Looking for some adventure? Look no further, The High Peaks region has it all! High Peaks Mountain Guides (HPMG) at 331 Main Street in Lake Placid offers guiding and instruction for rock climbing, ice climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, geo-catching, skiing, snowshoeing and general outdoor skills! They literally do it all! They offer half day sessions and full day sessions. And the other day one of their well experienced guides, Royce Van Evera, offered to show me all about their rock climbing adventures.
They have three different courses that are offered for rock climbing; Introduction to Rock Climbing, Top Rope Essentials and Top Rope Set Up and Safety Management. Of course I have never done rock climbing before so he started me on the introductory course. What I quickly realized is that they are 100% and without a doubt safety driven! They want you to walk away without a scratch which means going into extreme detail of every safety precaution needed and wanted. It is so helpful when hiring a guide for a new activity to know you are in good hands, and when you are in great hands with HPMG!
As you walk in the door, Royce is right there to greet you with a big smile. He introduces himself and gets to know you a little. It is important to feel comfortable with him since you will be working so closely for the next few hours or for the rest of the day. You sit down and he starts a video. You might ask ‘why are we watching a video?’ but it shows and explains many things that they can’t. Royce can tell you that the ropes can hold up to 4,000 lbs, and the carabineer can hold up to 4,000 lbs, but will you really believe it? You probably will still be a little weary. This video was wonderful and went through many basics of rock climbing along with the making of a traditional rock climbing rope and carabineer. As the video shows you the making of each product, you begin to trust the concept of rock climbing more and more. So if you have any question about your safety, after the video and what Royce will teach you, you will feel much more at ease.
Then you move into what they call ‘chalk talk’. He brings you into the next room and gives you an incredibly detailed lesson on the white board, diagrams and all! He explains an important acronym for Top Rope Climbing: SRENE. Safe and secure, Redundant, Equalized, and Never Extended. Everything must be safe and secure when setting up for top rope climbing. All systems must be redundant from set up to climber tie in and belayer. The anchor must be equalized so all pieces share the weight of a climber. The climbing rope must Never be extended over the edge of the cliff where it would be rubbing against rock (or anything for that matter).
After you get the full lesson on what to expect, he will bring you in the last room and help you pick out the correct equipment. Royce pulls out the ropes you will use and shows you again how strong they are with a demonstration. You put on a harness that goes around your hips through your legs and back up to the buckle in the front. Then takes the same rope as before and teaches you how to tie a proper knot to use with your harness. A double figure 8 knot. It is not hard, but you will not move on until you can tie the knot yourself. That is one of the great things about working with Royce, he will push you so that you are completely prepared for your adventure! After you conquer the knot, you will sit down and pick out a pair of shoes to wear. It will feel a little weird since most of us are used to wearing shoes that have a little room to move and breathe, but with rock climbing it is important for the shoe to be tight to your foot so that you can feel every little thing under your feet.
Next he teaches you all the voice commands that youboth will be using, because it is incredibly hard to hold a conversation while doing certain activities, especially if you are far away from each other. An example of a typical conversation would be: “On Belay” is said by the belayer who will be watching and helping with the rope for the climber, the climber responds with “Ready to Climb”, the belayer would say “Climb” and the climber would then say “Climbing”. Understanding the ‘lingo’ is important for not only for your guide to know but for you to understand as well. Communication is key in any relationship. Finally you move on to packing your packs and grabbing a helmet. Then you’re ready to go.
Depending on whether you are going for a half day or whole day will determine whether you go to Pitch Off Cliffs or to Wilmington Notch for your new adventure. Although he prefers to take people to Wilmington Notch, with it’s scenic views of the West Branch of the Ausable River.
Royce and the knowledgeable staff at High Peaks Mountain Guides are ready and raring to teach you not only how to rock climb but just about anything you want. But not before you safely learn all about your adventure and make sure that you get home safely and in one piece. Have fun and as Royce would say “Rock On!”