Learning to Climb at Camp

Kids learning to rock climb while at campWhen girls first begin to learn rock climbing at Rockbrook, they start on our high ropes course climbing tower. It’s an “Alpine Tower” and you may have seen photos of it before here. It’s really the perfect place to learn how to climb because it makes so many different elements of “real rock climbing” so accessible. The girls can quickly learn important safety principles like the belay commands. They can begin to feel comfortable using the basic rock climbing gear like the harness, helmet, carabiner and rope. And, they can actually climb! A lot! The Alpine Climbing Tower provides close to 100 different ways to climb to the top; there are poles, nets, ropes, cables, climbing holds and rock walls to allow a whole range of difficulties and challenges. Girls can sign up for climbing instruction every week at camp and climb a couple of different routes every time they come!

But what do you learn when you first start out rock climbing? The importance of stretching and warming up is a good start. Everyone does better if they are flexible and a little stronger after warming up. After that the first lesson emphasizes the importance of balance, of being able to hold still balancing on one foot, for example, and moving the other leg or arms to reach a certain spot. Next, the girls learn footwork is central to rock climbing. It’s not mainly about finding grips for your hands, but rather about learning to use your feet and legs to move up the rock. Your hands and arms mainly help with balance, and your legs keep you moving. The other beginning rock climbing lesson to learn is more mental than physical. It’s learning to stay calm and focused. Rock climbing is a series of puzzles that requires concentration, and a calm, clear attention to details the rock presents. If you aren’t relaxed on the rock and get in a hurry, you might miss a hold or skip right over the perfect foothold making your route more strenuous and less enjoyable.

All of these lessons can take some practice to master, but there’s so much rock climbing going on at Rockbrook, the girls easily learn them. It’s really not hard to learn how to rock climb at camp, and the girls love it!

Balancing on the Rock

Kid Rock Climbing Summer CampYou’ve probably heard that “balance” is one of the most important skills to have for rock climbing. It’s true; a lot of the technique involves balancing on your feet, and usually one foot, as you move up the rock.

But it’s not only that simple. It’s also important to learn how to hold yourself still, to use your muscles to shift your weight from one foot to the other slowly and smoothly. Generally, as you climb, you’ll keep your torso stationary and move a hand or foot up to the next hold. This is sometimes called the rule of “3-point contact” and refers to the practice of only moving one foot or hand at a time while your other limbs stay on the rock.

For example, you might keep both feet on the rock, hold on with one hand, and shift your weight to the left or right to reach a new handhold.  Likewise, you might hold on with both hands, keep one foot set, and lift your other foot up to a new hold. The trick is to stay smooth, keep your body still, and shift your center of gravity from left to right and up. It’s this deliberate and precise moving that we meaning by “balancing.”

Are you rock climbing this summer?

Camp Kayaking Adventure

Summer Kayak Adventure CampsPart of the adventure program at Rockbrook is whitewater kayaking. It teaches girls the important safety and paddling skills to enjoy this great outdoor activity. Summer adventure camps in this area are a great places to learn about whitewater kayaking.

OK, but what is that thing she’s wearing? Well, it’s not a new fashion statement in bathing suits. It’s a kayaking spray skirt, and it’s one of the most important bits of equipment in this adventure (as is the boat, paddle, helmet and PFD). Most whitewater spray skirts are made of soft neoprene. They are designed to fit tightly about the paddler and around the rim (“coaming”) of the kayak’s opening (“cockpit”)… not too tight and not too loose. It’s purpose is to keep water out of the boat when paddling, but especially when rolling back up after a flipping.  You can imagine that the skirt, which is like a little wetsuit for your middle, also helps keep you warm boating through a chilly mountain river.  They feel a little funny when you first try one on, but also pretty cool since it’s such an adventure sort of thing to wear.

Learning to kayak at summer camp is great fun, even if you’ve never tried it before.  We’ll help you each step of the way, provide all the equipment (yep, even the spray skirt!), and cheer for you as you get better and better.  You’ll be smiling too!

All-Day Outdoor Canoe Trip

A girl who attended Rockbrook in the 1920s recalls the multi-day canoeing adventure on the French Broad River.

“When I had done nothing less than run up the hill twice and play off a tennis match, I suddenly remembered I was going on an all-day canoe trip. I dashed madly down the hill again to the landing and found I had not been left, after all. Mrs. Carrier was to go with us, which made the trip simply grand. Only three canoes went, and the trip was a roar of laughter from beginning to end. Mrs. Barron and Miss Neely had never been down, so there were many new things for them to see.

French Broad River Canoe Trip

We amused ourselves childishly all morning by jumping up and down in the bow and making waves. We had lunch at French Broad Landing, and my! how good everything was, from steak to caramel cake. That’s what comes of having Miss Neely along. Much to our sorrow, Mrs. Carrier had to leave us, but Doe came. We changed canoes after lunch, and Miss Neely was with Jane and me. We started the afternoon pleasantly by accidentally splashing some water on the next canoe, and then the fun began. Miss Neely tried vainly to shelter herself under a raincoat, but finally had to succumb to Jerky’s pleas to get in her canoe. Jo came in ours, and poor Doe had no-where to go. Jerky’s canoe, seeing themselves in danger, paddled ahead, and Miss Neely paddled for the first time in her life. A series of water fights ensued, and Jerky called back to us not to swallow any water, but I was beyond that stage. I talk so much that my mouth stayed open, and as I could not habitually think and splash at the same time, I consequently nearly choked.

We were paddling along with ease and agility, when we came together and turned each other over. Seeing our paddles floating away, Jane and I abandoned our canoe and went after them. From then on we stayed mostly in the river. We would hardly get settled when we would laugh so hard that we’d go in again. We were supposed to be at Penrose at four o’clock, and Late was there to meet us. Poor man, I know he wished he had lived up to his name, for we were an hour and a half late. Did we have a good time! Well, I should say! To say nothing of a hot late supper.”

—Mimi O’Beirne. July 30, 1927.

It’s Your Adventure Girls

Adventure GirlsAre you ready for some adventure girls? Are you ready to put yourself out there, or up there as the case may be? Camp is the perfect place for girls to try out outdoor adventure sports. There’s rock climbing, high ropes course climbing, wilderness backpacking, camping, hiking, whitewater kayaking and rafting, to name just a few.

But what makes these adventure activities? They all are a little intense, a little uncertain, and a little scary. They often test girls’ mental resolve and determination, and sometimes require physical effort beyond the ordinary. Adventure activities usually require special safety equipment and techniques as well (think ropes, paddles, helmets, tents, etc.).

When girls first try adventure sports, they are usually surprised how well they can do. With quality instruction, encouragement, and some practice, most of the girls at camp can climb a real rock, paddle a kayak, and camp overnight in the woods— and this in just their first year at camp! Everywhere you look there are adventure girls at camp.

A Rock for Sliding and Swimming

Swimming Adventure Water Slide

How many times have you gone down sliding rock? In the Pisgah National Forest, not too far from Rockbrook’s kids camp, there’s a famous natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it slides down about 60 feet into a pool at the bottom. The US Forest service has improved the area and now provides lifeguards during the busy summer season.

Most sessions at camp, we’ll take our Middlers and Seniors over in the afternoon for some cool mountain fun. It’s swimming. It’s adventure. It’s thrills, and because it’s also a clear mountain creek, it’s chills too. The girls just love it!  On one trip last summer, some of the kids raced backed to the top and slid down 9 times!  Have you tried it?

Kids Kayaking Adventure

Kids Adventures Camp KayakingGearing up for another adventure at camp! This time it’s kids whitewater kayaking on the lower Green River over near Saluda, NC.  Learning to paddle a kayak is another outdoor adventure activity that’s incredibly satisfying for kids.  Camps provide everything they need to get excited about the sport— the right equipment, step-by-step instruction, qualified supervision, and a perfect whitewater river.

It’s really fun to strap on all the gear and settle into one of the cool kayaks, even if it is a little scary at first.  But after kids practice getting out of the kayak when they flip over (a “wet exit”) and eventually rolling back upright (a “roll”), they become more confident in the boat and can use their paddle to maneuver around obstacles in the river.  It really gets fun when the camp kids can play on the river, surfing waves, running rapids, ferrying, and catching eddies.

Kayaking adventure for kids at camp.  Very fun stuff.

Kayaking Adventure at Camp

adventure kayaking camps

Outdoor adventure is one of the core camp activity areas at Rockbrook. Our outdoor adventure summer camps focus on backpacking (hiking and camping), rock climbing, whitewater rafting and kayaking. Most recently, rock climbing and kayaking have become increasingly popular, especially with the teens and older girls at camp.

After learning basic kayaking techniques like how to “wet exit” (That’s when you get out of the boat when it tips over upside down.), or how to “roll” (That’s when you roll back rightside up instead of wet exiting.), we head out to some of the local rivers for more outdoor action.  For the more advanced paddlers, we’ll even take trips to the Nantahala river, a Class I, II and III whitewater river nearby.  The mountains of NC, and the rivers that run between them, are just perfect for summer camps and this kind of adventure.