Q1: Do I need to attend every weekend? What if I can’t make one or more weekends?
A: Both days (Saturday AND Sunday) of Belay & Anchors weekend are required. The skills taught in the first weekend form the foundation of our program, and we build upon them in subsequent weekends. You may choose which day (Saturday OR Sunday) of the other weekends to attend.
If you cannot attend one of the other weekends (Rappel, Ascend, or Graduation), you can make up one (and only one!) weekend on Optional weekend (Saturday only.)
NOTE: If you miss Ascend weekend, you will also be required to attend Graduation weekend on a day of our choosing. This is because you must "catch the bucket" in order to graduate from the program, and the equipment is only set up on one day of Graduation weekend.
Q2: What time do the weekend classes start and end?
A: The program weekends start at 8:15 AM and continue until all skills are covered, usually around 1-3 PM, but this will vary with the weekend, instructor, and group. However, plan on staying afterwards to climb! (There are also some requirements such as climbing and belaying that you will need to do outside the formal instructional period.) Weather permitting, we set up topropes to provide opportunities to practice climbing, techniques, and skills. This is optional, but we encourage students to participate. We usually climb until around 4:30 PM.
Q3: Do I need climbing gear such as a harness or helmet?
A: A (mountaineering) helmet and harness are required for the program weekends. If you do not own a helmet or harness, we will loan one (or both) to you at no cost beyond a refundable deposit. Other gear such as belay devices and carabiners are available for students' use during the program weekends.
Loaner helmets and harnesses must be returned on graduation weekend or at the Crow Hill event., If you want to participate in climbing events after the rock program, you will need to acquire your own. You can certainly wait until the end of the program to do so, and you'll have ample opportunities to talk to instructors, assistants, and other students about what gear to buy.
If you have your own harness, helmet, locking carabiners, or belay device, you should bring them!
Q4: Do I need climbing shoes?
A: It is not necessary to have climbing shoes to take the rock program. The emphasis of the program is on learning the safety systems for rock climbing,
Many students have done the rock program in sneakers or hiking boots. However, climbing shoes are nice to have so you'll have more fun climbing. We do have a bunch of old shoes that are available for students to use on the program weekends.
If you do have your own climbing shoes, you should bring them to the program weekends!
Q5: I’ve been climbing at the rock gym for the last 2 months, so I already know how to belay. Can I bypass the belay instruction and get right into the climbing?
A: Your understanding of how to belay in a gym is a great starting point — but the Rock Program emphasizes outdoor and ultimately traditional climbing which is significantly different than the tightly controlled indoor climbing gym experience. Learning about anchors, safely belaying from the top of a climb, and belaying a leader are all new experiences that the course covers in detail, so please plan on attending and perhaps learning some new skills.
Q6: If it is raining, snowing, or very cold, do you still teach the course?
A: Yes. Assume that the course will occur each weekend regardless of weather. We have only canceled a program weekend once or twice in the last forty years.
Q7: What do I need to wear/bring on the program weekends?
A: Considering that this is New England, the weather will be variable in the spring, so you should bring warm clothing including a parka for wind or rain. Warm footwear is also a great idea, as there will be a fair bit of standing around. You should pack a lunch and some snacks with something to drink. Warm drinks in a thermos is a great idea.
Q8: I don't have a vehicle; do you have car pooling or is public transportation available?
A: We will set up an email list and/or message board for students to organize carpools. It is possible to use public transit but it's not very convenient.
Q9: Is there any free time to climb or do you just teach the skills outlined in the program?
A: Typically the course material is covered by the early afternoon, and both the instructors and assistants tend to want to spend some time climbing afterwards. So, yes we do like to have some unstructured time after the coursework to allow students to enjoy the climbs local to the weekend course.
Q10: What if I've already paid but want to cancel?
A: Refund policy: Requests for refunds must be to the Program Director at email@example.com at least 7 days before the first program weekend (Belay & Anchors weekend.) No refunds will be granted after that. If you have some doubt up front about your ability to make all the course dates, consider taking the course next year instead; we have limited slots available and would like to keep the course open for those who can and want to be at every weekend. Of course, if there is an unforeseen circumstance that occurs, contact the Program Director to discuss what we can do to resolve the issue.
Q11: What is the minimum age to take the rock program?
A: You must be at least 18 years old to take the rock program by yourself. We will accept a 16 or 17 year old only if a parent or legal guardian is also taking the rock program and attending the same sessions and instructional groups with his/her child. (16 or 17 year old children of our volunteer assistants and instructors are also welcome to take the program under the same conditions.)
Q12: I want to buy rock shoes. Any advice?
A: The most important thing is fit. Too tight is as bad as too loose, and there are many different shapes of feet (and corresponding shoes). Keep looking for a good match, and ignore sales people who tell you it should hurt. Price will get you improved quality but not necessarily improved fit. Shoes come in several "kinds". Some shoes are made for wearing all day on longer climbs, others for five minute bursts in the gym or on local boulders.
Q13: I want to learn to lead. How should I go about it?
A: We do not teach leading in this course. Our focus is to teach the skills to safely second a multi-pitch trad climb. There are two common ways to learn leading:
1) Find a mentor (the best way) - someone with a climbing style that appeals to you. Many of the instructors in this course like to help new leaders.
2) Hire a guide - the local outfits (EMS, IME, etc.) will teach you for a healthy fee.
In any case, the essence of leading is being familiar enough with the climbing so that you don't encounter many surprises. And the key to that is just to climb as often as you can, wherever you can.
Q14: How do I get someone to take me to a big cliff?
A: The most important thing is being able to climb and belay quickly and surely. If you slow a party down, they won't invite you next time.
Q15: I want to learn to climb outdoors. Are the rock gyms a help or a hindrance?
A: A help - their main drawback is the expense, but they teach you a lot about climbing technique in a very short time. Note that climbing outdoors is different in many ways than climbing in a gym.
Q16: Can I pre-register?
Q17: How can I guarantee a spot?
A: You can't. The Rock Program is very popular and always fills up. Since we are all volunteers, we can only handle so many students. We are handling registration a little differently this year; please see the Registration Page for details.
Q18: How come you guys are such a pain about that?
A: We are all volunteers with very little free time.
Q19: How can I prepare for the program?
A: Consider spending some time at a local rock gym and passing their belay test.
Q20: What if I sign up but I can't make it?
A: We will be sad because we only accept people who are excited and show a passion for climbing. We do not give refunds after seven days before the Belay & Anchors weekend. (See our refund policy above.)
A: This year we are requiring all students to have a locking carabiner for anchoring yourself while at the top of the cliff (we will provide a sling to anchor with) and also for belaying. Probably most of you already have one already that you use for belaying which is fine. Note that if you are borrowing a harness from us, we will include one with the harness.
If you need to buy one, we suggest getting a screwgate (not an auto-locking) HMS or pear-shaped carabiner. A smaller locking carabiner is acceptable, but we'd recommend the larger HMS or pear-shaped carabiner as it is easier to get the rope in and out of and better suited for working with clove hitches and Munter hitches. Many manufacturers make HMS or pear-shaped screwgate carabiners. You can get a Black Diamond RockLock screwgate carabiner for $11 at EMS or REI.
Q: This stupid FAQ did not answer my question!
A: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.