/B III.

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