Friday, November 18, 2011

25th Anniversary of the AORE Conference

At the beginning of November, I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual AORE Conference in San Antonio, Texas.  For those of you that are not-in-the-know, AORE stands for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Their mission is to...

...provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.

As most of you know, the American Alpine Institute is both a climbing school and a guide service.  Our mission has always been to educate our climbers so that they can get out there to do things on their own. Additionally, our emphasis on education has always been broad enough to reach out and engage those who would like to become climbing guides, climbing instructors, and outdoor educators.

It only makes sense for us to be involved with a phenomenal organization like AORE.

I attended the AORE conference last year in Keystone, Colorado and found it to be an exciting and engaging event. So this year, I packed up my bags and made my way to San Antonio.  As my brother lives in Austin, I decided that I would make my way to the conference from there.

I had the opportunity to man a booth in the vendor hall for AAI, to present a lecture on how to become a mountain guide, to hold a career seminar, and to teach a class on multi-pitch rock rescue in Enchanted Rocks State Park.  Additonally, I attended seminars on legal issues in guiding, on field risk management and on indoor climbing wall certification.  There were literally dozens of seminars I would have liked to attend, but couldn't due to my other duties at the conference.

Here are a few of the seminars that I missed, that looked "super cool!"
  • Silo Ice Climbing - Techniques for creating your own outdoor ice park.
  • Getting Past the Cruxes of Planning Climbing Competitions and Events
  • Diversifying the Field of Outdoor Education - How organizations are trying to diversify outdoor pursuits and education.
  • The Ins and Outs of Environmental Sustainability in Outdoor Programming
  • Missing the Link: The Importance of Nature Education for City Parks and Recreation Departments
Of course these are things that interested me.  Many might be more interested in how to run a bike program at a university or through a bike guide service. Others might want to learn how to set-up a student program to a foreign location.  And yet others might want to talk about stand-up paddle boarding.  By my count there were around 130 different seminars, discussions or trainings that one could have taken at the event...

Following is a photo essay from the conference.  And from San Antonio, Enchanted Rock and Austin.

The Centerpiece of Any Tour of San Antonio is the Alamo

Out in front of the Alamo is a large white sculpture with many of the important figures of the battle carved into it.

Another not-to-be-missed element of San Antonio is the Riverwalk.

A Statue of San Antonio, a Catholic Saint the city was named after.

The Riverwalk is an incredible Venice-like experience. The San Antonio River runs right though the center of the city and numerous shops and restaurants populate the edges of the canal.

During one of the night socials for the students, professors and outdoor professionals, they brought in a mechanical bull to ride.  And now I can say from experience, that this is not a very easy thing to do.

I went out to Enchanted Rock State Park twice.  This is the nearest trad climbing area to both Austin and San Antonio.  The locals affectionately call it, E-Rock.

A lot of climbing areas really stand out when you approach them.  One usually crests a hill and then the angels start to sing as some steep face or beautiful pinnacle comes into view.  That is not the case with Enchanted Rock.  The crags are on the periphery of low angled -- but very cool -- granite domes.

The Main Dome at Enchanted Rock

Hikers and backpackers from all over come to Enchanted Rock to check out these strange low-angled domes.  But on my first trip there, I went to check it out for the rock rescue course I was supposed to teach later on.  That, and to climb.

I spent my first day at E-Rock alone.  I used my Ushba to complete a handful of toprope solo routes.

Most of the routes are found on boulders lying against the edges of the domes.  I did a handful of routes on the steeper face on the left-hand side of this picture.

A Self-Portrait while at a rest on Orange Peel (5.10a)

Most of the climbing is slabby with edges.  There are a few really fun cracks.  E-Rock is a really great climbing area!

 The Main Dome

 At the end of the event, I returned to Enchanted Rock to teach a multi-pitch rock rescue clinic.  Following are some photos from the clinic.


 I couldn't help myself. I had to take a picture of the backpackers pulling a cooler...

After the rock rescue seminar, I made my way back to Austin.  Which is a really cool city.  These photos are from a tour I did of Ladybird Lake and Barton Creek.

Yep, that says, Lets Pretend we are Robots. 
Click on photo for full image.

 More fun street art.
Click on photo for full image.

Barton Creek has a little bit of the Central Park Feel

I'm already looking forward to the AORE conference in 2012.  It looks like I'll be able to wax my skis up to meet all my new friends again in Snowbird!

--Jason D. Martin

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