Canyon Rating System

Contents
Tap above to change the ratingTechnical. Rappelling almost always required.
Deep wading to swimming. Water has no current.

Many years ago Colorado Plateau canyoneers were trying to establish a standard rating system for technical canyons that would entail all the different conditions one would encounter in the various slot canyons. Rich Carlson, through the ACA, created the ACA Canyon Rating System and it was quickly adopted by beta providers and the canyoneering community.

The official documentation differs slightly from how beta providers have used it. Below is my understanding of the rating system based on these observations.

Technical Rating

Water Rating

  • A Water levels are anything from completely dry to waist deep water. No swimming is required.
  • B Deep wading to swimming. Water has no current.
  • C Flowing water.

Time Rating

  • I It should take a few hours to complete the canyon.
  • II It should take about half a day to complete the canyon.
  • III It should take most of a day to complete the canyon.
  • IV It should be a very long day to complete the canyon.
  • V It should take about two days to complete the canyon.
  • VI It should take three or more days to complete the canyon.

Risk Rating

  • R A canyon with exposure where failure will likely result in serious injury.
  • X A canyon with exposure where failure will likely result in death. Canyoneers who regularly do X canyons split the rating into X and XX where X is deadly and XX is also deadly. But more deadly.

Slot Designation

  • S The canyon is skinny enough that some people may not be able to fit through. Beta providers don’t commonly use this. The letter S is appended to the canyon rating.

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