Between late April and early May most of my spare time has been focused on leading a group of 10 students through the Mazamas Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP). It has been 10 days since our final lecture and since then I have been digesting the events of this endeavor. Leading a BCEP group was a very positive thing for me last year. It was such a great experience that in the back of my mind I was wondering if this year would live up to the previous year. I am pleased to report that this was indeed the case.
One of the assistant instructors suggested that we have a team nickname. I thought that was a brilliant idea. After tossing around a variety of ideas our team selected the "Glissade Brigade".
BCEP is an intense and time demanding experience. In a period of seven weeks there are six lectures, six conditioning hikes, an Introduction to Rock Climbing, a snow climbing field session and a rock climbing field session. In addition the Glissade Brigade spent an evening learning knots, another practicing navigation at Portland's Mount Tabor Park, and spent one evening hanging out at the rock gym. We had three weekends where there was a BCEP activity both Saturday and Sunday. I must have packed my backpack countless times.
Basically I followed the same format from the previous year. The biggest change was that we had the Introduction to Rock Climbing at the brand new instructional climbing wall at the Mazamas Mountaineering Center. Our snow climbing field session took place early in the class in the White River Canyon. We could not practice at Timberline as in past years due to avalanche conditions, but we made the best of the situation.
The bulk of the time is spent on conditioning hikes. The aim of these hikes is not just to get into shape for scaling the heights of the mountain peaks but to practice skills related to alpine climbing. As much as possible we would pull out our maps and compass to practice navigation skills. For one hike I put in a fixed line so everyone could practice using their prusik friction knot. We even worked in a rappel on this hike. While hiking the Glissade Brigade learned how to measure snow slopes to appraise avalanche conditions, adjust their gear for the demanding weather, and make decisions on when to continue hiking or turn back. We even followed the Easter Bunny up Dog Mountain!
Speaking of weather, the Glissade Brigade weathered the elements in good fashion. Our first conditioning hike started out with strong rain. We had two weekends where we saw radical shifts in the weather. For our Snow Field Session it was overcast, snowy and windy only to be followed by a beautiful blue sky hiking up the Palmer snow field the next day. Another weekend we had a gorgeous day climbing on rock at Horsethief Butte followed by overcast skies and light rain on Dog and Augsperger Mountains.
Just like last year, I was blessed with a stellar group of assistant instructors. They gave me new ideas that improved the program. It was very rewarding to me to have four of the graduates from last year's BCEP group join me. They provided valuable insights of their experience last year, which was helpful to me. It was also a joy to watch them step up and apply the skills that they learned last year. I also had some experienced assistants that added so much to the program that we offered.
I am very grateful to the assistants and students (now graduates) of the Glissade Brigade. I appreciated the laughs, fellowship, and experiences that we shared. I am thankful for all that we accomplished together. Climb on!