Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Outdoor Adventures

Last Friday a few members of my team and I took a break from work and had our own little adventure outdoors. Of course, being a soldier, I usually get plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. We have physical training every day, field exercises, rifle range training and ruck marches- all activities that we do outside. All those are well and good, but we wanted to do something a little different.

What we did was try a little bit of canyoneering, which is also known as a high ropes course. It is actually exactly what it sounds like- ropes high above the ground, up to 40-45 feet high. I'll be honest right now- heights (more specifically, the thought of falling) scare the hell out of me. Thankfully, we had some very good equipment, which kept me from falling- twice, and prevented me from becoming a greasy spot on the rocks. The course is laid out simply. There is a cable strung between anchor points on a rock wall. There may or may not be footholds in the wall, so there were several places with small pieces of rebar imbedded into it. Even without the artificial footholds this course was a challenge. To further illustrate: pictures.

The course was located near the beautiful countryside near Hirschbach, Germany. In this shot the rocks can be seen near t
he center at the top of the trees. From this point it was a short walk to the beginning of the course. But, before we began was the prerequisite safety brief. We also learned how to put o
n, adjust and use the equipment. We had harnesses, two safety lines that attached to the harness and a climbing helmet. We also had to wear gloves, which were available if we forgot to bring our own. One item that a couple of our guys mentioned that may be good for the next go through would be knee pads. One of the team banged his knee pretty hard on the wall. Thankfully, he didn't get hurt too bad and was able to continue after resting up for a couple of minutes.

Here are a couple of guys at the beginning of the course. You can see the equipment and the wall in this shot. This section was pretty easy with plenty of footing. It was also near the ground so the height in this section was not a factor. He
re you can make out the cable and how it is attached to the wall. every few feet (or as short as a foot) was a cable anchor point. Part of the safety equipment included two safety lines, and the anchors are the reason they are necessary. Navigating an anchor point is easy, just detach one safety line and reconnect it on the other side of the
anchor. One thing to remember is this: Only take off one line at a time. If you detach both, you could fall. The first challenge of this course is the first corner. It can be intimidating, especially since the height of the cable is much higher. But...

This is the reward for taking that step.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. This picture is a bit deceptive though. In it, it looks like Garcia is on a substantial ledge. That is inaccurate. The ledge in the foreground is much closer to where
I am then to where Garcia was. The cable actually went below this ledge and back up again on the other side. There was plenty of footing in this section, but it was never that substantial.

Here you can see SGT Cuevas waiting for Gilson to clear another corner. The top of this section was where Garcia was in the previous shot. As you can see, the cable rises sharply and requires a bit of climbing to reach.

This is the second leg of the first section, and without a doubt, the hardest. It is short, only about 100 feet from beginning to end, but was a very challenging climb. See SGT Kroamer's right foot? That's the last decent foothold on the wall. Let me put it this way: Three of us tried it, two of us made it, one of us had to be helped off the wall. I won't tell you wh
at happened to whom, but I will tell you I needed a bit of help on this one myself. I also smashed my fingers a bit here, nothing serious of course.

My second favorite picture of the day. This is the last leg of the first section

And this is the end of the course for us. Not the course itself, there was one more section. But this second section was more than enough for us. Only three attempted it, and that was because it was a bit easier than the others, just really high up. I
did try this one, but I got a good shot out of it. See that tiny blue spot near the trees on the left side of the rocks? That's SGT Kroamer. Yes, it was that high.

One aspect that I really like about Germany is the ability to try things that I would never be able to otherwise. We all had a great time doing this, even the ones with a fear of heights. Plans are already being made to come back and do it again, maybe in January.

More pics on Flickr.

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