About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

Rock Rescue Academy Continues

I think I've aged about 50 years overnight. Let's just say, I'm getting well-acquainted with muscles I must have been ignoring for far too long, as I shuffle around the house this morning, oo-ing and mpf-ing.

For a while yesterday, as I was dangling from a tree limb, spinning and bumping into the trunk, struggling to do what I thought looked pretty straight-forward, I was about ready to give up. Matter of fact, when I took a break to rest my quivvering muscles and give someone else a chance to practice ascending before hitting the real rock walls, I had to bite my lip hard to keep from crying. I was pissed! (At myself.) I really want to be able to do this. I really want to pass that proficiency test in June.

Here's a picture of a teammate going right up the rope. The one manning the belay kept letting out the line, so we had more to climb than the actual distance from the ground to the branch:

After time spent collecting my thoughts and some personal attention from a teammate, who graciously tried to help me get the hang of the movements, I was back to the tree. Again, what seemed to come easily to others--and what I thought should come easily to me too, because I'm not uncoordinated (you should see me Jazzercise!)--I was again at a loss.

UNTIL ... one of the guys said, "Hey, why don't you try it one-legged." He explained what to do. I took my right foot out of the right "step" (basically, loops made of webbing), followed my teammate's instructions on how to alter the movement, and right up I went! I was so thrilled. In fact, I heard someone on the ground say, "She's going up faster than anybody." I wanted to cry again, but this time because I was elated.

And then I went to the bottom of the cliff. I thought, hey, no problem now; I can do this! But the fatigue from the stress and over-exertion on the tree had worn me down. My legs were shaking and every arm and back muscle was tight. As soon as I started up, I knew I was in for a long, slow grunt to the top.

On both ascents, I had trouble getting started, which fatigued me even more. When I finally did get moving upward, I used some quiet swearing to help me along, particularly over the difficult sections where there was overhanging or "bulging" rock.

Matter of fact, just below the top edge on my first ascent, I thought I might have to go all the way back to the bottom. I just couldn't seem to make the moves to get past the overhang, and I was having the hardest time getting a foot or leg up to where I could heave myself away from the rock. I needed to get the rope off the rock, so I could "throw" the ascender past that bulge in the cliff. The teammate manning the edge was leaning over, trying to talk me through it, saying, "Now, there are a couple of things we can do here. You can put your foot here on this ledge and push yourself up...." Uh-huh. My foot would have been right about the level of my ear. Nothing I tried seemed like it was going to work.

But, finally ... somehow ... and I couldn't tell you how ... I was on top. And I'm amazed I didn't fall right over in one big lump of limbs and gear. My legs, and the rest of me, was Jell-o.

By the end of the second ascent, though, I was actually starting to find my rhythm and figure out the technique that worked best for me. And I managed to get past buldges (I don't know what else to call them) with much less struggle. But I didn't have the energy left for a third go-round to see if I could do it even better. It would have completely done me in, and we still had hours of training ahead of us.

So after a break....

...we moved on to anchor-building....

We covered a lot yesterday, and today I wonder how much I've retained, both mentally and physically. I'm definitely going to take my experienced teammates up on their offers to meet us newbies at the SAR building for some practice between trainings. I'll have to if I'm ever going to pass the proficiency test at the end of the five weeks. If I do, it'll be a big accomplishment for me. But, if I don't, I'm going to keep trying and working at it until I do!

I found this YouTube video, which shows the technique I was using, with one foot in the step, the other loose. Now, why does this look so easy here? One thing, though ... this guy, for the most part, is ascending away from the rock face, with no overhangs: www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6fhmg5HlnU

Now, why can't we do it THIS way? www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGvibmr2CIU (I suppose this would really hurt if you were against the cliff!)