Wednesday, May 8, 2013

AMC 2013 Rock Climbing Program

Although I’ve only been rock climbing outdoors for a short time, I wanted the opportunity to take  training from the Boston Chapter Mountaineering Committee of the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) - besides, I've had my own climbing rope for almost 2 years now so it's bloody time I learned how to set up anchorsI had heard that this course fills up very fast so I was psyched when I got my confirmation email.

The AMC Rock Climbing program is held over a period of 6 weeks and covers the basic skills to climb safely outdoors. Although the program focuses on seconding multi-pitch trad climbing, the skills learned in this program will serve well for toproping as well as sport climbing. 

The program is held at Quincy Quarries, a quarry that has been filled in with dirt from the "Big Dig" project. It’s an extensive course so I've put off peakbagging for a bit. There are many volunteer instructors and assistants to teach skills and guide students through every practice. The little “Green Book” is a record of what each student has completed in the program and at the end of the course gets turned in. There is also homework for each program weekend/day; reading, practicing knots and completing online feedback. Please enjoy my photos and follow me along on this program…. 

Information Night 
I wasn’t able to attend the Information Night which was recommended and not required. The registration form was online shortly after Information Night meeting and I signed up then to ensure that I would get a spot. When registration closed, the course was filled with more folks on the waitlist than they could accept. 

Knots Night 
I couldn’t believe it, 45 minutes late! I don’t drive into Boston very often, because when I do, I always get lost, this night was no exception! Fortunately, I didn’t miss the second hour of learning how to tie knots. I learned several knots tonight, the Bowline, Water knot,  as well as the Clove and Munter Hitches. Besides reading 7 chapters in John Long’s book, How To Rock Climb, I have to know these basic knots for the Belay weekend! Everyone got a packet with all these great stuff in it. Everything you need to know about the rock climbing program is in the red program handbook!

Belay Weekend 
I’m so glad that this course is spread out over 6 weeks! This weekend was extensive and full of information! And I got to learn all this stuff along with some really cool peeps too. I learned to set up a SRENE (solid, redundant, equalized, no extension) top rope anchors. I usually belay using a Petzl Grigri but on day one, I was told to put it away and start using my Reverso. I belayed from the bottom as well as the top. I belayed using a Münter Hitch. And I also got to body belay (which is so way cool!)  from the bottom of a cliff, catching a fall, yay! Both days I had to demonstrate the Butterfly coil, as well as all those basic knots we learned on Knots night.

At the end of every class the Green Book needs to be signed off

Belay Weekend - Saturday photos (10)
 Instructors John and Christine
 Assistant instructors Jeff and Christine
Hannah, Mike and Silas setting up the anchor
 Mike setting up the Power Point
 Go Mike!
 Atop the C Wall at Quincy Quarries
 Jeff, Eliza and John
 Eliza - top belay
 The group next to ours...

Belay Weekend - Sunday photos (9)

 Looking over points of anchor
(Ariana, Elyse, Jeff and Rob) 
 Rob, Mike and Kristie
Instructor Jeff (yellow jacket)
(Elyse, Mike, Kristie, Ariana, Lynne)
Bowline knot on a static line
Reviewing knots with assistant instructor Lynne
Belaying using a Münter Hitch
(Elyse, Jeff, Ariana and Mike)
Hi Kristie! 
(Belay using Münter Hitch)
Ariana on lead belay
(Instructor Jeff lead climbing)
Trad gear

Rappel Weekend
What a fantastic day! I love rappelling and am always looking for ops to rappel so I was really looking forward to today. I met up Rob and his wife Fang and we met instructors Will and Katie along with Seth and Ralf. We headed off to the S Wall (Knight’s Wall) and went over new knots before setting up anchors on the White Knight and Black Knight routes. We each got to do several rappels practicing with and without extended devices with autoblocks and rappelling with a Münter Hitch (not my favorite as the rope gets all twisted).  One of the cool practices we did was Free Rappelling. Jeff and Lynne set up the Free Rappel station on the Q Wall and we got to free rapp… as in you have no contact with the rock...yippeeee!

Afterwards I climbed both the White Knight and Black Knight routes as part of the program requirements. Thank you to Will and Ben for the fantastic beta on the White Knight and the Black Knight walls! 

Rappelling is a technique used to descend a fixed rope. Most times climbers will not need to rappel if there is a walk off from the top. But sometimes being able to rappel quickly is necessary. Such is the case of approaching darkness or bad weather, inability to complete a climb due to difficulty or because of injury and rescue situations. 

Thank you Rob for letting me post some of your photos here! :)

Thought it was lost but I did find my Green Book.
No Ben, Will didn’t tear it up!  ;-)

  Reviewing knots from the previous weekend: Rewoven figure 8,
Fisherman's backup, Bowline, Water knot, Figure 8 on a bight,
Girth hitch, Clove hitch and Münter hitch. Learning some new knots;
Auto-block, Double Fisherman and EDK (flat overhand bend)
Robert and Fang
Instructor Will, Seth
Will with Fang and Seth looking on

 Time to rapp!
Robert (3)

Me with Katie looking on
On the Free Rappel
with Jeff and Lynne
Seth smiles!
Ham it up!

Lynne on Top Belay at the Free Rappel station

Ascend  Weekend
Step-slide up-weight it-slide up and step-keep going…..

If it just so happens that you don’t have a pair of ascenders in your gear bag, then the next most common means of ascending would be to do so using two friction knots. And that’s what we did in this weekends lesson – used a Prusik knot to the harness and a Bachmann knot for the foot.  We set up two anchors, one to ascend on and the second to belay off of (in this program you are always on belay). After Chris demonstrated ascending, one by one we each took our turn. We also had to “catch the bucket”.  The Bucket is actually a cylinder cement block weighing 75lbs. It's rigged to drop and the student would have to prevent the block from hitting the ground while on belay. This to simulate catching a leader if they fell. Each student had to catch the bucket twice. 

Ascending a fixed rope is an important skill to know and master. It’s used in case you cannot ascend a part of a climb, if a climber has fallen when climbing an overhang and is unable to get back onto the rock, and if a leader falls and is injured and needs to be rescued.

Personally, ascending  wasn’t an easy task for me.  But like with everything, it does take some practice. 

Thank you Rob for letting me post some of your photos here! :)

David (left) going over the basics of Ascending


Getting the Ascend and Belay ropes set

Chris demonstrating Ascending with Rob on his belay
Kristie getting it done!
Nilesh in the background
"The Bucket" 
Mark (red helmet) pulls the pin to release the bucket

Hannah catch the bucket!
(I love the graffiti!)

Part of the program requirement is to get in some climbing!

Nilesh with Mark on his belay



Get it done!

Optional Weekend 
This weekend is designed to give students an opportunity to work on program requirements (climbs & belays), make up missed skills, practice anything that had been covered so far and get in some climbing as well. I finished my required climbs and belays and got in 1 of 2 second a trad pitch. Not part of the program but a Slackline was set up between the Q & M walls….so cool to watch!

Thank you Rob for letting me post some of your photos here! :)

Ellen and I - We got this!
The over 50 demographic

Ellen and Rob reviewing knots with Jeff

Rob setting anchors

Climb On! (3)

Second a trad pitch skill

Program skills - Get it done!

Boston from the M Wall

Check out Sonya Iverson of Slackline LLC
on the slackline setup between the Q & M walls (5)

Graduation Weekend
Yay, I graduated! I was a bit nervous while on my way to Quincy Quarries. I actually felt like I didn’t study enough. But once I got going on the knots, I was fine and had no problem remembering them all! Afterwards, it was onto the “weekend leader tree” where Chris taught me how to clean a fixed anchor (without a walkoff). On “Gary’s Rock Scramble” of the R wall, I seconded Ron on a trad pitch to finish up all my required skills of page 2 & 3 of the Green Book. Of course, I was looking forward to the Multi-pitch Rappel off of the 50 foot J wall with the help of instructors Elisa, Dick and Will. Woot, I love rapping! And to finish that all off, I set up a SRENE top rope anchor on top of  the S Wall under the watchful eye of Ricky. With my Green Book completely signed, I handed it to Robert and he double-checked every page. Lastly, he had me pick out a cool t-shirt!

I really enjoyed this program and am glad I had to the opportunity to take it. All the instruction in this program is “hands-on”.  Each instructor and/or their assistant demonstrated each skill, but each student had to perform the skill on our own. We were encouraged to learn with different instructors each weekend to get a variety of perspective and different presentations of rock climbing skills. I found all the instructors and their assistants to be very helpful and patient.

Overall, I thought this rock climbing training and basic skills learning was intensive and would highly recommend it. Besides learning a great deal, it has given me confidence in my own practice of skills that I learned. And I met some truly wonderful new friends in the climbing community! 

Thank you Rob for letting me post some of your photos here! :)

At the Knots circle with Christine
Learning how to clean a fixed anchor without a walkoff (6)

I know you're behind me Rob!

Atop J wall (50ft) for Multi-Pitch Rappelling (9)

Susan ready to rapp with Ellen on her belay

Ellen ready to rapp with me on her belay.

Rapp on Ellen!

 Me on  Ellen’s belay. Each student is required to be on
belay on every skill in the Rock Climbing Program. It’s a
good thing and it makes learning new skills so much easier!

Rob's turn to rapp!

Fang on her way (left: instructor Elisa)

It's my turn!

Woot! Woot!
That's Will (in red), on the ledge below for the next pitch where
I anchored in, disconnected my autoblock, took the rope out of
my rappel device and strung one end through the anchored biners
on the ledge. Then I pulled the rope out from the rappel ring above.
Put the rope back through my rappel device, connected my
autoblock, disconnected my anchor and I was on my way!

Set up a SRENE Anchor - S Wall
Sidehan (right) and Bill
Rob (left) and Ricky
Thanks for holding the shirt up for me, Ron! :)
Pretty colors!!
Elisa with Will on her belay (Instructors)

Wes Huang, Program Director

And last but not least....strike a pose! 


Links of Interest:
AMC Boston Chapter Mountaineering Committee

Knot Guide iPhone App