Rock Climbing at Camp High Rocks

Pictures from August 3, 2010 (password required)

Chris Dorrity

Hey everybody!  This is Chris Dorrity, the director of the climbing program here at Camp.  I have the honor of working in the area of camp which includes the tallest structure in camp, our climbing tower!  This is true on all days of the week except Tuesday, when the mountain of cleaned and returned laundry dwarfs the height of the tower!  Jokes aside, we have had an excellent 2-week session so far!  I have had the privilege to work at High Rocks for six years as the director of climbing.  I have been climbing for 17 years and have climbed in over 120 separate climbing sites throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and Greece.  I have also twice climbed El Capitan in Yosemite Valley; a 3,000 foot cliff that took my partner and I six days to complete.  It was this climbing partner that first introduced me to High Rocks, over eight years ago.  I did not know the impact in my life that this camp would create and how special it would become.

High Rocks holds a special place in my heart and I am so blessed to have been a part of it.  The reason I keep coming back to High Rocks is simply because it is the best.  I feel the cabin counselors, facilities, head staff, programs, activities, instruction, and trips are superior to all camps in the Southeast.  Everywhere I go, people have heard of the excellent programs at High Rocks.  For the climbing program, we are allowed freedom and flexibility in the locations of climbing sites.  For example we travel to local climbing destinations such as Looking Glass Rock, Cedar Rock, Horseshoe Rock, Rumbling Bald, The Stone Depot, Pilot Rock, and Cathedral Rocks.  During the 3 and 4-week sessions we travel to out-of-state sites such as the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the New River Gorge in West Virginia, the Obed, Foster Falls, the Tennessee Wall, and the Stone Fort in Tennessee.   Lastly, the skills and experience of the staff in the climbing program allow us to explore and climb a much wider variety of climbs than most camps in the area.  But above all these things, the biggest reason I come back to High Rocks is the kids.  They mean so much to me and I am blessed to have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives, if even for a short time.

I often think of Sumner Williams and his original vision for this camp.  Would he approve of the lessons, the skills, the progression, the staff, the facility, and the trips?  I know that he is not here to make sure that all is well in the activities provided for the campers, so I have to make sure that I do my very best to serve his original interests in this camp (that Hank and Townsend have continued).

In working toward these interests, on the first day of camp we ask each camper what their individual goals are for climbing.  Some say that they want to get invited on a climbing trip to Pilot Rock, a 350 foot cliff that is a special all-day climbing trip for 10 campers.  Some say that they want to be able to get to the top of the beginner wall on our climbing tower.  Some say that they want to get to the top of the advanced wall without falling.  Whatever their goals are, we help them to achieve them by the end of the session.  On the last day, we ask each camper if he has indeed reached his goals.  Some camper goals have been reached and new ones made for next summer.

Climbing at the Cathedral Rocks

In helping the campers reach their goals, the climbing program incorporates a variety of lessons and skills that we teach to the children every day.  Examples are types of climbing (e.g. traditional, sport, bouldering, aid climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering).  Other examples include climbing equipment, difficulty ratings, types of holds, body positioning, knots, hitches, and advanced anchoring systems.  We also include climbing skills for the campers to practice.  Examples include foot and hand positions, balance, static and dynamic movement, and resting positions.  Every day the campers have the opportunity to learn these lessons and skills, while having fun climbing on the outside or inside of the climbing tower, or in our large bouldering cave.  Also, each day during the 2-week session we take a morning and afternoon climbing trip to Cathedral Rocks.  This is a climbing site on camp property just a short hike from main camp.  Here the campers have the opportunity to climb on real rock transferring the lessons and skills learned at the climbing tower.  For many campers this special trip is the first time they have gotten to climb real rock.  The climbing activity is a single program in the whole of camp.  All the activities in which the campers choose to participate are first-rate.  All of the programs are effective at teaching each camper real skills and lessons that he can take with him and use outside of camp for a lifetime of physical activity.  Something we tell the campers in climbing on the first day of camp is, “Today you are campers who climb at camp.  When you leave here you will be climbers that come to camp”.  This is why I keep coming back to camp.  I love it!

As for today, the sun is back out and it is warming up again.  The fog has lifted and all the activities are in full swing.  Today Arts & Crafts is beginning to make boats for the Regatta race being held this Friday.  This morning, several campers set out on the overnight hiking trip.  These hikers are taking the perimeter trail around camp.  We had a mountain biking trip this afternoon, a morning and afternoon trip to the French Broad river, and of course a morning and afternoon trip to Cathedral Rocks.  Lastly, the ropes course ran an afternoon program as well.

Tackling the Ropes Course

As I am writing this I hear the cheers and laughter of the campers in the afternoon swimming classes.  I am saddened a little to know that in a few short days, the camp will be quiet, campers and parents gone, and a silence will fall again on the camp.  Another summer will have passed and I know that it has been a great one.  As for me, I will be here next year heading up the climbing program for my seventh year.  I want to do this forever.  I don’t think I could imagine a summer away from the children and this camp, and I don’t want to have to.  For now I have to believe that our programs, staff, and facilities were able to make a positive difference in the lives of each camper this summer, and I hope to see everybody again next year. 

Have a good rest of the summer and start of the school year! 

–Chris Dorrity

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