2019 Rock Program Frequently Asked Questions

1. I’ve been climbing at the rock gym for the last two months, so I already know how to belay. Can I bypass the belay instruction and get right into the climbing?
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.   Top

2. Can I pre-register or otherwise guarantee that I get a spot?
No. The Rock Program is very popular and always fills up. Since we are all volunteers, we can only handle so many students. Please see the Application Page for more details.   Top

3. What if I sign up but I can't make it?
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 below.)   Top

4. What if I've already paid but want to cancel?
Refund policy: Requests for refunds must be to the Program Director at rock@amcbostonclimbers.com at least seven 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.   Top

5. Do I need to attend every weekend? What if I can’t make one or more weekends?
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), we may be able to accomodate you by having you learn the material on a different program weekend. Please contact the Program Director as soon as you can to make arrangements.   Top

6. What time do the weekend classes start and end?
The program weekends start at 8:15 AM and end around 4:30 PM. The formal instruction will run until 1-2 PM, depending upon the weekend, instructor, and group. After that, we will set up topropes to provide opportunities to practice climbing, techniques, and skills, as well as work on program requirements. (There are some requirements such as climbing and belaying that you will need to do outside the formal instructional period.) If the weather is uncooperative, the toproping practice may be cut a little short.   Top

7. If it is raining, snowing, or very cold, do you still teach the course?
Yes. Assume that the course will occur each weekend regardless of weather. We have only canceled a program weekend a few times over the last forty years.   Top

8. What do I need to wear/bring on the program weekends?
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.   Top

9. I don't have a vehicle; do you have car pooling or is public transportation available?
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.   Top

10. I want to buy rock shoes. Any advice?
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.   Top

11. Why do I need two locking carabiners?
On a trad climb, you will need one locking carabiner for belaying or rappelling, and another one for anchoring yourself at the top of the cliff.

If you need to buy carabiners, we suggest getting screwgate (not auto-locking) locking carabiners. One carabiner should be a larger HMS or pear-shaped carabiner, as it is easier to get the rope in and out of them and they are better suited for working with clove hitches and Munter hitches. The other carabiner can be regular-sized.

Some examples of large HMS or pear-shaped locking carabiners include the Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate, Petzl William Screw-Lock, Trango Regulock HMS Screwlock, etc.

Examples of regular-size locking carabiners include the Black diamond Positron Screwgate, Petzl Attache, Petzl Spirit Screw-Lock, Trango React Screwlock, etc.   Top

12. How can I prepare for the program?
Consider spending some time at a local rock gym, passing their belay test, and becoming a stronger climber.   Top

13. I want to learn to lead. How should I go about it?
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 (such as IME) or independent guides 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.   Top

14. How can I get someone to take me trad climbing after the program?
The most important thing is being a solid belayer and a strong climber (at least 5.9 in the gym.) If you slow a party down, they won't invite you next time! Also, get to know as many instructors and assistants as you can during the program - many of us are happy to take new climbers to the cliffs.   Top

15. I want to learn to climb outdoors. Are the rock gyms a help or a hindrance?
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.   Top

This stupid FAQ did not answer my question!
Email rock@amcbostonclimbers.com with your questions.