Advisory Committee


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

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

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.

Heat Related Illnesses

What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?

Prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke (also known as sun stroke). As your body works to cool itself under extreme or prolonged heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. As a result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles, and other organs. This can interfere with both your physical strength and your mental capacity, leading, in some cases, to serious danger.

By reducing excessive exposure to high temperatures and taking other precautionary steps, most heat-related illnesses can be avoided. Those who work in hot or humid environments — such as manufacturing plants, bakeries, or construction sites during summer months — are most at risk. However, even long, hot afternoons at the beach can pose problems if warning signs are ignored.

With prompt treatment, most people recover completely from heat-related illness. However, heat stroke can be deadly if not properly managed.

What Causes Heat-Related Illnesses?

Heat-related illness can strike anyone. But chronic alcoholics, the elderly, the young, the obese, and individuals whose immune systems may be compromised are at greater risk, as are individuals taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines, antipsychotic medications, and cocaine. High humidity also increases the risk of heat illness because it interferes with the evaporation of sweat, your body’s way of cooling itself.

Heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke all occur when your body cannot cool itself adequately. But each is slightly different.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating, particularly through hard physical labor or exercise. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Individuals who have heart, lung, or kidney problems or are on low-sodium diets may be particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion.

As in heat exhaustion, heat cramps can strike when the body loses excessive amounts of fluids and salt. This deficiency, accompanied by the loss of other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, typically occurs during heavy exertion.

Heat stroke, the most serious of the heat-related illnesses, occurs when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. In prolonged, extreme heat, the part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature malfunctions. This decreases the body’s ability to sweat and, therefore, cool down. Those who have certain medical conditions that decrease the body’s ability to sweat — such as scleroderma or cystic fibrosis — may be at greater risk of developing heat stroke.

WebMD Medical Reference

5 Tips for Better Balance


1. Find your center of balance

If you don’t know where your center of gravity is, you will always be fighting it. Remove a limb and your normal center of gravity goes right out the window. When I started climbing again, I kept tipping to the right since my prosthetic leg was so much lighter than my leg before. Most of us climb in an X-shape or a modification of the three points of contact idea, but when you lose a leg, you can’t do that anymore. One trick I learned was to hang a long draw (at least 24”) on the belay loop of my harness. Climb up and the carabiner will swing between your legs and let you know where your center is. Make moves that put the draw hanging straight down between your legs. As you reach stances and particular holds, make slight adjustments to see the difference between feeling in balance and out of balance. Over time, it will become innate, and you will be able to anticipate and mitigate swings. This will make you more efficient in your movement.

2. Keep it weird

When you first start climbing, you can get by with your toes pointed straight at the rock or “froggie style,” using the inside edges of your feet and toes, heels angled slightly toward each other. As you progress and get onto harder climbs, these positions alone are not enough to work through technical, balance-intensive sequences. Three more moves will open up a whole new chapter in your climbing: back-steps, flags, and drop-knees. All three shift the position of your hips (and thus your center of balance), providing more options.

3. Climb one-legged

Try it! Hop or pogo with your leg when moving hold to hold. Turn your hips and core to counteract the balance. Hang low on your arms, bend at the knee, then in one fluid motion, rise up to the next handhold. As your hand reaches it, hop your foot to the next foothold. Be sure to identify the holds before you go; that way you can focus on being accurate. At first you will find that your body will tip to the legless side. Just let that happen and use the momentum it creates to propel you up. If you are having trouble controlling the swing, incorporate this with hanging a draw between your legs. Combining these two exercises will help you actually see how you have to adjust, and you can visualize and execute the particular movement needed. Don’t do big moves and don’t crank yourself up tight into a lockoff; this will only tire you out quickly and potentially hurt you. Instead, focus on smaller movements that will allow you to rest and counter the swing with your active leg.

4. Use your whole body

Too often we focus on pulling in with just our arms or stepping up with just a leg, when in reality engaging your whole body from fingertips to toes is what you need. A large part of this is your core: obliques, hamstrings, butt, lower back, etc. Think about activating your entire body for every move; you’ll swing less and feel more in control. Another part of this, especially important for trad climbing, is to think of every part of your body as another appendage. I smear my hip and knee onto the rock underneath or to the side. In corners, lean your shoulder against the rock to get a decent rest or to stop a barn door.

5. Avoid staying vertical

We all begin climbing by trying to keep our bodies in a vertical position, but that won’t get you very far as moves get harder and terrain becomes varied. Think about climbing with one leg again, centering over one active foot. Pulling with your upper body to keep your body straight up and down wastes strength. Try letting your hips slide to where your other leg should be; that position should feel more effortless and natural. To move upward, shift your weight back over your active foot, letting the energy from your hips move you to the next hold. To move in the opposite direction, simply stand up as high as possible on your active leg, again letting the momentum come from your hips.

By Craig DeMartino

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