ZAC Canyon Courses: Becoming a Critical Adventurer

When people register for a canyoneering course they expect to learn how to become proficient canyoneers. In their minds, they may imagine a list of knots, equipment, and technical skills. As an instructor, my motives are slightly different…

My last Three-Day Basic canyon course was a great success, but not because everyone learned how to tie knots, set up anchors, and rig a variety of rappels. While technical skills are important, they are only a small part of my course goals. We attacked the prescribed technical curriculum early on, and it served as a foundation for the true art of canyoneering. By the second day of our course last week, people had reached at important threshold. There is a point where learning new material complicates the decision making process. It is also challenging to help people feel confident in what they know and to continue introducing rope skills. To simply move through a canyon, doing the same thing at each rappel, seems practical and safe, and can build great confidence, but it is also a pitfall. The breakthrough moment is when people recognize each decision is complicated, but they have many tools they can apply to myriad situations.

Canyoneering is exciting because there are so many variables. It is not enough to have one way of rigging a single rope rappel, or to know how to belay someone with only one type of friction device. When one can isolate a skill and begin improvising the different pieces, canyoneering becomes a creative, dynamic sport. This prepares people for losing their belay device, or losing their rope off a cliffside. When the tools are in place and we think critically, looking at the big picture and having fun, the adventure takes on a new dimension.

It is more than a trust exercise when your life is on the line

In my eyes, the ultimate goal of a canyoneering course is empowerment. The canyon is a medium for learning that reaches into our everyday lives. It is easy to teach rules and memorization, but these facts and figures are only useful when internalized and applied to new situations. Education is about learning to think for yourself; this can only be taught indirectly.

A canyon adventure involves exploration, problem solving, and critical thought. I believe life is no different. I don’t think it is reaching to say learning to be a canyoneer is learning to deal with the everyday adventures of relationships, careers, and whatever trials life throws our way. These are my true motives. I get excited about canyoneering not just for the beautiful natural environments we gain access to, but for the beautiful places we may access within ourselves.

The adventure is waiting for us everyday. If you need a jump start to get out of your routine, please let us know. You may be surprised by what you are capable of.

Happy Adventuring!


About Calvin

Calvin Laatsch guides canyoneering, rock climbing, and mountain biking trips at Zion Adventure Company; he also consults staff and clients alike on Norwegian customs, smooth dance moves, and the latest in dirtbag fashion. Bring your binoculars with you on the Zion Scenic Drive, and there’s a good chance you’ll see Calvin WAY up a wall, testing his mettle in form-fitting jeans.
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One Response to ZAC Canyon Courses: Becoming a Critical Adventurer

  1. avatar Taylor York says:

    Such a perfect analogy! You can’t live a relationship by any book or by keeping things safe or doing the same predictable things over and over (and can’t guarantee you’ll keep your job, either). A thriving relationship requires exploration, challenging yourselves and each other, building trust, helping each other face fears, being there to back each other up if something goes wrong, learning to be resourceful and effectively deal with the unexpected, being honest about and working together to strengthen each other’s weaknesses, capitalizing on each other’s strengths, and celebrating overcoming the obstacles and challenges that come your way. And let’s not forget commitment—Once you start down that canyon, often there is no turning back. The goal is to get through it, together. The most amazing thing of the many things I came to learn about myself taking your clinic is that there is no room for dishonesty in canyoneering—or in life. Any illusions you may have about yourself, good or bad, get blown away fast to expose the absolute truth, and operating from a place of truth is the only way you can ever build a solid relationship, successful career or awesome canyoneering adventure!