Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Head west young man...or is it north...or...

This past Sunday AM, Easter Sunday, was the first field day for a new Basic Mountaineering School (BMS) class.  Last year at this same time, I was a student in BMS but this year I'm an assistant instructor.  BMS is a class offered by the Colorado Mountain Club and is designed to give aspiring mountaineers the skills necessary for navigation, rock climbing, and snow skills.  The class is broken down into 5 lecture nights and 6 mandatory fields trips with 2 "qualifying" trips afterwords to officially graduate from the school.  The field trips cover such topics as map/compass, rappelling, rock climbing, escaping the belay, "passing the knot" in the rope, self arrest with an ice axe, crampon travel, and a host of other skill sets to prepare the student to safely traverse the mountains - whether it's in Colorado or other loftier ascents.

I had an excellent BMS experience last year and was pushed outside my comfort zone often - particularly when we got to the rock climbing field trips.  I guess it's a natural fear that you don't want to fall off a mountain; yet rock climbing, by it's nature, is typically on vertical terrain and gravity always winds.  You have to train your mind to trust your gear, your fellow students, and your instructors.  It took some time to trust the gear but once I learned  the reality that my body weight on a rope is really nothing for the system, then my fear of falling decreased dramatically.  Now I can rappel off a 50-75' cliff without much fear.  The class also has the added benefit that as I get closer to completing the 54 14ers in Colorado, my comfort level on the more difficult peaks is better than if I had not taken the class.  Case in point, I climbed Pyramid Peak (one of the top 5 most difficult 14ers) last summer with my climbing partner, Alan Arnette, last summer and felt more confident in my abilities to summit.

So, this past day with the students.  The gist of the trip is to have the students guide the group to 6 points on a map using their compasses and terrain reading skills compared to the map.  Our roles as instructors was to make sure they did not get into difficult terrain, to assist those who did not understand how to use a map/compass and provide support.  Long story short, they were rock stars!  They found all 6 points without much difficulty and in reviewing the GPS track, did it in an efficient manner.  I was pleased with their teamwork and their skills.

Next Sunday is 1st rock day on Little Scraggy Peak.  My guess is there's some anxiety among some of the students but I'm hopeful that they will do well.  More to come...

Climb On my friends!

1 comment:

Zack said...

You could say there's a little anxiety. Thanks for the compliments!