To ask the question, “Can an instructor be wrong?” might be a tad too pretentious. Of course we can. We are humans after all. But what happens after we discover we are wrong?
(Photo Source : Author’s own.)
So in a recent Level 3 class, i came to realise that i have been teaching something that was wrong. It was a case of “unconcious incompetence” because i had been taught that it was ok all these while and i have seen climbers doing so. I had a chance to talk to a more established climber and bolter (if there is such a word…) – QX, who shared with me that he has come across many bolts that come off… like literally just come out of the wall, with nothing more than just the climber’s weight. Hence he was always hesitant to teach beginners to clip on to a single bolt at the anchor but rather he would instruct them to clip into the master point of the anchor. In this way, at least the climber’s weight is distributed over two bolts whilst you check to make sure that they are bomb-proofed. Made a lot of sense to me then.
Just before this recent Level 3 class, i was arranging my notes when for some strange reason, i started to recall this conversation i had with QX. I flipped through my notes to see if i have covered that point when i realised that i have committed a tremendous error. All these years, i have been teaching my Level 3 classes to redirect the belay line to that one bolt at the anchor! It was not a case of being unaware that both the climber’s and the belayer’s weight are on that one bolt and that the weight magnifies (because of physics…i dunno why…), i just assumed that the strength of one bolt could deal with whatever forces i was generating. Now with QX’s input, it seems like it was a bad idea to continue doing that.
I scrambled to look up some books and google up some videos and i realised it is true. The world had evolved… The tendency now was to teach the redirection of the belay line through the masterpoint or more commonly the shelf on the anchors. It was easy to make the change, but i was haunted. Coz i had put a dangerous practice out there and now i wonder how i was to correct all my past Level 3 students. It was easy to change the next day’s class. Just had to contact my partner instructor for that day and share with him my revelation. Coincidentally, he was also teaching the same thing as me so it was a good learning point for both of us. But it still bugged me that i got something wrong out there.
Oh well, i’ll just have to try and make things right again by trying to reach out to my past Level 3 students. For now, if any of you are interested, do watch this great video from the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) to see what i am talking about up there. Should be about 0.30mins in the video where she addresses the redirection part.
Anyway our other reflections after this Level 3 class was that it was very useful to teach and use the clove hitch in this class. Initially we thought that it would be a hassle because the new technique required the participants to use a clove hitch to attach themselves to the anchor. And this was exactly what i was trying to avoid last time by simplifying things so that it is easier for the learners to learn the concepts. But this time, JY and myself decided to press on by teaching them the clove hitch at the start of the day and by the end of the 2nd day, we were satisfied to see them tying it with ease for their anchors. So i guess lesson learned, dun do things for convenience. If we take the time to teach properly, our participants will benefit from it.
We can get it wrong, we are humans after all. And that’s why we need to learn and evolve with the times. Only then can we do our best for our participants i guess.