Mountaineering School 2014-2015 Outing 2
Dates: 11/21/2014 - 12/23/2014
Location: Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, Elkins, West Virginia
On the night of Friday, November 21st, teams departed the Pittsburgh area to meet at the Red Creek Campground in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, Elkins, WV. Students and instructors arrived to discover blazing stars above with the Milky Way streaking across the open sky. The objective of this outing was to practice land navigation by compass and topographic maps, using the skills we practiced in class earlier that week. Our leader, Mr. Shane Shin had provided students with the UTM coordinates of 5 locations that he had identified months before. Shane marked the locations in the field before students arrived Friday night, leaving a sweet treat at each location.
After sleeping through a frigid night in the low teens (oF) teams woke up between 6 -7 am to prepare for a long day of orienteering, but more importantly, some intense bushwacking. Once camp was broken down, breakfast prepared, and bags repacked, the teams departed on a staggered start schedule.
The day was enjoyed by all, as students navigated their way across the forests, fields, bogs and streams of the Dolly Sods Wilderness, setting bearings from one checkpoint to the next. Groups crossed paths with one another throughout the day as checkpoint after checkpoint was located. Each location was marked by blaze orange tape and a bag of Halloween candy for each team member. Instructors quizzed students along the way, asking open ended questions like, "so where do you think we are?" Or what do you think the best way would be to get from here to there?" The goal was to force students to discuss their strategies, evaluate ideas and make a plan in order to move closer to the final objective. Students were not allowed to use trails, only employing them in order to locate one’s location or use as a handrail or a landmark. The weather warmed up through the day, providing a great day to be out hiking.
Before leaving camp Saturday morning instructors were provided with the coordinates for camp for the night,but given strict instructions to not reveal them until towards the end of the day. Upon reaching the fourth of five coordinate locations, instructors revealed the location of camp for the night. For many teams, this mean traversing southwest across the wilderness in order to reach camp, as the final coordinate locations were located in the northern sections of the wilderness area. All but two teams made it to camp before sunset. Once at camp, the students and instructors set up tents and prepared their dinners. . The students and instructors chatted about gear and ate dinner before relaxing and socializing around the campfire. The temperature hovered near freezing throughout the night, offering a welcome reprieve from the frigid temperatures the night before.
The next morning, students tore down camp and were on the trail by 8 am. The campsite location left a brisk 2.5 mile hike along the Blackbird Knob Trail to the Red Creek Campground. Everyone made it back to the parking lot by 11:30, affording plenty of time to enjoy a refreshing celebration beer before heading back home.