If you’re looking for an introduction to climbing outdoors, the Rock Climbing School (update: link to the school's flyer) offered by the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh (ECP) is the right place to start! It’s a personal and affordable way to receive instruction by an all-volunteer group that has decades of combined climbing experience. Do not expect to be guided, expect to be trained.
Each year, 20 deserving students are chosen from a larger pool to participate in this roughly two-month program, learning skills such as knot tying, belaying, top-rope anchor set-up, rappelling, basic climbing technique, and more. The format is simple: Tuesday night classes in Pittsburgh, followed by weekend excursions to Coopers Rock (WV), McConnell’s Mill (PA), and other local climbing spots. The school closes out the spring season with a merit based opportunity to experience multi-pitch climbing at Seneca Rocks, WV.
Six years ago, I was an eager gym rat seeking other ways to experience rock climbing. One night while bartending at Harris Grill I overheard a customer, who happened to be a member of the ECP, talking about climbing. We struck up a conversation and I applied to the Rock School the next day. Since then, I’ve been involved as an instructor, a director, and now a committee member. Additionally, I became an active member of the ECP, serving as the Equipment Chair for over three years and assisting with the Mountaineering School and other annual activities such as the Mount Washington Clean-Up (which, by the way, is scheduled this year for Sunday, March 30th. Contact ECP’s Karen Kirk for more info).
It is hard to illustrate how much the ECP and its schools have shaped my climbing career (and lately my professional ambitions), but I hope you can start to see the picture. I am an advocate of the group and would encourage everyone to join. Membership is just $20 a year and you get access to gear rentals, the ECP library, discounts at partner organizations, and most importantly, a network of outdoor enthusiasts. The ECP is an ever-evolving group with many interests including rock climbing, mountaineering, watersports, hiking, orienteering, skiing, yoga, mountain biking and honestly, anything else you want. It’s pretty awesome – and rather unique.
I hope I’ve convinced some of you to try out the Rock School and others to learn more about the ECP.
P.S. Deadline for applications: Thursday March 13th at the ECP's March General Membership Meeting - Union Project.
Photo Credit: Rob Prowel