Breck offers self-rescue rock and ice courses for $100 this summer |

Breck offers self-rescue rock and ice courses for $100 this summer

Self-rescue 101

What: Two sessions on self-rescue techniques for experienced rock and ice climbers, including self-belay and lead-climbing skills

When: Schedule with instructor

Where: Breckenridge Recreation Center climbing wall

Cost: $100

The two-part lesson is private and taught by Matt Parker, the outdoor programs coordinator with the Town of Breckenridge. Sessions are designed for experienced climbers with a basic understanding of climbing knots and techniques. All participants must provide a harness, locking carabiner and belay device, with other equipment provided. To schedule a course, call or email Parker directly at 970-547-4324 or

It’s a nightmare situation: On a multi-pitch climb deep in the wilderness, you pull a rock loose while lead climbing and knock your partner unconscious. You’re now swaying perilously over your partner’s belay station some 300 feet up the side of a sheer rock face, nearly alone, with no rescue in sight.

This is the stuff of nightmares, but getting home safe and secure isn’t impossible — it simply takes the right training. This summer, rock-climbing instructors with the Breckenridge Recreation Center are offering private sessions for veteran rock and ice climbers who plan to spend most of the summer on remote, multi-pitch faces across the nation. For $100, climbers get two sessions with an instructor to learn the basics of self-rescue, including the Munter Mule overhand knot, hands-free belaying, the two-to-one pulley system and more.

“Nobody ever plans for accidents,” said Matt Parker, an Atlanta-born climber with 10 years of guiding and climbing experience on just about every face in Summit County. “Things happen either due to experience, inattentiveness or just plain bad luck. These are the skills that improve your everyday climbing and rope work.”

The private self-rescue courses are an extension of the group courses recently offered by Colorado Mountain College. It’s crafted for experienced climbers who know basic climbing knots and technique but want to bolster their knowledge for more intense climbing.

“Everything originates and lives behind the Munter hitch,” Parker said. “It’s an awesome replacement for a belay device if you don’t have one. When I’m guiding, I will use it regularly, sometimes even more than a mechanical device, and it’s just because it’s so simple. I don’t need a ton of other equipment.”

The sessions are primarily held at the Breck Rec Center climbing wall, which gives students a safe environment to practice new skills.

“A basic understanding of knots can be helpful, so that we aren’t breaking down every single knot,” Parker said. “This isn’t to teach lead climbing or multi-pitch climbing. This is the teach the rescue fundamentals you need for those environments.”

For climbers like Virginia-native James Siros, the course was a must-have refresher before he and his girlfriend left Colorado for several weeks of climbing in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Indiana.

“I really wanted to do this before the season started to get that self-rescue refresher,” said Siros, a 36-year-old who lived in Breckenridge for the winter season before heading back East. “I was climbing ice over the ice season, so I probably should have done it more, but this is about staying prepared. Hopefully, I’m not the one who’s knocked unconscious.”

And that’s the rub. Like all outdoor sports, rock climbing can be unpredictable, and multi-pitch routes demand a new set of skills not often required for indoor and top-rope climbing. He hasn’t been forced to use the self-rescue skills yet, but, as he says, it never hurts to be prepared.

“This gives me the confidence I need to facilitate my own rescue or at least get into an area where a rescue will be easier,” Siros said. “I really think that it’s basic knowledge anyone who’s doing multi-pitch routes should have.”

While the course is designed for experienced climbers, it doesn’t require a ton of specialized equipment. Anyone taking the course needs a harness, locking carabiner and belay device. The rest is supplied by the instructors, including ropes, advanced belay devices and, of course, the knotting know-how.

“It’s about going back to the basics,” Parker said. “We have a ton of great equipment now, between the Black Diamond or Petzl reverse, and those tools have made our jobs as climbers or belayers or self-rescuers very easy. We take it all the way back to the simple knots you need to know. We lay the foundation for everything.”

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