Introduction to Swiftwater Canyoning


Swiftwater canyoneering (also referred to as canyoning) is the art and craft of descending technical canyons through a combination of rappelling, sliding, jumping, swimming and hiking.

There is a lot of water in the Pacific Northwest. That water comes in as rain and snow, feeding our mountains, which in turn carve deep grooves in the flanks of the terrain. These grooves -- filled with canyons, waterfalls and deep pools -- create technical objectives for those so inclined.

Over the last several years, many intrepid explorers have applied skills found mostly in technical mountaineering and in swiftwater kayaking to explore the wild and unique places that flank the Cascade Range. Canyoning -- or Canyoneering -- is the technical art of exploring the deep grooves carved by water over the eons. Swiftwater Canyoning, is the art of doing this when there is water actively moving in this terrain. This requires an expert level of knowledge in several technical fields.

The Pacific Northwest has become known as a world-class place to develop swiftwater canyoning skills. People come from all over the globe to explore the wild and wet canyons of Oregon, Washington and Southwest British Columbia. That is why AAI's Swiftwater Canyoning program is based in the North Cascades of Washington State.

AAI's program introductory program provides participants with the base-line skills that they need to explore these canyons. Participants experience classic swiftwater canyons, while also developing the judgement and skill to participate in this sport on their own...

Introduction to Swiftwater Canyoning



These course prerequisites are to ensure a safe and effective learning environment for all students attending this course. A canyon environment is quite different than any other environment where AAI operates. These differences pose specific challenges to learning. As such, the following skills are necessity for both student security and success:

  1. Have basic proficiency with standard climbing equipment (ropes, carabiners, harness, etc…)
  2. Proficiency with standard rappelling techniques used in alpine and rock environments. Be able to set-up a rappel and make a descent without direct supervision.
  3. Have a basic swimming ability in a still water environment without the use of a floatation aid.

Course Structure

Participants will meet their instructors in the Pacific Northwest at a predetermined site on the first day of the program. From there, they will travel to several different venues to practice:

  • Anchor and Rappelling Skills
  • Rope Retrieval Techniques
  • Swimming and Swiftwater Techniques
  • Canyon Environment Safety and Management

Participants will travel together in an AAI Van and will spend the nights at "front-country" campgrounds.


Introduction to Swiftwater Canyoning


  • June 24 - June 29, 2024


Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions:  Transportation to the program areas from AAI headquarters, all permits and camping fees, and all guide fees. Group technical canyoning equipment is also included.

Exclusions: Items not included in the course fee include personal clothing, camping gear, meals while on program, and travel insurance. Personal canyoning gear is not provided. Some equipment may be rented from AAI's Equipment Shop. Inquire for details.

Private Programming

This program may be provided privately. Please call the American Alpine Institute office for a quote. 

Introduction to Swiftwater Canyoning

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