Assistant Canyon Leader


Assistant Canyon Leader

The holder of this badge has been approved by their branch's Canyon Committee to play the role of Assistant Canyon Leader on Mountaineers Canyon Trips.


The holder of this badge has demonstrated sound judgment, strong leadership skills, and technical proficiency in:The holder of this badge has  graduated from The Mountaineers Assistant Canyon Leader Course or has demonstrated equivalent knowledge and experience.  The holder has demonstrated:

  • All Basic and Intermediate Canyon Skills
  • Rigging and managing rappels
  • Hand line rigging and management
  • Intermediate rigging & rescue skills


  • Participate in canyoning activities and field trips as Assistant Leader
  • Instruct at Canyon Courses


To get this badge, you must be approved by your branch's Canyoning committee. Sponsoring committees must be satisfied that assistant leaders of canyoning trips have met the following prerequisites:

  • 18+ years of age
  • Assistant Canyon Leader Course or equivalency
  • 5+ unique Canyons, 3 of which are aquatic
  • Wilderness First Aid training
  • Ability to swim 25 meters without buoyancy, 4 meters under water
  • Ability to jump 2 meters vertically into water
  • Complete Self-Assessment of Skills

Once prerequisites have been met, candidates will participate in a 3-hour skills assessment with at least 2 assessors. The assessment will include both skills exercises and a spoken answer test indicating understanding of core concepts. 

Required Skills

Assistant Leaders should have sufficient knowledge/understanding and ability to execute skills listed below that are starred. This means the Assistant Leader’s level of competency with these skills is sufficient for functioning independently as an Assistant Canyon Leader. They should be executed without critical errors. 

Assistant leaders should be proficient in all other skills (participant level skills). This means fluid execution, clear understanding of concepts, quick self-correction, and a depth of knowledge that includes application and supporting concepts. This proficiency allows assistant leaders to focus on supporting participants.

Trip Planning

  • Knowledge of the canyon rating system
  • Knowledge of beta resources
  • Identify canyon exit options
  • Identify primary trip risks*
  • Pre-planning for rescue scenarios*


  • Read Topographical Maps
  • Identify Watersheds
  • Use common navigation tools to navigate - (including understanding their limitations) 
  • Anticipate micro-terrain features
  • Read terrain (micro & macro)
  • Anticipate terrain hazards*

Weather & Environmental Hazards

  • Utilize multiple forecasting & history resources
  • Assessment of weather patterns in real time
  • Understanding of how weather might impact canyon environment


  • Knowledge of PPE data sheets & use specifications
  • Proper closure of waterproof containers
  • Assemble harness for safe & efficient canyon travel


  • Knowledge of hand signals
  • Knowledge of whistle signals

Personal Movement

  • Load an adjustable friction descender - demonstrate safe loading of the descender and knowledge of the friction options 
  • Rappel using an adjustable friction descender
  • Lock off & go hands free - this can be done using wraps on the descender (depending on the type of descender) or by muling the brake strand to the spine of the carabiner
  • Ascend with a frog system
  • Pass a knot on descent
  • Pass a knot on ascent
  • Convert from ascent to rappel
  • Convert from rappel to ascent
  • Use cowstails to transition from one system to another
  • Use a mechanical ascender to assist on a sloped hand line
  • Isolate a core shot, then pass a knot
  • Rappel double strand without twisting the ropes*

Swiftwater Skills

  • Understand basic hydrology & reading water
  • Pack management in swiftwater - understanding of team and personal pack management techniques such as ziplining, pack minimization, tossing techniques, and hazards associated with packs
  • Protocols for jumping - understanding of proper jump technique, potential hazards, depth checking, surface tension, communication of safe zones in technical jumps, shallow water jumps, and gear management
  • Protocols for sliding - understanding of proper slide technique and gear management
  • Team sequencing for swiftwater* - understanding of the responsibilities of an anchor manager (ideally line of sight), sequencing group based on capabilities (swimming ability, experience, management of water hazards, etc.


  • Inspection & assessment of natural anchors
  • Inspection & assessment of bolted anchors
  • Basic understanding of the principles of redundancy
  • Basic understanding of vector forces
  • Building natural anchors (rocks, logs, trees, etc)*
  • Building redundancy in bolted anchors (Y hangs, quickdraw, etc)*
  • Building improvised anchors (cairn, deadman)*
  • Human anchors *
  • Emergency bolt placement*


  • Figure Eight on a Bight
  • Clove Hitch
  • Double-Fisherman’s
  • Tape Knot/Water Knot (for webbing applications)
  • MMO
  • EMO
  • Bowline*
  • Barrel Knot (Half Double-Fisherman’s)*
  • Alpine Butterfly*


  • Release & tie off MMO or EMO under tension*
  • Twin static system* - Stone knot, dual figure 8’s on bights, or twin ropes on an eight device
  • Retrievable hand lines* - Self belay & partner belay techniques
  • Fixed hand line*
  • Re-belays* - rig and clean a rebelay anchor
  • Managing an anchor* - includes managing abrasion; establishing a line of sight; rigging, de-rigging & re-rigging; positioning rescue rope; planning for retrieval
  • Retrievable anchors* - fiddlestick, macrame to be used in emergency
  • Human anchors* - understanding when to use, proper positioning, rigging, etc.

Rope Management

  • Bagging rope with a BFK
  • Basic abrasion management - using bags/foot/other as protection, deviations, creeping the rope

Safety & Rescue Skills

  • Bottom belay technique
  • Indirect rope cutting
  • Throwing a rescue rope
  • Wilderness first aid
  • Core shot management* - rig to solve for a core shot 
  • Top belay technique*
  • Basic haul system*
  • Direct rescue with VT prusik & PCP*
  • Guided rappel* - rig a guided rappel releasable from below using any acceptable method. Understanding of forces involved and assessment of anchor needs & options


Assessors will evaluate candidates skills and knowledge by giving each skill a score of 1-5. The score definitions are as follows:

1 - Failure: Not able to execute OR lack of understanding or knowledge

2 - Insufficient: Able to execute, but with major/critical mistakes OR exhibits only a basic understanding/knowledge; insufficient for independence

3 - Sufficient: Sufficient execution for independence OR sufficient knowledge/understanding for independence

4 - Proficient: Fluid execution, clear understanding of concepts, quick self-correction, depth of knowledge includes application and supporting concepts

5 - Mastery: Creative application in unique contexts, ability to apply knowledge to complex problems or situations, deep knowledge & experience, ability to articulate & teach nuances

In general, to pass, the un-starred skills (required skills for participants) should be executed to a level 4. Skills with stars, which are required skills for assistant leaders, should be executed to a level 3.

If a candidate has achieved a less-than-passing score in up to 25% of the skills, the assessors may grant provisional assistant leader status, with follow-up for further practice and assessment. A candidate who receives a less-than-passing score on more than 25% of the skills, or receives a score of 1 in more than 5% of the skills, will not be granted assistant leader status.

Assessors will use discretion to make decisions for candidates who pass most but not all skills. In some cases, assessors may deny assistant leader status if just one fundamental skill is insufficient, or may approve assistant leader status if several minor skills are insufficient.

Assessors will make a recommendation to the Canyoning Committee, who will formalize the granting of assistant leader status.

In the event that a candidate disagrees with the outcome or assessment of the assessors, they may appeal in writing to the Seattle Canyoning Committee. The Seattle Canyoning Committee will assign at least one new assessor to conduct a new evaluation.

Please contact the committee chair to inquire about an assistant leader assessment.