What Does It Mean To Be A Climbing Mentor

What Does It Mean To Be A Climbing Mentor

It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn and is relationship-based.  Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)” Farren Ph. D., Caela “Eight Tpyes of Mentoring: Which One Do You Need?”. MasteryWorks.

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.
Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

Some of the popular mentoring techniques are:

  1. Accompanying: making a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in the learning process side-by-side with the learner.
  2. Sowing: mentors are often confronted with the difficulty of preparing the learner before he or she is ready to change. Sowing is necessary when you know that what you say may not be understood or even acceptable to learners at first but will make sense and have value to the mentee when the situation requires it.
  3. Catalyzing: when change reaches a critical level of pressure, learning can escalate. Here the mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change, provoking a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
  4. Showing: this is making something understandable, or using your own example to demonstrate a skill or activity. You show what you are talking about, you show by your own behavior.
  5. Harvesting: here the mentor focuses on “picking the ripe fruit”: it is usually used to create awareness of what was learned by experience and to draw conclusions. The key questions here are: “What have you learned?”, “How useful is it?”. Daloz. L. A. (1990) Effective Teaching and Mentoring. San Fransisco. Jossey Bass p. 20.
Semester on the Rocks participants out on the rocks in the Wichita Mountains

These techniques are the foundation which I have chosen to transfer the knowledge and skills of traditional rock climbing to those that want to learn.

“Traditional climbing has the potential to be dangerous if you do not have the required skills and confidence, so I take a personal interest in the people that I teach to climb, for me its like giving someone a weapon, I want to ensure they respect the sport and know how to use it”.

Traditional rock climbing refers to a style of rock climbing in which a climber or group of climbers place all gear required to protect against falls, and removes it when a passage is complete.

Our Semester on the Rocks Program is designed to create a mentoring relationship between myself and those that want to learn to rock climb in the traditional style. The Semester on the Rocks Program starts with a meeting to explain how the program works, determine your goals, assess your current skill set, and then we both commit to the mentoring process.  The program is broken down into six to seven courses, recommended reading lists and climbing trips and typically takes my participants approx. 4-6 months to complete the program and it is really dependent on your level of commitment, schedule and weather. You may need to learn some core skills before we even head out to the rock in which you will go through our Core Skills Clinic to learn basic knots and friction hitches used in outdoor climbing that are meant to keep you protected as we work close to the edge of climbs.


Each course we do out in the Wichitas is followed up by an actual climbing trip which allows me to assess retention and mastery of the previously taught material, refine your techniques and to get out on the rock. You will also be included in our circle of outdoor climbers and others that have previously gone through the program and that are now climbing on their own, the idea here is to get as much time out on the rock as possible. Climbing is not just restricted to the Wichitas, I have done climbing trips with participants to Joshua Tree, CA, Red Rock, NV, Boulder CO and once you learn to lead belay safely I encourage my program participants to join me for a portion of these trips as my climbing partner. This allows you to experience first hand what it is like to be a climber on an actual climbing trip and how to plan for trips.

Semester on the Rocks participant Sean leading the first pitch at Castle Rock
Semester on the Rocks participant leading the first pitch at Castle Rock, Boulder Canyon, CO

We want to create safe, competent traditional climbers that respect the sport, that will enter the world of climbing with a set of standards and ethics and that focus on exploration, sustainability and a sense of adventure.  If you would like to learn to climb in the traditional style drop me a line and we can talk about it.

img_20160904_092842Christopher Gibson is an outdoor climbing mentor at the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center and has been climbing, guiding and mentoring for over a decade, has completed the American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor Certification and has ascents across the country and internationally.  


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