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Mountain School 2012

Trip date: 03/07/2012
Reported by: Richard Lauridsen

I didn’t think I was ready for it when the Climbing Committee Chair nominated me to be Director of our mountaineering school. It was one of my goals, but I was set to accomplish it a couple of years down the line. After some thought, I realized I was trusted to be able to do the job and I knew for sure that I was ready for more out of my mountaineering. It would become a challenge and a great endeavor. Besides, my good buddy, Dan, was nominated to be my Co-Director.
I remember very well sitting up on a rocky ledge on Steamboat Prow around 9,000 feet up on the Emmons glacier on Mt Rainier last summer. Dan and I whirled about ideas and possible strategies to make the best out of our new positions as Directors. Many car rides to and from climbs during the summer of 2011 became our brainstorming sessions. Then the day arrived for the first night of class for Mountain School 2012.
The night before that class, Dan and I received a call from Rich, the Climbing Committee Chair. I cannot remember his exact words, but I remember well the motivational tone he had. I remembered it more when I looked at the faces of my students on that first night. Some were shy and some not. Many were excited, especially with the inspirational lecture given by Kay LeClaire about her challenges of climbing the seven summits.
Dan and I worked at getting to know our students as fast as we could. We had to assess their abilities, which included physical fitness, aptitude for technical information, personality, etc. We needed all of this information to ensure their safety and in order to provide them with a high quality experience throughout the course. Getting to know our students, with all of their great individual personalities, turned out to be the most enjoyable aspect of being a Director.
Our indoor sessions included a fascinating array of guest speakers. Our master instructors always added an additional flair to our weekly presentations. I would like to think that Dan and I also added something to the course with our quirky characters.
All of our outdoor sessions were a true joy. We have a saying, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.” Our instructors always helped to remind everyone to have fun, but this group needed little reminding. After almost every outdoor Mountain School session everyone gathered together at some local food joint. Hours on a mountain, sun burnt and tired, nothing stopped us from making these weekends last a little longer over some of the best tasting food and drinks. The jocularity and easy going nature of everyone is part of what brings many of us together in the mountains and into this club’s community of climbers.
We started with 37 students. Our service men get called to duty, life changes on a dime for others, and in the end 25 students made it to our graduation climb in the world famous climbing arena of the Columbia Icefields, Alberta, Canada. We did not summit Mount Athabasca, but many students experienced walking on a glacier for their first time. They also had the chance to observe other climbers on highly technical routes which served as inspiration for future endeavors.
I can’t speak for my Co-Director, Dan, but I spent many nights awake worrying about making the right decisions. These were as tiny as which students to group together and as large as concerns for all of their safety. Leading a small climbing party of a couple of rope teams is a totally different type of leadership skill then leading thirty seven students and twenty instructors.
I am sure I made some mistakes but I feel confident that I made the right major choices that kept my students safe while in the mountains. The greatest burden of being a Mountain School Director is knowing that my decisions did not affect only me, but had the potential to seriously impact a large number of other people. I’ve never had to make decisions on that kind of scale before.
Dan and I christened each climber with an ice axe and some climbing chalk after the graduation climb. In doing so, we inducted the Mountain School class of 2012 into our world and into our community. When Dan and I had a chance alone, I handed him a beer and we toasted to completing our duty with all of our best efforts and intentions. We didn’t say much except for “good job” and sat quietly for a moment.
I don’t know what Dan thinks, but it could be similar to what I think. Sharing this experience with him, a good friend and climbing partner, was an honor. Being Director of a mountaineering course is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I thank the Climbing Committee, Committee Chair, and Instructors for giving me this opportunity and for contributing to making Mountain School 2012 a tremendous success.

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