Featuring Climbing : Adventure Program Blog Series

20200729 advanced climbing img 0607.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1
"Once you’ve reached the summit, you’re not only granted an incredible view, but also a sense of accomplishment, and the knowledge that you have what it takes.”


Few activities at camp can offer the same stunning views that are seen while climbing. “When one stands at the bottom of the Nose of Looking Glass you can only see maybe a quarter of the route,” Outdoor Adventure Director, Ben Williams, says. “As you climb, you are granted a little more of a view with each move. Once you’ve reached the summit, 500 vertical feet up, you’re not only granted an incredible view, but also a sense of accomplishment, and the knowledge that you have what it takes.”

As a member of the climbing staff (then called the mountaineering staff) back in the early 2000s during his first years at camp, Ben knows this feeling well. He has seen many campers and staff earn that rewarding feeling after conquering a climb and standing at the top of the mountain. “My favorite part of the climbing program is the accomplishment that comes from accessing something that seems inaccessible,” says Ben.

1983 cheap haircuts for mountaineering staff on penthouse porch  photo from joel priest  seated getting haircut   gordon strayhorn back left  dusty davis back right.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1
Dusty Davis (back right) on staff in 1983, pictured as the mountaineering counselors were giving each other cheap haircuts on Penthouse porch during the summer. (seated is Joel Priest, Gordon Strayhorn back left (now current owner/director at Camp Illahee)

Dusty Davis also is no stranger to the exhilaration and rewards that come from our outdoor adventure programs. Though current campers and staff may know Dusty as an Expeditions trip leader, rock climbing instructor, and Falling Creek’s chaplain, they might not know that Dusty’s history at camp goes back to the 80s.

As a member of the climbing staff from 1982-1986, Dusty returned with his family to work at Falling Creek in 2006, and has been coming back ever since. We asked Dusty what his favorite part of the FCC Climbing Program is, and why he keeps returning year after year. “Spoiler alert,” Dusty warns, “Big life metaphor coming….What I love about our climbing program is that you have a challenge with obstacles before you and it might seem overwhelming at first, but with a trusted counselor, supportive buddies and a professional safety system in place, you have the confidence and ability to take on the challenge. Step by step you climb up and up to gain beautiful vistas, life perspective, and intrinsic rewards along the way. In other words, climbing is a great ‘hands-on’ experience.”

Dusty on the intermediate climbing 1 expedition.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1
Dusty on the first of our Intermediate Climbing Expeditions during this past summer, 2020. They got to climb some of the most beautiful rock faces in North Carolina!

Many campers arrive at Falling Creek for the first time and have never tried climbing, or been to a real rock face. Dusty explains that the climbing program will meet you where you are, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned climber. For a camper who is unsure about trying out this activity, Dusty recommends going on a half-day trip to Falling Creek’s own “Gilbert’s Rock” to see if you enjoy the experience. “This crag has entry-level climbs that will let you climb above the trees for some amazing views, and inspire you with a sense of accomplishment. The climbing staff are professionally trained to use the best safety systems and won’t push you in over your head…just over the tree line. Learn to tie your figure eight knot and get out of your comfort zone,” Dusty says.

Dusty talked about how the Falling Creek Adventure Program as a whole is unique, because you get to be a truly active participant, not just an observer. “Each camper and staff is an integral part of the trip,” Dusty explains. “You are not just signing up for a guide service, but each person pitches in to help with every aspect to make the trip a real team effort. The goal is to teach and prepare you with the skills where you can learn to climb on your own even after camp is over. The trips are progression based, meaning that boys can sample each of the five adventure sports camp offers or pick one and specialize to reach more challenging goals and skill levels each week. Falling Creek is committed to offer entry level and advanced trips with experienced staff to facilitate learning, growth, and fun.”

Dusty davis  far right  during the steel expedition.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1
Dusty Davis, far right, during the STEEL Expedition this past summer in 2020.

Each time Dusty goes climbing at camp, he takes home another life lesson. “On every trip (and I’ve been on quite a few!) I am reminded of the macro/micro or the big and small picture,” reflects Dusty. “The big picture is that we are getting an intimate experience of God’s wild, dramatic, amazing creation as we climb the rocks, paddle rivers, ride mountain bikes or hike up to places not many people get to see. I never grow tired of mountain top views, golden sunsets and brilliant stars. They all remind me that I’m valued and have a place, but I am not the center of the universe. The micro is small handholds on a climb or the little sticks in a campfire. These are the small things that add up and help us grow personally, embrace fear and become better equipped as friends and leaders.”

2021 will give us yet another chance to be reminded of the big and small pictures while exploring the outdoors. Here’s to another summer of trips that push our boundaries, help us grow, and equip us with life skills and life-long friendships. Check back here soon for the next blog in our boys camp Adventure Program series, featuring Mountain Biking!