Back in the game

It has passed more than a year from my last post. Too long, yes, and much have happened in the time between.

Last spring I was very much looking forward for my second alpine trip in early July with my Swiss tent buddy I had in Nepal. I was in quite nice shape, had ran my fastest one hour jog ever and had gotten really back into climbing practice after my surgery in December. But things don’t always happen as planned. Instead of five days of alpine air and fun outings, this happened.

Our boy looking at his best

Our boy looking at his best

Not that this guy was not planned, but he was just some five weeks and a bit more too hesitant to emerge into this world. All the plan I had was thrown out of the window and replaced with endless changing of diapers. Oh… did I mention that we had also bought a new apartment which we got two days this fellows early exit? And that the renovations for kitchen, bathroom and most of the floors started on the week after?

Our things stuffed into our new living room. Basically the place that got least of renovation mess.

Our things stuffed into our new living room. Basically the place that got least of renovation mess.

It was not gloomy after all. Yes, I missed the long waited trip and I had to work a bit longer days shuffling between our new home and our temporary one, switching smoothly from saws and hammers to cradling and poop. I was tired from all of that, but it really WAS worth it. Also the insurance company reimbursed my flight tickets, so I was not that affected money wise. Except that the new apartment and renovations did it’s best to tip the scales to the other end.

Me waiting to be rescued. Dont worry, it is part of a course to be in predicament.

Me waiting to be rescued. Don’t worry, it is part of a course to be in predicament.

But despite me having my hands full of different kinds of chores, I did manage to get some climbing stuff done too. First of all, I had signed on to a climbing instructor training earlier in the spring. It was not REAL climbing instructor course, but the first level of training in the Finnish Climbing Associations (SKIL) training pool. I was to become “Köysitoiminnanohjaaja” or roughly rope activity guide in English. Which then I did, after all. The training consisted of two two-day modules and an exam. Both of the modules had first an indoor day and then an outdoor day. The first module was basically just about basic rope management and belay techniques and some tips and tricks on what to do in when a problem occurs. The second module dived more into the problem scenarios and rescuing. Some of the stuff was quite familiar for me, but some were totally new. We also took some time to to cover basic things when working with different kinds of groups like kids, bachelor groups or disabled people. According to the rules set by SKILL you can not take the exam no sooner than after two months you have completed the second module. I was supposed to take the exam already in June, but unfortunately that was cancelled due to lack of participants. Then I had to opt for the next one held in September. For me this was a bit bad, since I had so much do with all the renovations and such towards the fall. Also I became increasingly busier with my actual work, so I did not have that much time to spare for practicing then. I wonder if I managed to squeeze in more than one weekends worth of time for that.

The rescue scenario demonstration

Mikko Nieminen The rescue scenario demonstration

Most of the course was pretty laidback. Especially with a nice weather like this.

Mikko Nieminen Most of the course was pretty laidback. Especially with a nice weather like this.

In the end, I did pass the exam, but with some remarks on few things . Luckily I did not have to do any extra work as that could have been the case if you’d screw up, but not that critically. First we had a written exam, which apparently you could not fail, as it was more to put shame on you if you didn’t know the stuff. I did get good points on that though. Next we needed to gear up and do couple of knots and such. Got it otherwise perfect, but my prusik cords knot ends were a wee bit too short. Passed nonetheless. If you’d fail here, you would not have been allowed to continue to the outdoor part. Like said, for the second part we went to a local cliff, the same we had used for the modules, to do some tests. We were divided into two groups which did different tasks at the same time. Basically we had four different scenarios and you had to do two of them. My groups first tasks was to create a top rope anchor to bolts just over lip of the cliff with single rope, while the other group was creating a system for group abseiling activity. These of course had to be done safely. The second task for me was to do a rescue of person who had abseiled half way down and had twisted his or her leg. For me everything started of nicely and it looked like a smooth sail, all to the point where I realised I had made some big ass fuck up. It was the same damn mistake I had done when practicing. What I had done was that I had attached my belay device (or abseil device this time) directly to my belay loop as I would do when abseiling myself normally. I should have attached it to the end of this special rescue sling too give more room to operate. I did managed to manoeuvre us out of that mess, but it pretty damn close it would have escalated to major fuck up. It was a good example of how tiny mistakes can escalate into critical situations in just few moments. I was a bit lucky there and the instructors were nice enough to give me some hints (so much easier to se the situation when not in it) which I managed to turn into actions. I was initially thinking that “why weren’t I in that other group”, later I thought it was better this way. That is because the second scenario for the other team was to escape the belay when belaying a top rope climber. I’m pretty sure that I would have nailed that for sure, but then I would have missed this excellent learning opportunity I got. We did not got the feedback from our tasks until we were back at the office. It was a bit tormenting to wait there for your turn and the results whether you passed or not when you now you did some mistakes. Eventually it was my turn for the feedback which was very constructive and on the spot. The course was then concluded and I received my freshly laminated card to certify skills.

My laminated KTO certificate card

My laminated KTO certificate card

The next step would be to apply for the Sport Climbing Instructor course after which I would be able to held basics courses for climbing. That one actually have some climbing skill requirements which I SHOULD be able to pass already. To apply, you should be able to lead on-sight UIAA 5 (french 4c) and when finishing the course UIAA 6 (french 5c). Those among many other skills. After that would come the Rock Climbing Instructor course which is the first internationally recognised certification. For that the requirements are higher for both skills and experience and I doubt I will ever go through that fully. My initial plan was to apply for the Sport Climbing Instructor course already this year, but there has quite a bit of things going on which have been prioritised. Haven’t yet even fully decided whether I will attend at any rate. We’ll see. If nothing else, I should do the exam day of this KTO course again within the next five years to keep it valid for another five years.

Me climbing some easy route with some alpine feel

Niklas Karlsson Me climbing some easy route with some alpine feel

On top of this course stuff and other things, I did managed to get few climbing days in also. Though, was there more than just three or four days I got to climb on real rock leading and all. My outdoor bouldering season weren’t much more active despite I did got my new bouldering pad in summer and managed to do few sessions with it. No major bouldering breakthroughs though, but I managed to nail few problems I hadn’t dared to top without a pad earlier. Being now a proper family and all also did have its toll on indoor climbing. Most of the times I changed ropes to bouldering caves as it is just so much faster to work out a pump when bouldering.

To compensate a bit the lack of climbing opportunities, I’ve tried to some power training in a bit more than before. I also think has had some effect since I’ve been able to do some boulder routes which have had required more about on the core and also on the pure power. During the spring I’ve got somewhat more meters on rope the I got during the previous fall and now I’ve been able to climb most of the 6b/+ routes I’ve tried on one go and even a few 6c routes which pars the personal best ever. So either the power training has paid out or I’ve developed some better technique while not climbing 🙂 Which ever is the case it feels like I’d be in perhaps the best condition ever. Perhaps I should start leading a bit harder routes than the 5b/c.

At the top of my first ice lead

At the top of my first ice lead

My last winter season went totally bonkers as I spent all the short season recuperating from the surgery. So, my brand new ice screws and double ropes remained idle on the shelf. This year, however, brought some relief to the itch that only ice tools could help. Sadly the local “man made” ice wall could open only very late in the season, because of the warm weather and it left quite a short time to do any ice climbing. The natural ice falls were not really in any better shape and I could not take time to those beefier falls in the north, so I had to work with what we had. Also I missed few opportunities as I was ill. In the end I got some half a dozen ice climbing days in and though there weren’t that many meters in total, I got my first ice lead done. Just as the cold season arrived late and suddenly, the spring did it’s best also to end short the winter season. Almost within days all the ice that had accumulated during the cold, melted rapidly away into an unclimbable slosh. It was quite fun though to toprope-solo that kind of molting ice as it was very fun and scary at the same time since you could not stop thinking whether the wall of soft icy snow would loose with this strike or kick. Toprope-solo was another new thing for me and I’m sure I’ll be doing more of that in the future. Works especially well on ice.

The mushy "ice" of Pirunkallio at the end of season. Would you lead that? ;)

The mushy “ice” of Pirunkallio at the end of season. Would you lead that? 😉

That somewhat summarises my past year in absence. Summer climbing season is still kind starting for me as I’ve been is it three times outside climbing with ropes. Hopefully the June will bring more days for that and would really wish to generate time from somewhere to visit the Olhava or Haukkakallio this summer again. I do have some abroad plans for this summer, more of that later. Nothing major, don’t worry 🙂 Just some fun time in the alps for a bit over a week.

At the anchors of a tricky 5c at Kauhala

Aleksi Mehtonen At the anchors of a tricky 5c at Kauhala

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