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 keep you safe and get you through every problem you encounter, some of the less experienced instructors can provide that for you.

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 training is 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 every course you take with me, in a spirit of service, helping you on your journey of learning and exploration.

Dave Black
Dave Black
Canyon Guide, Retired
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Rich Carlson could be considered the father of American canyoneering because of his influence on style, technique, and ethics. In 1999 Carlson established the American Canyoneering Association to promote safety, responsibility, and ethics in American canyoneering. Rich and the ACA have been critical factors in building national standards that have become the cornerstone of canyoneering at the recreational and professional levels throughout the Americas.
Rebecca Haacke
Rebecca Haacke
Canyon Guide
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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!
Joe Storms
Joe Storms
Canyon Guide, Canada
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I have known you for a long time now and I want to express my thoughts. It’s going to sound a little mushy. I have appreciated the leadership and intimate details you display with training. Your knowledge on several subjects is next level ( I have no other way to describe it). I enjoy watching you head off students before they meander down the road of no return, meaning you know exactly the mistakes they are about to make before they even know they are headed in that direction. I have learned an immense amount from you and for that I am grateful.
Adolfo Isassi
Adolfo Isassi
Canyon Guide
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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.
David Meding
David Meding
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My first course was taken over 20 years ago. But what I learned that week, and over several continuing courses, rendezvous, workshops and outings was a safe and efficient method to explore the marvel of the world of slot canyons. These courses are invaluable for those who not only want to become competent canyoneers, they are also a resource for learning how to solve problems and prepare for the unexpected while in the wilderness. They are also a huge resource for making contacts with like minded adventurers. The canyoneering community is small, but it is huge compared to when I entered it. I have met many wonderfully fascinating people over the years and have made friendships that continue to this day. I have explored canyons in numerous states and several foreign countries. I have survived close calls because of what I learned through these courses and I have taught what I have learned to numerous others. I can’t thank Rich enough for the years and patience and guidance.
Dan Kidder
Dan Kidder
Outdoor Skills Instructor
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I have trained with Rich and not only do I see the immense value of his knowledge, I also see the practical benefit of sharing that knowledge. Beyond the technical expertise, he provides the tools to help you think through the challenge, and apply the knowledge. His training will make you safer, more prepared, and a better leader or guide.
Briget Eastep
Briget Eastep
Southern Utah University
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Learning canyoneering from Rich is like learning religion from the Pope.
Takman Rai
Takman Rai
Canyon Guide, Nepal
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Rich is a very good instructor, with a gift for training. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience from him. He provides a great mix of listening, explaining and practice activities to provide a very safe, supportive learning environment.
Shane Wallace
Shane Wallace
Canyon Guide
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When I first got into canyoneering I quickly realized that I needed some training. While doing a deep internet search, two names kept popping up as people I might want to train me. When I found out that Rich Carlson had trained the other guy I knew I wanted him as my instructor. Over the years I have received training from other instructors, but I consider my training from Rich to be the best. Rich has taught me so much about canyoneering and I still learn every time I attend a course with him. I never thought I would go as far as becoming a guide and instructor myself, but here I am and I thank Rich for all he has taught me. He gives more than his knowledge to the community around the world and it’s usually for minimal financial gain. Rich was my instructor in the beginning and now he is also my friend. Thanks Rich!

Sharing my passion ...

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 Army Instructor
  • Certified Community College Instructor
  • Honor Graduate, Defense Mapping School
  • Honor Graduate, Officer Candidate School
  • AUSA Leadership Award Nominee
  • Meritorious Service Medal, Arizona Army National Guard
  • Several Army accommodations for innovations in training
  • Certified Top Rope Site Management, American Mountain Guides Association
  • Owned and operated AMGA Accredited Guide Service, 1990-2002
  • Certified Canyoning Guide, Commision Europeenne de Canyon
  • Certified Wilderness First Responder
  • Certified First Aid and CPR Instructor
  • Certified Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT2)
  • Certified Ropes Challenge Course Facilitator
  • Certified High Angle Rope Rescue Technician
  • Technical Rescue Training – Rescue 3 International
  • Technical Rescue Training – CMC Rescue
  • Technical Rescue Training – Ropes That Rescue
  • Technical Rescue Training – Rigging for Rescue
  • Founder, American Canyoneering Association
  • Founder and Technical Director, American Canyon Guides Association
  • Founder, Canyon Guides International
  • Technical Director, Hong Kong Canyoning Association

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.”

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

  • 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

Team Building

  •  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