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Summer safety for Schriever: Rock climbing

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Brandon Schirm, 50th Force Support Squadron management analyst, rock climbs outside of Canyon City, Colorado, 2017. Schirm has been climbing for 18 years and said this area is well known for limestone climbing. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

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Brandon Schirm, 50th Force Support Squadron management analyst, rock climbs at Devils Head in Colorado, 2018. Schirm said climbing is like a puzzle where you have to piece together hand and foot placements in a specific order to reach the top. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Colorado summers can be fun, with seemingly endless activities, however, it is important to practice risk management and follow the proper safety procedures when participating in high-risk activities such as rock climbing.

 Brandon Schirm, 50th Force Support Squadron unit safety representative, said he has been rock climbing for more than 17 years.

 “When you’re participating in an activity such as rock climbing, you have to make sure you’re following the proper safety procedures,” Schirm said. “This means understanding the sport and its dangers before you go out.”

 Senior Airman Nathan Saelens, 50th Comptroller Squadron financial operations flight technician, who has been rock climbing for more than 15 years, said to ensure safety equipment is adequate.

“Don’t be afraid to invest in new equipment,” Saelens said. “Ensure your ropes are in good and working condition and make sure your harness is also in good condition.”

 Schirm said going alone is a bad idea.

 “Make sure you find a mentor, someone who is experienced,” he said. “Having someone with you can help prevent injury and they can also make sure you’re doing it right.”

 Saelens recommended new climbers take classes.

 “Don’t be afraid to sign up for a class, taking a class is a good way to meet other climbers and it’s also a way to make sure you know what you’re doing. Teachers are going to be very experienced and will teach you proper techniques and procedures while climbing,” Saelens said.

 Schirm said it’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

 “Pay attention to whats going on around you,” Schrim said. “A common injury you’ll see is rock fall, when lose rock falls and hits a climber. It’s important to be conscious of what’s going on.”

 Schirm said preventing an injury is simple.

 “By staying in areas that are well travelled, well climbed, you’re able to prevent things like rock fall from occurring,” Schrim said. “This is because most of the loose rock will have fallen out already.”

 Saelens said rock climbing can be safe.

 “If you are confident in your abilities and are following the proper safety procedures, there is absolutely no reason to be scared while rock climbing,” Saelens said. “Just make sure you know what you’re doing and people with you do as well.”

 Saelens also said rock climbing can be stress relieving.

 “Have fun,” Saelens said. “Go out and enjoy and respect Mother Nature. Have a good time but make sure you’re practicing sound risk management.”

 Schirm said he loves the thrill of climbing.

“Rock climbing is like a puzzle where you have to piece together your hand and foot placements in a specific order to reach the top,” he said. “A climber at any skill level or age can enjoy the movement and freedom of climbing, this is why I climb.”

 Schrim also said to treat rock climbing like any other high risk activity.

 “You’re not going to go rafting unless you know how to swim,” Schrim said. “If you fall off that boat you’re going to drown. It’s the same with rock climbing. Make sure you understand what you’re doing before you go out and do it. Follow the proper safety procedures, use the proper equipment and enjoy yourself. It’s a fun sport at a low cost, of course there’s risk but if you do what you’re supposed to, you’ll be fine.”

Contact the Schriever Air Force Base outdoor recreation office for more information about rock climbing at 567-6050.

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