After a lengthy delay, I took a second climbing class from Arizona Mountaineering Club in April. Lengthy delay because I took the first class, 'basics', last fall and haven't climbed since, so it felt a little awkward coming back to the group for anchors. The knots and some of the techniques came easily thanks to the rope rescue training I've been doing but the particular climbing calls that AMC uses were a bit slower to recall. Anyways, it was a shorter class (only one week) and had an overnight outing during the weekend and was an overall great time.
There are two weekday sessions that were split between classroom lecture and hands-on training. We went over a few new knots, some anchor setups, ERNEST principles, all that basic stuff, and then went outside and worked through stations. I paired with an experienced climber named Rob (turns out he's a doctor!) and we had little trouble working with ropes and protection. Also got the chance to meet Dallin and Kate, who are two seasoned hikers who have tackled adventures that I've only dreamed about.
One of the more interesting things that we learned about during these weekdays is protection, or gear, or 'little metal pieces you stick in cracks'. When you set up an anchor you can attach to fixed gear (like bolts) or wrap around natural features (like boulders or trees), or you can place protection (like nuts or cams or tricams or hex) in little cracks. While it's important to make sure these pieces of gear are redundant and equalized and such, they can hold a surprising amount of force. For the rescue stuff I'm doing we only use natural protection, though I can imagine working with protection if I ever climb with a group.
After doing the weekday sessions it was time for the weekend. We headed up to a small town called Chino Valley and spent several hours on Saturday building one anchor after another. It was basically a level grind. The location was pretty, it was just tedious, especially because most of the stations were identical: use a wide selection of gear and cracks to build a three- or four-point anchor, rinse, and repeat. Don't think anyone was too torn up when we we called it a day relatively early (around three, I think) and headed out to a campsite.
Campsite was primitive at best, something I really appreciated. It was a rough road that ended in a wide bank that we parked and setup various sleeping configurations. A few people slept in their trucks, most had tents, and I saw one person in a bivy. I had thought about roughing it under a tarp but figured the privacy of a tent would be nice, plus it wasn't like I had to go ultralight for a long day's hike or anything. There was a large fire to relax around once the sun set and lots of conversations to bounce around.
Sunday was more fun. We slept in, then hauled our ropes and gear a half mile, and got to setup more anchors (only one time!) to climb on. The anchors were done and safety'd by nine, giving us plenty of time to meander around. Rob and Brian were much better climbers than I am so I spent most of the morning belaying for them. Eventually I did get two climbs in. Kinda wished I would have gotten more, yet I need to get more familiar with rock before I embarrass myself in front of a crowd.
We closed up shop around four and packed up for the long drive back down to Phoenix. Before leaving I followed up with both Kate and Dallin and we may be doing some hiking / climbing sometime soon. Plus there were a few other members of the AMC that seemed pretty cool, so I might try to tag along for a club outing to get some more practice in. I'm glad that the rescue group I'm joining has been forcing me to head out and do some of these different activities - now I know how to build a dependable anchor, and made some friends along the way.