Sierra Club Advanced Mountaineering Program & Rock Checkoff - Fall 2017 aka AMP16

  • Updated: October 11, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

Fall 2017

The Sierra Club Advanced Mountaineering Program or AMP was started in 2009 by Dan Richter and Pat McKusky to teach basic and advanced mountaineering skills with the goal of promoting safe climbing and train a new generation of club leadership. While it's primarily targeted to Wilderness Travel Course graduates and Sierra Club outings leaders anyone is welcome. It's run twice a year in the spring and fall and staffed by an array of hard working volunteers many of whom are also WTC instructors and group leaders.

This was the Fall 2017 AMP class which is timed so that the Joshua Tree weekend happens at the same time the Wilderness Travel Course has it's graduation out there.  We also moved the Wednesday night class to a slightly more central location in Fullerton for the first time after historically having it on the north end of LA and we generally lucked out on weather.

The following covers the 4 official class outings plus the Rock Checkoff weekend which many AMP students attend to have what they learned during the course assessed.

Class 1:  Knots & Safety Systems

Wednesday October 11th, 2017
Fullerton Community Center

Most of AMP is taught in an outdoor setting but for the first night we get everyone together inside to go over the program, introduce everyone, and then make sure everyone has their knots down.

And that's the cleanest you'll see everyone for the rest of the class...

Class 2: Belay Day

Saturday October 14th, 2017
Stoney Point, Chatsworth CA

We use the classic Stoney Point in Chatsworth California for the Belay and Rappel classes.

The rigging crew gets there early and sets up ropes on Boulder 2.  We use this for the first part of class and then move on to the hillside by the time the climber folks start to show up.

The routes are challenging particularly as many of the holds have smoothed out over the years but it lets us go through a standard belay and climbing scenario.

Practicing hip belays up on the hillside
From there it's up on the hillside to work on mountaineering oriented belay skills.  We start with the simple such as the sitting hip belay being demonstrated above.

Practicing munter belays and mule tie offs
And then move on to more modern techniques like Munter Belays off a simple anchor complete with a fallen climber tie off and recover.  Afterwards we worked on telepheriques and fixed line techniques.

In addition to sighting the elusive Chatsworth tree dog we saw someone attempting to propose near Boulder 2.  There was a large party of friends hiding around the side of the rock and photographers in the rocks behind us.  Unfortunately the wind was making the petals scatter and the friends were very perturbed by the boulders descending Cups.

We never got to see how it came off as we were pulled away by the allure of our traditional post class visit to exceedingly adequate Los Toros.

Class 3: Rappel Day

Saturday October 11st, 2017
Stoney Point, Chatsworth CA

Rappel day is always a lot of fun but the staff arrives early to set up 7 separate rappels with the goal of giving students as much practice rappelling in a safe environment as possible.

The students arrive at a more reasonable time and we head up the hillside for ground school.

We introduce the fundamentals of rappelling with a dulfersitz, a device, and a munter including how to belay yourself and avoid common dangerous mistakes.  And then it's onto the real rappels...

After everyone has had their fill of rappelling we finish up the day with some top roping and offer some pointers on technique.

Class 4: Anchors & More Joshua Tree Weekend

Saturday October 26th & 27th, 2017
Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree CA

Saturday we kick off a very full weekend by jumping straight to anchor building.  Starting with simple natural anchors and moving on to passive and active protection students work in small groups to build as many as time allows while getting feedback from our staff.

After being exposed to all the principles and getting some time doing hands on work we send the groups out in the afternoon to build their own anchors themselves and then rappel off of them once staff has verified they're safe.

Sunday we're in the Amphitheater where we offer the chance to use all the skills we've covered throughout the course along with a few new concepts.

The main activity is a sequence which involves a 3rd or 4th class climb with a munter belay from the top which leads to a fixed line traversal across ledges to two rappel stations.

In between students have access to multiple top ropes, a prussiking up the rope station, a lead climbing demo, and also the opportunity to do additional anchor work.

After all of that and a brief graduation ceremony everyone heads for home hopefully the tools to continue on with their climbing careers safely and confidently.

Sierra Club LTC Rock Checkoff & Optional AMP Followup

November 11th & 12th, 2017
Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree CA

The weekend out in Joshua Tree brought the official part of the class to a close but we also offer a Sierra Club LTC Rock Checkoff two weeks after.  Anyone can attend and either practice or attempt to complete a checkoff at the M or E level.

Over the course of the weekend they demonstrate knots, build anchors, rappel, and belay using a variety of techniques.  Candidates are assessed both on specific technical skills and also their overall ability to manage a typical climbing situation.

Saturday was a practice day where we let people attempt the material and then did some instruction to help tune things up.  Then Sunday was all assessment with a pass / fail given at the end.

Most people were there trying for the M level but we had a few folks going for the more more advanced E.  In addition to the basic M skills they had to demonstrate rappelling over an overhand and ascending the rope, setting a fixed line, and leading a 4th class pitch with gear.

By the time we broke down the ropes and headed for home several people had passed and everyone had hopefully come away stronger for having spent the weekend out with us.

And that wraps up AMP and Sierra Club weekend activities for me for the remainder of the year!  Off to the mountains!

If you're interested in taking AMP registration information can be found on our website at though be warned that due to demand we open registration the Monday two weeks after the Joshua Tree weekend precisely at 8 am and it fills quickly.  So plan ahead!

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