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AAC Volunteers Power Southern Appalachian Section’s Rappelling Clinics

Posted on: April 10th, 2013 by lhummel

AAC Volunteers Power Southern Appalachian Section’s Rappelling Clinics



Danny McCracken

It takes members like Danny McCracken, Aram Attarian and Patrick Weaver to demonstrate the value of the American Alpine Club to the climbing community at the grass roots level.   Over the past six months, these committed volunteers have invested significant time and energy to help over one hundred and forty of their fellow climbers avoid rappelling accidents.

 Last summer a young man died in a rappelling accident at North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park.  In the aftermath of this tragic event, an informal group of  AAC members met to consider if the club should take on a more aggressive role in promoting safer climbing practices in our region.   Out of these  discussions came a commitment by the Southern Appalachian Section to develop and deliver a series of free clinics designed to promote safer rappelling practices.  The project to develop the clinic instructional resources was led by Danny McCracken with help from Aram Attarian.  

Patrick Weaver 3 (1)

Patrick Weaver

 Danny and Aram based the clinic content on material published in the  Know the Ropes chapter of  the 2012 Accidents in North American Mountaineering.   The clinic is not a “how to rappel” class and does not compete with introductory rappelling classes taught by climbing gyms and guide services. It is intended for climbers with some experience rappelling interested in ensuring that they are current in their understanding of safer rappelling protocols and equipment.  The clinics are free and open to all climbers.  All participants receive a free clinic t shirt with rappelling best practices graphically documented on the back.  AAC membership is not required to participate.

 Having developed the clinic content, the section next established a partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Institute of Pisgah Forest, NC, to deliver the clinics across the region.  All clinics are taught by AMGA certified instructors from AMI.   Danny, Aram, and AMI owner and chief guide Patrick Weaver head up the volunteer instructional team with support from other AMI guides.

 The first clinic was held in mid November at the REI store in Cary, NC.  Since then  additional clinics have been taught at REI, as well as clinics hosted by the Triangle Rock Club, Morrisville, NC, the Inner Peaks Climbing Center, Charlotte, NC, Lees-McRae College, Banner Elk, NC,  Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, Brevard College in Brevard, NC and Pilot Mountain NC State Park.  To date, thirteen clinics have been delivered across North Carolina with over one hundred and forty participants graduating.  More clinics and venues are in the scheduling pipeline.  

Aram Attarian (1)

Aram Attarian

Our thanks to those who have supported the clinics financially and our partners, Appalachian Mountain Institute, Rescue Dynamics of Edmonton, and the editors of Accidents in North American Mountaineering.

Contact Southern Appalachian Section Chair David Thoenen ([email protected]) for more information.

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