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Expedition 2: Rock Climbing in Seneca Rocks & Backpacking in Shenandoah National Park

After two weeks on campus, all of the students were ready for their second expedition, arguably one of the most exciting expeditions of the year. They left early on a Sunday morning, trailers packed with gear, and began their journey to Seneca Rocks in West Virginia with plans to also backpack in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. If you’ve never been to West Virginia in October, it is beautiful. The students settled in at their campsites with a clear view of the peak they all hoped to be summiting in the next few days.

Group Climbing in Seneca Rocks

But first things first—safety. Day one was spent in ground school, learning how to tie various knots, practicing belay skills, and mastering communication with their teams. Seneca Rocks is a multi-pitch climb. This means that several ropes are set up because it is too long for just one. Like many goals our students set, we always encourage them to take it one step at a time. So on day two, they got to try out the North side of the rocks, a shorter climb to practice their skills. Most of our students are beginners, but their confidence in their abilities shined through, and we knew they were ready for day 3. Although nervous, North and South house all made it to the summit and were able to rappel back to the base of the climb—nearly 200ft!

Rock Climbin in Seneca Rocks

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as kind for East and West house. Unsafe to explore above ground, these two teams ventured underground to Seneca Caverns, a limestone cave in Riverton, WV. The students learned about different rock types and formations and got to experience total darkness in the cave.

No surprise to many, all teams celebrated the completion of the first part of their expedition with a pizza dinner out. Before beginning their backpacking trips, the students spent time working on their school work and visiting the Frontier Museum. Here they learned about the ways of life for English, German, Irish, and African people in colonial America. They learned about what motivated them to move around the world, what the journey might have been like, and where they lived and what they did. They got to operate a two person saw, learning what it would have been like to clear land. They also go to grind corn into meal and cook eggs in a hearth!

This time around North and South house got their dose of bad weather. After hiking the first 3 miles into their campsite, they were met with Tropical Storm Phillipe who showered them with cold rain and gusts of wind through the night. Managing to stay mostly dry, they had to hike out the next day to dry their tents and clothes before hiking back in that evening. It was a rough start, but they persevered as a team to complete the trip. In all, the students backpacked about 20 miles, seeing waterfalls and lots of salamanders along the way.

Another great trip in the books. Next up, paddling the Suwannee River in Florida. Stay tuned!