A safe and welcoming community
The Pacific Northwest Canyoning community is, and has been, committed to welcoming all trained aquatic canyoneers into our canyons. As more Washington Canyons become established, and as more visitors come in from the Southwest, our small community is doing what we can to help ensure folks are choosing to descend canyons that are within their skillset.
about washington canyons
Washington State has the highest concentration of highly aquatic canyons in the US. The aquatic nature of our canyons is not to be underestimated, even if you have experience in the aquatic canyons of CO, AZ, CA, ID or OR. Most importantly: many of our canyons are much less forgiving when things go wrong. Errors can compound quickly, making bad situations quickly worse. As canyoning is relatively new in Washington, our SAR teams are only just beginning to train for canyon terrain. You should be prepared with a self-rescue plan.
Large parties common in the southwest and California can add significant risk in many WA canyons. Often folks have to wait in pools or out of the sun and become hypothermic quickly. Maximum party size of 8 is ideal (and sometimes too big) for any WA canyon you are not familiar with.
Water in WA canyons is very cold, and the canyons are windy, with very little sun. Your party must be able to continue moving to stay warm.
Read the minimum skills below. If you don't understand any of them, or don't have one of the skills, please ask the Pacific Northwest Canyoning fb group what canyons are appropriate for your skillset. No one will judge you for lacking a skill, and they will respect you for putting your safety and that of your team above ego.
Courtesy of V7 Academy
training & experience
We cannot stress enough the importance of both aquatic training and aquatic mileage to ensure your party is appropriately managing risk in Washington canyons. While each canyon has unique characteristics, the following is a list of general pre-requisite skills for safely descending our canyons:
Movement in aquatic canyons: creekwalking on slippery creek beds in moving water; rappelling in flow (managing rappel speed, avoiding slipping & losing control; avoiding inversion...)
Rigging unlinked bolts ("webbing-less anchors")
Rigging retrievable traverse lines to access exposed anchors
Team communication and sequencing to set rope length precisely
Converting from rappel to ascent mid-rope
Thermal management in canyons with prolonged exposure to cold water
Managing packs (zipping, throwing, etc...) in high flow
Basic reading of water movement
Knowledge of hydraulics, siphons, pour-overs
Team sequencing and rescue
We encourage everyone to have at least some training in aquatic canyon techniques. Here are some opportunities:
V7 Academy - The online Level 1 course is free, so there are no excuses not to take it! The Level 2 course is $295 and worth every penny, especially if you haven't had any training in aquatic techniques.
The Mountaineers - The Mountaineers offers both a Basic and Intermediate Canyoning Course. The 8-day Basic Course happens in June/July, while the 2-day Intermediate Course happens once in the winter and once in the spring. Throughout the year, including in the summer, The Mountaineers hosts practice sessions.
The Mazamas - The Mazamas hosts an aquatic canyoning course once a year.
Cascade Canyon Guides - Hosting hybrid American Canyoneering Academy/Swiftwater courses.
American Alpine Institute - Hosting 2-day beginner and desert crossover swiftwater canyoning courses, as well as a 6-day comprehensive course. Dates in June, July and August.
Uber Adventures - Hosts 3-day swiftwater canyoneering courses in Aug and Sept in Kern County, CA. In addition, although Uber is based in the southwest, their L2 and L3 courses include key skills from the list above.
Pacific Northwest Canyoning Facebook Group - Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. This friendly group will hook you up with answers to your questions (after you've done your own research on Ropewiki), and you'll likely find canyoning partners, even if you're a beginner. You may be able to hook up with an informal practice session as well!
your role in a safe community
We are a community of canyoneers who love to welcome new folks and want to empower new and visiting canyoneers alike to contribute as assets to our community. Whether you're just starting out under more experienced mentorship, or whether you're visiting from another region, here are some ways you can contribute to our collective safety:
Use Ropewiki to plan your trip. Our canyons are highly seasonal - some having just a 2-3 week window. If you haven't canyoned in Washington before, consider taking The Mountaineers online trip planning course.
Be honest about your skillset. If you've not canyoned in Washington before, get your feet wet in a canyon that's well below what you consider to be your experience level. Folks will help you identify a great canyon for your level of training and experience.
Leave unlinked bolts unlinked. Read the canyon beta on ropewiki to understand the intent behind the rigging, and leave it rigged as intended.
Leave a trip report! Beginner trip reports are just as valuable as experts' because beginners trust reports from other beginners! Trip reports help others enter our canyons as informed as possible