When the Chugach National Forest hosted youth engagement forums earlier this year, kids were asked what factors kept them from getting outdoors as much as they’d like. Youth responded that gear and transportation costs were major issues, but many also cited a lack of friends who shared their same sense of adventure as a major reason for not getting out more. This inspired Alaska Geographic interns to form a Youth Outdoor Club that would coordinate monthly low-cost, local, and accessible adventures so that youth can learn about the outdoor opportunities available to them, but also so they can have a chance to interact with other youth with similar interests. In October, youth gathered to take a rainy, but beautiful hike along the popular McHugh-to-Rainbow Creek trail, just south of Anchorage.
Members of the Youth Outdoor Club gathered again this November – this time to take an Introduction to Indoor Rock Climbing course, which was designed and instructed by Alaska Geographic staff members and experienced rock climbers, Mike Briseno and Molly Schouweiler. Alaska Pacific University generously donated the use of their rock wall and climbing gear to support the program! Mike and Molly thoroughly covered safety protocol, and then delved in to how to tie climbing knots, belay climbers while they are on the wall, and even boulder up walls sans rope (with a cushion below). Seven youth participated in the class, and were joined by Barbara Bell, the Executive Director of Alaska Geographic, who enjoyed her first experience rock climbing along with the youth!
All of the teens who participated said they are looking forward to moving on to more demanding rock climbing, perhaps on the taller rock walls available at the Alaska Rock Gym, and eventually taking their skills outdoors! The Youth Outdoor Club leaders are looking forward to planning more adventures for teens this winter such as a cross-country ski event, an ice fishing day, and an overnight experience.