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Club lets students answer call of the wild

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the part I hate!" he shouted.

The student clung to the rock face about 60 feet off the ground as he bellowed this last phrase. Then he let go, and fell into air filled with the roar of the Maury River below.

This seemingly dangerous scene is a typical one for students involved in the Outing Club. Now in its 13th year, the club provides members with opportunities to participate in several different outdoor activities including mountain biking, exploring caves, hiking and canoeing. Beside actual trips, the club also holds potluck dinners for all members to get to know one another and to think of ideas for trips.

The club went rock climbing last Saturday, but the trip involved more than just high-in-the-sky athletics.

Friday night, a group of four club members with varying levels of experience left Grounds for Goshen, Va., to camp and then rock climb the next day. With the sun shining in the late afternoon, there was no sign that the 24 hours to follow would be anything but a pleasant escape.

After a 45-minute hike into the wilderness, Daryl Weade, Outing Club president and a graduate Education student, declared a sloping hillside the location for camp. The first rule of business: a good fire.

"The big thing is getting a nice bed of coals. Once you've got a bed of coals, you've got it made," Weade said.

While the fire built up, the group made its way through a large pile of boulders to the ledge where they would climb the next day. Weade and the club members said the view was spectacular.

"If you had a 270-degree camera, it'd be great because you could get the whole gorge in one shot," Weade said.

After everyone had absorbed the sight, a stove was lit and dinner cooked. The special of the evening was macaroni and cheese with a side of potato stew. For dessert, none other then the campfire original: s'mores.

For an after-dinner treat, the group went back out to the ledge to gaze at stars for an hour. As the group headed back with flashlights dancing through the darkness, a chilly wind sliced through the trees.

The campers went to sleep, not yet worrying about the treacherous 75-foot climb known as Goshen Pass, which they would take on the next day.

The next morning arrived with mist surrounding the camp. The gorge had become a giant river of cold, silent fog. Weade set up the top ropes and discussed why he liked to climb.

"It's a physical challenge. It's just you against the rock," he said. "You're pushing your own body to try to overcome something and it's like you by yourself."

"This is probably one of the taller climbs I've ever done," he added.

Weade finished setting up the rope and the webbing, which would support the climbers, with the help of first-year Engineering student Tim Sweeney.

"I like being outside," Sweeney said. "It's definitely a good change from living in a dorm for the last few weeks."

The fog finally broke, and a beautiful, cool day emerged with the sun. The campers packed up their things and moved below the ledge -- where the rock face dominated over the trees and river.

Because he had the most experience, Weade was the first one up the rocks, and he wanted to show the new members how it was done. He reached a height of about 60 feet, and then, deciding to come back down, he let go.

The rope caught his weight fully while Sweeney lowered him to the ground.

As the morning turned to afternoon, three people left the woods able to claim that they had reached the beaner -- the metal clasp that holds the rope up.

The campers reflected on the night and the climb as they headed down back down the trail toward civilization.

"I liked looking at the stars," second-year College student Laura Friese said.

Nature also provided an alternate landscape for many of the campers.

"I liked the views and I just liked both sitting up there at night and I really liked the fog this morning," Sweeney said.

But nature wasn't the only benefit the campers enjoyed.

"I would have to say that I liked sitting around the campfire and having s'mores," first-year College student Kim Keller said. Keller was the only inexperienced climber to reach the top of the cliff's face.

Although the Outing Club concentrates on outdoor fun, it makes room for charity as well.

The club plans on joining an effort to help clean the Rivanna River Oct. 16.

"The idea is it's just floating canoes going down the Rivanna and you're in a big group, and as you see trash you pick it up and put it in the canoe," Weade explained.

As the group reached the car and began to trek home, Keller reflected on her trips with the club.

"It's nice because you can ... actually see Virginia, or ... more than what Charlottesville actually has," Keller said.


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