ACA Sovereign Canyoneer Skills List


Hello ACA Canyoneers-

The formal skills list for the new Sovereign Canyoneer Course is complete and posted on the ACA Website.  Yay!  This new recreational level training program is for our Members who seek a higher level of training to elevate experience opportunities and improve personal safety.   Take a moment to look over this list of super useful canyoneering skills. Sovereign Skill Checklist
Special thank you to Steve Szoke and Rebecca Haacke (plus MANY others) for contributing to the development of this excellent new training option.  Very cool.
Thats it for now.  Let’s get ready for another fun year of training together, being safe and having lots of great adventures….fun stuff ahead:)
Rick Green
ACA President

ACA Certifies Four New Pro Guides

New ACA Pro Guides. L to R. Andrew, Scott B., Brent, Scott E.


The ACA is pleased to congratulate Brent McCormick, Andrew Jimenez, Scott Embley and Scott Barlow for the successful completion of their ACA Pro Guide Certification.  Each of them arrived in Mexico completely prepared to learn and grow as leaders, and they exceeded our significant expectations, every minute of every day.  We are appreciative of their commitments to safety and excellence!

  • Scott Embley:  Wow.  The first person outside of our own ACA Leader Program to “walk on” to a Pro Guide Assessment….and he did phenomenally.  Technically super solid, his passion for professional training has him well rounded in rope and climbing skills.  Scott’s well established leadership style of guest empowerment is perfect for this discipline and will be greatly appreciated by his clients.  Young, kind and focused….it’s an absolute pleasure to have him in our ACA Circle of Trust, hang on tight Scott, fun stuff ahead!!
  • Brent McCormick:  Brilliant.  His technical ability is well documented and the physical strength matched the mental stamina….no surprise.  I caught a glimpse of his leadership style at the last GLAR and was excited about this assessment.  Result?  He is among the best instructors I have seen, in any discipline.  Unbelievable ability to explain and instruct in a way that breaks things down to its purest, cleanest form.  Consistently shows an openness to let others engage, while maintaining their focus on tasks.  This is not an easy needle to thread, but Brent does it gracefully.  Bravo amigo!!
  • Andrew Jimenez:  Focused.  Andrew has grown since his time with us at Excursions of Escalante!  His abilities to assess canyons, develop routes and address risk mitigation challenges has reached a whole new level.  His time exploring canyons in the NW has served him well, as he hones his skills in this new Class C environment.  Technically he is on a par with our best and his Guiding style is calm, cool and collected….which we love!  His perseverance and passion will lead him to the development of a top rated Canyoneering Guide Service and we look forward to his safe and successful career.
  • Scott Barlow:  Powerful. From my perspective, he is among the most powerful people leading canyons. Both mentally and physically, his ability to move with total ease through canyoneering obstacles encourages confidence and enables others to go beyond their comfort level.  His attention to detail is incredible, very little if anything escapes his focus, before, during, and after the adventure. His management of personalities is a quality that is not easily measured, yet we all know when we are in the presence of an expert.  Scott makes others stronger, with power to spare.

***Special Thank You to Bruce Shapiro and Steve Szoke. Their technical skill and canyon knowledge is incredible, their generosity is legendary. xoxo

Rick Green
ACA President

Assistant Canyon Leader


Howdy Team ACA. Hope this note finds all well. This message is to ensure there is no confusion or ambiguity regarding the change from “CL1″ to “Assistant Canyon Leader” title.  Here’s the short and sweet version of the previous super lengthy blog on the topic:

Why Change It:

The “Canyon Leader 1″ title, was not completely accurate.  At the “CL1″ level of training, we have not provided the skills training and needed to manage group and personal safety adequately.  Nor can we “squeeze it in”. The addition of the word “Assistant” clears this up.

What it Means:

If you have successfully completed the “CL1” Assessment OR are in the Assessment process, the following applies to you:

  • Nothing whatsoever is required of you.
  • The change is in name only.
  • Leadership level skill lists and assessments are the same.
  • Sequencing of training is the same.
  • Duties and responsibilities are unchanged.

What we will be changing:  We are significantly increasing the number of workshops and courses focused on preparation for “Canyon Leader” Assessment.

Questions?  Suggestions?  Please reach out, we are here to serve the whole Community!  More fun ahead:)


Rick Green

ACA President

2022 PHF


2022 PHF

What an extraordinary response to this announcement. It really is devoloping into a very fine and fun event! Based on the enthusiasm, we are going to either expand the numbers of folks able to attend or select a second weekend for PHF ll, 2022. We are looking closely at the numbers plus the calendar and anticipate some good news to report on this very soon. Good stuff!

On a related note, we apologize for the challenges of registering for events. We have been handling payments and registration “in house” for very a long time and this move to Meetup/Paypal has been a little clumsy. It was not for lack of effort but from lack of experience with this process. Amie is trying hard to make it better, sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused.

Rick Green.

ACA Leader Program Changes/Adjustments

Ricardo Verde in Bandito


Howdy CL1’s- Hoping this note finds you all well.  I wanted to send a message to you as a group, to discuss the change-adjustment to the CL1 title in our ACA Leader Program.  Change can be disruptive and frustrating, despite very good intention and I can appreciate that.  Or it can be a super positive thing, with challenges to overcome and opportunities to explore.  Our intention is the latter.  We want these title changes to be a huge net positive, especially for you, the hard working CL1’s.  So we want to take a few minutes, out of respect and appreciation, to make our intentions clear.

The reasons for the CL1 title change is two-fold, personal safety and group safety.  Here’s our thinking:  Myself and Steve have grown uncomfortable with the specific word “Leader” in the Canyon Leader 1 title.  Primarily for two reasons.  First, we were not providing folks with sufficient Leader specific training in Aspirant and Canyon ‘Leader’ CL1, to prepare them for the task.  Despite refinement and manipulation of the skills lists and additional training support, we were/are still not able to provide the complete picture to student Leaders in these two courses.  Therefore, putting them at risk.  Second, the attempt to have certain levels of Leaders, leading in certain technical levels of canyons is not achievable, even under optimum conditions.  The dynamics of canyons and human behavior make that separation of Leader levels unreliable.  An example we can all appreciate is as simple as the following:
A new Canyon Leader 1 is set to lead 4 people through Pine Creek in Zion.  They met in a canyoneering chat room.  All are reporting to be competent in personal safety, appear to have correct gear and some experience.  You’re meeting in the parking lot, and of course they arrive 20 minutes late.  No problem.  Then a group of 6 works its way down to the canyon ahead of you.  No helmets, kinda loud and distracting, but no problem. Suddenly you notice your group is actually 5 people, they brought a friend.….but they have “been rappelling” and its just one extra person, no problem.  You assess the situation……  Just a small group in front of you, no problem.  One extra person, shouldn’t be bad….but you take a deeper look….…..  Easy canyon, decent group, feels reasonable…you proceed.  While gearing up, your folks take forever!   Finally, you’re ready to go, after “wresting” their gear….. but it feels reasonable to continue so you proceed.  At the first rappel you rig it nicely, set a good length and invite the first person, the one self identified as the “most experienced”, to go first while you manage the top.  Just getting on rope you’re watching them struggle a bit and thinking, hmmm… not very smooth…but decent…..putting on their VT goes less smoothly, but they pull it off and you realize… its kinda “now or never”…and despite the growing chorus of voices telling you otherwise, you send that person down.  It goes poorly almost immediately, of course.  They slip multiple times, make a bunch of noise and now you’re thinking…uh oh….what have I done?  You calmly call down, “you ok?”  But there’s no reply.  Again, you call down…”you ok down there??”  No reply, but more loud noise again, sounds like someone is moving…you ask again, with more urgency, “you ok down there???”  You look at the rest of ‘your group’.  They all  have the “I’m freaking out” look.  Below, you hear someone screaming…”hey hey hey, I’m alive!!!!  Yeehaaaw!!!  This is so awesome!!!!  Hold on!!!, I’m getting off the rope!!!!!  Wait….Hold on!!!!   I’m almost off!!!!! Wait….Hold on!!!!…  “Hey, you guys this is so frickin’ awesome!!!”  You ask,  “are you off the rope??”  They scream, “oh ya… I’m off “belay now”.  Now, at this point a few things come to mind. One is, “OMG, this is just the first person and first rappel”, Two; I hate Rick and Steve for labeling me a Leader, they did not prepare me for this debacle.  Third, and much more pressing, is the sinking realization that under the best of circumstances, this is gonna be a miserable day that could result in injury to a member of my group or myself.
This scenario is extremely common and relatively manageable with focused Leadership training.  But without critical knowledge, it can become very dangerous, very quickly.  Our ACA goal is to provide you the complete skill sets of a good leader, including strong technical knowledge, excellent group management techniques and experience in environmental presence.  Our commitment is to make this training a priority for our Assistant Leader CL1’s/ Assistant Leaders.  We want to have your help Leading canyons, training students and much-much more.  Steve, myself and many others will endeavor to train you into the strong and competent ACA Canyon Leaders you deserve to be, so when you’re leading a canyon and its “your group”, you will be ready.
I appreciate your patience and grace as we build the American Canyoneering Association into a product worthy of your hard work and good intentions.  I look forward to your input and recommendations to improve on this Leader program and others as we work our way forward together.  More fun ahead, thank you much my friends.

Rick Green.  ACA Pres.

2021 End of Season & 2022 Season Updates

Rick Green (Ricardo Verde), ACA President spending a holiday with friends in Baja, MX.


The Circle of Trust Grows

I want to start off with a huge thank you to all ACA Members, families and friends.

It has been on an extraordinary two year adventure for the American Canyoneering Association, one with uncertain challenges, significant risk and the potential of reward. By any measure, this time has required sacrifice from everyone, and most people have felt the weight of adjustments to their lives. During this period, the ACA Leadership has relied on the assistance from many wise and caring Members, and was given the honor to be there to help a few others too. Through it all, during times of almost constant ambiguity, the pure intentions of the ACA Team was the anchor to secure our way forward. And to offer our potential for egress, which indeed we needed. We were making last minute adjustments in group sizes, relocations of activities and even cancellation of events….it was a dynamic period that required extra work and grace from many. Yet time and again, each of these challenges (and much more) were respectfully managed with dignity for all. Differing viewpoints and experiences were the core strength that carried us along, helping us to reach the best results together. Diversity of thought with good intent is a powerful combination of forces, and I am thankful to have this positive view of people who give of themselves when things get “spicy”. Therefore, I want to say a huge heartfelt and sincere thank you to all Members, they’re families and friends too. A little over the top perhaps, but it feels like expressing true appreciation for everyones efforts is warranted in this situation.

Fun Stuff Ahead!:

This period in time has left us stronger as individuals and as a community, both technically and socially. We are wiser from our training and canyon experience, plus tighter as a group from the shared adversity. This positive strength will take us into the new year with our very best schedule of courses, workshops and events, release date today Jan 4, 2022. All of opportunity is supported by an incredibly strong and talented Team of Instructors, Assessors and peers who generously share their knowledge and time to empower others.

Here’s a run down of some recent successes and plans for continuing forward:

Recent Achievements:

-Number of students – 522

-Number of practice sessions, workshops and courses – 71

-Number Assessed – 35

-Philanthropy: Through the generosity and hard work of Members, we were able to send aid to 115 Families in Honduras after the hurricanes last year Looking into all sorts of opportunities to help. Ideas?

-Women Pro’s: The ACA Pro Guide Program has Certified very strong Professional Canyoneering Guides. Saori Barlow and Rebecca Haacke, outstanding work! An ACA First!

-GLAR: This gathering for participants of the ACA Leader Program is quickly turning into a World Class Canyoneering Event. The Instructors are awesome, the training areas are too! Quality stuff.

-Pro Guide Cert: Complete update of skills list. New in canyon training and assessments on commercial canyoneering tours. Internships coming soon!

New for 2022

-Updated Recreational Program: We now offer a two stage training program for the pure re-creationalist, Core Canyoneer and the new Sovereign Canyoneer. *See below

-Improved Performance: Our Instructors and Assessors have been training, refining skills and advancing personal knowledge. This dedication to excellence elevates student Members experience.

-Expanded Access: We are offering training in new locations and look forward to providing more opportunities in the future. Check the schedule.

-Travel Opportunities: Pro Guide Assessment in Baja MX Feb 22’. Rawacala-Fest in Honduras, Dec 2022. Opening up Rawacala for greater participation and improved training options.

-Assessment Prep School: Free workshops and paid courses to help students prepare for upcoming assessments in the Leader program. Aspirant, Assistant Leader and Canyon Leader.

-Canyon Rescue Intro Course: Geared for the Sovereign Canyoneer (or anyone) to use for continued education with essential partner rescue techniques.

Full 2022 Calendar of events can be found here:

*The ACA Listens to you!!! The growing demand for a training program dedicated to the recreational canyoneer has been heard! and the ACA’s answer is Sovereign Canyoneer. A new Receational Canyoneer Program with a new technical level of training, to set free those on a journey to explore and have fun with peers.

Step one is ACA Core Canyoneer:

This very popular course helps students develop the skills to be competent as an active participant, when canyoneering. Capable to understand and manage personal safety, to make basic
assessments (weather, time, etc) and assist with some group responsibilities. This course provides students with the basic concepts and critical knowledge to begin seeing these stunning places with confidence and presence while gaining valuable experience.

Step two is the NEW Sovereign Canyoneer:

This course is tailored for the person seeking to be an informed canyoneering teammate. A “partner” in the assessment of challenges and provider of direct input into the processes of finding solutions. Using a hybrid of Skills from the Aspirant and Assistant Leader skills checklists, we have created a course that will increase canyon awareness, expand on workable solutions and provide options to solving some of the more exceptional challenges.

More info on Sovereign Canyoneer here:

I want to say a special thank you to our human anchor, Amie Fortin. “The Meat”, who just happens to be vegan. She is a continuous source of knowledge and confidence, going to incredible lengths to improve the ACA experience on every level. The hard work and dedication she puts forth, so things will be better for us, is incredible. When Amies not working behind the scenes to make the ACA run smoother and stronger, she’s out front making sure we are organized, finishing our dinners at Fest and have the correct shirts for the right people. Bad colors are my fault:) When meeting Amie, and you’re organized when contacting her, life is good. If your not……maybe call me first:). Thank you Amie, for ALL you do.

That’s a wrap folks. If you want more yapping from me you’ll have to come down to Escalante or meet up for some vertical fun. I look forward to working together and seeing all of you again soon.

Safe travels,
Rick Green
ACA President

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