Anchors II Course with Jeremy & Shannon
Summer was teetering on the brink of Autumn last weekend, with temperatures nippy and heavy fog draping the cliffs when we hit the trail at 8 AM. I was barely comfortable in shorts and a down sweater, but the stiff hike up the CCC trail solved that problem pretty quickly. The crisp air smelled like September, the beginning of my favorite climbing season at Devils Lake.
Shannon & Jeremy had taken a beginning anchors course earlier this year, so they already had some skills/knowledge in their minds surrounding anchor building. One of my favorite processes in teaching is figuring out what students already know; the best way to do this, typically, is to start with performance. So we started out with building anchors right away, which helped me understand what these two already knew. And they knew a lot! S & J had thoroughly studied John Long's Climbing Anchors, and often reference the book when asked questions or explaining why they made a technical decision. Having students show up with this sort of frame of reference is an instructor's dream, and it rapidly accelerated our learning curve.
Jeremy and Shannon only had webbing, cordelette, and nuts in their rack, and their goal was to learn to build anchors using only those tools. I happily accepted the challenge, and I think I made it through the entire day without mentioning a cam. But try as I might, it could not leave hexes out of the discussion, as we kept running into SO MANY great hex placements. When Shannon starting borrowing my hexes by mid-day, I knew the goal would not last, but I don't feel too badly... hexes are pretty inexpensive, and a great substitute for an $500 - $1000 cam set investment.
The morning fog and chill made for a quiet morning, but the sun eventually emerged and climbers started to show up. We moved over to D'Arcy's for a while, and then The Guillotine, building new anchor sets and discussing various placement and anchoring strategies as we went. I was psyched by how tenacious these two were as learners, explaining their thoughts readily and accepting critique just as well. By day's end, both Shannon and Jeremy were showing good understandings of core placement and system equalization principles, and I felt great about them coming out to practice on their own. Looking forward to hearing how their progress evolves, and hopefully to another, more advanced course with them down the road.