Trip Report from Cedar Rock & Lessons Learned Climbing

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When I learned rock climbing as a 14-year old at camp, it began a lifelong fascination with this activity. Why did I love it so?

  • Because I admired the men who taught me that the sport had risks and that those risks could be managed intelligently.

  • That they trusted me, as a 14-year old, to learn the techniques and assessments of risk, so they could trust me to take me up longer climbs. I wanted to be worthy of that trust, and I paid close attention.

  • Because I was scared of it: the cliffs seemed tall and terrifying, but I could take that big daunting wall and break it down into smaller parts - pitches - that I could manage.

  • That fear is finite - I could feel it come up, stand on the holds, push my heels down, and breathe, and it would recede and I could do the thing that scared me.

  • That I could slip and fall and momentarily fail and my friends would use the rope and systems to catch me safely, and I could try again.

  • Because, my first summer, I made it to the Linville Gorge trip, looked across that deep river gorge to Table Rock and Hawksbill, and knew that I had come to a place of lifetime activity on my personal frontiers. And, 54 years later, I’m still finding them there. I’ve been climbing ever since. The fear is still there, and I know what to do with it.

So, last summer, working with June Campers at Cedar Rock, coaching them through their fears up that rock slab with the huge views over the valley up to the Balsams and down to Looking Glass, I knew just what they were going through, and knew that some of them would be making meaning of this experience all their lives. The pictures in this post hint at their experience.

That’s why I love rock climbing.

About Gordon Grant

I came to Mondamin as a 14 year old camper in 1969, and have followed what I learned here in adventure and academic education for 54 years: at Mondamin and Green Cove, Nantahala Outdoor Center, NC Outward Bound, Asheville City Public Schools, and UNC Chapel Hill. I still practice deep play in whitewater, rock climbing, and hiking, and am still working on my kayak roll…

I have worked closely with the Bell family in these years, from the founders of the camps, Chief and Calla Bell, through their son and daughter Frank, Jr. and Nancy Bell, and their grandchildren Andrew, Calla, and David. Each generation has taught me something.

My wife, Susan, is my partner of 40+ years; we have shared outdoor adventures around the world. Susan has headed canoeing at Green Cove. Our daughters, Rachel and Glenna, were Green Cove campers, and our granddaughter, Virginia Rugh, will be at August camp this summer. We intend that our grandson Grant will be at Mondamin in 2028. I am working with David Bell and the Mondamin staff to assure that he, and many other boys, will be having adventures on their personal frontiers at camp for years to come.

Gordon Grant