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Reach new heights with the LA Mountaineers

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By Kirsten Laskey

Sometimes it feels safer to stay on solid, flat ground. When seeing a rock climber such as in the imax film, “To The Limit,” get down for the night in what looks like the flimsiest, smallest tent perched on a tremendous and towering mountainside, you feel a sort of gratitude for the solid ground.

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But what if you could successfully take yourself to the limit? What if you could see the world from thousands of feet up on a mountain or feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering a mountain?

The Los Alamos Mountaineers’ climbing school will show you how to do just that.

The school kicks off with a lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the United Church of Los Alamos.

The school will continue lectures from 6:30-9 p.m. March 30, April 6, 13 and 20.

Students will put these lectures into action during an indoor practice session from 6:30-                     9 p.m. March 31 at the YMCA. Additionally, there will be outdoor practice sessions from                                                                      9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 3, 10,17 and 24 at various locations around White Rock and the Jemez Mountains.

The sessions will be held either May 1 or 2 at Tres Piedras.

Zack Baker, the director of the school this year, explained the classes will cover everything from basic to fairly advanced material.

According to a press release, the Los Alamos Mountaineers Climbing School is a way to learn about technical rock climbing and mountaineering.

The school is open to beginning climbers with no climbing experience, new climbers who want to gain experience, climbers who need outdoor experience and instruction and anyone wanting a chance to tap into the expertise of some of the area’s most experienced climbers.

The goal, Baker said, is to introduce climbing school students to climbing and have them be able to go outside, pitch a top rope, which is the safest form of climbing, set a goal and achieve it.

Additionally, they should be able to do all of this without any chance of falling or hurting themselves, he said.

The main thrust of the class is to give students  safety awareness and technical framework needed to begin the long process of learning this complex and difficult sport.

The class will start with the basics of knots and ropes, and go into what is needed to know to climb and belay safely.

A broad range of topics will be covered including setting top ropes, using rock-climbing gear properly, knowing safety issues, ascending and descending fixed ropes and climbing multi-pitch routes.

Learning this in the Los Alamos and White Rock area is a real advantage.

Baker said, “White Rock is just fabulous … it has very interesting pockets and cracks. It makes it a fun climbing experience. (Plus) people tend to bring a scientific approach to climbing that you don’t get other places.”

Baker encouraged people to participate in the class because climbing is “one of the big activities you can do in Los Alamos and New Mexico and it’s a great way to meet new people,” he said.

Baker commented that a fair number of couples have met during the school and subsequently gotten married, so it’s a great program for single men and women.  

Lynn Ensslin, a past participant of the climbing school, can attest to the climbing school’s match- making talents. She met her husband during the program in 1983.

“I learned how to climb, and I met my husband, which was fabulous,” she said. “It was good not only to learn climbing, but also different techniques. One of  the things we covered in school was how to hike on snow and glaciers safely.”

Years later, Ensslin said they still utilize the lessons provided through the climbing school. “We still climb a lot and we definitely use all the techniques to climb safely.”

She invites others to learn these techniques themselves, “if they like outdoor activities then I think it is  a really good thing to do. Even if you don’t climb again, you gain self-confidence and camaraderie with other class participants.”

The class costs $185 and the Los Alamos Mountaineers will provide most of the equipment needed.

For more information or to register, visit the Mountaineers’ Web site, www.lamountaineers.org.