Partner Capture

The way you are doing partner captures is wrong. The correct way doesn't feel natural and requires strict discipline from both the capturers and capturee.

Partner Capture
An efficient way to get down short drops as an alternative to rappelling. One or two canyoneers help to lower another canyoneer by pressing him/her against the cliff to provide friction and slowly lower the canyoneer to the ground.

In order to become proficient in partner captures practice outside of canyons is paramount. It took me years, many practice sessions, and several sets of instruction from the greatest down climb guide before it finally clicked. I hope it doesn't take as long for you.


The capturee is the canyoneer who is being lowered. The capturee actually does very little and must trust and rely on the capturers to get them down safely.

The capturer or capturers are the canyoneers who are lowering the capturee.

Simple capture

  1. Capturer is down below with arms up ready to capture.
  2. Capturee gets into position:
    • Their legs must be straight - bending them or trying to actively down climb is the biggest mistake a capturee can make
    • Leans back against the rock to maximize friction
    • Uses their arms to add friction as well by weighting hand holds or simply splay them out and press against the rock
    • It's easier without packs but if it's a relatively straightforward capture then no need to take them off
  3. Capturer holds the capturee's feet up while slowly lowering them, transitioning from holding their body weight to pressing their shins against the rock
  4. Capturer carefully lowers the capturee by leaning and pressing them against the rock, walking their hands up the capturee's legs
  5. Once the capturee is low enough...

  6. Capturee leans forward and places their hands the capturer's shoulders
  7. Capturer lowers them the rest of the way

Multiple capturers

  1. If there are two capturers, each capturer takes a leg of the capturee. The capturee puts one hand on each inside shoulder of the capturer
  2. If there are three or four capturers, they should stand behind and stabilize the first two capturers
  3. If there are more than four they should have already gone ahead to the next obstacle

Pyramid capture

There are two types of pyramid captures. One of them, common in Utah County, is also known as MLM recruiting. The canyoneering pyramid capture builds on a standard partner capture. There are three levels, the top-level-capturee, middle-level-capturer, and bottom-level-capturers.

The top-level-capturee's job is the same as the capturee in a partner capture. The only difference is that they will be captured from a much higher distance.

The middle-level-capturer's job is to hold up the top-level-capturee while they are captured with their belly toward the rock. Their body will be captured completely. Once they are down they assist capturing the top-level-capturee.

The bottom-level-capturers have a similar job to the capturer on a standard partner capture. The only difference is that instead of slowly lowering one person they will be slowly lowering two people stacked on top of each other.

Why is the pyramid capturing in this order with the middle-level-capturer being lowered with the top level? Why not capture just the top level to the ground and then the middle level? The main reason is that the middle-level-capturer does not have the ability to push the top-level-capturee against the rock and therefore cannot preform an effective capture. And how do I know that? I was in a group that tried it this way once and the top and middle levels both came crashing down. I made that mistake for you and me so you don't have to.

Circle of Love

Partner captures rely on pressing the capturee against the rock to provide friction for easier lowering. Consequently partner captures using this technique do not work when the drop is overhanging.

It is possible to generalize this technique to allow for overhanging captures, but I have no experience with it and can only refer you to a Canyon Collective forum thread where Ram describes a technique called The Circle of Love.

Previous Page: The PullNext Page: Carabiners