Waterfall Canyoning - The Mountaineers - 2020

Canyoning Course

Waterfall Canyoning Course

Learn the technical skills needed to explore the aquatic canyons of the PNW


The Mountaineers is committed to helping make the outdoors accessible to all. In addition to providing gear to loan, we aim to reduce financial barriers by providing scholarships. Our scholarships are funded by donors who believe in The Mountaineers mission to help folks get outside, and to preserve our wild landscapes. If your current financial situation limits your access to the outdoors, we encourage you to complete a scholarship application. The link is easy to find in the course header at the link above. If you're inspired to contribute to making the outdoors more inclusive, we encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation through our website.

Course Overview

The world-class aquatic canyons of the Pacific Northwest might be our best kept secret. This course will give you the skills to safely descend our aquatic canyons and become a part of one of the fastest growing canyoning communities in the world. It is appropriate for complete novices, as well as desert canyoneers and climbers who are new to an aquatic environment.

This course is designed to give students both value and flexibility. With four required days on weekends, a recommended assessment day on a Monday,  and optional technical practice sessions after work during the week, most students can complete the course without asking for much time off from work. 

modern techniques recognized internationally

This is an intensive canyoning training course, which encompasses the most up-to-date canyoning skills, knowledge and techniques, developed by highly-experienced instructors with a vast knowledge and experience in international canyon exploration and professional canyoning. Different from skills used in the desert canyons of the Southwest, this course teaches techniques specific to our aquatic canyons in the PNW that also apply internationally. You will be equipped to explore our local canyons as well as in many other areas in the world.

online companion course

The course also includes a complete online companion course including videos, pictures, and text, which is accessible at any time. If a student needs more time to work on a specific skill, the online companion course allows for the student to study and review at their own pace.  Students will have access to the online companion course in perpetuity which allows them to review at the beginning of each future season. As techniques change in this fast-growing sport, students will receive free updates in their online portal, so that they can stay up to date with the newest techniques and equipment without having to pay for a new course.

optional assessment

This 5-day course includes an recommended day of skills assessment to an international standard. Students who need more time to study and practice have the option to complete the assessment at a later date.

be part of a community

IMG_0309.JPGGraduates of this course will be eligible to join Mountaineers Basic and Intermediate Canyon trips. You’ll have opportunities throughout the summer to descend canyons with people you trust in this tight-knit community, as well as opportunities throughout the year to attend practice sessions and keep your skills fresh and community strong in the off season.

Course Objective  

A successful graduate of the course will have the skills to independently run moderate risk canyons. The graduate will show a strong comfort in canyon environments, demonstrating excellent anticipatory skills for reducing risk to themselves and teammates. The graduate will understand and implement safe and efficient rigging solutions in a moderate risk environment. 


  • Completed Online Course Pre-Learning
  • Have a reasonable level of fitness
  • Be able to swim 20m



On Day 1, you'll check out gear that is sized for you and become familiar with the unique equipment we use. Competent canyoners are proficient at moving quickly and efficiently on rope in challenging terrain. This includes ascending, descending, passing knots and obstacles, moving horizontally and on an incline, and transitioning from one rope to another. This day will be spent learning and practicing personal progression on rope. 


Day 2 will be spent developing water movement skills specific to a canyon environment. We'll practice swimming in current, ferry angles, as well as aggressive and defensive swimming. We'll discuss the important considerations around flotation and pack management for safe descent in a narrow aquatic canyon environment. We’ll then discuss common hazards in a canyon, and practice team incident management and evacuation.


After work practice session at The Mountaineers. A great opportunity to hone the skills you learned and get to know some folks from prior years’ courses. Note: Due to COVID-19, this may be adjusted or canceled to avoid mixing groups. This will be determined the week before the course.


For those able to take a day off work, we'll run one of our classic canyons to put some of your skills to use. If you cannot join us, there will be plenty of future opportunities to run canyons with us after the course and throughout the rest of the summer. Note: Due to COVID-19, this may be adjusted or canceled to avoid mixing groups. This will be determined the week before the course.


After work practice session at The Mountaineers. Actual date TBD. A great opportunity to hone the skills you learned and get to know some graduates from prior years' courses! Note: Due to COVID-19, this may be adjusted or canceled to avoid mixing groups. This will be determined the week before the course.


Day 3 will be a full day of rigging. We'll cover modern techniques specific for  an aquatic canyon environment. Students will learn options for rigging retrievable hand lines, fixed and releasable rappels, guided rappels, and multi-pitch rappels. We'll cover a variety of anchors, how to assess and build anchors, and techniques for managing the anchor as a leader. By the end of Day 3, students will have learned the skills to rig some of the more technical canyons in the PNW.


Day 4 will focus on more advanced rigging as well as rescue on rope and some common emergency scenarios. Students will learn about managing the unique hazards of an aquatic canyon environment. They will practice rope rescue systems including self-rescue, direct rescue and indirect rescue. 


Day 5 is the assessment day. While instructors will provide ongoing feedback throughout the course, the final day gives students an opportunity to put all that they’ve learned to the test.  A formal assessment by the instructors gives students a clear understanding of what proficiencies they have, as well as specific areas for continued improvement. It's an opportunity to put all of the pieces together and receive specific feedback on your overall proficiency in a canyon environment, and what your next step should be as you progress as a canyoner. 

Students who wish to have more time to practice may opt to take the assessment at a later date.

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Important dates:

This course will happen over two weekends - Saturday-Sunday July 11-12 and July 18-19, plus Monday July 20. 


Students who have canyoning gear are encouraged to bring their own gear so that they can learn on their personal gear. However, no gear purchasing is required for the course, as any gear that students do not have will be provided to loan for the course.

Click on the "Required Equipment" tab below for a comprehensive gear list, and to learn about gear available to graduates to use after the course.

cancelations and refunds:

Cancelations before June 1, 2020 will be eligible for a full refund minus a $10 administrative fee. Cancelations between June 1 - June 30 are eligible for a 50% refund. Cancelations after June 30 are not eligible for a refund.

adjustments for covid-19

Small Group Rosters: 

The course will be split into 3 small groups that do not interact. Here's a link to those group rosters.


  • We’ve reduced the number of instructors compared to what we’d normally have, to reduce the number of individuals involved in our course. That said, we have also reduced our group sizes compared to normal, so our ratios will still be 1:3 or 1:2.

  • Your instructor team is Andrew (Senior Instructor), Jake (Lead Instructor), Becca (Lead Instructor), Brent, Ian, Loni, Tiffanie and Dave. We’ve been very attentive to social distancing and have avoided large gatherings. Most of us can count on one hand the number of people we’ll have spent time with in the 2 weeks prior to the course. About half of us are also each others’ regular “pod”.

  • Most of your instructors will be participating in more advanced workshops with Andrew during the week in between the two weekends of the course. There will only be about 5 additional students in these workshops, combined, and we are committed to being diligent about physical distancing and sanitation.

Schedule and Group Arrangements

  • Our required class days are Saturday & Sunday 7/11, 7/12, and 7/18, 7/19, with a recommended assessment day on Monday 7/20. During these days, students will be in a group of 4-6, with 2-3 instructors. You’ll remain in the same small group throughout the course, though will most likely have different instructors on the second weekend than you do on the first. We think there’s a lot of value from learning from different voices and teaching styles.

  • Almost all of the practice happens individually or in a pair. You’ll be paired with someone, and unless for some reason it isn’t working out, you’ll stay with that partner for the entire course.

  • We’ll assign groups based on a number of factors, including: keeping household/pod members together when possible; accommodating comfort levels with COVID as much as possible; technical skills & experience.

Masks and Things

  • Everyone will be required to have a cloth face covering with them every day.This can be a face mask or a buff. 

    • When we aren’t in water, it should be easily accessible to cover your nose and mouth when you come close to someone not in your household. If you are on rope, it should be with you (not on the ground), even if you are not currently using it.

    • On Day 2, when we are swimming in a river, it won’t be practical to have cloth face coverings. We’ll maintain distance as much as possible, and anyone can opt out of any exercises they don’t feel comfortable practicing. Later that day, as we’re working on on-land incident management, face coverings should be available for when you are close to others.

    • During the in-canyon days, everyone should have a mask or buff they can pull up over their nose & mouth while sharing an anchor with someone, or otherwise working closely with someone not from your household.

  • Please bring hand sanitizer with you every day, and use it frequently - when you get on/off rope, generally before and after touching group gear.

  • We are striving to keep shared gear to a minimum. Each small group will have gear that will remain with that group for the entirety of the course, reducing the number of people who share any given gear. In a canyon environment, it is necessary to share rope bags as well as canyon packs. The good news is that most canyon gear is PVC or some other form of plastic, which is easy to sanitize, and we have a plan for sanitizing gear throughout the day.

Badges you will earn:

Course Requirements
Course Activity Date Availability Leader
Assessment Canyon A
Rachor Creek: Upper Canyon
Mon, Jul 20, 2020
Registration closed Jul 18
8 participants
2 instructors
Change Creek
Mon, Jul 20, 2020
Registration closed Jul 18
7 participants
4 instructors
Change Creek
Sun, Jul 18, 2021
Registration closed Jul 17
0 participants
0 instructors
V7 Academy Online Companion Course
Online Classroom
Tue, Jun 1, 2021
Registration closed May 30
0 participants
1 instructor
Incident Management - Group B
Seattle Program Center
Sun, Jul 11, 2021
Registration closed Jul 9
0 participants
0 instructors
Assessment Canyon B
Rachor Creek: Upper Canyon
Sun, Jul 18, 2021
Registration closed Jul 17
2 participants
0 instructors
Assessment Canyon C
Rachor Creek: Upper Canyon
Sun, Jul 18, 2021
Registration closed Jul 17
0 participants
0 instructors
Required Equipment


Students who have canyoning gear are encouraged to bring their own gear so that they can learn on their personal gear. However, no gear purchasing is required for the course, as any gear that students do not have will be provided to loan for the course.

This comprehensive gear list can help students assess which of their own gear they will choose to use on the course:

  • Wetsuit (full body, minimum 5mm on the core). Drysuit is also acceptable though less desirable.
  • Neoprene socks (minimum 3mm)
  • Canyon-specific shoes
  • Canyon harness (caving harness is also acceptable. Climbing harnesses are not allowed) 
  • Helmet (Climbing helmets & Paddling helmets both acceptable)
  • 2 dynamic cowstails with locking carabiners 
    • students will get to keep their cowstails, which will be sized to each student. Students will NOT get to keep the carabiners. If there are two pieces of gear we recommend purchasing, it’s:
      • An HMS carabiner with a keeper wire (Sterling Falcon Talon is preferred because it is round-stock, but a flat-stock carabiner is acceptable, as is an HMS carabiner without a keeper wire)
      • A small locking carabiner (Petzl Sm’D twist lock is recommended, but a Petzl Spirit or other locking small carabiner is acceptable)
  • 1 variable-friction descender with locking carabiner (examples: Critr, Pirana, Hannibal, Hoodoo, Oka, Resonator)
  • 1 compact mechanical hand ascender (Petzl Basic recommended)
  • 1 mechanical chest ascender (Petzl Croll recommended)
  • 1 single runner (60cm sling) OR chest harness
  • 1 foot loop
  • 1 canyoning knife
  • 1 pea-less whistle
  • 4 pear shaped locking carabiners
  • 1 locking XL Master carabiner
  • 1 quickdraw
  • 1 Figure Eight Descender
  • 1 tape sling
  • Canyon Pack with drainage and flotation
  • Rope bag with drainage & flotation


Our goal is to make canyoning accessible to everyone. Graduates of this course will be qualified to participate on Mountaineers Basic & Intermediate Canyon trips. On Mountaineers trips, participants will have access to borrow the following gear:

  • Canyon Harness with rescue knife
  • Descender
  • Petzl Basic
  • Petzl Croll
  • Figure Eight Device
  • 4 working carabiners
  • 1 master carabiner
  • 60 cm sling
  • Rope bags, Canyon Packs

Wetsuits can be rented at https://urbansurf.com

Many participants choose to purchase canyoning shoes, however many others use old approach shoes. Any shoes with sticky rubber soles will work.

This means that after the course, participants will ONLY need to purchase the following to continue canyoning with The Mountaineers:

  • Helmet
  • Pea-less whistle
  • Neoprene socks
  • Foot Loop
  • Quick Draw
Course Materials

You must register for this course to see course materials.