I’ve just spent the past four days with the team from the Australian School of Mountaineering, ASM, learning more about rock-climbing and advancing my rope handling skills.
This was done in the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, a place where I am finding myself with increasing frequency of late, and not surprisingly as there is plenty of opportunity to hone my abseiling and climbing skills on the abundance of cliff faces in the region.
And what better place to do it than one of the world’s great mountain heritage areas.
Whilst my ultimate goal is high-altitude climbing, there are basic skills that can’t be practiced enough, much like military drilling, to ensure that the skills are second nature and can be performed under extreme conditions. I have been placing a lot of focus on rescue skills, after all, it is good fun until something goes wrong, and whilst there is always a chance of that how you respond will have a great bearing on the outcome…
That isn’t to say it shouldn’t be fun, and when I embarked on this journey I made a promise to myself that if I stopped having fun it is game over and time to do something else…
And we did have a lot of fun, and Shane, who instructed me on my advanced abseiling and rope rescue course, laughed as we welcomed each other and asked whether I can tie my shoelaces yet? Sadly, I had to tell him I couldn’t, but I had mastered quite a few other knots.
There were three other people on the first two days of the course as it has various stages that can be done separately, and with some time due off from work, I decided to spend four days in the mountains to cover as much as possible.
Our climbing was done in the spectacular Mt York area, not too far from the small township of Mt Victoria, against a very scenery backdrop.
The course began in the headquarters of ASM located in Katoomba covering important aspects such as safe movement on and around the cliffs.
On the first day we undertook a series of small climbs at Mt York, in near freezing conditions. These climbs left me wondering what they call larger climbs!
It was great to be on the rock-face, improving skills under the guidance of our very experienced instructors, and there were even some moments where I happily found myself outside my comfort zone!
Our second day was spent entirely on the rock-face, climbing and learning, and we managed around five climbs of varying degrees of difficulty.
It was nice to have the weekend pass knowing that I still had another two days in the mountains learning and climbing. I did this with Nathan, another ASM instructor who was covering important areas like route selection, hazard assessment, and protection systems. We did some revision work on rescues using Z-drags, and abseiling an injured climber in tandem. I hope the need never arises, but it is important to be proficient just in case either is called upon as a rescue tool.
We were greeted with fantastic weather for the final day which was spent setting up climbs, climbing, and moving on to another climb.
It was quite an exhilarating weekend of climbing, learning new skills, getting outside the comfort zone and just having fun out and about. I can’t wait to get back out there for another crawl up the wall.
As for Dope on a Rope, let’s just say I’ve improved greatly!!