Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Climbing Rocks!

We climbed at Cochise Stronghold in Arizona for 16 days, starting on the East side of Cochise and then hiking over to the West side about halfway through. We had four instructors who were easy going, energetic and in love with climbing. A typical day meant meeting at 9, having a few classes on the basics of climbing technique, risk management, and how to use different types of gear. In the late morning we would meander over to a crag (either hike or drive, depending on how far away it was), where we would climb through the afternoon and return to camp usually around 4 or 5 (although sometimes we would find ourselves hiking home long after the sun had gone down). Evenings were occupied with dinner, sometimes an evening meeting or class, and using those small pieces of free time left over to write letters or read or relax.
At the crag on the first day of climbing camp
      Climbing camp was different from backpacking in virtually every way: first of all, we were living at a base camp, so we didn't have to be stingy with how much stuff we brought and we didn't have to pack up and move camp every day. Our daily schedule was much more laid back and less structurally rigid, but we also had significantly less free time because we had so much going on.
      Similar to how in the hiking section our instructors taught us all the necessary skills and then set us loose to travel independently, our climbing instructors taught us the technical side of climbing so that we could do everything ourselves. At the beginning of the section, our instructors created anchors and set up the ropes for us, and all the students did was climb and belay with coaching from them. On our last day of climbing, we set up all the rope systems, climbed, and at the end of the day took everything down while the instructors sat and watched. (NOLS likes to teach a man to fish rather than give him the proverbial fish that will feed him for just a day.)  Before this trip I'd never rock climbed before, so every day I noticed myself picking up new skills & improving upon previous ones. Not many people get to start climbing under the tutelage of four experienced climbers--it's a pretty cool experience. I'm not a great climber by anyone's standards, but even so I can appreciate what a great opportunity this section was.

Leaving an East Cochise crag at sunset
View of West Cochise from the top of a multipitch climb

Setting up top ropes on our last day

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