Dropping out

Abseil, Queensland

At the top of the Brooyar cliffs

QCCC Mapleton is running a Certificate III in Outdoor Education course.  Until recently you could do this course at Sunshine Coast TAFE, but they shut it down this year.  Cairns TAFE is now the only tertiary provider in Queensland and the rumour is they’re going to close the course down next year.

QCCC sniffed the wind and realized that if we’re to have capable and qualified staff to run our activities and expeditions programs, we’d need to train them ourselves.  Our first three graduates have just finished up their course and in July we started an intake for a further six students.

Last week they took a three day (two night) trip to the Glastonbury camping grounds just north of Gympie.  There’s a great series of cliffs up there called Brooyar, so they were up there for some early instruction in both abseiling and rock climbing.

I went up there to join them for the day, their third.  They were already adept at running out the ropes and we had a great day on the cliffs, learning, laughing, abseiling and rock-climbing.

Now when I was at university I was in with a clutch of mates who got around the place with figure-of-8s and ropes in the boots of their cars.  Twenty years ago it was still pretty much a new activity and looking back we were cowboys.  Some of our livelier adventures included descending a cliff using a nylon trailer rope because we had nothing else and we just had to abseil.  The rope was also ten metres short, so the first (and only) guy to go down had to clamber into a tree and climb down.

Another ‘adventure’ saw me repelling off a railway bridge into a river, and when I was halfway down a coal train came rumbling over the top.  It was a twitchy, jerky ride with coal dust raining down.

So safety standards have caught up with the sport and to prevent others from the misadventures of my youth our instructors are up to date with the latest in equipment and requirements before they go throwing people off cliffs.

Rock climbing Queensland

The toughest part of the ascent, 40 metres off the ground.

I hadn’t abseiled from those mad university days so it was great to get back into the harness and see if I still had what it took to go over the edge (I did).  And I was able to get my first go at outdoor rock-climbing, taking on a Category 15 (pretty easy) climb ascending the 45 metres I’d just abseiled.

Where I abseiled in my spare time while completing a Bachelor of Economics at university our Cert III students get to have a lot of fun doing their tertiary course.  Through the course of the next year they’ll go on numerous field trips – some more abseiling and climbing, canoeing the various rivers running off the Blackall Range, sea-kayaking, some fairly major bush walks amongst others.  Tough gig!

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