I’ve noticed some other companies who offer technical canyoneering courses make a claim that conducting a course in its entirety within a canyon is superior to a course that leverages a classroom and a training wall in addition to a canyon descent.

This blog will address this claim and permit perspective students to make an educated choice.

ACA accredited training centers provide consistent technical canyoneering training to students regardless of location.  The material presented in the technical canyoneering course follows the ACA level 1 skills checklist.    Level 1 skills such as friction adjustment, pre-rappel or during rappel, locking off during rappel and rudimentary self-rescue require multiple rappel passes by the student.   A value added technical training course will introduce students to multiple descending devices and multiple methods for locking off thereby permitting a student to choose a descender/technique that best suits their physical attributes.   Each descender/ technique introduced multiplies the number of rappel passes required per student.

The definition of a true technical canyon specifies advanced climbing skills and/or rope ascension skills must be employed to return to the start of a drop.    Clearly a training wall that features fast return access to the top offers an advance over a true technical canyon which provides a limited number of drops and no return to the top of a drop without employing advanced skills.  More time is available for each student to focus on the skill being instructed when a well thought out training site is utilized.

This is not to say a technical canyoneering training area need only contain a single drop.  A fully functional canyoneering training area should feature lower angle drops for beginners and very high angle drops (even free hanging) for students that have progressed.   A beginning technical canyoneering course should also include difficult start rappels and the training area should facilitate learning this skill.

Student undertaking a technical canyoneering course are expected to learn to tie many knots, hitches and bends.  In addition, many different anchor rigging methods, static, contingency, abrasion prevention, are presented and then practiced by the students.  I believe a properly equipped classroom with roof mounted or wall mounted rope stations is more conducive to learning knots, hitches, bends and anchor rigging than a canyon that has far fewer practice stations and limits the number of students that may be simultaneously practicing these skills.

A technical canyoneering course would not be complete without an anchor dynamics discussion.  A white board, central in a classroom environment, is indispensible in this discussion.  Multipoint anchor equalization and anchor loading resulting from different rigging techniques, are highly technical discussions benefiting greatly from the classroom environment.   Outside distractions present in an outdoor canyon setting cannot be conducive to a student’s ability to comprehend these concepts.

Taking the students through a canyon the last day of a technical canyoneering course is optimal because the students get an opportunity to practice and reinforce what they have learned during the first 2 days of classroom and training site / rappel wall instruction.   Students can be presented with scenarios that require them to apply the appropriate techniques from the many “tools” that are now present in their “toolboxes”.   Teamwork is emphasized and developed.