One of the most fun times we had in 1987 was the weekend that Yosemite 1 came down to share our camp in Tuolumne Meadows. Diane and Roxanne had pooled some money together from each crews’ rec fund to go to a basic rock climbing class with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Yo1 arrived at our camp on Friday night. Early Saturday we headed over to the school. The instructor took us over to Pothole Dome. The best classroom in the world I’ve ever had was sitting on the warm granite of a dome in Tuolumne.
The instructor addressed the class about climbing in general. Then he talked about basic ropes safety, and then he went over all of the equipment we would be using on our climb. Last, he covered the couple of basic climbing knots we would need to know to secure ourselves in our harness. Then we broke up into pairs and practiced putting on our swami belts, clipping into the carabiners, and tying our basic knots. The instructor came around and double checked everybody’s set-up. When he was satisfied that everybody was on the same page, we went over to a precipice on the dome and started climbing! Woo-HOO!
Actually, it wasn’t that simple. The instructor showed us again how to clip a ‘biner onto a swami belt, then picked a helper from the class and went over belaying and signals to be used between belayer and climber. (“Belay on!”) The most important part of climbing is learning to trust your gear and your climbing partners. For instance, when rappelling, after you are clipped onto the rope and start to lower yourself over the face of the rock you are going down, your natural instinct is to cling tight to the rock. You need to overcome that natural instinct to rappel. You need to place your feet firmly against the rock and lean back, away from the rock and trust this little nylon wrap around your groin…and the little metal clip connecting you to the rope…and the rope…and the person with the other end of the rope around their waist…to support your weight and keep you from plunging down the cliff to your death. Fun stuff! When you trust your gear and your partner and lean back from the rock, your feet are pressed firmly onto the rock face. It feels totally safe, but you never know that until you trust and lean back.
Everybody had a chance to climb up the face, rappel back down, and belay at least one other person. By the end of the day, everybody had gained a confidence on steep rocks that we had not had that morning. Some of us were going to have a chance to put this stuff to use sooner than we thought!