Spring Break 2014: Climbing? Climb On!

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In March, ten Sweet Briar students ventured to North Carolina to outdoor rock climb at two state parks. We were busy enjoying our surroundings for the whole trip. On the way down to Stone Mountain State Park, where we would camp for most of the trip, we stopped for a fun afternoon at Claytor Lake, then crossed over the border to stay at New River state park for a night. We learned how to pitch our tents, build a fire, and properly use a “privy” before settling in for our first of many nights playing games, chatting and singing around the fire. After a morning stroll through the woods the next day, we set off for Stone Mountain state park. Our first day at Stone Mountain was spent hiking the trails and discovering some beautiful waterfalls. That night, we enjoyed our first of many dinners from a Dutch oven, and settled into our sleeping bags for a good night of sleep before our first big day of climbing. On Monday, we set out for Pilot Mountain State Park, where we got our first orientation to outdoor climbing. We learned how to tie in to the ropes, belay, and use different types of hand and foot holds.

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After our first full day of hard core climbing (and our first experience repelling), we hiked back to our car, and our night time campfire ritual began once again. Our second day at Pilot mountain exposed us to some harder climbs and interesting cliff features. We also began to learn some of the basics of multi-pitch climbing, which we would have the opportunity to try later in the week. The next day was our scheduled rest day, and Mother Nature decided to throw us some curve balls. Our patience was tested, and we learned that we may be able to climb a mountain, but the natural world will always have a mind of its own. Most of our morning was spent in a pavilion, learning some more skills for multi-pitch climbing while staying out of the rain. In the afternoon, we jumped in the van and searched for a bowling alley. The first alley we found turned out to be a demolished building in a parking lot, but we found another alley that was open and ready for a group of giggly, somewhat smelly ladies, most of whom are terrible at bowling. While most of our scores remained in the double-digits, the smiles on our faces were worth a million bucks. Luckily, the weather cleared up for the rest of the trip so we could climb Stone Mountain.

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This mountain is much different than Pilot Mountain in that it looks like a giant bowl of concrete was dumped upside down in the middle of a field. The rock was very smooth and required a lot of patience, balance and some “Jedi mind tricks” as climbers bear crawl to the top. Some of us chose to multi-pitch climb on Thursday and Friday. This means we were able to climb much higher on the mountain than we were only able to climb as high as one rope can reach. There were scrapes and bruises galore by the end of the week, and we all showed them off with pride. Because of this trip, there are ten Sweet Briar women who believe they can accomplish anything, will tell you that brownies are delicious at any consistency, know that the easiest way to tie a knot is to “punch a boy in the face”, will laugh any time you tell them to “trust their shoes”, and can backpack coil a rope in their sleep.

Stargazing

Last Friday, the Outdoor Program took a great group of ladies on campus to do some stargazing! We had a perfect night with temperatures in the 50s and came geared with sleeping bags, snacks, and thermoses of hot chocolate. The skies were clear and we were able to see most of the late winter constellations including the Orion, the Great Hunter, Taurus the bull, Leo the lion, the Gemini twins, Ursa Major, Canis Major, Perseus, and Cassiopeia the queen siting upside down on her throne who really just looks like a sideways “W” in the sky. We also learned about cool objects within those constellations, like the Great Orion Nebula and the Pleiades star cluster. The beautiful planets Jupiter and Mars even made an appearance.

 

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Our guide throughout the night was SK ’16, a sophomore who has lots of experience stargazing and knows the sky very well. Stay tuned for our next trip!

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The Apprentice Program

It is almost the midway point in the semester so we decided to check in with our Apprentices and ask them some questions about their experience so far!

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What has been your favorite part about being in the Apprentice Program?

KU ’17 loves learning all the ropes about the Outdoor Program. MK ’17 said, “My favorite part of the Apprentice Program has definitely been the Wilderness First Aid training. That course was so much fun and the live scenarios made each day so exciting!  I never would have thought I could learn so much in two days, and I’m pretty good at making splints too!” BM ’17 also loved being able to go caving for the first time.

 

What are you most looking forward to learn in the Apprentice Program?

KF ’17 is most looking forward to being able to set up her own Outdoor Programs trip. Learning to cook outdoors is something MK ’17 is excited about.

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Any funny stories from being while being in the Apprentice Program this semester?

MK ’17 had this to say, “While during a scenario in Wilderness First Aid KF and I were both supposed to be unconscious victims, and instead she was throwing mini pine cones at me.  I still have one!” KF ’17 loved playing charades after backpacking. “We were all having such a great time looking back on our adventure, and we were able to laugh about the hard times we went through.”

 

 

Mud, bats, and the dark! What’s that? It’s CAVING!

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On February 1st, the Outdoor Program took 12 lovely girls to Island Ford cave in Bathe County with our Master Naturalist on campus, Mike Hayslett. We got to see plenty of bats, get super muddy, and even enjoy some cookies in a chamber of the cave called the Buddha Room. We had a lot of first time cavers on the trip and were thrilled that almost everyone that came signed up for our next caving trip! If you haven’t tried caving yet, stop by the OP to pick up one of our trip schedules to find out when the next one is.

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Skiing and Snowboarding Highlights

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This Year’s Skiing and Snowboarding Highlights

  • 7 people skied for the first time
  • 10 people snowboarded for the first time
  • VW ’16, an OP apprentice, snowboarded for the first time on the first trip of the year and conquered a black diamond by the last trip
  • 10 people skied and snowboarded on the terrain park
  • OF ’15, SK ’16 and ED ’16 got some great Instargram pics while stuck on a broken chair lift for a half hour
  • Enjoying BIG cookies, French fries and hot cocoa
  • Cramming more stuff into a bin than you thought was possible
  • No one got injured!
  • Skiing and riding lifts with SBC sisters you had never talked to before
  • First time snowboarders getting awesome bruises (especially CW ’16)
  • Getting to ski on fresh powder after two snow days

Join us next year for more ski and snowboarding trips!

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“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity,”

            This January I came back to home sweet Sweet Briar a few days early to participate in the Winter training trip for Outdoor Program instructors and apprentices. This would be my first trip as an apprentice, and would consist of three days backpacking in the mountains of George Washington National Forest in freezing weather.

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            The three day journey was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life, however it was also one of the most challenging, mentally and physically. The first night we got to camp very late due to a last minute change in route. By then we were all exhausted, it was 12-15°F, snow blanketed the ground, and it was pitch-black in every direction. The first thing we had to do was strip in order to change into dry clothes. This is an important outdoor concept that helps ensure that you stay dry and warm by trading in the moist clothes you’ve been sweating in all day for fresh layers. But the idea of getting into my birthday suit for even a few seconds in the bone chilling weather was almost as painful as actually doing it. Almost. But Tasha encouraged us with expressions of how much better we would feel, so we all made the plunge. And we did in fact feel a little better. But there were tents to be setup, food to be cooked, and a fire to be built so we weren’t off the hook yet.

            That night I lay bundled up in my sleeping bag, terrified of doing it all over again the next day, but my fear was short lived. I was far too exhausted from the day’s events to lie awake worrying for long, and quickly succumbed to sleep among the quiet forest sounds.

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            The next morning was like a fresh start. Having successfully survived the preceding day, I woke up feeling energized and excited despite the previous night’s chilly chaos. We ate breakfast, purified water for the day, and cleaned up camp, then set out on our way with new optimistic attitudes. Our group pace was impressive throughout some intense up-hills and by the time we reached the top of three ridges everyone seemed uplifted and empowered by the amazing view we had worked so hard to reach. I think its safe to say that this was a favorite moment for everyone, as we relaxed while snacking on GORP (trail mix), chatting with each other, posing for pictures and just taking it all in.

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            When we got to camp that night we knew exactly what to do and transitioned smoothly into our designated roles. We ended the evening with holla hollas around the campfire and dove chocolate before heading to our tents and drifting off to the sound of the nearby stream. That night, my body ached all over, but it felt invigorated and alive. All the images of the days hike flashed through my mind in sharper detail than I knew my brain had the power to register and retain.

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            For me, this trip was such a memorable and important experience in my life primarily because it was so challenging. The pride of persevering through the rough patches made the beautiful and happy moments that much more incredible. I had been personally having a difficult time with some emotions in the days leading up to the our adventure, but I truly believe getting out there and freezing my toes and fingers off was the best thing for me. The distraction of keeping my peers and myself in good health was restorative, while the quiet non-judgment of nature was therapeutic. A quote by John Muir really embodies all that I learned on this three day hike and that is: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”

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Scrapes and Stings and Sprains, oh my! Wilderness First Aid Training

On our first weekend back from winter break, the Outdoor Program instructors and apprentices took a two-day course in wilderness first aid. Since many of our trips have some risk involved, we do our best to be prepared and know what to do in emergencies. During wilderness first aid training, we practice several scenarios, most of which involve some fun stage make-up that resembles bruises, blood or pale faces! Below, an apprentice examines an “ankle injury” in a scenario.

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Since our trips usually take place in areas that are not easily accessible by ambulances, we learned how to splint and bandage. In Wilderness First Aid, we use only supplies that we would carry in a first aid kit and other equipment that would be in our packs. Below, apprentices are constructing a splint for a tibia/fibia fracture using only extra layers of clothes and a sleeping pad.

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Learning about wilderness first aid is a lot of fun, but we hope not to have to use these skills in real situations! The most important thing we learn in this training is that it is much easier to prevent injury and illness than treat it.

Join the Outdoor Programs for Spring Break 2014

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The SBC Outdoor Program is excited to announce that this year’s spring break trip is headed for the hills of North Carolina for a week of outdoor rock climbing! There is nothing that can compare to the experience of defining your strength, finding balance on your fingertips and toes and focusing your mind and body on the goal at hand – reaching the top. The views to be had at the summits of Stone and Pilot Mountains are unbelievable and your sense of accomplishment and body awareness will be exhilarating.

 Stone Mountain

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Stone Mountain – Friction Climbing

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Pilot Mountain
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We will take a few breaks to rest our muscles, but we’ll be staying active! There are hikes to be hiked, waterfalls to find, yoga poses to strike on summits and even a trail ride to explore (on horseback!). There won’t be a dull moment – and you won’t want to miss out.

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Get ready to feel like you’re on the top of the world.  We’ll bring our newfound sense of confidence back to campus and tackle life’s challenges with composure and poise.

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Hiking Trip Blog Post: December 7, 2013

 

On Saturday morning we gathered in the Outdoor Program Lounge before the sun had even risen to greet us, eager to embark on the last Summit Hike of the semester. The air was bitterly cold, but our hearts were warm with the prospects of new adventure.

 

We all piled in the van as Grace, our fearless leader, took the wheel. The drive seemed long since I was excited to start hiking, but we entertained ourselves with funny Thanksgiving stories and favorite memories of previous Outdoor Program trips.

On the Road Again…

 

When we finally arrived at Shenandoah Valley, we were disappointed to find out that Hogback Mountain, the hike we had originally planned, was closed because of the icy conditions. However, we were not to be deterred, so we chose another hike instead, Overall Run Falls, that included a huge waterfall. The cold and snow didn’t stop us either: this was no Everest, so we prepared for our icey ascent by piling on layers of warm gear. 

 

The views on our hike were absolutely magical, it felt like we had stepped into a Winter Wonderland. Beauty surrounded us, and we forgot how cold our feet were once we looked around and viewed the amazing the nature on the trails.

We had a young man from Hampden-Sydney join us, Taylor, who thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by a group of ladies. Taylor was a participant in the Bachelor Auction charity event we hosted on campus a few weeks ago, and since he loved the outdoors he wanted to take his date on a hiking trip. His zealous ambition for life contributed to the many laughs we shared.

Taylor and Alex, with a successful photobomb by Emily

 

We finally climbed to the top, and got to witness a 93 foot waterfall, the tallest in the park. Looking beyond to the west, we could see the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain. There were rock ledges where we could sit and enjoy the scenery, and we took a moment to soak it all in.

 

The hike to the falls and back was 6.4 miles round trip, and we climbed 1850 feet! We were all so exhausted that most of us fell asleep on the way home (except Grace, who was driving, of course!). A fun day was had by all, and I returned to Sweet Briar with a sense of accomplishment, having made new friends, and eager to go on another Outdoor Program trip soon!

The Apprentice Program

Hello Lovely Readers! 

Today we hear from two instructors about their participation in our Apprentice Program! This is a program for first years and sophomores, who are interested in becoming instructors in the Outdoor Program. If accepted, they learn office procedures, how to plan trips and how to be a leader on the trips. After winter break, they participate on a training trip with the current instructors in order to gain more training and understanding of not only the Outdoors in general, but also the leadership that comes with our program. This year’s Apprentice Program application is due this Friday, October 26 by 12pm, noon! If you are interested please come pick up your application today! 

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Kayla Finn

My first semester of Freshman year, I was really eager to get involved on campus. I knew that I wanted to try and find a job and I had remembered going into the OP office on my tour the first day of orientation. The second I found out that the instructors were students, I made it my goal of freshman year to become an instructor. I emailed the director, Tasha, and found out that they were thinking about having students interested in becoming instructors go through a thing called the Apprentice Program. I immediately was psyched and wanted to participate.

I started working in the office with a graduating senior who was an instructor in October of my freshman year. I did all the boring office work (that is actually kind of relaxing) all year and it was kind of like an internship. I was always in the office and ready to learn more about how to plan trips successfully. Once I got all of the planning down, I started to get to go on trips not as a participant, but kind of as an instructor in training. The other instructors started giving me a tougher role on trips with more responsibility and I loved it. 

After winter break all of the apprentices got to go on a backpacking training trip with the instructors to have bonding and learning time. It was freezing, and slightly terrible…but also really awesome. Even through all of the challenges I personally encountered on the trip, I knew that I was still committed to being an instructor. It felt really nice to be out in the woods and completely self-sufficient. We learned how to filter our own water to drink, which was my favorite memory from the trip. A few of the apprentices were getting the water for the whole group and it was just a really nice moment where everyone was content and happy that we could contribute. Over the few days, I learned a lot about how I work which is why it was so awesome. I got to figure out my limits and then go past them with the support of all the other OP peeps.

The apprentice program took a lot of work on my end, not going to lie. It is really what you make of it. You could go through the year and not really take advantage of all the opportunities, or you could throw yourself into everything and really be prepared to maybe get hired as an instructor. Having participated in the program, being an instructor is second nature to me now. Not only am I super prepared and comfortable doing my job, but I also learned a lot about how I work with others and myself as a whole. Participating in the program was seriously one of my best decisions in college yet. The OP is the best job in the universe and I couldn’t be happier that I met my goal of being an instructor. We get paid to hike mountains which I do in my free time anyway.

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DJ Gallagher  

In the spring of my freshman year, I decided to go on the OP spring break trip. We spent an entire week learning how to whitewater kayak and I was hooked from that point on. I went on more trips the fall of my sophomore year and knew I wanted to be an Instructor from that point on. I got accepted into the Apprentice program and went on the January training trip. It was cold and mentally and physically challenging, but the first things I think of when I reflect on the trip is how much fun I had and how much I learned! Like Kayla said, the Apprentice Program is really what you make of it. It can be as demanding as you want it to be. During the spring, I was able to really become comfortable with office systems and work on teaching kayaking skills. When I was hired as an Instructor, it made the transition really smooth and seamless as I’ve been working this semester. Being an Instructor is so much fun! You get to really develop your leadership skills while getting paid to do the outdoor activities you love!