Educator Expedition: Rock Skills, Rappelling, and Revelry in Joshua Tree

Posted by: Molly Herber on Mar 31, 2015

By Anne Peick, NOLS Instructor

black-canyon-climb-peick Enjoying the top of a route. Photo by Rainbow Weinstock

peick-climb-joshua-tree Anne Peick and Charlotte Austin practice new skills. Photo by Szu-ting Yi

I recently returned from Joshua Tree National Park where I participated in a 10-day course run by the American Mountain Guide Association. My participation was generously supported through both the Pete Absolon Memorial Endowment and the Instructor Development Fund.

As a program supervisor working in the rock climbing program at various branches of NOLS, I get to help train and evaluate new instructors, as well as provide ongoing training for current instructors.

The rock guide course I took in Joshua Tree is the first step in a three-step process that ends in national accreditation as a rock climbing guide. The course proved to be complementary to my work at NOLS, reaffirming that the training we offer our rock climbing instructors is excellent and that the assessment process and expectations we have for instructors are both rigorous and in line with industry best practices.

peick-climb-joshua-tree Practicing communication and leadership with Anne Peick and Tom Hargis. Photo by Szu-ting Yi

Personally, I had a ton of fun on the course! I love climbing both for the physical beauty of it, as well as the “systems” component. That is, I love geeking out on how to make a haul system more efficient, learning a new technique to complete a tandem rappel with less gear, and learning tips to refine my short roping. For the duration of the course I was surrounded by people who were just as eager as I was to discuss in almost excruciating detail the technical minutiae of rock climbing systems. It was great.

Joshua Tree also holds a special place in my heart. It is the place I went on my first climbing road trip, the place where I led some of my first hard traditionally protected climbs, and a place where I have spent wonderful days with good friends enjoying climbing, marveling at the Joshua Trees, and generally enjoying life. To anyone who has not visited this corner of the Mojave Desert, it is worth going out of your way to see. The environment is truly unique and the sunsets are stunning.

It’s nice to be back in Lander as our spring climbing season starts ramping up. I’m excited to offer new tips and tools to our rock instructors and students and feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be in the student role again.

Learn more about NOLS rock climbing courses here.

Read more about how NOLS instructors expand their skills on our Educators Notebook page.

Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber