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.
I love the snow.
I love the cold, I love the smell of snow, and I love the feeling of being an arctic explorer, forging through an unexplored world at the spearpoint of civilization.
I mean, okay. We were like 500ft from the parking lot here, but you know what? Thanks to the snow and the wind we could barely see the cars. So it counts, right?
This weekend was the Snow School portion of BCEP – taking the students out into the cold, and trying some of the skills that we’d been practicing out in the “real world”. It’s one thing to learn about rope travel while on a warm hike, but it’s something again to be post-holing through the snow, having to stop and freeze every 30ft to plant a picket.
We started off easy and fun – setting up a few practice stations, and moving the students through them one by one. I mostly just manned a rappel station, but I did take a few moments to escape and play photographer… and maybe have a snack and mug of cocoa or two as time allowed.
We went through the curriculum, did some “ascents” where we roped up and explored some nearby hills, and generally had a blast. Then, all too soon, the day was done and our coursework completed. We did a quick skills test for the students (which they all passed with flying colors, unsurprisingly) and then headed back to the parking lot, with the goal of moseying onward to the Mazama’s Lodge for an evening of food, revelry, and an early evening in preparation for a possible ascent up the Palmer Glacier in the morning…