Sunday, October 03, 2010

Come Climb with Me

In the early eighties, my brother-in-law and camp Loll Staffer, Alan Taylor found some carabiners. He suggested that we try climbing at Loll. We imagined an activity called the wolverines. Membership would be earned by swimming across Lake of the Woods from the cove to the cliffs above the middle of the lake on the south side. A wolverine would climb to the top of the cliff and then rappel down. Alan and I scrounged up an old white nylon rope and a big steel stake and climbed to the top of the cliff. It soon became obvious neither Alan nor I knew what we were doing. Alan backed to the edge of the cliff, the carabiners dangling uselessly from the rope tied around his waist; I held the end of a rope wrapped around the stake we had driven into the ground. We decided it wasn't a good idea. We hiked back to camp.

A few years later many of the Loll staff went to work at Camp Treasure Mountain. There they had been rappelling on a cliff up the canyon. We learned how to do it and climbing became part of our camp program. At the time there were no national BSA climbing standards. It was never mentioned at camp school. To my remembrance almost no one was climbing or rappelling anywhere. We did watch a movie with the staff, it was actually a Cedar Badge activity that we expropriated, an old reel to reel film of a fellow climbing the Grand Teton. I remember that he picked up a frog from a stream low down the mountain and carried it to the top, then put it back in the stream when he got back down. The key scene of the film was when the climber was driving pitons across the bottom of an overhang. He put a piton in and pulled up on it. It came loose and, as the next piton had held, he smashed into the face of the mountain. He hung there for a moment, put his finger to the side of his nose and blew the blood out into space, and drove a new piton into the stone above his head, and went on his way. What a great lesson.

This is Doug Hopper, I believe he was sixteen that summer of 1982. He trained on rappelling up Teton Canyon and was soon taking campers over the edge. There were no restrictions or guidelines on such programs in those days. We just made them up as we went along.

Jeff Curtis was Treasure Mountain's Waterfront Director the summer of 1983. Here he takes his turn going over the camp rappel.

Scot Pierce sends Tom Davis over the edge as well.

I "retired" from professional scouting after the summer of '83. We spent the next two summers at Camp Bartlett. By our second summer there - 1985 - we were looking for a place to rappel. The closest place we could come across was a mass of big boulders at Copenhagen Basin. Campers had to drive about forty five minutes to get to the rocks. But we had a great time and learned a lot.

It was back to Loll in 1986. That first summer we were busy rebuilding our camp program. It wasn't until the summer of 1987 that we started thinking about rappelling at Loll. Many of our guys were out on Yellowstone Lake on a training hike with Curtis Grow, and Leonard Hawkes and I were trying to think of things to give our staff some challenging and rewarding activities to do which would, at the same time, strengthen our camp program. We decided to go with rappelling. Leonard headed to Jackson to buy some ropes and hardware. All he had to go on were the recommendations of the store clerk.

There was a painful moment when I went down to pick up the guys from the lake trip, as they sat behind me in the van, they chattered about their adventure. Some of my favorites announced to each other that they had now done everything there was to do at Loll. The next summer they would not be coming back. I said nothing, but I was enraged. I decided to send the ropes back to the store and make the lot of them into dishwashers for the summer. These words came into my mind: "No one has ever harmed me, but they have suffered more." I recognized the source of the quote, Media. That was all it took, I realized that I was being consumed by the same fury that had killed her sons and nearly consumed the ancient world. I took up a new resolve, to make it impossible for any boy to "do everything there was to do at Loll." Climbing is the perfect tool in this determination. Like sailing, climbing demands skill, mastery of equipment, development of bodily strength, but mostly it would require acquiring ever increasing knowledge in order to obtain ever increasing rewards.

We started looking for a rappelling rock. Many possibilities presented themselves. Just above the second switchback we found a great cliff. Over 40 feet high and looking down on the camp and lake. At first we called it Piss Ant Point, because there was a nest of ants on the edge of the rock. But Janice insisted we find a better name. Now we call it Weather Rock, because from its crest one can see clear to the western horizon and predict the coming weather. Here Trent Warner stands at the top of the rock.

This is Jody Orme at the bottom of "Weather Rock".

Todd Wangsgard, who came to Loll from Camp Bartlett in 1986 became very important in our quest to climb. He and his mentor Tom Grover actually knew something about climbing and rappelling. At the time I didn't even know they were different activities. Todd set about making climbers out of our crew. Here he and Trent Warner display the some of the tools of the trade.

It was only natural that our climbers would go looking for greater adventures. It was Todd and Trent that first brought word of the big cliffs west of Loll. It seems odd now, that for all the years the camp had been in use almost no one had looked west. All our concentration and effort had been on the lake. Now we found, literally in our back yard this wonder. Trent and Todd called it CEYHO Basin. Meaning, Copenhagen Eat Your Heart Out Basin.
Here is a picture of the cliffs from their base. It was Leonard Hawkes that marked the trail along the ridge that we use today.

In 1988, we found a great repelling instructor in Curtis Grow. Curtis would go on to be the Program and Assistant Camp Director at Loll, and his interest in and knowledge of climbing added greatly to the success these programs enjoy at Loll today.

Also in 1988 we got Doug Hopper back from his mission to Denmark, and soon he was running the rock, training the staff and moving our program forward.

By 1988, CEYHO Basin, unknown a year before, had become a focal point of staff and camper activates. More scouts were using Weather Rock, but there seemed to be infinite promise for more advanced programs here at CEYHO. It had become such an important part of the program that when Doug Muir drew the lines for the Jedediah Smith Wilderness he cut out CEYHO as well as Loll, allowing their inclusion in the Forest to ensure we would be able to continue to use them.

Here is Lafe Stapley with Alsion Conner at CEYHO. By the way, that is Mike Bronson (as a scout) with his back to the camera.

Many Loll staffers found fun, adventure, and romance serving at CEYHO Basin. Here, in 1989, Dave Kirkham supervises while, behind him, Curtis Weller, Paul Harris, and Curtis Smith learn the ropes.

The Conner boys found all kinds of adventure at CEYHO. This shot also shows the beautiful view from the cliff top. Here one looks southwest toward Jackson Lake and Grand Teton National Park. It is a reminder of the immensity of the wilderness that surrounds Loll.

In 1989 Ralph Murdock, Boyd Davis, and Dave Hopper train atop CEYHO. Here one can see the view to the south, including Survey Peak to the right and the north end of Elk Mountain, like a pyramid, at the center.

In the twenty years since, a lot has changed in climbing and in scouting's programs related to it. There are now training programs for camp Climbing Directors at National Camp School, hosts of regulations to follow and records to keep. Beyond scouting, climbing has become a very popular sport in the community of outdoor enthusiasts at large. I like to think that Loll has played a part in that transformation. I know we have infused our community with a host of climbing enthusiasts, both staffers and campers. Now, on any given day, there are as many Loll campers climbing and repelling as there are doing anything else in camp. Often we will have more kids on the rocks than at the Waterfront. How did we ever do camp without this program?

Now climbing and rappelling are available to all Loll Campers. First anyone can take the climbing merit badge. Loll offers it in a two hour session offered twice a day. Each afternoon, the scouts in the merit badge class are at Weather Rock fulfilling their requirements. Each afternoon our camp rangers escort groups of "second year campers", and adult leaders to Weather Rock for a rappel. The camp Advance Camping Experience (ACE)participants participate in rappelling and climbing at CEYHO Basin, and In Camp High Adventure groups rappel over 200 feet at Phantom Falls.

Many scouts get their first introduction to climbing from the Rock Jock. In 2010 Loll's Rock Jock was Christian Lippert. He not only invites second year campers to rappelling, but demonstrates how rappelling puts hair on ones chest.

Chest hair that when ripped out actually grows back instantly in different colors.

Christan is not only our Rock Jock, he is also our Climbing Merit Badge instructor.

He puts his heart into everything. Climbing is now one of the most heavily attended merit badge classes. Climbing Merit Badge is very difficult, requiring hours of extra work. Camp Loll is honored to qualify many of our campers in this badge, and excited to contemplate the hundreds so well prepared for a life time of adventure and growth in climbing.

Climbing is one of our most staff intense programs in camp. Not only are staff members required, but adult supervision is necessary at every site. There must be a twenty-one year old director, and all climbers and rappels must be supervised by at least an eighteen year old staffer. Contrast this to the waterfront where, although the director must be a certified twenty-one year old, the rest of the life guards can be sixteen. Consider the difference in the salaries of adults and Jr. Staff and you will see the challenge this program creates. The cost of staff is not the only expense of this program. The equipment, ropes, hardware, harnesses, and helmets are very expensive and must be continually replaced. Not only is there an expense in money, every piece of equipment must be logged every day. This recording process requires hours of work each day.

Weather Rock

Here one of our Rangers supervises a rappel at Weather Rock. This Ranger is Wes Mathis. He was our climbing instructor for years, and is a master at the sport.

Commissioner Clark Anderson, age 21, supervises as a Climbing Merit Badge student belays one of his friends over Weather Rock. The namesake view to the west is obvious in this shot.

This cliff might not look like much to you. But experience tells me different. I rappelled from Weather Rock in 1987. It was unforgettable.

We now run four lines at Weather Rock. Two rappels and two climbs. Here twenty-one year old staffers, Brandon Purdie and Tayte Campbell run the line.

Here some scouts work on their climbing merit badge under their instructor's direction and inspiration.

Climbing is a great type of and practice for life. You learn that you go up by hard work and skill and by following the truth. You find that real satisfaction comes in earning success.

You cannot be given happiness, you must earn it. Setting someone on the top of the rock does not give them near the gift that teaching them how to climb on their own can provide.

You have to follow the rules, and have the right equipment.

One needs good supervision to make sure they are safe, but must have the courage to go where they have never gone before. One needs learning, guidance, and faith. Tayte Campbell was one of our Chief Rangers who provided adult leadership on the rock.

Rappeling can have many of the benefits of climbing, because it requires the same components. The transfer between climbing and rappelling shows how these same traits and attributes transfer into other meaningful life activities.

Brandon Purdie shares knowlege and by his presence makes the adventure possible.

Clark Anderson shows the right way.

And Clark goes even further, he teaches others to lead, to do those things that make it possible for others to participate. The magic of climbing is shown here. We have a young scout about to enjoy his first ever rappel, an opportunity to test his metal and prove to himself that he can do hard things. Then we have another young scout who is getting the rush that comes from knowing how to share an adventure with another, and finely we have Clark enjoying the pleasure of sharing the joy with others on both levels. There is no end to the adventure that climbing brings into the lives of those who learn and those who teach, those who guide and those who follow.

Always looking for the future, Loll is already training younger staffers to take over the climbing program. Here Mike Mortensen puts some merit badge candidates through their paces.

It's at the bottom of Weather Rock where a lot of the Merit Badge work is done. Our merit badge instructors spend all afternoon qualifying as many scouts as possible.

Equipment and supervision, both limited by financial resources, are the limiting factors in how many can achieve. The Loll staff always goes the extra mile.

The real hands-on experience of this merit badge program is obvious. Once again, it's not just the scouts that find something worthwhile in this program. Meeting the demands of teaching is as rewarding as the challenge of learning.

It is tedious to spend all day at the top of a rock, coaxing boys and leaders to "give it a try". But there is great satisfaction in knowing that one's dedication has made someone else's life better.

Not just boys but many adult leaders at Loll take advantage of Weather Rock's rappell. It's often their first and only time to face the fear and find you can.

There is real satisfaction in making it.

And for our staff, there is great satisfaction in making it happen.

Weather Rock, like every other place at Loll is a beautiful location. Even waiting for your turn is a chance to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. Here is a glimpse of Lake of the Woods through the beautiful forest found at the base of Weather Rock.

It's always nice to see a Bartlett Tee Shirt at Loll.

It is great to see a boy take his life in his hands and follow the steps necessary to do something that he didn't think he could.

This shot shows the multiple climbs and rappells that are now available at Weather Rock.

These ropes and the equipment that go with them are an "investment". The pay off is a lot more than fun.

Copenhagen Eat Your Heart Out Basin

The key player in an effective climbing program is the Climbing Director. For years Loll's climbing Director has been Dan Mauchley. Dan also serves as our High Adventure Director. His very capable assistants, Justin Hansen and Ben Dansie are excellent leaders in their own right. Dan has trained them and a host of Rangers over the years to safely and efficiently run our program.

Training starts during Work Week. Dan and his crew take the new Rangers to CEYHO and put them through their paces. It's not just the climbing and rappelling, it the care of equipment, keeping track of drops and hours for the logs records, and maintaining activities and disipline on the rock. Most of our rangers are already great leaders, and competent climbers. Dan, Justin, and Ben make them masters for the CEYHO experience. Mitch Sutherland strikes a pose.

Matt Bredhauer is also eager to show his stuff. Check out the snow covered forest in the valley below.

Travis Billings, long one of Loll's fieldsports staffers, shows he can still put on the "gun show". It is great role models like these that make the rappelling and climbing work. Not just because they inspire the campers, but because they exemplify the good things that come from doing difficult things well.

Young Loll staffer, James Cardinal, displays a bag of climbing shoes. Camp Loll's Alumni Association bought a bunch of climbing equipment for the camp in 2009. Their gift included a full range of Red Chili climbing shoes. More equipment to keep in good repair, more opportunities for campers to experience excellence.

The Rangers practice their skills with each other, they will then give the entire Loll staff a chance to rappel and climb.

Mitch practices with Cory Christensen, soon the roles will be reversed. Learning to lead is hard, that is what makes it worth while.

Here Matt gets ready to send John Mortensen over the edge.

Here staffer, Kyle Neville takes his turn down the 90 feet of stone.

Then it's Ben Kraus' turn. Next year both he and Kyle will be able to be Rangers and "run the rock".

Clark is also trained at CEYHO by practicing with the staff. This is Jordan Osbourne.

So many ropes, so many things to learn, so much growth and so much real self esteem to build both our staff. Growth for those who go over and for those who send them.

Once the staff learns to run the rappel, bring on the scouts. The ACE Program spends Tuesday morning at the 90 foot rock, both rappelling and climbing. The In Camp High Adventure spend Wendesday morning in the same activites. This scout points out the landmarks in the background. Survey Peak to our right, the pyramid of Elk Mountain to our left.


Rappelling and Climbing are completely different things. They both have their qualities. Usually rappelling is an introduction into the sport of Climbing. But it has a host of rules and conventions which must be mastered, and there is usually that first time over the edge that requires trust and the overcoming of inner barriers.

Here soon to be rappellors await their chance. The need to keep them occupied and learning is the responsiblity of the Ranger assigned to prepare them for the climb. Their harnesses and other equipment must be carfully donned and double checked.

Once every thing is in place and the training has been given, its over the edge. No one is ever quie the same again.

A long way down soon becomes not long enough.

At CEYHO Basin, the rappel takes you past your range of vision into a leap of faith, faith in your equipment, in your training, in your belay man, and in yourself.

In Camp High Adventure crew prepares for their adventure - an adventure is something you do for the first time.

Our staff members have sent hundreds of campers over the edge, their adventure comes from the fact that one can live the adventure of every first timer. There is also the adventure of giving the gift of the rappel to a new camper everytime. It's like telling a story to a new audience, teaching a lesson to a new class, sharing Loll for the first time with anyone.

Once over the edge, you feel on your own, but you are not. I often tell the story of the ropes that set one free. Before the rappel your guide ties you up, then you are free to do things you would never try without the ropes. This is the lesson of just rules and commandments; they do not take away our freedom, they set us free.

This parable of the ropes is made real again and again in the lives of those who meet their moment of truth at the cliff at CEYHO.

The high of both CEYHO and Weather Rock is multiplied to the senses because of the deep valleys below.

Camper after camper go over the edge. Every time, every detail must be seen to.

The Rangers and Directors who run the rock can never become complacent. There is no try, only do or do not.

The wonderful faith that a boy puts in the hands that hold his life is another lesson taught by living it. One is forced to consider how all our lives we must trust in those who hold the line.

For every rappeller it is the same, whether it is the first time or one of countless events. Again it must be just right every rappel. There can be no sloppy climbs. Gravity does not discriminate between the novis -

- and the master. Here Justin Hansen prepares for his umpteenth rappel at CEYHO.

And down he goes.

This is Bradley Turek's first time, some day he too may well be a master with hundreds of successful trips down the rock.

This scout may never rappel at CEYHO again, but that does not mean this climb will not be with him forever.

This route takes the scout over an overhang.

One more who will never be the same again. So scared at the first step over the edge, soon running back to the top begging to go again.


As with rappelling there is a system to preparing the crew to run the climbs. First Ben, Justin, and Dan teach the how of running the climbs by having the new Rangers climb. Wes is already a master climber, but now he tries to see the climb through the eyes and heart of those he will instruct and guide throughout the summer.

This time as he climbs he thinks of how he will help them excel as well.

A climb is always a challenge, a challenge is always a way to building ones self.

Hard work brings Wes to the top, his hard work will bring many more to this moment as well.

Here Mitch guides Matt up the rock.

It is Matt's turn to rejoice in his strength and his abilities, while learning the even more difficult lessons that will enable him to share this joy with many others.

He adds his kiss to those who have reached the top.

Now it is Mitch's turn.

Out of sight on the rock below Matt takes his turn at the top rope that makes Mitch's success possible.

Now our well trained Rangers are ready to let their campers climb. They are now able to see the joy they give and feel the joy of serving others. These are universal truths in action, life lessons learned by endless adventure.

There will be scores of climbers up the face of the ninty foot face at CEYHO.

Once they learn to climb, rappelling seems rather tame by comparison. This is a life lesson too. We grow past the simple to the complex. We find endless joy in adventure of infinite complexity.

As a boy uses his muscle and determination to overcome the mountain he learns lessons that change his life. This is the romance of climbing, the romance of scouting. Life changing experiences made possible by hard working and caring guides and teachers, by a staff who find their never ending pleasure in giving others a chance to grow.

Tayte Campbell was also one of our adult leaders in 2010. He was a Ranger in 2007, and returned to give a gift of another summer to Camp Loll. Like all good givers, he got more than he gave.

There is real satisfaction is seeing a new made friend gain self confidence by mastering the lessons of the rock.


A few years ago Ben Dansie and Dan Mauchley added bouldering to the ACE program. Last summer the Alumni Assosiation bought the camp some crash pads. There is a marvelous tallis field at the foot of the CEYHO cliff.

Here ACE participants find that a rock does not have to be tall to give all kinds of challenge.

In this beautiful setting they get a chance to test their metal against big rocks.

Freed by knowlege and a crash pad they try all kinds of tests of their own limits.

You don't have to be at the top of a mountain to be on the top of your form.

Phantom Falls
Camp Loll's In Camp High Adventure includes a hike to Survey Peak. A highlight of that adventure is a 200 + foot rappell over Phantom Falls. Kim Hardcastle was the Camp Professional Advisor the year we decided to rappel at Phantom. I told him we needed enough rope to rappel 200 feet. He showed up with considerably less. "There is no such thing as a real 200 foot rappel," he assured me. He and some of the staff loaded up the ropes and headed for the cliff. He was back mid-afternoon to admit he had not brought enough rope and that we really did have a 2oo + foot rappel at Phantom.
Once again, our High Adventure Directors take the Rangers to the falls during Staff Week. Here they learn the ins and outs of hiking and camping in the wilderness. The biggest challenge of the hike to Survey is finding one's way home. Still, there is nothing more exhilerating than the rappel over the face of the falls. They are called Phantom Falls because once the snow is gone the water stops falling, but the fall is still there. So is the wind that almost always blows up its face.

Justin sends Cory over the edge. He will know what he is asking of every camper he sends down the same rock.

It is almost impossible to put this mountain side in perspective.

Even to veterans of CEYHO, Phantom is a heart racing adventure.

But as at the other rocks, here at Phantom there are those who know how to keep it safe. No details are missed as Loll's Climbing Directors and Rangers set the foundation for the life long lessons made possible by ropes, and hardware, and knowledge, and courage.

Back in 1987 I determined to make "Camp Loll a place where no boy can ever do it all". Climbing has become an invaluable tool in the quest for this goal. Our campers are introduced to the wonders of the rock, the equipment and skills that will give them a life long adventure and a life long lesson in living. I see the scouts and other campers, boys and girls from all over the country thrill to the joy of mastering the rock, of producing a real accomplishment by their own effort, I watch with pleasure as novice staffers become responsible experts who gain joy by giving it to others. I, at least find climbing has made Loll a place where I will "never be able to do it all".


BDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

Climbing and rappelling was one of the funnest things I got to do at Loll, and one of the most terrifying. I had always been afraid of heights, but it ended up being great.

Oh, and Alisa was incredibly tickled that you would remember/mention her Dad. Seeing as he climbed with Greg Lowe back in the day (before Lowe Alpine), his knowledge was and still is quite extensive in the climbing arena.

Lysis said...

Of course, as I am sure you will agree, Tom Grover’s greatest gift to Camp Loll, and to my life, have been his children. That said, is was Bro. Grover who had the knowledge we needed and who provided Todd and others who had the desire and drive to make climbing come to life at Loll.

Once we got started, we sent many of our guys to train at the Exam School in the Tetons, but that came later. We were among the first to have trained climbers running our program, long before the rest of BSA saw the light.

Daisy Chick said...

I loved reading your post on climbing. I have loved to climb since I was young, thanks to my dad. I loved climbing at Camp and CEYHO is one of my favorite places. My husband came as a leader with his troop years ago and had his first introduction to climbing there. This summer while visiting Camp as a family we were able to introduce our children to climbing on Weather Rock. What a thrilling experience it was for me to see my children climb in the place I love most.

Reach Upward said...

Loll's climbing program is fantastic. I watched my 13-year-old earn his Climbing merit badge at Weather Rock this past summer. Climbing and rappelling the rock carved by nature beat any of the climbing gyms we have visited.

Q. McB. said...

I love how you mentioned we never thought to look out west. I was not there for the times you mentioned, but after 5 or so summers i finally made it out west down the north boone. . . and well there is still much to see. But isn't that the story of the wilderness.

Dan M said...

Just a minor correction. Weather Rock now runs 3 rappells. Again, it's minor. :)