Stanley Fang ‘21
Students participating in the climbing PGA at Mercersburg Academy traveled over a weekend to White Rocks, a climbing area near the Appalachian trail.
Since the onset of the global pandemic, weekend trips have become a rare privilege for Mercersburg students. Every member of the climbing PGA relished the opportunity to leave campus and test their abilities outside of the MOE barn. Elizabeth Flaherty ‘21 voiced the opinions of most climbers when she said, “I enjoyed going off campus and climbing up a hundred feet and getting over my fear of heights.”
Pablo Garza ‘22, one of the students in attendance said, “Charlton and I set up the anchors. We had to climb on the side of the rock. Once they were safe to rappel down, we sent it. That moment you let go of the rope and jump back, that ‘leap of faith’ is a feeling that I cannot describe. Climbing in general was amazing and the views were something I’d never seen before.”
Not only was the trip enjoyable for the students, but it also accomplished the larger goals of the MOE program. Pete Gunkelman, Director of Mercersburg’s Outdoor Programs, said that the purpose of MOE trips is to “directly connect with nature… and push past perceived limits.” This was definitely achieved as many students were able to push themselves to improve both physically and mentally during their time on the cliffs.
Although climbing is not a typical “team sport,” the PGA was not immune to the negative effects of COVID-19. Gunkelman admitted that in a usual year, there would be more volunteers in the program, allowing students to experience a diverse range of routes and climb in different locations. Normally, students would be able to explore climbing gyms near the D.C area and possibly visit locations even further away.
Although the pandemic forced MOE to rethink many of their plans, the trips themselves have not been affected much. “We had to wear masks most of the time, unless we were climbing up, then we can take our masks down,” Flaherty said. Gunkelmen discussed other difficulties, such as not being able to eat on the bus. However, he noted that other than these minor inconveniences, everything was “extremely normal.” COVID-19 may have prevented many activities, but traversing up a rocky mountain over the weekend was not one of them.