Knots were the vain of my existence. I have been rock climbing for years now, but I never learned the technical names or all the knots needed for setting up anchors. I knew the basics and my climbing friends did the rest. Most did not want to teach me because all they wanted to do is climb, and I don’t blame them!
Why were knots so intimidating for me? Was it because everyone else knew them and could rush through them with breeze? I couldn’t figure out the path the rope went to make such knots other than the core ones I used on my harness for roping up.
Needless to say, I was excited to learn knots. I was introduced to many new ones on the first Washington Alpine Club (WAC) Basic Climbing course’s first outing.
The “classroom” was set up with ropes everywhere. Students paired up with instructors during the week to go over knots and practice them. I learned tricks to help tie certain knots and when each knot is used. Two weeks of indoor instruction was supplemented by two weekend day trips to Spire Rock.
I didn’t know what to expect before arriving at Spire Rock. Instructors were on the top of the rock setting up anchors and ropes for the days activities as we pulled into the parking lot bright and early. Rock climbing, balance, prusiking, and glacier stations were set up for Spire I. During Spire I, instructors would belay the students on the climbs and repels making sure we had a full understanding on the safety precautions. It was a wet day on the rock, which caused me to slip off while starting my rappel. I had some nice battle bruises from my fall but never let go of my break hand!
The volunteer instructors belaying the students climbing Spire Rock.
Getting the feel of mountaineering boots at the balance station.
Using friction from the boots and rock to walk down slanted surfaces.
Ascending and descending ropes.
Photo by Lourdez Rejon
The weather elements tested my down and waterproof gear throughout the day. Staying dry and warm, along with hydrated and fed, make the day more enjoyable. After the physical activities, students and instructors met at a local establishment for food and drinks.
Spire II kicked of with Percy climbing the rock well. Who knew Sasquatch could climb? During its climb, something went wrong, so Percy’s belayer had to escape to find help. All of the students would pretend to be injured while another student belayer went through the necessary steps to escape the belay. It is a great technique to know and practice in case an emergency ever does occur.
Escaping a belay demonstration.
Being “rescued” after falling.
Students now belayed other students, along with rappelling without backup belays. It was a test to trust and practice our skills on our own with supervision. After learning to prusik at Spire I, I now had to prusik with my backpack to simulate getting myself out of a crevasse. This station also included a lead belay and catching a lead fall with weights being pulled and released from the trees.
Students climbing and belaying Spire Rock.
A compass and navigation station allowed students to find bearings and navigate using the trails. Glacier travel was introduced by fake snow bridges and features from dead tree branches and navigating the area on rope teams of four. Communication was key to make sure everyone was traveling together.
I even had time to take videos with my cell phone and created this video.
*Since this course is “basic,” the instructors set up climbing ropes and rappel ropes for the students.
More in this series:
- Mountaineering – Is it for me?
- Mountaineering School – Gear and Navigation
- Mountaineering School – Anchors and Climbing Mt. Erie
- Mountaineering School – Winter Camping, Ice Axe, and Snow I
- Mountaineering School – Staying Safe on the Mountain