Mountain Skill Training

July 20, 2010
Will Gadd

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!