Want To Be A Dirtbag?

Written By: Craig McClure

I’ve had a lot of bad ideas so I get pretty excited when I have a good one.  The Crackerjack Group recently held a “flyer” of a class we dubbed The Dirtbag Clinic..  and it worked. The idea came about because we had some friends in town for the Mountain Rescue Association Conference and they wanted to get together and train.  They didn’t want a “class” in the formal sense but rather just wanted to get out on the rock, experiment, and share ideas. To make this happen we needed to find a few more like-minded and we needed to keep it simple and inexpensive. It needed to be accessible. 

The way to keep it simple was to eliminate all the frills and logistics.  Show up. Train. Go away. We didn’t coordinate meals, secure lodging, or do a bunch of paperwork.  When we started talking about this someone said “I don’t care if they sleep down by the river in a van. It isn’t our problem” and BAM, we had a name. The Dirtbag Clinic!  Nothing fancy, just good training.

$200 for two FULL days of training in a great location fully supported with gear, ideas, instruction, and complete hands on evolutions.  We had 5 agencies represented and just 8 students and… it. Was. Perfect. (keep in mind this was on a Monday and Tuesday with less than a month notice).  We got to cover whatever the attendees had on their mind and had the freedom and flexibility to run down rabbit holes, experiment, and slow down when we hit good teaching points.

Some of what we covered:

Basic shared tension systems and variable tension concepts with Petzl RIG, Petzl ID, Black Diamond ATC Guide (the Petzl Reverso would work here too) and Bluewater VT Prusik all on Sterling HTP 9mm and 11mm.

Artificial High Directionals using the Arizona Vortex in tripod, a frame, and monopod configurations.  We played with advanced anchoring concepts by placing active and passive rock protection and the “voodoo” system.

Pickoffs and small team raises using some techniques the class hadn’t seen.  One team had IDs in the kits but only used them as descenders. With our small team and two person load they discovered the simplicity and power of using the ID and building 9:1 MA with Petzl Jags and Rock Exotica Azteks.

Edge safety management with constant two points of contact And.. EVERYONE got a chance to be a leader and build that confidence.  We beta tested some new command quick reference cards and worked on clean, clear, and simple communication.  

And so much more..

The real jewel of the class was on day two and I asked “So what do you want to do?” and the group chose to do a pickoff evolution with a monopod, guyed using only rock pro placements, on a twin tension system, using ID’s and the inside 9:1 MA system.  That’s a TON of moving parts and aside from two of us nobody else had ever deployed each of those components, let alone all of those components combined. They accepted the challenge and learned a ton. Really… isn’t that what real learning and growth is about?  Find a challenge, take a risk, and give it your best effort. You may be surprised at the results. 

It was a fantastic experience and I believe the success was in the approach of the Dirtbag Clinic. Nobody had to slog through agency approvals for a few hundred dollars or justify the training.  They just showed up, worked super hard, and left with big smiles. If you were there please weigh in here with your experience.

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