Monday, July 21, 2008

Outdoor Climbing 101

Eric and I have crossed over! We ventured into the wild, and took an outdoor climbing class at the famous Cragmont park in Berkeley, CA. We usually climb indoors, at the Great Western Power Company in Oakland, but we've been bitten by the climbing bug and wanted to try our hands (and feet) on real rock. Our instructor Dave, who works at Iron Works in Berkeley, was also an encyclopedia of climbing skills & history.

Dave met us at Cragmont in Berkeley, which has it's own impressive past. In the 1930s, a few men created the Cragmont Climbing Club there, and practiced new ways of belaying and rappelling. Cragmont is one of the birthplaces of many techniques we still use today. Many of those who trained at Cragmont back then went on to become pioneers of climbing at Yosemite, largely regarded as the birthplace of modern climbing.

Me near the top of Beginners' Crack (5.6)

First, we started on the top of beginners crack, which is a nice 5.6 with only a few challenges. Dave taught us first how to anchor, tie certain knots, and rappel. Along with tying a bunch of figure eights, Dave taught us the water knot, double overhand, and the clove hitch. We learned how to choose an anchoring system, and how to attach runners and 'biners together. Dave had an impressive collection of gear he has found at different routes, or "booty" as he calls it.

Next we learned to rappel using the carabiner brake method, with and without a prusik. I was a little nervous the first time I rappelled, but I found it to be easier than I expected. There were a few physical challenges when climbing up, such as finding the hidden hold, and walking up the face at the top, but it was exciting and rewarding to actually be on rock. We each climbed it twice.

Eric lets a prussik grab the brake rope and halt his rappel

The second Climb we tried was a 5.7 called Cragmont Undercling. Eric made it to the top of this one, but I couldn't last on the under hang. It was challenging to find a good foothold near the top, because there seem to be none. Just a horizontal crack you need to traverse, which is tricky. Finally, the last climb was a 5.9 variation of the undercling. Eric slipped near the top of this route, and I decided to not attempt something way above my limit. Eric at first described it as "clinging, I did lots of clinging", but then stated it felt like he was "clinging to tiny holds and trying like hell to generate some friction with my feet."

Me sticking a challenging move on Cragmont Undercling (5.7)
YouTube: High - Low

Climbing these routes was challenging and fun! Whether or not you decide to take a class, I recommend reading Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, or Climbing Anchors 2nd Edition, if you are planning to climb outdoors at all. These books helped us immensely, and got us excited about climbing on real rock. We can't wait to go out again to try our next route. Lover's Leap, here we come!

1 comment:

nareg said...

Yay rock climbing!


Adventure Blogging!! ;D