Students Climb Steep Rocks In Outdoor Recreational Class

The warm weather and sunshine have returned, and just in time for the start of the outdoor recreation classes offered at UCC.

Kayaking, whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, wilderness emergency care, mountain biking and multiple levels of rock climbing are part of the selection of credit classes available through the college. Instructors such as Bill Blodgett, Greg Orton and Willie Long have many years of experience in their respective fields. They bring their knowledge and passion to their outdoor classrooms, and while fun is a large part of the curriculum, safety is the primary goal.

On Saturday, May 5, the Intro to Rock climbing class headed down to Emigrant Lake near Ashland in Southern Oregon to spend the second and final day of the course climbing vertical stone.

“Don’t forget your voice commands,” Willie Long, instructor of the class, reminded his students after they had strapped on their harnesses and helmets while they waited to ascend the foot crag.

Having already climbed for one day on the previous weekend, the students had a good grasp of what was expected of them.

Gathered together in groups of three students and one instructor, the neophyte climbers began scaling the gray cliffs while boaters floated by on the placid waters of the lake. Occasional nervous shrieks and elated shouts pierced the stillness of the day. With varying degrees of success and confidence, the nine students climbed, belayed (the act of controlling the safety rope) and rappelled while Long spent the day moving from group to group, making certain that safety procedures were being observed.

When the issue of fear came up, Long would take the student step by step over the mental and physical obstacles to overcome it, using kindness and firmness in equal measure.  Another student lit a cigarette, but he didn’t have to say a word; he just shook his head and made a ‘put it out’ gesture with his hand, and the matter was instantly resolved.

The students gathered in a circle after the climbing day was finished, and Long asked each of them if they had met or exceeded their goals for the class. Not a single student said anything negative about their experience. Most said that they would continue to climb.

Students interested in taking “Intro to Rock Climbing“will be able to attend spring, summer and fall terms. “Rock Climbing I, II, and III” are only offered in spring and fall terms.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.