Canyon Leader Certification

1 Leader

Leading safe, fun, and educational canyoneering trips requires specific knowledge, skills and awareness. These leadership necessities extend beyond basic canyoneering skills. Our goal is to add a layer of leadership tools to individuals who already have canyoneering experience. The Canyon Leader Certification (CLC) courses address topics such as: assessing participant skills, making appropriate terrain choices, managing groups of varied experience and ability, time management, and technical skills. A graduate of the CLC program will be able to plan and lead safe, low impact trips in beginner and intermediate canyons including, but not limited to:

      • Zion: Subway, Keyhole, Yankee Doodle, Pine Creek, Birch Hollow, Orderville, Mystery, Spry and/or Behunin
      • Escalante: Peakaboo, Spooky, Neon, and/or Ringtail
      • North Wash: East Leprechaun, Morocco, East Blarney, and/or West Blarney

  • "Zion Adventure Company’s Canyon Leader Course taught me the essential canyoneering skills I need to know to feel confident taking a small group of Boy Scouts through a technical canyon like the Subway in Zion National Park."
    -Steven Dyches, JD
  • "...the staff was professional and personable, and the trainings/lectures opened my eyes. I highly recommend Ben Rhinesmith and Zion Adcenture Company to assist you in becoming certified to lead any group through canyons inside Zion National Park."
    -Brett Boren

  • The CLC consists of two separate courses:
    • Co-Leader
      • A two-day course ranging from 16 to 20 hours
      • Includes the Co-Leader Assessment
    • Leader
      • A two-day course ranging from 16 to 20 hours
      • Includes the Leader Assessment
    The resulting certification of completion is good for two years. To recertify, canyon leaders take and pass a two-day refresher. Continuing education workshops on additional canyoneering and leadership topics are available and help course graduates retain a high level of skill.

    The number of recreational canyoneers has been steadily growing over the last ten years. Many who have enjoyed their time in the canyons have become interested in making those opportunities available to family and friends. The CLC course is designed to facilitate a high level of safety, technical abilies, and problem-solving while reducing the impact groups have on the canyon environments. trips. Whether you want to lead family, friends, church groups, youth groups or scouts, this course can prepare you to do it at a high level.
  • Participants will be assessed at the beginning and end of each course.

    The assessment at the beginning of the course ensures participants have prerequisite skills and helps the instructor customize the course to give your group the maximum benefit.

    Each course will conclude with a formal "Pass or No Pass."

    The assessments will be scenario-based and will require the canyon leader to apply a range of skills and techniques.

  • The pre-course requirements are designed to ensure the participant has contextual experience leading outdoor trips (hiking, camping, backpacking, etc.) as well as technical canyoneering. Below are the prerequisites for the Co-Leader course:


    • Has descended five canyons rated 3AII, or higher
    • Has organized, planned and lead five trips which can be technical or non-technical (backpacking, climbing, school field-trips, church groups, etc.)


    • Red Cross First Aid with CPR, or a higher level of medical training
    • Understands and practices Leave No Trace outdoor ethic
    • Can navigate using a topographic map and compass
    • Can explain and demonstrates how to properly wear a helmet and harness
    • Able to construct an EARNEST/SERENE anchor using two bolts, webbing and a quick link
      • EARNEST
        • Equalized, Angle, Redundant, No-Extension, Strong/Solid, Timely
      • SERENE
        • Strong/Solid, Equalized, Redundant, Efficient, No-Extension 
    • Able to set up a double-strand retrievable rappel
    • Able to rappel
    • Able to climb vertical terrain rated low 5 th class (5.0, 5.2)
    • Able to tie the following knots and hitches:
      • Overhand knot
      • Overhand on a bight 
      • Water knot (aka ring bend)
      • Girth hitch
      • Clove hitch
      • Bowline
      • At least one type of friction hitch (e.g. Prussik, Autoblock, Penberthy, Klemheist, Bachmann, etc.) 

    If you have questions regarding the prerequisites for the Co-Leader course please contact us. 

    • Philosophy

        • Safety as priority one
        • Creating a safe environment (physically, mentally, and emotionally)
        • Perspective: the leader, the participant, identifying similarities and differences
        • Facilitating positive experience
        • Challenge by choice
        • Facilitating exploration

      Trip Planning

        • ACA canyon rating system
        • Interpret canyon route descriptions and guide books
        • Understanding Weather forecasts
        • Permit systems and other relevant group size limits
        • Topographic map reading
        • Group dynamics

      Tying Knots & Hitches

        • Munter
        • Mule
        • Klemheist
        • Autoblock
        • Mariner's hitch
        • Penberthy hitch
        • Triple clove hitch
        • Alpine butterfly
        • Figure eight series (on-a-bight, follow-through, inline)
        • Overhand Series (flat, on-a-bight, follow-through, water knot, on-and-end)

      Anchors: Evaluating and Establishing

        • Artificial (bolted) anchors
        • Natural anchors (trees, boulders, pinches, etc.)
        • Anchor material (webbing, cord, rope)
        • Create an equalized multi-point anchor
        • Implement human/"meat" anchors

      Rappel Rigging

        • Single-strand rappel with carabiner block
        • Multiple types of rappel back-ups
        • Rigging multiple independent rappel lines with the same rope
        • Tandem rappel
        • Simul- (aka. counterbalance) rappel

      Down Climbing 

        • Stemming
        • Chimneying
        • Spotting down climbers
        • Belaying down climbers

      Rescue Rigging

        • Contingency rigging
        • Locking-off a rappel device mid-rappel
        • Ascending
        • Introduction to mechanical advantage haul systems
        • Rescue rope


        • Preventing common medical problems
        • Identifying changes in the weather
        • Flash flood awareness

      Group Management

        • Early Work with information
        • Keeping participants engaged
        • Utilizing individual strengths for group benefit
        • Canyon Etiquette
        • Environmental Impact
    • Philosophy
        • Facilitating self-care and responsibility by group members
        • Managin risk versus reward: individual and group, leader and participant
        • Group efficiency
        • The leaders’ approach and perspective when leading groups verses on their personal time
        • Group size
        • Relationship between anchor height and rappel start
        • Understanding extended anchors
        • Dead man/cairn anchors and their back-ups
        • Efficiently anchor construction
      Rappel Rigging
        • Lowering a participant
        • Choosing the best rigging for the situation
        • Floating disconnects
        • Swimming with gear
        • Recognizing slipping hazards
      Rescue Techniques
        • Convert a carabiner block to lower
        • Pick-off
        • Escaping a canyon
        • In-depth understanding of factors that create flash floods 
        • Search and Rescue logistics
        • How much gear do we bring? Costs and benefits
        • Trip Leader
        • Co-Leader gear
        • Participant gear
        • Cleaning and Maintaining
        • Maintaining gear
        • When to retire and replace gear
        • Understanding pros and cons of specific gear items
    • These topics will be reviewed for those Canyon Leaders interested in furthering their canyoneering knowledge.


        • 2:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1,
        • Gear (prussik-minding pulleys, micro-traxion, tiblocs, etc.)  
        • Edge management
        • Counter-balance hauling
      Beyond 3BIII Canyons
        • Flowing water
        • Pack rafting 
        • Camping in the canyons
        • Night time canyoneering
        • Advanced stemming
        • Multi-stage rappels
      Program Development
        • Equipment
        • Increasing your opportunities by increasing your group’s collective skills
        • Access (permits and permission) 
      Pothole Escapes
        • Partner assists
        • Pot shots
        • Direct hauls
        • Mechanical hauls
        • Hooking
      Canyon Ghosting Techniques (leaving no anchor material behind)
        • Fiddle stick
        • Sand trap
        • Water anchor
        • Down climbs assisted from above with retrievable backpacks, pot shots, etc.
        Advanced Rigging and Technical Rescue
        • Guided Rappel
        • Convert single-rope rappel to a lowering system with same rope
        • Converting double-strand rappel system to a lowering system with a separate rope 
        • Descending a double strand rappel system with a Valdatoin Tresse
        • Performing a pick-off on a weighted double-strand rappel with a Valdatoin Tresse
    • Technical Gear
      Many clients bring and use their gear during ZAC courses to gain experience and familiarity.
      We will provide additional technical gear you need.

      For each day of your course, please bring:

        • 2 quarts of water/person & food/snacks
        • Sunscreen and sun hat
        • Warm, synthetic clothing (seasonal)
        • Rain gear (many courses are still able to run in inclement weather)
        • Waterproof camera, optional
        • Closed-toe shoes
        • Note-taking material

        • Meet at Zion Adventure Company; 36 Lion Blvd., across from the Quality Inn.
        • First day of the course meets at 7:30am.
      Co-Leader(2-day):  Two or More $350.00 per person
      Leader(2-day): Two or More $350.00 per person

      Please choose your dates when registering. If the schedule provided does not coincide with yours, please request custom dates. We believe there is benefit from spending personal time in a canyon environment between the Co-Leader course and Leader Course. However, if it makes more sense logistically to combine the courses we can accommodate. 

      DATES FOR 2016 

      April 16-17 July 16-17
      April 29-30 September 10-11
      May 7-8 September 17-18
      May 21-22 October 15-16
      June 4-5 October 29-30


      Courses are 100% refundable up to 30 days prior to departure. Once inside the 30-day window, we deduct a 25% cancellation fee from any refunds.  You may apply this 25% fee toward any future services or products we offer within two years from the date of cancellation. Cancellations within 24 hours of trip departure are non-refundable.