Learn, Practice, Teach, Repeat
Life is all about learning. And sometimes re-learning things you thought you knew. And sometimes the best way to learn more is to teach others.
Moving my blog to a website in the past few weeks has definitely involved a lot of re-learning what I thought I understood, but it’s been exciting as well. Each time I solve a problem or figure something out, it feels like a victory. It is by no means a complete project, it doesn’t look like I want it to, and I’m still figuring out what else I want to do with it, but it’s given me something fun to focus on.
Learning outdoor skills, in climbing and mountaineering, is the same. I learn things, try to practice, and then it seems, each spring, I have to re-learn things I haven’t done since last summer. One of the best ways to do that has been to volunteer at my outdoor club, The Chemeketans, climb school.
Climb school is held each April, one day for rock in Horsethief Butte on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and snow day is held at Mt. Hood. In addition, Friday was reserved to practice trad placements and anchor building. There’s something really cool (and scary) about rappelling off an anchor you built. And every year, I need to review all the steps in setting up a rappel. On Saturday, I was in charge of helping to set up a low traverse fixed line, where the climb school participants would learn to clip through pieces of gear. The line is low to the ground and safe, but would mimic what people might do high on a mountain. I got to place all of the pieces of gear, and about 50% of those ended up being good while the other 50% had to be changed. But it’s a learning process.
Guiding small groups through the low traverse all morning was truly fun, and it felt great to see people getting it, and also thanking us for teaching them. The afternoon was spent belaying on our top ropes. Some participants had climbed before, while there were a few who were doing it their very first time, including a woman in her 50’s. Some loved it, others realized it wasn’t for them, which is one of the best things about climb school. Either way, people are challenging themselves, getting out of their comfort zone, building connections, and learning.
The next day, while participants practiced snow skills, I did a training hike with friends up to the top of the Palmer Ski Lift at Hood, the closest to the top I have ever been. It made a Hood summit seem like a real possibility. We also practiced our self-arrest skills back near the bottom, since it had been two years since I learned how to do it. And practicing things makes me feel more confident and capable for the next climb.
Even if you just learned something, sometimes that is the best time to teach and inspire others. You get back far more than you give.