Canyon Leader


Canyon Leader

The holder of this badge has been approved by the leaders of their branch's Canyon Committee to lead canyoning trips for The Mountaineers. Canyoning trips are trips with off-trail travel and technical, often roped, descent of a watercourse.

summary OF SKILLS

The holder of this badge has demonstrated sound judgment, strong leadership skills, and technical proficiency in:

  • Travel in intermediate canyon terrain, including slippery or otherwise challenging terrain, significant vertical exposure, and flowing water with the potential for hydraulics and other water hazards
  • Group leadership, including trip planning and group dynamics
  • Use of topographical maps, compass, and altimeter
  • Mountain safety, including identification of hazards such as exposure, rockfall, and changing weather; and actions to minimize risk
  • First Aid
  • Emergency preparedness (including emergency bivouacs and how to summon help should it be needed)


Canyon Leaders can lead Mountaineers Canyoning trips in approved canyons. Leaders are expected to lead trips that are well within their ability and training, with maximum conditions of v4a4IV. Leaders must follow the Clubwide Activity Standards for Canyoning, which includes requiring an Assistant Canyon Leader on every trip.

Canyon Leaders can also volunteer as a course leader or instructor on a course that is within the Leader's ability and training.



Canyon Leaders have been approved by their branch's Canyoning Committee to lead others who have basic canyoning experience in canyon excursions. To apply to become a Canyon Leader:

  1. Read the Leader Requirements below
  2. Submit to your branch's Canyoning committee chair:
    1. A Canyon Leader application. Applicants are encouraged to read the application in advance to allow time to prepare a canyoning resume and answers to the application questions.
    2. Three references who can speak about your skills as a canyon leader. Please send the reference form link to at least 3 individuals.
  3. The Committee Chair will respond within two weeks of receiving a complete application to inform you of the next steps. These steps might include helping to teach at a course or completing one or more mentored canyon leads.

Prerequisite experience

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

  • 18+ years of age
  • Assistant Canyon Leader Course or equivalency
  • 15+ unique Canyons, 10 of which require rappelling, 3 different rock types, 2 different regions
  • 10 days assistant leading canyon trips and 1 mentored lead
  • Wilderness First Aid training
  • Ability to swim 25 meters without buoyancy, 4 meters under water
  • Ability to jump 2 meters vertically into water

Skills and Knowledge

  • Movement: Canyon Leaders demonstrate safe movement ascending, descending and traversing canyon terrain including: steep ground, uneven terrain, ridges, gullies, slippery terrain and easy rock steps.
  • Navigation: Canyon Leaders are proficient in off-trail navigation, have an understanding of and ability to identify the watershed of a creek, and are able to use a variety of navigational tools to find their way to a canyon, through a canyon, and out of a canyon. Canyon leaders are also proficient at route selection while navigating canyon terrain, including avoiding unnecessary obstacles such as hydraulics and unstable terrain.
  • Personal and Group Risk Management: Canyon Leaders are proficient in a variety of risk management protocols including rigging and rope management, bag management, proper sequencing of rappellers, monitoring party member disposition, and emergency planning.
  • Group Planning & Logistics: Canyon Leaders adequately plan and prepare themselves and participants for the outing, including communicating expectations and requirements. Canyon Leaders monitor conditions leading up to the outing and anticipate participant needs, communicating regularly with participants in advance of the outing.
  • Camping and bivouacs: Canyon Leaders adequately plan for and are able to facilitate a bivouac if necessary.
  • Organization and group leadership: Canyon Leaders communicate with participants before the trip, at the trailhead, and during the trip, including checking on participant well-being, defining clear roles and responsibilities, and changing plans as necessary.
  • Defensive swimming: Canyon Leaders can identify, analyze and assess water hazards in a canyon. Canyon Leaders can navigate water hazards as the first person down, and can use rigging and other techniques to divert participants from the hazard as needed.
  • Basic rope work: Canyon Leaders are proficient at using semi-static and static ropes, rappelling single-strand or double-strand as needed for the situation, utilizing variable friction devices, ascending and descending ropes, employing techniques for eliminating or avoiding rope abrasion, rigging fixed and retrievable hand lines, rigging fixed and releasable rappels, and proper use of rope bags.
  • Emergency procedures: Canyon Leaders are able to assess an emergency situation in the context of the  canyon. They have an emergency action plan which considers communication techniques, evacuation options, escape options, and roles and responsibilities within the party.
  • First aid: Canyon Leaders have first aid training, and are able to assess a scene, recognize and treat hypothermia, cold injury & heat disorders, stabilize an injury, provide remote care including overnight, and direct party members to call for assistance and perform tasks that maintain the safety of the groups
  • Hazards: Canyon Leaders are able to assess terrain and weather hazards as well as any wildlife that may present a danger in that region. Canyon Leaders understand basic hydrology, topology and geology in the context of hazards that may be present in a canyon, including: the existence of heavy flow or hydraulics, the absence or presence of escape routes, the rock quality and attributes of the canyon, and the access to high ground within a canyon
  • Protocols: Canyon Leaders are fluent in communication protocols including hand signals and whistle signals. Canyon Leaders understand general security protocols including canyon progression, anchor rigging and assessment, rope management, and group management.
  • Emergency procedures: Canyon Leaders understand The Mountaineers emergency procedures.
  • Land manager protocols: Canyon Leaders know where to find Land Manager regulations for a given canyon and understand the importance of following them.
  • Legal liability & insurance: Canyon Leaders understand the following: The Mountaineers provides liability insurance for its leaders as long as a trip is listed on The Mountaineers website with an accurate roster; The Mountaineers requires all participants to sign a waiver before they can register for a trip; The Mountaineers does not provide accident insurance for participants or leaders.

Leaders must also demonstrate skill maintenance by satisfactorily leading at least one trip every three years for the committee(s) for which they are approved as leaders.

Leaders are expected to lead Canyons within their ability.

Contact the relevant committee contact through your branch's roster for application information and requirements.