Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 10, 2011

Ascension Saturday (Search & Rescue training)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:03 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

A pair of ascenders for attaching to your rappel rope.

Going down a cliff face while attached to a rope is exhilarating. Gravity is my friend. When, however, said cliff face must be scaled in the opposite direction, the word ‘exhilarating’ would never cross my mind. “Why did I sign up for this?!?” is far more accurate.

In the world of climbing and rescuing, what goes down must often come up. There are handheld mechanical devices that fasten to an anchored rope, with one-directional teeth that grip the rope when downward force is applied yet glide smoothly when being pushed upward. If one then attaches these devices to web ladders for one’s feet, one can create foot straps that will move in concert with the ascender and hand on the same side of the body. I stand on my left foot, slide the right ascender up the rope while lifting my right foot in the webbing loop, and extend that right leg to stand in the higher loop. Repeat with the left. Sounds easy? It isn’t.

Last spring I tried ascending (also called "jumaring") for the first time. Needed lots of help. Don't wear flip-flops for this move, like I did. This is off a tree in my front yard.

Whatever mood I was in as I struggled with the rope and the devices and all my harness attachments and the various adjustments — well, for a moment, I embraced “I can’t” as a possible out. I was hanging on my rope with no strength in my arms, trying to muscle these stubborn ascenders higher, and it felt as if the rope, my belay line, my own trembling leg muscles, my utter inexperience, and the rock face all conspired against me. Fortunately, my teammates shouted out helpful advice like “hug the rock,” “shift your weight to your left leg,” “Good! You can do this!” etc., and I finally (with grunting and gracelessness) completed the twenty-foot ascent.

Scootching (there is no other suitable word) over the lip at the cliff top, I realized gratefully that somewhere in the middle of this climb a light bulb had gone on and I began to feel the rhythm of the alternating sides of my body moving up the wall. My heart was pounding and my mouth had zero saliva by the time I topped out, but I was SO pleased that I had not given in to the temptation to be a wimp… especially with my very capable colleagues looking on. Let’s hear it for peer pressure.


  1. Great job sis! Your getting to be an old pro at this..rock climbing..next will be cliff climbing..then mountain climbing..my, what wonders you can do. I am very impressed! 🙂

    Comment by Chris — April 10, 2011 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

  2. I, too, am very impressed with your successes, Kathryn. It is with great anticipation that I await the next blog from you, as I am living vicariously through your experiences. I want to bungee jump next, so can you put that on your list of “things to do”. Thanks.

    Comment by Allen Gislason — April 10, 2011 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

  3. K,
    I sense a business opportunity here . . .
    You sign up people (for a modest fee) who want one of these ‘experiences’ and then you go cliff climbing, bungee jumping, parasailing, avalanche riding . . . whatever . . . and then write about it. They get all the fun with none of the work or risk – and you get paid.

    Comment by leroque — April 11, 2011 @ 6:42 am | Reply

  4. I’m psyched that you are getting after this skill set. Learning to relax in hazardous situations will help you with your overall approach to life. If your arms are getting tired when you jumar, it is most likely because you need to lean how to relax between movements and let your equipment do its job. Left-brained rope management practices when it counts most will help round out your thinking processes for your new job. Most importantly, you are developing craftsmanship and mastery in dangerous and unfamiliar territory that will give you self-confidence, well-earned!

    Comment by Ed Oak — April 11, 2011 @ 9:38 am | Reply

  5. Yay, Kathryn, Wonder Woman!! Reminds me of Psalm 18:29, “For by Thee I have run through a troop, and by my God have I leapt over a wall!” And yes, God uses the encouragement of our friends to help! Love ya!

    Comment by kathy lewis — April 11, 2011 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

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