ACA Skills Checklists Updates

April 26, 2020


Contents

The American Canyoneering Association recently updated all their Skills Checklists. Let's nerd out and see what changed.

Core Skills Checklist

Logistics and Safety

Added: Demonstrate how to activate an SOS on a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). (Moved from CL1 - Emergency Response)

Leave No Trace Ethics

Added: Understand and apply techniques to avoid rope grooves/damage in soft rock.

Basic Knots

Added: Tie and inspect; Valdotain Tresse (tied with a VT Prusik or equivalent). (Moved from Aspirant - Knot Craft)

Intro to Anchors and Rigging

Added: Identify, assess and mitigate basic rope retrieval challenges (crossed ropes) including minimizing or avoiding rope grooves/damage to soft rock.

Added: Prep ropes for retrieval & successfully retrieve rope and prep for transport (Coil or Bag).

Signals / Communication

Renamed from just "Signals"

Removed: Understand and use proper whistle signals.

Climbing, Spotting, Handlines

Renamed from "Climbing, Spotting, Belaying, Handlines"

Removed: Belay a climber; climbing up, climbing down, using rope from fixed anchor, using rope from human anchor.

Rappelling, Belaying, Self-Rescue

Added: Understand and explain the risk and tasks associated with being the first rappeller.

Added: 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.

Added: Demonstrate proper belay commands / verbal communication techniques.

Added: Rappel with pack on and off. Describe scenarios for both situations.

Added: Perform controlled rappel up to 150'+ adding friction mid-rappel; communication - whistles or radios; hanging packs.

Swimming, Jumping, Water Slides

Added: Create and use flotation with gear available. (Moved from Aspirant - Swimming, Jumping, Waterfalls)

Added: Safely perform water depth check; AKA "dipstick". ***No jumping!***

Added: Jumping into water (pool) using 'standard position' (feet first, arms slightly out). ***5 feet maximum height*** (5ft min depth).

Added: Perform wet rappel disconnect in water.

Previous Core Skills Checklist
Current Core Skills Checklist

Aspirant Skills Checklist

Knot Craft

Removed: Tie and inspect; Valdotain tresse (Moved to Core - Basic Knots)

Added: Tie and inspect; Klemheist

Anchors

Removed: Apply sequencing and friction to utilize otherwise marginal anchors. (Moved to CL1 - Anchors)

Removed: Construct, evaluate, rig and use dead man anchors.

Removed: Demonstrate how to backup / test a marginal anchor. (Moved to CL1 - Anchors)

Added: 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

Added: Rope Retrieval: Mitigate standard rope retrieval challenges with "courtesy loop".

Added: Rope Retrieval: Anchor a partially retrieved rope (pull side)

Added: Rope Retrieval: Ascend a partially retrieved rope (rappel side)

Rigging

Removed: Identify situations that dictate setting rope length to height of rappel.

Removed: Lower a person, using hands free backup (i.e. friction hitch attached to the harness of the person in control of lowering).

Added: 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.

Added: Demonstrate how to safely and efficiently reset / adjust rope length.

Added: Identify and demonstrate how to change abrasion points as needed to protect rope/webbing from abrasion and soft rock from rope grooves/damage.

Belaying

Removed: Demonstrate proper bottom belay (Fireman's belay).

Removed: Set up and use a top-rope belay system.

Removed: Demonstrate proper belay commands / verbal communication techniques.

Added: Belay a climber; climbing down, a.) using rope from human anchor (hip belay) 10ft or less, b.) using rope from fixed anchor.

Signals / Communication

Didn't exist in previous version

Added: Understand and use proper whistle signals.

Added: Use Radios to communicate verbal commands for belaying, rappelling.

On Rope Techniques, Companion Rescue

Removed: 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). (Moved to CL1 - Emergency Response)

Added: Safely lower an incapacitated rappeller via Bottom Belay. (Moved from CL1 - Core Rope Work)

Added: Rappel with pack securely hanging from harness.

Added: Demonstrate safe rappel start off of extended courtesy rigging.

Added: Safely and effectively zip line gear over/around obstacle. Describe scenarios for usage.

Added: 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)

Added: Perform controlled rappel up to 200'+ adding friction mid-rappel; communication - whistles or radios; hanging packs.

Canyon Leadership

Didn't exist in previous version

Added: Identify and Assess Flash Flood Risks associated with a selected canyon.

Added: Perform initial gear-up 'Buddy Checks' (Safety check) and at 'Buddy Checks' every rappel.

Added: Canyon Basic First Aid / CPR: a) Stabilize injury / Treat for Shock; b) Go for help; c) Basic injury management.

Swimming, Jumping, Waterfalls

Renamed from "Swimming, Swift Water"

Removed: Create and use flotation with gear available. (Moved to Core - Swimming, Jumping, Waterfalls)

Added: Jumping into water (Max distance 8ft./8ft. Min depth) identify hazards/depth check, correct body position.

Added: Rope entanglement hazard

Previous Aspirant Skills Checklist
Current Aspirant Skills Checklist

Canyon Leader 1 Skills Checklist

Anchors

Added: Demonstrate how to backup / test a marginal anchor. (Moved from Aspirant - Anchors)

Added: Apply sequencing and friction to utilize otherwise marginal anchors. (Moved from Aspirant - Anchors)

Rigging

Removed: Rig and use static courtesy rigging to facilitate easy rappel starts & rope retrieval. (Redundant - already in Aspirant).

Core Rope Work

Removed: Transition from providing a bottom belay to lowering for an incapacitated person who is on rappel. (Moved to Aspirant - On Rope Techniques, Companion Rescue)

Removed: Convert static single rope rigging (e.g. block) to lower. Use hands free backup (i.e. friction hitch) when lowering. (Moved to CL1 - On Rope Techniques, Teamwork, Companion Rescue)

Added: Set up and use a top-rope belay system a.) from human anchor (hip belay) 10ft or less, b.) from fixed anchor.

On Rope Techniques, Teamwork, Companion Rescue

Renamed from On Rope Techniques, Companion Rescue

Removed: Demonstrate a 'soft' rappel start; explain when such a start should be used.

Added: Convert static single rope rigging (e.g. block) to lower. Use hands free backup (i.e. friction hitch) when lowering. (Moved from CL1 - Core Rope Work)

Added: Demonstrate the following advanced partner capture techniques: a) Foot Capture; b) Partner Capture; c) Human Ladder.

Added: Perform a Dynamic Belay (Lowering while maintaining belay).

Added: Perform controlled rappel free hanging and/or up to 250'+ adding friction mid-rappel; communication - radios; hanging packs.

Participant Coaching / Teaching

Added: Belay a climber; climbing up, a.) using rope from human anchor (hip belay) 10ft or less b.) using rope from fixed anchor.

Emergency Response

Removed: Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) instruction / usage. (Moved to Core - Logistics and Safety)

Added: 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). (Moved from Aspirant - On Rope Techniques, Companion Rescue)

Canyon Leadership

New section for the 2020 version

Added: Weather – interpret Radar, Water Vapor, & Infrared Satellite Imagery

Added: 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.).

Added: Model / Teach: basic bridging; stemming; chimneying.

Added: Manage participant fearful of rappelling (from bottom).

Added: Set Safe zones / gates – move group from safe zone to safe zone (keep group together).

Added: Recognize and treat symptoms of Hypothermia.

Added: Recognize and treat symptoms of Hyperthermia.

Added: Wilderness First Aid - perform: a) Splint a lower leg injury; b) Stabilize & Horizontal Evacuation.

Specialized Skills for Class A/B Canyons

Removed Class A/B Canyons — Core Skills section (it moved to On Rope Techniques, Teamwork, Companion Rescue). It had the following:

  • Down Climbing / Stemming ability.
  • Big Rappels (Free hanging and/or 250'+) - adding friction mid-rappel; communication - radios; hanging packs
  • Advanced partner captures

Specialized Skills for Class C Canyons

Added: Jumping into water (Max distance 10ft./10ft. Min depth) identify hazards/depth, correct body position ("Pencil" technique).

Added: Cut self off of entangled rope in water (10 sec max).

Added: Swim for 4 minutes without floatation.

Previous Canyon Leader 1 Skills Checklist
Current Canyon Leader 1 Skills Checklist

Canyon Leader 2 Skills Checklist

Anchors

Added: Perform controlled rappel free hanging and/or up to 300'+ - Adding friction mid-rappel; communication - radios; hanging packs.

Canyon Leadership

  • New section for the 2020 version
  • Added: Give initial safety briefing which includes: a) Medical/pre-existing conditions; b) Weather; c) PLB usage d) First Aid Kit location; e) Egress plan.

    Added: Manage participant fearful of rappelling (from top).

    Added: Deal with participant fearful of down climbing / exposed traversing.

    Added: Give pertinent/timely in-canyon safety/technical instruction for task at hand: a) Downclimbing; b) Rappelling; c) Belaying d) Partner Capture; e) Marginal Anchors; f) Swimming.

    Added: Wilderness First Aid - perform: a) Immobilize potential back/neck injury (do not move); b) Stabilize patient, minor injury & Vertical Evacuation.

    Class A/B Canyons — Pothole Escape

    New section for the 2020 version

    Added: Escaping a pothole using counter-weight techniques. Deploy counter weights - Pack toss and/or Pot Shots

    Added: Escaping a pothole using counter-weight techniques. Safely ascend multiple ropes simultaneously.

    Added: Escaping a pothole using counter-weight techniques - Pass the pothole lip out.

    Class C Canyons — Core Skills

    New section for the 2020 version

    Added: Jump into pool and moving water, 10 ft max identify hazards/depth, correct body position.

    Added: Swim for 6 minutes without floatation.

    Added: Hold breath for 20 seconds underwater.

    Previous Canyon Leader 2 Skills Checklist
    Current Canyon Leader 2 Skills Checklist

    Notes

    There were lots of other smaller changes that I'm not including because I'm not that nerdy. Well I am, actually. If you want to know them all like me then google "diff 2 files", navigate to one of the pages, and you can view the line-by-line differences between files. Here are a bunch of text files of all the skills checklists.

    Finally, some words from Rick Green, ACA President:

    Everyone should know that these lists are an ongoing project. Despite contributions from many very knowledgeable people, use of relatively current information and our best efforts, undoubtedly there will be many errors. Let me know if there are items that you feel need adjustment, changed or will be helpful to have placed in better context.

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