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Old 01-11-2019, 04:35 PM
Mike Hill0341's Avatar
Mike Hill0341 Mike Hill0341 is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Texas
Posts: 826
Default For Chuck, the real mountains of California

Marine Corps Mountain Warfare training School
Pickel Meadows California

Chuck mentioned this area recently and he is correct. There are real mountains at Pickel Meadows and all the ones at Camp Pendleton are little mo hills by comparison.

We humped many of the hills at Pickel Meadows while serving as Marine Infantrymen in the 70’s.

That said, here I will talk only of the two man mountain climbing training we received at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare training school.
I may screw up some terms and other here- sorry for that in advance as it was long ago.

In this portion of the training they teach you how to scale a rock face (it is straight up) that was about 100 feet tall or so. You used tools like ropes, pitons, hammers, snap links and Swiss seats to accomplish this. (Swiss seats were a short piece of rope tied in a specific manner in your crotch area that you would connect a snap link to for rappelling or mountain climbing.)

You were taught to never climb alone. We were told that recently a Marine that was training there, failed to heed the never climb alone advice and had fallen to his death. If the instructors did not have our full attention before we were told about the Marine that had been lost, they certainly had it afterwards.

An important skill that you learn here is how to belay or belaying, rather than me trying to describe what that is here is a definition- Belaying refers to various techniques climbers use to create tension on a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall too far. They also teach you climbing skills so you can ascend with very little to stand on or hold on to.

The basics of 2 man climbing were this, you and your partner were tethered together by a rope, man A climbs up the cliff face (not very far up) and then hammers a piton or pitons into the side of the cliff face mountain and snaps the rope into them with a snap link. Then he stops and belays man B while he climbs up some, a little above man A, then man B hammers in to the mountain and belays man A again and you repeat this process over and over until you both get to the top of the cliff face.

Practice falling-As crazy as this may sound, before you are allowed to try to climb the mountain with your partner you have to learn how to fall off of the mountain properly. If you perform this two man climbing long enough you will eventually fall off the mountain but you will not go far as your partner will be belaying you and he is secure to the mountain with the pitons and rope and you are secure to the other end of that rope. The key with this falling is knowing how to properly fall. It goes like this-you will know when you are about to fall and then you must push yourself aggressively away from the face of the cliff backwards (as you are hugging the mountain face with your face and belly). Then as you are going backwards away from the mountain you spread your arms and legs wide, whatever you do don’t grab the rope and slide down the cliff face of the mountain when you fall or the rock face will chew you up. With practice falling they had you walk out on a narrow ledge that was perhaps 90’ above the ground on a sheer cliff face. I was tied to a rope with a Swiss seat and snap link and had my steel helmet on and was wearing my regular camouflage utility uniform with combat boots. On the other end of the rope from me (a few feet above me) was a man on flat ground at the top of the cliff. That man was tied to a big tree and was ready to belay me. They pulled out several loops of slack in the rope so that I could fall freely down the mountain for a ways when I jumped backwards off of the side of the cliff face. Then I was supposed to say something like “Lance Corporal Hill falling” and jump off. (pretty sure I was an E3 then)

Keep in mind this is before political correctness was ever a consideration with Marine infantryman. At the bottom of the mountain far below me were my grunt buddies from my platoon yelling up many encouraging words like “hey Hill you are a fucking pussy” and other coarse language like that.

Let me tell you, it is not natural to choose to jump backwards off the side of that rock face so far up in the air with all that slack rope there. That is unless you have done it before. I said all the right things at first but did not jump. The instructor above me offered more encouraging not so pc words like “Marine if you don’t jump off that mountain right now I am going to come down there and throw your ass off.” At that moment I jumped. It was really a cool sensation falling through the air and I executed it all properly except one of my hands touched the rope for just a moment, just barely. As I reached the end of the rope, it got real tight and I came swinging back into the face of the mountain properly with my arms and legs spread wide and proper.

More encouraging words were offered to me from the instructor above like “you touched my rope Marine, get your ass back up here, jump again and do it right this time”. The second time I eagerly jumped off as I knew then it was really fun to do it and I performed it all perfectly. It was such an exhilarating feeling, jumping off backwards, falling through the air so quickly, and then coming to the end of the rope, with a big jerk to your body. Then you came back into the face of the shear rock face rapidly and all this is happening when you are so high up in the air. The practice falling was a total kick, I begged the instructor to let me jump once again. While laughing he relented and said something like “ok one more time but hurry the fuck up”. I guess it was funny to him that there were grunts that actually enjoyed jumping off the side of the cliff face backwards.

Oh well, we completed all of the training there successfully.

Which of you here went through this training? Kegler was a West Coast grunt at one time long ago, so I suspect he went through it. Maybe he will share his memories of his experience.

Semper Fi!

Last edited by Mike Hill0341; 01-13-2019 at 04:16 PM.
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