This past weekend marked a momentous milestone for Vertical Generation where we held our first outdoor rock climbing trip with youth from the International Rescue Committee, an awesome organization that provides support to humanitarian crises around the world and refugee families. Thanks to the amazing support from Outdoor Research, Duct Tape Then Beer, and Vertical World we were able to take our programs to the next level and provide youth with a memorable experience climbing and enjoying the PNW wilderness. Since we started our project just over a year ago we dreamed of bringing youth outdoors and connecting them with nature using climbing as their vehicle. Now we’re SO stoked to have made that dream a reality.
Leading up to the trip the forecast for the day was looking quite grim — it was a classic case of sun, sun, sun, sun, RAIN, sun, sun, etc; however, we had faith and planned for the worst with various alternative activities. Luckily the weather held during our 4 hour window, and all of the kids had a full value climbing day! Major kudos to the Vertical World guides, Alex and Sam, for their innovative aid ladder and awesome guiding skills as the rock was quite damp at times.
We started the day rendezvousing at the Exit 38 pullout below the trestle bridge. Alex and Ryan went off to set up the top ropes while the IRC kids checked in and got geared up. Amanda, the IRC youth coordinator, mentioned this was the first time being in the wilderness for all nine of the kids. They looked around at the mossy trees, flowing creeks, and foggy mountain passes with awe.
Sam, one of the guides, lead us up the mountain via the approach trail. As we approached the crag the kids stopped and pointed with excitement at Alex and Ryan setting up the ropes. They were amped.
Once geared up with their Vertical World helmets and harnesses Alex, the other VW guide, gave instructions and a demo on top rope and climbing technique/communication. One of the boys quickly volunteered to go first and sped up the aid ladder route with overwhelming stoke. He set the bar for the day, and the kids were ready to get after it.
Throughout the day the kids pushed themselves physically and mentally to get themselves to the top. Some kids came down a bit spooked and would say, “I’ll never do that again!” But after a few minutes of collecting themselves they’d jump back in line and say, “I want to go again!” It was inspiring watching the kids push beyond their mental limits and find that sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes from reaching their goals. Eventually the rock dried out enough to rock climb without the aid ladder.
When not climbing the kids and Vertical Generation volunteers, IRC staff, and Duct Tape Then Beer film crew had an awesome time playing small games, chatting and joking around, and enjoying snacks and the view.
All of the kids crushed it, and we spoke with one boy in particular who exuded lots of excitement for climbing. When asked if he had climbed before he replied, “Oh yea! Back in my home country we’d climb all the time. But we didn’t have any of this [pointing to his harness and helmet].” He was referring to his childhood in Iraq where he would scramble up local rock. Another girl came back from a bathroom adventure with an IRC staff member and other girls, and giddily said, “I haven’t gone to the bathroom outside since Burma.” They all had smiles of pure joy on their faces and it felt like everyone was having a great experience outside.
When it came time to wrap up we all got together in a circle and reflected on the experience. For many of the kids the hardest part of the day was going down (trusting the rope and leaning back in the harness), and the most fun part of the day was “going up!” The kids enjoyed the experience so much they seemed psyched to join us next month for our Vertical World Movement Event! One of the boys said he wanted to climb EVERY DAY.
We gathered the supplies, performed a trash check, and made our way back to the cars. Pointing out more cliffs and rock along the way the kids seemed curious knowing their new found climbing potential. Once at the cars we gave high fives, hugs, and thank yous and waved to the IRC as they departed back to the city. We can’t thank our volunteers, the IRC staff, and Vertical World guides enough for bringing such positive energy and stoke to our first outdoor climbing trip. We couldn’t have imagined a more memorable day. And thank you Outdoor Research and Duct Tape Then Beer for the incredible support to make this happen. The psych is so high, and we can’t wait for the future, because we know this is just the beginning.
Thank you to our sponsors and partners! This wouldn’t be possible without you, seriously.