Your Instructor:

Rich Carlson

My passion is helping people like you grow through technical excellence and personal accomplishment.

Over the past 30+ years I have helped thousands of people follow their adventure dreams. Students around the world have included recreational canyoneers and climbers from beginner to advanced, professional guides, rescue teams, backcountry rangers, law enforcement and the military.

Rich Teaching

Am I good fit for YOUR needs? It depends …

 If you are looking for someone to teach you just a few quick techniques that you can memorize, with hopes they will get you through every problem you encounter, most instructors can provide that for you. You don’t really need me.

But …

      • if you want your mind to be stretched to gain an understanding of the underlying principles involved in safe and efficient anchor, rigging and rescue systems
      • if you want to learn a critical thinking approach to problem-solving that will enable you to assess each situation and adjust your response accordingly
      • if you want to acquire improv skills to utilize the simple gear you have at hand, rather than relying solely on the latest hardware and technology
      • if your goal is to become not only “trained”, but truly competent and self-reliant

Then my courses are definitely the right fit for you.

Benefits for you as my student …

My teaching approach focuses on developing your knowledge and understanding of systems and equipment so you can adapt them to situations as varied as the canyons we explore. You will not only learn HOW to do things, but WHY each system or technique may be appropriate in one situation, but not in another.



We all start from the same position of false confidence because “we don’t know what we don’t know.”

In four decades of playing and working on rope I have witnessed just about everything that can go wrong. Whenever I noticed gaps in knowledge or skills I set out to fill those gaps – developing new techniques, then training and practicing to master them.

Drawing from my 40+ years of experience, I will give you the skills and insight you need to overcome unexpected and unfamiliar challenges with real confidence.



Relying on others for your safety is common in your first few years of participation in any high adventure activity. However, as you gain knowledge and confidence, you realize there can be a vast difference between experienced and competent.

Your training with me will give you the knowledge and understanding necessary to evaluate unfamiliar anchor and rigging systems to determine for yourself what is safe and appropriate, empowering you to become a competent contributing member of the team – or even taking over as leader if the need arises.



I have a passion for outdoor adventures and a passion for teaching. My life is blessed with opportunities to combine these passions to help people like you go places where others only dream.

My goal is to provide you with the greatest possible value for the investment you make in your training.

I will strive to exceed your expectations in ever course you take with me, in a spirit of service, helping you on your journey of learning and exploration.

“I have had the opportunity to take several courses from Rich Carlson, and have come away with so much more new information than I expected. His depth of knowledge and experience is invaluable and it seems the more I learn, the more he has to teach.

I most enjoy that no matter your level of rope work education, Rich makes the curriculum easy to grasp, and offers concepts and methods that challenge even the most skilled students.

Rich has taught me that every situation has nuances that dictate the options and applicable best practice, and that “it depends” is an important mantra to prevent getting stuck in a “one size fits all” mentality. I have greatly benefited from Rich’s instruction and highly recommend!”

Rebecca Haacke

”The canyoneering classes that I have taken from Rich Carlson not only have been a passport to places only accessible via rope work, but have created a foundation of understanding of risk management in natural vertical environments. If you are looking for a path of self-reliance and clear understanding of canyoneering and rope work, look no further.”

Adolfo Isassi

Canyoneering Guide

More about me and my passions …

 In 1990 I gave up on corporate life and started guiding full time. I soon learned that I am happiest when I am teaching outdoor skills like climbing, rappelling, canyoneering, technical rope rescue, land navigation and wilderness survival.

I am proud of the reputation I have built as a guide and instructor throughout the world. Nothing brings me more joy and fulfillment than seeing my students apply the techniques I have developed and taught to solve real problems, ultimately making canyoneering safer, ecologically responsible and gratifying.

In the spring of 1999 I became the first American to be certified as a canyoning guide in Europe and subsequently founded the American Canyoneering Association, which evolved into the American Canyoneering Academy. In 2017 I founded Canyon Guides International and continue training and certifying canyoneering guides around the world.

Now retired from guiding, I focus all of my time and energy on teaching. My greatest passion is assisting with economic development and enhancing quality of life for individuals and communities around the world through the provision of training for professional guides and rescue teams. I am especially interested in volunteering my time to serve underprivileged youth and unemployed adults in Native American communities and in developing countries.

Qualifications and certifications have included:


Senior Instructor / Course Manager, Officer Candidate School


Army Reserve Officer – Training, Human Resources, Safety


Certified Community College Instructor


Certified Army Instructor


Certified Canyoning Guide, Commision Europeenne de Canyon (CEC)


Founder, American Canyoneering Association


Senior Instructor, American Canyoneering Academy


Founder and former Technical Director, American Canyon Guides Association (ACGA)


Founder, Canyon Guides International


Technical Director, Hong Kong Canyoning Association (HKCA)


Certified High Angle Rope Rescue Technician


Honor Graduate, Defense Mapping School


AUSA Leadership Award Nominee


American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified – Top Rope Site Management


Technical Rescue Training – Rescue 3 International


Certified Wilderness First Responder


Certified Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT2)


Honor Graduate, Officer Candidate School


Arizona Army National Guard Meritorious Service Medal


Owned and operated AMGA Accredited Guide Service, 1990-2002


Technical Rescue Training – Ropes That Rescue


Certified First Aid and CPR Instructor


Certified Ropes Challenge Course Facilitator


Army Commendations for Innovations in Training


Professional Member, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)


Technical Rescue Training – CMC Rescue


Technical Rescue Training – Rigging For Rescue

Featured in …

Film, Television & Radio

My adventure programs and courses have been featured in the media around the world, including the documentary film, Gorging. Currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.

From the film’s description:

“Faced with a new era of off-the-couch recreationalists, three influential pioneers, a canyoneering instructor (Rich Carlson), photographer (Dennis Turville), and guidebook author (Michael Kelsey) each respond to a growing interest in the dangerous activity.”

Gorging Movie


Also featured in …

  • In an episode of a PBS series called “Anyplace Wild”, hosted by then editor of Backpacker Magazine, John Viehman.
  • In an episode of “Treks in a Wild World” for Lonely Planet.
  • In an episode of “Nature of Champions” with rock climber, Isabelle Patisier for French television.
  • ABC News
  • BBC Radio (Britain)
  • Cable Channel 12, Tucson
  • CBS News, The Early Show
  • CCTV 13, National News (China)
  • Channel 3 News, Phoenix
  • Channel 10 News, Phoenix
  • Channel 10 “On the Arizona Road”
  • National Public Radio
  • Nickelodeon GAS
  • Play TV (Taiwan)
  • Worst Case Scenario

Features in print and online media include …

    • Adventure Sports Magazine
    • Adventure Sports Online
    • America West Magazine
    • Arenal Online (Costa Rica)
    • Arizona Business Magazine
    • Arizona Meetings & Events
    • Arizona Republic, Business
    • Arizona Republic, Travel
    • Arizona Trails Monthly
    • Aventura Vertical (Mexico)
    • Backcountry Blog
    • Backpacker Magazine
    • Canadian Business Magazine
    • Canyon Wiki
    • Cedar City Review
    • Collegian Travel & Adventure
    • Conde Nast Sports for Women
    • Denver Post
    • Elle Magazine
    • Esquire Magazine
    • Jalisco Al Natural (Mexico)
    • Jeep Magazine
    • Living Fit Magazine
    • My San Antonio
    • National Geographic Adventures
    • National Post (Canada)
    • Nations Business Magazine
    • New Times “Best of Phoenix”
    • Newsweek
    • OC Metro
    • OC Register
    • Outdoor Network
    • Outdoor Utah
    • Outside Magazine
    • Outside Online
    • Phoenix Magazine
    • Scottsdale Progress
    • Shape Magazine
    • Spectrum
    • Sports Illustrated
    • Summit Magazine
    • SUU Journal
    • SWEAT Magazine
    • Tucson Citizen
    • USA Today
    • Washington Post

I have also served as a technical consultant for many other news articles, feature articles, television shows, film projects and photo shoots.

Client List

I have  had the privilege of serving many diverse client groups from companies of all sizes in a wide spectrum of industries. I am looking forward to the privilege of serving you as well. A partial list of my institutional and corporate clients includes:

Canyoneering & Rescue

Team Building

  • Anyplace Wild
  • Arizona Army National Guard
  • Arizona Game & Fish Dept
  • Army Special Forces
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Cedar City Brian Head Tourism Bureau
  • Cedar City Interagency Hotshots
  • City of Chandler Arizona
  • City of Glendale Arizona
  • City of Phoenix Arizona
  • City of Scottsdale Arizona
  • City of Tempe Arizona
  • City of Tucson Arizona
  • Coconino County SAR
  • Country School
  • Discovery Channel
  • FBI
  • Hawaii Dept of Land and Natural Resources
  • Hong Kong Canyoning Association
  • Iran Canyon Group
  • Lexington School
  • Maricopa Community Colleges
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan
  • National Park Service
  • National Taiwan Sport University
  • Navajo Nation
  • Nepal Canyoning Association
  • Oahu Army Natural Resources Program
  • Phoenix Police Dept
  • Popular Outdoor Outfitters
  • Proctor Academy
  • REI
  • San Carlos Apache Tribe
  • Saudi Arabian Royal Family
  • Sedona Fire Dept
  • Southern Utah University
  • Town of Gilbert Arizona
  • UK Canyon Guides Association
  • University of Hawaii
  • US Forest Service
  • Utah Department of Wildlife Resources
  • Utah National Parks Council, BSA
  • Wai’anae Mountains Watershed Partnership
  • White Mountain Apache Tribe
  • Wide World of Maps
  •  AC Delco
  • Accenture
  • Ademco
  • Admiral Beverage/Pepsi
  • Adobe Systems
  • AG Communication Systems
  • American Express
  • American Heart Association
  • American National Can
  • Allied Signal Aerospace
  • Arizona State University
  • Army Family Team Building
  • ASM International
  • A T & T
  • Avalon Software
  • Badger Meter
  • Bank of America
  • Bank One
  • Bell South
  • Bergen Brunswig
  • Bernard Hodes Group
  • BNC Mortgage
  • Boeing
  • Bowne of Phoenix
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Cal-Air
  • CareData
  • Cendant
  • Citicorp
  • Clariant
  • Corporate Express
  • Cox Communications
  • Davita
  • Del Webb
  • Delta Environmental Consultants
  • Dial Corp
  • Discover Card
  • E-Forum
  • Express Scripts
  • Falcon Waterfree
  • Fennemore Craig
  • Finova Capital
  • Gap / Banana Republic
  • General Physics
  • GeoQuest
  • Giorgio Armani
  • Global Crossing
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Intel
  • International Typeface Corp
  • Isuzu
  • Job Corps
  • KPMG
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Maricopa County Health Services
  • Maricopa County Justice Dept
  • MCI
  • MGM Grand
  • Microsoft
  • Monier Life Tile
  • Motorola
  • Netscape/AOL
  • PCS Health Systems
  • Pelle Pelle
  • Proctor and Gamble
  • Roadway Express
  • Salt River Project
  • Samaritan Health Systems
  • Sandpiper Networks
  • Scottsdale Princess Resort
  • Snell & Wilmer
  • Source Informatics
  • Spectria
  • Sykes Enterprises
  • Teradyne
  • Tosco Corporation
  • TRW
  • Tyco Thermal Controls
  • Unichema
  • United Way
  • US West
  • Verizon
  • Volkswagen
  • Windmill Inns
  • XO Communications