Tuesday, June 5, 2012

North Carolina Outward Bound Immersion Course

Remember how I said I would be working at North Carolina Outward Bound this summer?  Well the first thing we did was go backpacking, canoeing, and climbing for 14 days!  Naturally I brought my camera, took tons of pictures, and now I'm sharing them with you guys!

I know this is A LOT of pictures and videos, but this is actually about a 1/8 of the pictures I took.  I tried to narrow it down, but any 14 day trip is gonna be big no matter how you cut it.  I figured it'd be more convenient to have this all in one place, rather than making four posts for the same trip.

Anyways, without further ado, THE IMMERSION COURSE!

(And this was May 16 2012- May 29 2012)

The first section was the backpacking section.  We met at Cedar Rock Base Camp, NC and met our two instructors, Josh 'Hair' Harris and Josh 'Beard' Brown.  Both instructors were Assistant Program Directors to the two base camps, which meant we had two Superstar instructors.  (They were REALLY good).  I actually arrived the day before, where I met Sage (who I met at a previous, optional training), and James (who read almost the entire day before this trip).  The day the trip started I met Corey, Patrick, Jana, and Benji.  Anna and Jesse drove about 14 hours, and arrived a little later.

During this section we got our gear, did our high ropes training, then got in our vans and headed out to the Pisgah National Forest.  As we spent about half our time off trails, I can't give you an exact trail for what we did, but we did have an awesome time!  We spent 5 days in the Pisgah National Forest, following the trail the first two days, 'bushpushing' the second two, and then heading up to a road on day 5.

Cedar Rock Base Camp

Getting our gear packed

Why do a ropes course normally when you can do it with style?
Ropes Course!

Our Fearless Leaders

Pre-backpacking Photo

Our sleeping situation.

Alternative sleeping situation


We thought this was pretty intense.  We were wrong.  Final Exam taught us what real bushpushing was...


Thanks to all the trees, this was about as good as views got.

James enjoying his drink.


It wasn't all outdoor activities.  We had some fun too!  This was us playing Ninja

Boby Cove!  Ft. the trail that wasn't there

More River Crossings

Solo Night!

Little bit of wildlife

More attempts at a view

A REAL VIEW!  Our bushpushing was over the three peaks from center to the right hand of the screen.
AND this marks the end of the backpacking section.   We got in the van, went to a gas station, then headed up to Mill Ridge to begin our water section.

We stopped at a gas station and the lady working was kind enough to donate 11 free Snickers to our trip!
After we got out of our van at Mill Ridge, NC, we got gear for the river section, met our new instructors (Corey and Chavo), and headed to sleep.  The next day two days we learned the fundamentals of Canoeing on Section 10 of the French Broad River.  Our original plan was to put three student days into two, then get on Section 9 on our third day.  Unfortunately, the rain pushed the river level too high, so we whitewater rafted instead of Canoe'd the third day.  Still a ton of fun though!

Beard (the nickname for our instructor) making us dinner

Duffle Shuffle (getting gear for the river section)

Canoeing down Section 10 of the French Broad River.

Beard and Jesse

Corey teaching us how to swim a rapid.
Sage Swimming a rapid!

Heading down to Crane Rapid.  Anna and Sage are in the boat to the right.

Corey, Jesse, and Pat getting ready to go down a rapid

Canoeing down a chill section of Section 10.

Me and my Canoeing Buddy! (Sage)

During one of my swimming sessions (I swam a few times), my friend saw something jump out of the water and instinctively wacked it with his paddle.  This is the result.

Whitewater Rafting Day!

Washing our gear!

Surprise stop at a Restaurant!  And we got to shower! So nice!
END River section.

This section flew by in my memory.  It started off with us heading back to Cedar Rock Base Camp, getting our climbing gear, and then heading up to our first climbing site.  The purpose of the NCOBS Climbing block is to get you on a MULTI-PITCH Climb by your third day.  To give perspective, four people (out of 15) from my NOLS trip in 2010 went Multi-pitching, and we went on day 10.  It is incredibly efficient in getting you ready for multi-pitching.  Your first day, you clip in to an anchor while on the ground, the same way you would in a multi-pitch.  The second day you top-belay, in other words, you belay from the top of the climb, rather than the bottom (which is standard).  And on the third day, an instructor leads a route and you follow them up 150 feet of rock.

Suffice to say, this section was awesome!  It also was the easiest section, as the hardest climb I did there was a 5.6.  It was meant to teach us what the students would expereince, rather than pushing us to our limits with tough 5.11 climbs.  We did come up with a few Challenges though to make the climbs more difficult.  My favorites were: Climbing Blind (eyes shut), Climbing with sneakers and one hand on your head (rather than rock shoes), hopping up the route (no hands), walking up the route (no hands), and running up the route as fast as possible.  All of these methods made climbing 5.5's considerably more fun than they would be normally.

WOAH, talking too much, PICTURES!

Jesse with his Cocula leftovers.

Patrick coming down from a route.

Me on the rock!

The walk challenge, starring Sage.

Great View!

We had to teach lessons, and this one was about trees.  Corey (Middle) is the Heartwood.

Corey getting ready to do the Multipitch in stye


The first part of our mutli-pitch route.

Corey and K-Boss getting ready.

Corey coming up from below.

Le View
Some words from my climbing buddies

Looking Glass (the rock in the middle right)

More view

And more view.

The instructors, getting ready to help us come down.

Looking Glass.  This is my favorite picture of the trip btw.

We got watermelon at the end of the rock section!


NCOBS has a few special ways to push students in new, and exciting ways.  This is, of course, besides the already challenging nature of a trip involving 14 days outside backpacking, canoeing, and climbing every day.  The first special method used was the Solo Night, where you go off on your own for a night and spend the night in the woods by yourself.  Another way they pushed us was with the Unaccompanied 'Final Exam' where we went off for 48 hours on our own, and used all of our skills without our instructors.  The last method was the Personal Challenge Event (PCE), where students run a long distance run.  In our case, this was a 7 mile mountain run.

But coming back to the present, our 'Final Exam' was to hike about 15 miles from the point we were dropped off back to Base Camp.  Our first day was a pretty chill day (as we had already done the Multi-pitch that morning).  Our second day was our bushpush challenge, where we hiked from our first campsite to a certain location on the trail, crossed a stream, and then pushed straight up to a ridge for 2 miles.  This, as you might imagine, was the hardest part of the trip, as we were walking straight through thorns the entire time.  The last section was an 8 mile hike, mostly down hill, back to base camp.

After we got back we debriefed, then got ready for the next day, where we woke up at 5 AM and ran 7 miles.  We actually crushed this run, clocking in with the FASTEST INTERN TIMES in NCOBS history.  I had a photo finish with another person (we literally finished a 7 mile run side by side), and many other people before and after us came in sprinting. 

After that we deissued all of our gear, got our base camp assignments, got some NCOBS swag, and then had our final Banquet (party!).
Going over the fundamentals for our Final

Our Map

The Dream Team.  You don't want to mess with these guys

Beautiful view down by the river

Another dream team picture

Our instructors told us we would have to use our skills to find where the ridge line started, as it obviously wouldn't be labeled in real life.  Turns out it is labeled in real life.

River crossing to begin our bush-push

This was our trail.  Or lack there of...

Jesse getting ready to head up Ivester Ridge

Here we go!

More signs of the ridge line.  Very good sign. (Ha!)

Having lunch on our bush-push day.

The down hills were SO pleasant.  If only the uphills were like this...

Best attempt at a view...

Final mountain to climb (After our bush push)

DONE with Bushpushing!

Happiest I've been in a long time.

The view of what we bush-pushed through

Incredible View

Me with the Outward Bound Flag

Anna and James with the OB flag

Our tarp.

Probably one of my favorite bed locations...

We ran out of trekking poles, so we improvised.  

Our first and only campfire

The Sunrise!  Or lack thereof.  No thanks to the clouds...

Snack break.

On top of Pistol Mountain!

Me on top of Pistol Mountain

Finishing up our Final Exam!

Our 7 mile Personal Challenge Event

Done!  Thank Goodness!!!  Oh. what's that? I have to do this next week too?!

Base Camp Assignments.  (I Got Table Rock!)

And that's it folks!  I know this was monstrously long.  I just took 3 hours writing this, but it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to more adventures in the future!



  1. Hey, I stumbled on this blog post while I was looking for a campsite I used at NCOBS a few years ago. (I was an intern at Cedar Rock in '08.)

    A bit of a long shot, but I think the campsite was called "secret spot" or something similar, was just off the trail a hundred yards or so, and less than a mile off of a fire road in pisgah. It was a large poplar grove, and NCOBS used it enough that there was a ring of down logs around the site marking it off.

    Any chance you remember where that is and could give me the location on a map?

  2. Hey Nick! Sadly I never heard of any "secret spot" campsite last summer. Also, both of our 'Final' campsites were less than 15 feet off the trail and very obvious, so I don't think we camped we there.

    I bet if you email NCOBS they might be able to help you out more though!