Intermediate Canyon Skills Course - Mountaineers Seattle Program Center


Intermediate Canyon Skills Course - Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

Graduates will have the technical skills required to: Participate as a contributing teammate on intermediate canyon trips, and Prepare for the assessment to be an assistant leader on canyon trips

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Challenging

Friday 1/28

Friday we will do our entrance assessments. Meet in Goodman Hall at 6pm.

Saturday 1/29

Saturday will be a long day with a lot of content. Arrive in Goodman C between 7:30-8 so that you are  ready to start at 8am. Plan to go until 6pm on Saturday.

sunday 1/30

Plan for another 8am-6pm day on Sunday. Our goal is to be done by 5, but don't make plans just in case we need to go till 6.

This course  focuses on technical skills that build upon those learned in the Waterfall Canyoning Course, and are also applicable to those in a leadership role on a canyon trip. Course content includes intermediate-level personal movement, rigging, rescue techniques, anchors, group management and efficiency, and problem solving. 

Students who enter this course are expected to have enough canyon experience and enough proficiency with basic canyon skills that they can begin to understand more nuanced skills. While you will learn specific techniques, our hope is that students will leave this course with an ability to think critically about their rigging and movement decisions, and have a depth of understanding of their gear that allows them to make safe and efficient decisions.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the rigging hierarchy
  • Understand how pulley systems work, and begin to be able to quickly assemble and adjust mechanical advantage based on the situation
  • Quickly convert and release a fixed system
  • Perform a pick-off quickly and efficiently
  • Rig simple twin systems that are suitable to the situation, and execute a rescue on these systems
  • Move safely and efficiently on a double-rope system
  • Rig guided rappels that anticipate rescue

This course covers a lot of material in a short timeframe. Students will need to practice these techniques on their own both in and out of canyon  after the course to be able to effectively use what you learn when you need it.  

Pre-requisite Training and Experience


You must have descended 8 unique aquatic canyons, and have had a total of 12 canyon descents. 


In early December, a short eLearning will be sent out to students. This will have some skills and concepts that will prepare you to learn in the course, as well as videos of the technical assessments. The eLearning is due no later than 11:59pm on Sunday, January 23. Plan to spend 3-5 hours on the eLearning.


Purpose: Those capable of passing this assessment have the proficiency in a variety of essential skills needed to be able to effectively learn Intermediate Canyon Skills. Without this baseline, students will struggle in the course.

Assessment Objectives:  Students must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the following skills. Proficiency means you are a 4 out of 5 on the Mastery Hierarchy (1=failure, 2=insufficient, 3=sufficient, 4=proficient, 5=mastery). Proficiency = fluid execution, a clear understanding of concepts, quick self-correction, depth of knowledge, and includes application and supporting concepts.

  1. Single-Strand Timed Conversion Test - Using a frog system with mechanical ascenders: ascend, pass a knot, convert to rappel, descend, pass a knot, rappel to ground, disconnect from the rope (5 min or less). Two points of contact must be maintained with the rope at all times. Methods of passing a knot such as passing the rope through a rappel device or using a VT prusik are not acceptable in this assessment. 
  2. Timed Anchor Management Test (max time will be based on 1.7x instructor time)
    1. Rig a retrievable traverse line to access an unlinked bolted anchor
    2. Rig an MMO on unlinked bolts, setting the rope length to 0-1' above the ground
    3. Clean the anchor, rappel, and pull the rope
  3. (there may be 1-2 additional tests, which will be announced to students with at least 1 month's notice to practice)

These pre-requisites are non-negotiable, and are designed to set everyone up for success. Those who meet these pre-requisites have the experience and proficiency with basic systems needed to be able to effectively learn in this course. Those who cannot meet these pre-requisites will not be allowed to take the course, and will either receive a refund or  can roll their course fees forward to the next intermediate course.

Please contact the leader with questions. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICING. We have space reserved at the Seattle Program Center on the following dates for practice:

  • December 22, 5-9pm
  • January 4, 6-9pm
  • January 7, 6-9pm
  • January 9, 4-7:30pm
  • January 14, 5-9pm
  • January 22, 11am-2pm
  • January 27, 6-9pm

We encourage you to connect with your fellow students to meet up and practice. Instructors will be available on some of the dates as well to help.

If you do not have the prerequisite badges but otherwise meet the stated prerequisites above, please contact the leader who can add you to the course.

After the course


The skills taught in this course are extremely perishable. You will need to practice them both in-canyon and out to become proficient and to retain muscle memory. Completion of this course will allow you to join Intermediate Canyon trips. Get as much mileage as you can in more technical advanced environments (Intermediate canyons) and attend as many practice sessions as you can. 

Assistant Leader

We hope you'll consider becoming an Assistant Leader for The Mountaineers! This is an important role that supports our Leaders with student mentorship and problem solving. To become an assistant Leader, you must have descended 15 unique aquatic canyons, be current in Wilderness First Aid, and pass the Assistant Leader Assessment, which is a test of your ability to demonstrate proficiency in most of the skills taught in the Intermediate Canyon Skills Course.


    Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

    Required Equipment

    Required Equipment

    • Harness
    • Helmet
    • Adjustable Friction Canyon Descender
    • 4 working Carabiners
    • Alpine Canyon Draw 
    • VT Prusik*
    • Figure-eight Descender 
    • Footloop
    • Mechanical hand ascender
    • Mechanical harness ascender/chest ascender
    • Progress-capture Pulley*
    • Petzl Tibloc (optional but recommended)
    • Rollclip Carabiner (optional)
    • Double-ended rope bag (optional)

    The Mountaineers has gear to loan - please contact the leader

    *Note that VT Prusik's come in 7mm and 8mm versions. Either diameter is acceptable, but should be compatible with your Progress-capture Pulley. An Edelrid Spoc can accomodate a 7mm VT, a Petzl Microtraxion can handle a minimum of 8mm. If given options, we recommend purchasing the longest VT prusik available.

    Trip Reports