Ground School

January 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

Day 2 of KCC was productive and pleasant with beautiful sunny weather all day. Late this afternoon it began to cloud up a bit and get breezy but we had a really nice day.

Instructors spent the day with students working on some real basics like putting on harnesses correctly, helmet use, packing packs, reviewing first aid supplies, and other very basic skills. By afternoon, the groups were on the steep, tree-covered hillside simulating climbing and belaying, a technique for holding the rope safely with minimal equipment to protect the climber in case of a fall. It is actually somewhat challenging to teach the skill on a hillside as the climbers can “climb” so fast that it’s hard for a new belayer to keep up. However, risk due to incorrect technique is non-existent and the hillside is handy so it’s a great location to teach. Along with the belaying, students learn to tie correctly into the rope as well as various other knots.

Instructors also began introducing rappelling, the technique of descending steep or vertical terrain using a rope. That, too, is more challenging to teach on a hillside rather than a vertical slope but again the risk is minimal.

There is one potential hazard on the hillside, though. A few years ago when we had a lot of students “climbing”, belaying, and rappelling on the hillside with ropes strung all over, several yaks above the slope seemed to panic on their way home for the night and bolted directly downward, angling through the trees, crossing through all the ropes. Fortunately, one of our instructors was quick-minded enough to yell, “all ropes on the ground!” so that no ropes were caught by yak horns which could have resulted in quite the wild ride for anyone on other end.

Tonight we begin our evening program series. We offer about 5 different evening programs ranging from what we call The Mountain Environment (geology, natural hazards, etc.), avalanche awareness, Leave No Trace/Stewardship, basic rescue scenarios and helicopter protocol (helicopters are quite common here). This year we’ll also offer an discussion or forum regarding the April Everest avalanche and tragedy. One of our western instructors was involved in the rescues in April and several of our Nepali instructors were both “near misses” and also integral in the body retrievals. We plan that evening to be more of an open forum rather than simply a presentation. Western’s own Dr. Rob Thomas as well as Krishna Gopal Shrestha will lead off for us tonight. Each program runs for 2 consecutive nights and half of the students attend each night.

Tomorrow, we’ll all do the 1-hour hike to the School Room, the area with a high concentration of ice climbs, for the second puja ceremony. After that, we’ll start climbing! All of us are excited for that.

All the best,


Ground School