Last year, I took the BCEP class with the Mazamas – Basic Climbing Education Program. It was interesting; a great chance to review my well-trained skills, practice some that I hadn’t used in ages, and get to meet some new climbing and outdoors people. It was fun, and ticked all the boxes that I had hoped that it would.
My faith in the outdoors community reinvigorated, I quickly and happily volunteered to help teach BCEP this year. I was expecting to assist with the same group that I’d taken the class with the previous year, since leaders tend to continue teaching year over year, so I was a bit surprised when I was placed with a different group… but it turns out, this new group was just starting out – the first year the leader had led a BCEP team on their own.
The chance to help out with a new group, and to help build a similar culture of excitement and optimism for the outdoors? All while getting to show people the unbridled joy of rock climbing? Of seeing new views off the side of a mountain?
Well. Sign me right the heck up.
My next event for BCEP 2023 was a training hike, combined with a chance to practice some of the skills that the students had first learned in the MMC. I’d volunteered to lead it, since good form for belaying and rappelling is quite near and dear to me… but that meant scouting the terrain first, and locking down a location to review the skills. A “leader’s recon”, if you’ll forgive the ROTC parlance that’s still somehow engrained in my brain…
(Ed Note: No, Ben never was a cadet in ROTC. Yet somehow he found a way to take a few of their leadership classes, which wormed their way into his long-term memory)
The goal was simple: Jess and I would hike Coyote Wall, at Catherine Creek, and track down a good spot to set up a few anchors to belay / rappel off.
The execution was… less simple.
Turns out – Catherine Creek doesn’t have a lot of viable cliffs. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a LOT of cliffs at Catherine Creek! But here’s the thing… none of them had any particularly good anchor points, or approaches, or… really any of the things that I was looking for in a training area. They all looked great from a distance, but I quickly lost faith in them as we approached closer in.
On top of that, the “standard” BCEP route was blocked off by a sign.
“But Ben, you walk past signs all the time! Why would you care about this one?”
“Well, Other-Ben, this sign said ‘NO TRESSPASSING’ and was pockmarked with bullet holes”
“Good choice on not walking past that sign, Ben”
With the standard route blockaded and no grand areas to be found, I settled on the best that I could – a nice meadow on a 15 Degree slope, with a few good trees that we could anchor off of. It wasn’t the best, but it was what we had. And that’s what we use, in the wilderness – not what we want to have, but what we actually have.
I figured it’d be a good lesson, you know?
And hey – I got to hike with Jess! And we got to see some amazing sunset views, alongside glorious Gorge vistas! I’ll take it as a win, all day any day.