Monday, 31 October 2011

One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back

Last week I got deferred on my ML (Mountain Leader) assessment; basically this means I'm not quite good enough to pass but not crap enough to fail. The way ML's are assessed can be quite compartmentalised with a number of key levels of competence you need to display before they let you loose on the world. This method of breaking the course down into a number of skill sets means if you fail to reach the standard in just one area you don't need to repeat the entire course.

I was actually deferred on my rope work, a delicious irony for someone who does lots of climbing and I'm sure an event which is going to provide plenty of amusement for my friends. Specifically I did not manage to set up a satisfactory belay to bring a nervous group member up an awkward step.

I'm pretty furious with myself; the deferral has thrown a major spanner in the works of my plans for the next few years. I had planned to attend winter ML training in February and the assessment the year after. That can't now happen as you need to be signed off on the summer ML before you can start the winter course. It's now extremely unlikely with consolidation periods and weather that I can get my rope work signed off before the end of this winter which knocks my whole schedule off by an entire year.

No ML Winter training for my in February

In looking for excuses there are none, I messed it up, knew I had messed it up and have nobody to blame but myself. The mistake I made was not really practicing the rope work till the last minute assuming that as a climber I should be able to do it in my sleep. I practiced what I thought I needed to; wandering around darkened moors until I could do night navigation in my sleep and hit the smallest terrain feature pretty much bang on every time. 

In they week before I got the rope out and had a quick check that I could do a tradition abseil but crucially did not go out and set up belays. In summer ML all you have to work with is the rope, no nuts, slings etc to rig up a nice equalised belay. I knew this beforehand, but I only really realised this stood on top of the escarpment rope in hand, suddenly I task I had assumed would be trivial was  turned round and bit me.

I cobbled something together and started to bring the person up; the assessor had seen my set up and told the climber to weight the rope. The load came on and suddenly without the friction of a belay device the 8stone man on the other end of the rope felt much heavier that my 6ft 5 mate Nick who is affectionately known as the human bouldering mat. Rope stretched, legs gave a little, and I was dragged forward; not much, about a foot but it was enough to drag me off my perch and in a real situation with a potentially frightened client at the other end of the rope would have left me incapacitated with the rope under load.
Don't assume because you can do this you can do ML rope work. That said George's belay a'la sunbathing technique would appear in many guides either.

I knew then I was in trouble, I'd dug myself a hole that I did not manage to climb out of for the rest of the week, result; deferral. Recriminations? No; it's happened, I know why it happened, It won't happen again, I've given my self a bit of a mental kicking for my mistakes but I will just have to deal with it. On the plus side the assessors signed off on my navigation which was strong and said that I had a really good relaxed guiding style. 

That's what I have to take from this, at ML rope work is only used in emergencies, if it comes out of your bag you have already messed things up, having a good guiding style is what earns you your bread and butter day in day out. 

1 comment:

  1. You know the most plus side of the story? It happened in a controlled situation, not in a real and serious environment! And you will never make the same mistake again, as the painful memory, but not a trauma as a result of a real accident, will stick to you. That is in a way precious. Chances of assessment IS guaranteed to come again, if a bit later than you planned. It can wait, no problem. Cheer up, Jon!