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Four Things About a Rockface

Wilderness Kids made a wonderful return to Carderock Cliffs on Sunday, October 22. With the help of volunteers from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the American Alpine Club, ¡Escala! DC, and our own Wilderness Kids family, our students geared up and ascended rock faces all morning long.

Wilderness Kids and a group of wonderful volunteers set out to Carderock Cliffs in October for a morning of climbing.

Here’s the thing about climbing. Aside from being fun, it allows us to practice so many useful things.

Some students have a natural affinity for the sport and succeed quickly. As they do so, they practice the arts of paying attention and assessing. Scanning the rock face, they seek footholds and handholds, not just one or two of them, but a pattern of them that can get them up the next several feet or even all the way to the top. They are not distracted by their phones or even by their friends.

Katy, grade 7, makes a big reach to her left about halfway up Carderock Cliffs.

They are repeatedly asking and answering, Which of these tiny spots where the rock barely juts out will support my foot or my hand just enough? Where is there a path of foot and hand holds that can lead me up the rock face?

It does not take too much imagination to see how those skills of paying attention and assessing translate to the world outside rock climbing.

Rodrick, Grade 7, scans the rockface for his next move.

For other students, the rock face is a formidable but welcomed challenge. For these students, the experience is a practice in persistence. For many of us, the choice of spending twenty minutes in a harness, hanging twenty feet above the ground from a rope that is looped around a tree or boulder atop a cliff, is not a choice we would make! It is even harder to choose that scenario when one is not just resting in the harness but rather is attempting to go higher, and failing. Attempting and failing. Attempting and failing. Attempting and, yes, at last, succeeding. For several of our students this was the experience of the day.

Rebekah, grade 10, watches as her brother Ben, grade 7, reaches the top of the cliff. Rebekah reached the top on her next attempt as well.

Again, it does not take a lot of creativity to understand how a day spent being persistent on a rock face translates to life away from the rockface.

Finally, other students made a choice not to climb at all. Or to climb just a moment and then decided it was not for them. What is the practice here? It is the practice of finding one’s voice: of making choices about one’s own desires and preferences, speaking them aloud - even among peers and adults - and sticking to them. Everything we do at Wilderness Kids is “challenge by choice” - nobody has to take up a specific challenge. And, while we always encourage our students to give it a try, sometimes there is a lesson in speaking up firmly to say, “No thank you. That’s not for me.”

Paying Attention.



Finding One’s Voice.

All in a day on a rockface!

Thank you to our parents, our students, our donors and our volunteers for making it all possible.

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