You’re 15 feet off the ground on a stack of heavy-duty milk crates. Perched on the highest one, you feel the occasional gust of wind threatening to knock the shaky tower to the ground. You look down and see that your friends have another plastic crate for you to attach to the top. They want you to climb higher.
“Once you get really high, everyone’s watching to see if you’ll get higher or if you’ll fall,” says Second Class Scout David Temper, 13. “Everyone’s cheering that the person up there doesn’t fall.”
If you fall, it’s OK. You’re wearing a helmet and you’re hooked up to a taut climbing rope with a qualified adult on belay to catch you. A couple of the guys in Troop 533 of St. Charles, Missouri, stacked more than 20 crates before losing their balance. One stacked 25 — just shy of the troop record of 27.
The crate challenge added to a fun weekend during which Scouts also conquered the climbing tower and rode horses around the camp.
INTRO TO SCOUTING
To help new members develop outdoor skills before summer camp, Troop 533 hosts a few campouts. The first-year Scouts work on setting up camp, patrol cooking and earning the Totin’ Chip, the certification for carrying and using woods tools. One of the campouts is the annual horseback riding and climbing campout in May at Beaumont Scout Reservation near St. Louis, Mo.
“It’s a great opportunity for newer Scouts to get acclimated to troop camping, and it’s a good bonding time,” says Life Scout Jacob Fugina, 16.
While part of the weekend is devoted to learning these skills, the troop also scales the council camp’s 40-foot-tall climbing tower and goes on trail rides.
After arriving in the rain, the guys set up their tents and gathered for “cracker barrel,” a time to savor some snacks and chat around a campfire. Some in the troop had been to Beaumont before as Cub Scouts, but this time, they’d be trying new activities.
When you’re trying something new, remember to Be Prepared. That means wearing the right clothing and shoes. For horseback riding, you want to wear long pants, like jeans, to protect your legs as they rub against the saddle.
“If you were doing climbing, you’d bring tennis shoes, not cowboy boots — that’s a bad idea,” says First Class Scout Andrew Mack, 11.
The troop split up the next morning, some heading to the climbing tower and others to the corral. The camp wranglers briefed the Scouts before the ride, which would follow alongside the camp’s paved roads instead of on the muddy trails. The horses didn’t seem to mind, though they did have their preferences, as the guys soon discovered.
Phelan Pelster’s assigned horse, Cody, wanted to be near his horse sister throughout the ride.
“I kept nudging Cody to get back in the line,” the 14-year-old First Class Scout says. “He eventually got behind his sister.”
The group practiced their riding skills during the hour-and-a-half excursion while also getting to unwind and take in the scenery.
“It was really relaxing and fun,” says Nick Schneidenbach, 10, a Scout.
TO THE TOP
Meanwhile, a few Scouts found themselves out of their comfort zones at the climbing tower. After hoisting himself to the top, Andrew realized he preferred to be back on the ground — and he wasn’t thrilled with how he had to get there.
“The only way I could get back down was rappelling, and I have a fear of heights,” he says.
To rappel, you lean backward over the edge of the tower and descend along the side. Though you control the speed you slide down the rope, it can be intimidating — especially if you’ve never done it before. But a Scout is Brave, and Andrew mustered the courage to rappel down.
The campout helped build the guys’ confidence and improved their communication skills. When you’re climbing, you need to be able to talk to the person who is on belay. Belaying keeps the rope tight, preventing a climber from falling. You need to let each other know when you’re ready and can safely continue.
At the end of the day, the troop played baseball and enjoyed a spaghetti dinner, finishing with deep-fried Oreos for dessert. The cookies were dipped in pancake batter and dropped into a pot of hot oil. It was a delicious way to end a great weekend.
“This was my first time at Beaumont since I was a Cub Scout,” Phelan says. “When I went there the first time, I didn’t get to do a lot of things the older Scouts got to do. It was really fun.”
Cool Horse Facts
- There are more than 200 breeds of horses.
- A horse’s height at the shoulder is measured in “hands.” One hand equals about 4 inches. Miniature horses measure less than 8 ½ hands, while draft horses stand as tall as 16 hands.
- Horses can gallop at 30 miles per hour but have been clocked at more than 40 mph.
- Horses existed in North America millions of years ago but went extinct. They are believed to have had stripes like zebras. European horses were introduced to this continent in the 1400s.
Know Before You Go
Horseback riding and climbing outings require qualified adult supervision to ensure everything is safe. COPE activities, such as the milk-crate climb, are for Scouts BSA-age members only. Prepare by reading up on each activity in the Horsemanship and Climbing merit badge pamphlets. Go online to the Safety Moments page at scouting.org to find more resources and guidelines.
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