Educator Expedition: Growing in the Desert

Posted by: Casey Adams on 3/11/15 1:00 AM

By Kathryn Sall, NOLS Instructor

In January, Elsie Thomson, Roberta Schoultz, and Kathryn Sall loaded up a car and headed south to Red Rocks, Nevada to go rock climbing. The three of us took an Instructor Course seven months prior, and each saw how much fun working rock climbing courses for NOLS would be. We all had aspirations of becoming rock instructors in the near future, and a weeklong climbing trip where we were the sole people responsible felt like a great way to practice technical skills as well as develop good judgment and decision making.

We drove to the park, set up camp with some zip-liners from New Hampshire, and hustled out for an afternoon of sport climbing. For the following three days, we each practiced leading traditional routes with two followers. We worked on efficiency, route finding, and rope management. We climbed a couple of really fun multi-pitch routes frequented by NOLS courses.

Kathryn Sall leads the third pitch of ‘Cat In The Hat’ in Red Rocks. Roberta Schoultz photo Kathryn Sall leads the third pitch of ‘Cat In The Hat’ in Red Rocks. Roberta Schoultz photo

Then it started to rain. We were bummed when we realized that two of our four remaining days would be dedicated to the sandstone drying out, so we decided to head farther south to Joshua Tree to continue developing our climbing skills on some beautiful quartz-monzonite granite. Our time in Joshua Tree was spent pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and enjoying the California desert. We laughed at how different it was to spend an hour or more hiking through densely shrubbed canyons to the base of a route versus pulling up to a crag, walking ten feet to the base of a route, and having a busload of elderly tourists spectating with popcorn and Cheetos; both experiences added value to our trip!

One morning at a crag, a local guide said how rare and cool it was to see three women out climbing together, all leading and encouraging one another. We couldn’t have agreed more. We felt empowered and psyched, and we have the Instructor Development Fund to thank for making it possible.

Kathryn, Roberta, and Elsie back on the ground after a successful summit of ‘Geronimo’ in Red Rocks. Roberta Kathryn, Roberta  Schoultz photo Kathryn, Roberta, and Elsie back on the ground after a successful summit of ‘Geronimo’ in Red Rocks. Roberta Kathryn, Roberta Schoultz photo

Casey worked as a writer and PR specialist for NOLS.