Since he started at Saint Michael's College in 2010, Taylor Luneau has been pestering me to go rock climbing in Smugglers Notch. Taylor came to St. Mikes with a strong athletic background, but little climbing exposure and yet wanted to tackle longer, harder routes that require solid technique and protection abilities. I recollect spending many days trying to channel his enthusiasm into more realistic short term goals. By the end of his first summer he was confidently leading easy climbs placing his own traditional protection. Within the next year he was ready to take his American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor Course, and at the start of his junior year he passed the AMGA SPI exam and moved into the ranks of our lead climbing instructors. During that time his ability and confidence have matured together.
On Friday, October 11th, we finally got to climb together in the Notch. Despite having to be back at campus for class by noon, Taylor was fired up to meet at 7 am and jump on a 5.8 climb called “The Diagonal” and try one of the just barely established third pitch finishes. As I belayed him leading while the sun began to peek over the ridge behind us, I had the time to reflect on the changes that a few short years bring. Therein lays the nature and the paradox of what we do here at the Wilderness Program. We love having students that come to us full of passion and drive for a sport, but often have to pull the reins back on them as they are often true novices inspired by what they have seen or read and the exposure that they have had. Through focused training and mentoring, their skills often develop quickly, although experience still lags due to the time constraints that all students face. Finally, they are graduating, and we hope that they have not lost the passion that they brought to us, but that we have tempered their drive with the skills they will need to continue pursuing their endeavors safely. Needless to say, Taylor did a brilliant job leading all three pitches, the sun came out, and of course the ropes got tangled around 2 trees on our rappel. Another beautiful day spent in the mountains with an exceptional student.
|Taylor starting The Diagonal|
|Taylor moving through the crux moves on The Diagonal|
|Leading the 3rd pitch of The Diagonal Left finish|
|Finishing moves on the 3rd pitch|