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#64726 - 05/07/12 07:37 PM Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know.
whatthegunks Offline

Registered: 05/09/09
Posts: 134
Loc: High Falls, NY
The death of Stephanie Prezant is one of the saddest things I can imagine. It is one of a number of tragic events that have occurred in and around the climbing community this spring. I find myself wanting to contribute something positive, something useful to honor Stephanie and others that have died this spring and might somehow help to prevent maybe one accident, even just one life altering or ending incident.

Over the years various guides have offered free clinics during the course of the season and in conjunction with the Mohonk Preserve. There is also a tradition of free clinics on a variety of topics during the Film Fest. Unfortunately, the litigious nature of our society makes it problematic for the Preserve to directly offer clinics, but there is no reason why individual guides can't offer some free advice.

The idea is to provide an opportunity for climbers to get together with a certified guide on Saturday evenings to "learn what you don't know" for free. Spend an hour or two talking about some of the things critical to climbing more safely and debunking wrong headed ideas about what works or doesn't. Topics covered can range from the basics like knots and hitches to more advanced skills.

The goal here is not to take the place of full on professional instruction or other mentoring, rather to help a climber look at their skill set in a critical and objective manner and see the forest despite the trees, to get some reinforcement that they are on track, some tips that fill in some blanks or perhaps a wake up call to the fact that their skills need work.

It is my feeling that it is not just beginner climbers that are time bombs, but that a lot of intermediate climbers who have been at it awhile have significant gaps in their knowledge and are under the false impression that time equals competence, that because they've "always done it that way" and have not had problems means that they've got it down pat. This is just anecdotal but it appears that the preponderance of accidents happen with folks who are more than just beginners, who are starting to lead things, are pushing their limits and yet have not quite filled in gaps in their technique (apparently the climbers that Stephanie was with had some experience and had been at it for at least several years). Climbing is incredibly dangerous and to humbly appraise one's own skills critical.

I have talked with Hank and several other guides and we will have a flier up at Rock and Snow, EMS and The Preserve offering clinics on Saturday at 5pm in the Uberfall. Please contact, Rock and Snow, or EMS to get further details or to let us know that you will be coming out for a clinic. I'll be out on Saturday the 12th, hope to see you then for clinic or just to gab.

Cheers, Joe.

#64728 - 05/07/12 07:51 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: whatthegunks]
climbingbetty Offline

Registered: 06/05/06
Posts: 8
Loc: Stone Ridge, NY
I think this is a fantastic idea! On another thread about this tragic accident, it was suggested that the AMC-certification system be re-instituted. As I read through that thread my thought was along these lines. It's not that there is not access to qualified instruction at the Gunks- we have a top-notch cadre of guides from the various services. But for a college student like Stephanie, these services might not have been affordable (pure speculation on my part. I did not know her or her situation, but I know many college students have no objections to employing a guide, they simply do not have the money to do so.)
Requiring a certification to be obtained from a specific club would I fear restrict access to climbing to a select class of people with the funds to be able to do so. (I know a counter argument is that the fees to access the Preserve plus the cost of equipment to participate in the sport do nearly the same thing. But that's another reason why I feel like a required certification course would be too burdensome for many to pay for on top of these things.) With the current crowds at the cliff, some would probably argue that this a good thing. But this is hypocritical as we all had to be newbies at some point. Denying others the same experience we had is simply unfair.
These free clinics you're suggesting sound like an awesome compromise to help new climbers who are already making an significant investment in our sport, do so safely.

(And for those who still think restricted access for new climbers is a good thing... just remember simple market economics- if it weren't for all those newbies buying new gear each year, we'd all have to pay significantly more of our climbing equipment. And with less of a market for climbing gear, there would be less reason for gear companies to innovate. Think about the old days when there was only one type of hammer to buy. Now you can go to mountain gear and buy no less then 5 different times of hammers... and most climbers no longer use a hammer!)
"In the 60's sex was safe and climbing was dangerous. Now its the other way around." -Chuck Pratt

#64733 - 05/07/12 09:16 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: climbingbetty]
chip Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/06/01
Posts: 2674
Loc: Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
Hear, hear. Nicely done, Joe and any other guides who are also going to help out.

#64735 - 05/07/12 11:39 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: chip]
ianmanger Offline

Registered: 04/25/03
Posts: 319
Originally Posted By: chip
Hear, hear. Nicely done, Joe and any other guides who are also going to help out.

Ok, this is a great idea. I'd kick in some cash if someone has a way to manage it. R&S got a bucket?

#64738 - 05/08/12 12:49 AM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: whatthegunks]
gunks Offline

Registered: 10/26/01
Posts: 83
Loc: Rosendale, NY
Great idea, Joe. I'll see you at the Uberfall.

#64739 - 05/08/12 03:08 AM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: gunks]
rg@ofmc Offline

Registered: 12/25/99
Posts: 2454
Loc: Poughkeepsie, NY
A nice idea Joe. I would urge you to post about it on and There are a lot of Gunks climbers out there reading those sites who do not show up over here.

I'd also urge you to try to notify the various gyms about it. There a lots of gym climbers who could probably benefit from a discussion with a guide.

As an expert in these matters myself, even if not a guide, I'd be happy to offer my services as well if anyone thinks I could be of some use. I don't want to step on any toes, so I'll leave it at that.

As for certifying climbers, it was a disaster when the AMC tried it, culminating in a "unlimited" leader violating then-current NPS rules, taking an overlarge party on a climb and making just about every mistake in the textbook, resulting in a huge and very dangerous NPS rescue as well as the death by exposure of one of the party members.

In the Gunks, for a time the AMC used its virtual monopoly on "certifications" to dictate climbing styles and practices, invoking "ssfety" to extend its reach far beyond objective safety issues. The Preserve would be out of its mind to even contemplate such a thing, not to mention the nightmare involved in administering some form of restricted access.

Climbing is a more complex and varied activity than scuba diving, where such certifications are employed.

A far better idea would be a voluntary inducement: knock something off the price of day passes and/or annual membership fees for climbers who have taken some kind of "defensive climbing" course. (A potentially nice business for the guide services as well.)

But don't be too surprised if it turns out that the people involved in the recent tragedy had one or more such courses under their belts. Individual qualities matter too.

#64744 - 05/08/12 02:13 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: rg@ofmc]
whatthegunks Offline

Registered: 05/09/09
Posts: 134
Loc: High Falls, NY
Ok, RG. I will add this post to those forums. What gyms would you suggest that I contact? I have a flier that I made this morning, send me a note at and I'll send it to you for suggestions.

I could not agree more about some beauracratic system for climber evaluation; bad idea. Climbing is really dangerous and we must be personally responsible for deciding to participate whether we are expert or green horn.

That said, if we can head off an accident with a free clinic or solid mentoring then let's do it.

#64745 - 05/08/12 03:39 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: whatthegunks]
Julie Offline

Registered: 01/16/00
Posts: 2082
Loc: SoCal
Hi Joe,

This is a fantastic idea.

Please let me know if I could help in any way with future clinics -- I can't be there this weekend, but would gladly help in any way in future ones.

#64747 - 05/08/12 04:08 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: Julie]
TerrieM Offline

Registered: 05/14/09
Posts: 418
Loc: Gunks in Summer, Southwest in ...
Could you post an image(or link to image) of the flyer?

I'll post it to my ClimbAddict Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages, and suggest others who may blog or have other eMedia pages might also do so.

#64749 - 05/08/12 04:51 PM Re: Free Clinics; Learn what you don't know. [Re: TerrieM]
Coppertone Offline
old hand

Registered: 08/17/00
Posts: 1053
Loc: Newtown, CT
Gyms to contact would probably be
Cliffs in Valhalla NY
The Rock Club - new rochelle
Carabiners in Faifield CT
Inner Wall in New Paltz
Island Rock in Farmingdale NY
Chelsea Pier in Manhattan
Brooklyn boulders

I'm sure that there are number of other gyms that people would suggest getting in touch with

I'll see if I can get a list of links together and send them to you

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