After the Navigation class, Bill and I stopped at a Starbucks to get some coffee and warm up. Turns out the Starbucks was a walk up and a drive through only, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen a Starbucks like that! Luckily, there was a Taco Time just behind it. Omg, I hadn’t had Taco Time since I was in high school and I used to get the TatorTot Nachos, or whatever they were called. I ordered this super yummy taco bowl (a taco without the shell) and a diet coke, and Bill ordered the “meal”. I, of course, leaned over and popped a few tator tots in. They were soo good. Our friend Doug joined us, and we talked about work and how this course is changing us – mentally to apply principles of being prepared, work our way out of hardships, and to be strong.
When we finished, we walked over to Starbucks and ordered a skinny latte to warm up our hands. Doug has a titanium plate in his arm, so his hands get cold like mine. He pulled his gloves off and his skin was the same yellowy white color. Bill’s hands are apparently, impervious to the cold. We headed towards Camp Long. We drove down 35th Street, and there was a small sign with an arrow pointing down, and we almost missed it. Past the turnoff, we had to go down another street to turn around, and found parking. We headed into the park, and I was enamoured by the dark wood and rustic looking setting. It reminded me of old school Yellowstone Park. We walked around the building, and the grass was lush and the trees full. There was a small hill that led into a large clearing. We crossed the clearing, and found several little bunk rooms that you can rent out for the night. I’d never seen anything like that either.
Under a large tree, we unpacked our gear. I put on my harness, appropriate chest harness (webbing that forms a U, turn it once so it makes an 8 and stick your arms through the holes, and then secure it with a carabiner), and made sure the I had an ATC (which is a device that lets you rappel and belay by slipping rope through it). I also had my foot and seat prusiks, which is rope that is devised to create a ladder of sorts and one would use it to get out of a crevasse.
Our first ‘clinic’ was the prusik climb. We walked to the other end of Camp Long and found six huge telephone poles without the wires. They had roped it up (a long rope went through a pulley at the top of the pole). We had to show the leader we could tie a bolin knot (for those in the middle of a roped group) as well as a double figure eight (for a person at the end/beginning of a roped group). Then we moved into prusiking. First, we adhered our prusiks to the main rope with a knot called a Gaiting Knot. I used to do this knot when I worked at the Dude Ranch. The chest prusik (red rope in picture) was attached higher than the foot prusik (blue rope in picture). I lifted my foot and placed it in the hole of the foot prusik and stepped down. Then, I placed my other foot in the foot prusik hole and stepped down. Next I had to push the Seat Prusik up (by the gait knot) up as high as it would go, and then I had to push the foot prusik up (by the gait knot) up as high as it would go. From there, I sat down and extended my legs out straight in front of me. I repeated the whole deal of pushing up the prusiks by their respective knots and soon I was hovering above the ground.
To move up, I had to go from sitting to standing, which was not easy. I pulled my legs up as close as I could to my chest, then I’d pull up the foot prusik by its knot. I’d stand and then pull up the seat prusik by its knot. It was a lot of straining to move up the rope, and I wondered if, after a traumatic experience of falling in a crevasse if I will have the mental acuity to prusik outta there. Wow. I better pay attention.
A leader signed our name off the checklist and we moved on to the next station, which was rapelling! There were two ropes that went down a practice rappelling hill in three different slopes. The first one was a moderate grade, the second one a steeper one, and the third one almost vertical. I roped in by pinching the rope (folding a portion in two), pulling it through the ATV (see picture <–) and snapping it into my harness with a carabiner. The directions from Todd, one of the leaders, was to stand at the edge of the hill. He showed me how to use my right hand as the “brake” and by pulling it against the ATV, I could stop the flow of the rope. The other hand was meant to be used as a free hand, and I had watched someone earlier and they let it rest on the rope in front of them as they went down.
Next, his directions were to stand at the edge of a hill and lean back. What? Um. Trust the rope he said. Nice. Place your body in a sitting position, with your butt out and lean back. (That’s a yoga position I thought, and I’m dang lucky I do that!) So I did, and I had my “brake” on, and slowly I walked down the hill. Whahoo!!! That was fun, until I looked down the second grade and saw it was steeper.
“Same thing! Place your feet wider, and sit down. Walk down slowly.”
My mind was freaking out, and so I just listened to what he said. Slowly I inched my way down and my brake was firmly applied. I could feel it in my shoulder and triceps were both straining to hold the “brake”. Muscles I don’t use very much were being counted upon to keep me from falling. I’m sure that when I do this with Crampons and Ice, it will be a VERY different experience. I successfully completed the second grade, and then I looked at the third.
Holy S***. It was steep!
“You’re doing good Heather! I’m going to be your brake, behind you, so you’ll be safe. Same thing! Place your feet wider, and sit down. Walk down slowly.”
It was difficult to trust just “falling” and trusting that the rope will hold. I had to make myself perpendicular to a 45 degree ascent, and started climbing down. “Lean back further!” So, I did, and passed the angle of perpendicular and fell against the rock. Holy F***. I didn’t panic because the rope was really holding me up. It was going to be all that much easier. I found a way to right myself again, and was climbing down again. Wahoo!! That was fun. One of the leaders marked my name off this list. 2 down, 1 to go.
We went to our third “clinic” which was Belaying. This was the process of helping someone up a crevasse or hill using the ATV and not climbing up with the prusiks. Basically, a person at the top of the hill or crevasse would use the ATV with a single pinch, and clip the rope into the harness using a carabiner. I would be partnered up with Doug for the Belay.
“Are You Okay?” asked Doug. “I’m Okay!” I replied simulating the scenario where I had fallen into a crevasse.
“On Belay?” (Me) says the individual in the crevasse/down the hill.
“Belay On!” (Doug) says the individual with the ATV who is helping to pull you up.
“Climbing!” (Me) says the individual who is working herself up the hill.
Another leader signed our names off this list. We unhooked ourselves from the rope. In a group, there were a few of us talking, and we were amazed at how easily we could trust the ropes. For the class, game on! However, I have a guarded response when it comes down to using these features for real on Mt Rainer when a traumatic incident will severely curtail any mental focus. It will be a very very very different experience if it happens on Mt. Rainer. I also talked to one of the founders of the group, who has a lot of experience and told him about my hearing loss. I was worried, that in a case like this, what I would do if I couldn’t hear. The response was to check it out when we went up Mt. Baker, which would be like a “practice” Rainer. He said that there were lots of times when he couldn’t hear. Probably the best I can do for myself is just be as prepared as possible. Really. I can already tell you that I’m not going to be able to hear very well especially with the wind and other elements. So, I’m going to research some more on the web, I’m sure there’s got to be someone out there who did this and posted something. It’s the internet age we live in you know :).
I went to practice the Rappelling once more, because it was much more fun because I wasn’t scared this time, and I could actually enjoy the ride down! By the end of the class, I was very much excited about climbing Mt. Rainer and ready to go with or without Bill (I do hope he can go!!). I learned a new word though, from Nadene, about the idea of Interdependence. This word is that which I always called the “Gray Area” of two people who work together. For me, I am interdependent upon Bill to study with, practice ropes, and to work together through the class. I’d like, very much, for him to participate with me in learning, conditioning, and social activities. It’s a good thing, Interdependence, and it’s what you do in relationships whether you are climbing, conditioning, flying together (wing man), a firefighter, or participating in the buddy system. In a relationship, interdependence is a fine dance between dependence and Independence, and I’m in the midst of a tango.