New ACA Committee Members

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Elisha Matthys

The ACA has added our fourth Advisory Committee Member, Elisha Matthys. She has become not only an experienced canyoneer, but also an active member in the community teaming up in top rated canyons like Kolob and Imlay, becoming an ACA Leader 1, and participating in initiatives to promote the advancement of women canyoneers. She is smart, enthusiastic, and a pleasure to canyoneer with. Elisha and her husband Scott are assets to the ACA. We very much appreciate her offer to give us a hand. Looking forward to fun times ahead.


Scott Barlow

The ACA has a new Secretary! Scott Barlow has volunteered to help with organization and management of details associated with our programs. Scott and his wife Saori are known in the Utah canyoneering community for their love and enthusiasm for the sport. Calm, cool, and motivated, Scott will not only assist with our tasks, but will also give us a fresh perspective. We look forward to working with and learning from Scott.

ACA Goals

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At our Fall 2017 Guide/Leader/Aspirant Rendezvous, I asked our group of 17 canyoneers some basic questions about their involvement with the ACA. It was in the form of a questionnaire with the usual stuff like “What do you like about the ACA? What would you like to see more of / less of?”, etc. I understand that this is a very small sample group, but their time and commitment to canyoneering gave us some valuable insight into the ACA experience. I have combined their information with what I have learned through emails, phone calls, and “trail talks” to compile a short but important list of goals to begin working toward. A special thanks to all who shared your ideas, suggestions, and opinions. We all benefit from your knowledge and experience.

I present to you the ACA’s initial list of goals as “guidelines,” for us to use until such time that an Advisory Board (AB) is created. Once established, the AB can gather more information from our Membership and make adjustments and changes to short- and long-term planning as necessary. Here are the initial goals:


  • Promote an environment of openness and inclusiveness that stimulates the growth of new ideas, innovations, and techniques for canyoneers now and in the future.
  • Open channels of communication with membership via the establishment of an Advisory Board (AB). The AB will be the mechanism by which ACA goals and strategies are managed.
  • Follow up work to standardize techniques and instructional methods used to teach, practice, and experience canyoneering. Reinstate accredited trainers and training centers programs.
  • Honor the ACA’s philanthropic role, nobly performed by Rich Carlson. It is both a privilege and an imperative that we continue the promotion of good will and good and safe canyoneering techniques.
  • Initiate outreach to other canyoneering organizations, coalitions, etc. This is part of our effort to better understand the community, to help us focus the ACA’s role, and to improve effectiveness.


If you are interested in helping the ACA with its mission, please email me directly for more information. Currently we are looking for one Advisory Committee member. We also would like help getting representation for the Colorado/Rockies and the Pacific Northwest regions. If you are interested, let me know! The Committee will be in place shortly and begin organizing our tasks. I will keep everyone posted with developments as things get moving forward.

Safe travels to all,
Rick Green

Advisory Committee

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As president of the ACA, one of my first objectives is to get help. I wanted to set up an Advisory Committee that could help us establish short-term goals, some longer-term ideals to aim for, and strategies to get us moving forward. I would like to introduce my first three picks for the committee:


Adolfo Isassi

If you have not met Adolfo, you should. An extremely talented individual who generously offers his time and insight, Adolfo makes it all looks so easy. In the canyon or on a conference call, I listen to Adolfo.
Adolfo Isassi Profile

Dean Kirchner

This person is on point. His approach to problems is calm, methodical, and confident. His focus and follow through is outstanding. He’s strong in the canyon and a great listener, an awesome combo.
Dean Kirchner Profile

Bruce Shapiro

I have not known Bruce very long, yet I think of him right away when seeking advice on certain issues regarding the ACA. His solid commitment to making good, safe choices while still having a lot of fun has made me a big fan of his. He’s an attorney too, bonus!
Bruce Shapiro Profile


Thanks for your support and stay tuned, more fun ahead!

Rick Green
ACA President

Rick Green’s Introduction

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Rick deals with pounding flow in Ouray CO
photo by A. Isassi


Hello ACA Members, my name is Rick Green and I absolutely love canyoneering. After finishing up the Army and College, I opened a small canyoneering guide service in Escalante Utah, which begins it’s 19th season this year. I began formally training with the ACA in 2003 and have trained under Rich Carlson and worked with him on various projects ever since. Over the years there have some interesting canyoneering experiences. I have had the opportunity to explore remote areas with many of the legends of our sport. I have come through my share of firsts descents, X and XX canyons included. Unscathed, minus a little skin maybe. And for over a decade  I have had  the honor of helping folks as a volunteer for Escalante Search and Rescue. There have been some outstanding adventures indeed. Yet for me the fondest canyoneering memories I hold are of being with great people in a beautiful environment. Focusing, relaxing, and having fun. It doesn’t matter if we are 60 feet off the deck or if we are doing our 60th trip through Neon. If we have planned well, have the right gear and have a good group put together, I’m having a blast every time. Like I said, I love canyoneering.

My goals with the ACA are primarily focused on continuing the tradition of helping others. We want to ease access to standardized canyoneering training as well as expand opportunities to practice and experience the critical skills required to safely participate in this “activity”. I want to have fun too, of course. Safe travels, Rick Green.

In the next few days, I will introduce our Advisory Committee, and we will lay out the short term and a little longer term ACA goals and objectives for all to review.

Welcome to the ACA

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Howdy ACA Members and Friends


The 2018 Season is here and it’s time to prepare for some canyoneering fun! My name is Rick Green and I am the current President of our American Canyoneering Association. This week, a hardy group of volunteers and I would like to announce the 2018 ACA Calendar, present our Mission Statement and roll-out the new Regional Facebook Canyoneering Groups program.

We also have a Secretary and an Advisory Committee that has written and reviewed countless texts and emails getting us ready for this day. I want to thank each of them personally for their efforts and it will be my honor to introduce them to you later this week.

Finally, a special acknowledgement and “thanks” must go out to the three people who sat down years ago and formulated a plan to build/create something that has served us all very well. Thank you Rich Carlson, Dave Black and Charlie Oliver for your guidance, patience and perseverance. We hope to continue your tradition of excellence in serving others.

Without further ado, I’ll quit yappin’ and let the work of many begin to shine.   Be safe and have fun out there. More cool stuff ahead!


ACA’s Mission Statement

With ambitious purpose, the American Canyoneering Association will strive to establish and maintain the highest standards for a safe, environmentally responsible and fun canyoneering experience. In our efforts towards these ideals, we work in cooperation to create training, certification and community events that provide public access to education and experience in the sport of canyoneering.

Most Common Mistakes Observed While Canyoneering

In a recent ACA meeting, Pro Master Guide Rick Green from Excursions Of Escalante asked Pro Guides, Recreational Leaders, and Canyoneering Veterans the following question:

Can you think of two or three things that you see canyoneers doing on a regular basis that you would consider to be unsafe or inefficient?  All asked were generous enough to give us thoughtful feedback and we appreciate their contributions to this important topic. The following list was compiled, and the ACA presents the “Most Common Mistakes Observed While Canyoneering” list to the canyoneering community. Collectively our goal is to expand all of our knowledge and enhance our experiences together in the canyon.


Here is the list of mistakes in no particular order:

    1. Improper belays. Lack of belays or belaying with poor technique is becoming common. A good belay is incredibly easy to provide and when performed correctly, belay can prevent serious injury or save a life. When done incorrectly, the belayer is at higher risk of falling debris and the rappelled is not really being belayed.
      Bad bottom belay
    Good bottom belay


    1. Talking around stations. Folks are talking around the rappel and belay stations too much. It should be very calm and focused at both stations (rappel/belay) to create an environment optimal for clear and concise communication. Questions, comments or suggestions that are not pertinent to the rappelled or belayer should be asked at a later time. Catching up with friends while waiting is best done in a safe place that will not impede communication between the two stations.
      Less talk and more rigging. Talk about double checking your rigging.


    1. Too much gear. It’s tempting to bring lots of stuff, but if it’s becoming a clutter of unnecessary equipment, it does open the door for potential problems. Loose items can get snagged, jammed, hooked, etc. while down climbing or when on rappel. Also, over reliance on technical gear has the potential to create a false sense of security for yourself and others. Not saying it does but saying it definitely could.
      Can you spot the items that do not belong on your harness gear loop all the time?

    2. Bad loose rock etiquette. Falling rock is a big risk. People should move around and over loose terrain as a team, aware of each member’s movements. Minimizing hazards by establishing sequencing to get to safety zones should be practiced by the entire group. All loose rocks/materials located by the lead person should be identified and communicated to the group. Climbing above an unaware partner or group can be an extremely dangerous thing to do.
      Team member identifies loose rock, communicates risk, and team identifies safety zone
    3. Improper rigging. Rigging is simple. Why are folks struggling with this? Rig it releasable, ensure it’s retrievable . . . go to work. If you are into “ghosting” or static rigging, stick with experienced partners or have a plan to lower folks down when some gear gets jammed.
      Cut bad rigging and re-rig
    4. Minimal partner checks. Initial partner checks while gearing up, plus secondary checks at each rappel station should be standard. It’s simple to position a person at rappel stations to check individuals for harness doubleback, locked biners, and loose gear. You’ll be shocked at what you see. Hanging out at the rappel is a much appreciated role, too. You reach over and lock the unlocked gate of a friends carabiner or point to a harness not doubled back, and they look at you like you just saved their life. Which you may have just done.
      Team member checks anchor and rigging, you check harness, helmet straps, descender rigging, locked biner, gear check.
    5. Anchor inspection, back-up, and testing. Anchors should be inspected every time. Abrasion points, knots, and impact areas (from flood debris) need to be inspected every time. Back it up with a top belay, test with someone big. If it fails, stop and reevaluate.
      Inspect rock, bolts, hangers, webbing
      Test before rappelling down!
      Marginal anchor? Sequence it, test it, back it up


    1. Poor sequencing of ropes/people. Proper sequencing of equipment and assessing human skill sets contributes to the overall safety and experience of the group. Gear and human skill sets is so important.
      Partner sequencing: Tall heavy team members first, light team members last.


      Team member moving at the front of the group ahead down canyon. Has rope? Ready to rig and set anchors? Good vs. Poor sequencing


    2. Not spotting. It is improving over the days of “don’t touch me” or “I’ve got this” (annoying). The best canyons are done as a team, using partner captures, human ladders, and spotting.

      Spot your partners
    3. Jumping. Unless you are landing in water whose depth has been checked and is sufficient for a safe landing, jumping is really a bad idea.  It’s much better to do a belayed downclimb, get lowered or use a hand-line.  The “penalty points” for jumping not only apply to you, but to the entire group. If someone sprains an ankle (or worse) on a trip, the whole team will suffer. Jumping is bad form!
               Was that pool deep enough to jump? No.


    1. Overreliance on beta.  Location, technical ratings, conditions, exits, weather…some of these things can and do change. It is a good idea to rely on sound judgement and common sense when you are in a wilderness environment and not rely solely on what the weatherperson has forecast or what someone “posted” on the internet.  Also bring a good map and compass, electronic devices can get wet and become in-operational or end up in an unretrievable location.
      Learn to work with topo maps, coordinates, bearings, scales.
      Learn to read weather forecasts.
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