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shaoleung

Blind leading the blind

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Goat, that is more or less what I'm saying. I'd certainly recommend any new climber read FOTH, John Long, and whatever other resource materials are available, and I'd also support anybody's inclination to sign up with the Mounties or hire a guide for a one-on-one intensive or whatever. But it is a mistake to confuse learning specific techniques - such as the scripted protocol for escaping the belay - for fundamental knowledge that will enable one to respond to getting stuck (for example, what if you've left that specific cord you were carrying for escaping the belay at your last station as part of the anchor or it got chewed by a snaffle - in such a case you can't follow the script). It is also a mistake to assume that a checklist or protocol will keep you safe. Remembering what the acronym SRENE stands for is a lot less helpful than simply being able to evaluate a cam placement.

 

I've had more than one friend "graduate" from a club climbing course only to have to be "deprogrammed" by their peers so we could actually go climbing with them without carrying the ten essentials on a 3-pitch rock climb or enjoy a romp up the West Ridge of North Twin without turning it into a grade V or so that, heaven forbid, we could ski the Sulfide Glacier without roping up. My general impression is that those who have learned in a more unstructured manner (that may or may not have involved a lot of serious "trial and error") are likely to be weaker in some of the specific technical skills but more comfortable with relying on their own judgment and understanding that there is more than one formula for a safe belay anchor.

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Hijacking your post here: the problem with the M group is the "regardless of context" issue. The ratio of common sense (or situational awareness) vs. rote rule-following is very one-sided. In my experience it often crossed the line into silliness. More than once I got the feeling that the hectoring being dished out came more from an inept inability to see the facts of a condition rather than the stated commitment to Safety.

 

The silliness is definitely crossed many times a day in the M's. The catch 22 of it all is that more experienced climbers that are well versed in this stuff don't want to participate in an organized group (save but the few uber-experienced that spend most of their time organizing the events). Since it is all volunteer-run, you get people with 1 or 2 years "experience" teaching the clueless.

 

Who's responsible for getting more experienced climbers to teach the courses? I would argue the community of climbers. There are thousands of climbers in Washington that would likely have never gotten into the mountains/on the rock were it not for these groups. Don't they carry a responsibility to go back and teach in the Mountaineers or BoAlps?

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When I teach some one to climb I try and stress two things. First, I am showing them a safe way to climb, but for most everything they learn there is another safe way. For example, I tie in with a rewoven figure eight, but there are other safe ways to tie in.

 

Second, I stress situational awareness. If you are on flat ground at the base of a climb, you don't need a SERENE anchor - a sling looped around a stout boulder is just fine; because the worst that can happen is the belayer is dragged around a bit if the leader falls. If you are 800 feet up building an anchor with the hardest moves of the climb coming up, you do want a stout redundant anchor.

 

There are always safety trade offs. You can build SERENE anchors all the way up a climb and then end up rappelling in the dark.

 

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For what it's worth, I think the best climbers are ones who are open-minded and get their learning from a wide variety of sources. They read books, they look at websites like cc.com and Rockclimbing.com, they might have taken courses, and they climb with a wide variety of partners with different backgrounds and experience levels. Most important they are humble and never think they know it all.

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How do you approach complete strangers about safety issues without being the-dick-who-knows-everything?

 

Approach them in a way that doesnt make them feel belittled. Explain how what they are doing makes sense but its not the safest way to go about the situation. Then explain to them the safer way. Just make damn sure you know a safer way.

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