Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mountain Skill Training

I just finished running a four-day course on mountain movement. I'm pecking away at a book on the same subject, and I wanted to test some ideas I had on how to help people move better in the mountains. I had a good response to the course outline that I put up, and selected eight brave victimsto take the course, thanks! The overall goal of the course was to increase the participants ability to move well in non-technical mountain terrain. I have a lot of theories and years of experience teaching mountain skills to people, but often we focus just on climbing or kayaking or whatever, not the equally if not more important ability to move well in the mountains. I was especially looking for people who were less than totally confident in the mountains; if my theories were solid then they would benefit the most, and provide a real acid test for the ideas in my book.

After four days of intense abuse ranging from falling at the Canmore gymnastics centre to hiking with my dad to scrambling up and over Mt. Yamnuska with Mr. Blanchard I felt that we had all learned a lot. I was repeatedly surprised by how well people would learn a skill in a relatively safe environment (the "Playground" I built in my back yard) and then apply it in a real situation. This "train and then do" idea was definitely effective, although I need to refine parts of it. On the final day everyone absolutely rocked over Mt. Yamnuska; I don't think anyone fell down anywhere on mountain, although I fell down once on the trail. My own movement was a lot better, every time I really focus on understanding how to teach something I learn a tremendous amount from the process.

One of the many small things I learned is how important good lugs on your soles are for gripping on steep slabby terrain with loose bits on it. This type of terrain is a real PITA for many people, including me, and we were able to test various shoes on the sliding board (rocks and gravel on steep plywood) I built. Movement was important, but footwear was much more important than I had thought it would be. What is excellent for, say, Grand Teton style rock hopping (sticky dot-style rubber) is truly horrible in other conditions. Because most of us don't test our footwear carefully in controlled environments we don't get to see the pluses and minuses. Anyhow, I learned a tremendous amount on many topics, thanks!

Now it's back to work on the book, and thanks to everyone who took part. I'll put some photos up later today I hope!


Clyde said...

Cool, sounds like a good book! Reminds me of Doug Robinson's article "Running Talus" in an old Chouinard catalog. You should use my wife, Cindy, as a test subject too if you ever get back here to Boulder. I think you know her and Kim definitely does. She's better at pure climbing than moving efficiently over rugged terrain. As much mental as anything.

When I was doing gear reviews, I found similar results to what you did. Yet fashion was more important to most people than performance so it doesn't matter what you say ;-)

Will Gadd said...

Honest gear reviews seldom make anyone happy Clyde, but I do remember yours, well done.

Cindy sounds like exactly the sort of "guinea pig" I was looking for. Half the people in the course were women; they all had more competence than confidence, but all were moving much better in the end. So were the men; I'm really learning a lot about the male and female mind at the moment, having a daughter will do that to you. Anyhow, the whole cours was an interesting experience for me, I really learned a lot and am looking forward to the future!

olddude said...

Footwear aside, it's the mind that keeps people from moving over terrain in a manner that could be considered athletic or efficient.Little shoes makes this happen better but there is a period of suffering that proceeds the letting go.

Kim Graves said...

Really looking forward to this book, Will. If you need a reader, I'd be happy to volunteer.


Kurtis Kristianson said...

Will, I especially love this post. I used Loder Peak as a speed test price today and found my worn hikers were perfect for the scalloped limestone. I always think hard about finesse footwork in the Rockies so I am interested inwhat you have to say about it. This really will be a new look at what we do. Awesome!

Bruno said...

Hey Will,

Check out this articleby Kathy Cosley about...mountain movement.


it probably contains many parallel ideas to what you are working on.

I'm looking forward to the book.

Ed Matt said...

Happy all went well Will. You made a really good point about footwear I have been stressing for years. You need the right boots/shoes for the job. Clyde touched on this but the mental aspects are really key. I have a close friend who had a very experianced climber freeze on a talus field and need to be short roped down because of the exposure and loose conditions. Sometimes the oddest things can get to someone if they are not mentally prepared for them. Sorry I couldn't be there with you. Looking forward to the book !

Seb said...

I liked the Cosley article, but would be really interested in something that has more specifics. Defining and breaking down scrambling/movement skills into specific components that can be worked maybe? Level of detail is why I love Will G.s books.

Looking forward to the book! Is there a timeline?