Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On rappel...

For regular readers of my blog, the subject line may seem a bit familiar.  Back in January 2010, I joined a group of friends to ice climb down in Ouray.  Well, it's now April and the snow/ice is mostly gone from the Colorado Front Range (although I'm sure we'll get hit by one more snowstorm...but that's another story...)

This past Sunday was 1st Rock Day for my Basic Mountaineering School students.  As we prepared earlier in the week by testing the students about their knowledge of climbing knots and what they're used for, the field trip is intended to introduce them to the details of top roping, anchors, multi-pitch scenarios, how to escape the belay and ultimately to have fun.  As I noted in my last blog posting, I had a sneaky suspicion of some anxiety about 1st rock day but when the time arrived, the students completed the task and hopefully learned some things as well.

We arrived at the trailhead at 7 AM and geared up for the hike/climb.  Now granted, the climbing area was no more than 1/2 mile from the trailhead but the instructors thought it would be good practice to hike 1-2 miles with a full pack and climbing ropes.  Our rationale is that as the field trips progress, we'll be hiking longer and higher with heavy packs of climbing gear, food/water, overnight gear, etc.  We arrived at a big pile of rocks no more than 40' high and set up two anchor stations for top-roping and rappelling.  The top rope station allowed students the opportunity to rock climb in their mountaineering boots, to practice climbing signals, and to belay each other up the rock. The rappel station allowed students the opportunity to rappel down a nearly vertical rock face and to understand how the systems work.  The class builds redundancy into the climbing systems so the risk for injury is rather low.  Fortunately, the redundant systems worked well as one of our first students to rappel down managed to do a full 180 degree flip with her back against the rock and her head towards the ground.  To her credit, she held onto the rope, kept her wits about her, and righted herself to continue to rappel.  I was pleased/happy/relieved....  The remainder of the students did very well and did several rappels during the course of the day.  BTW, that's me on rappel...had to get one in!

This Sunday is 2nd rock day down in Castlewood Canyon near Castle Rock, CO.  On the docket is prussiking, passing the knot, how to build anchors, more rappelling, and rock climbing.  Should be great fun!

Climb On my friends!

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