Field Notes: Helping new climbers reach new heights
Mathilda Bertils is an international fellow working in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station. In this “Field Note,” she shares an experience introducing young people from urban Portland, Oregon to the outdoors as part of a climbing clinic on Mt. Hood National Forest.
“As an international fellow with the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, I get to accompany my co-workers on public outreach activities. These activities are opportunities to communicate research, show the wonders of nature, and have some fun in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
“Last month, that meant accompanying USDA Forest Service employees Jay Horita, Kira McConnell, Rachel LaMedica, and Nate Buch to French’s Dome on the Mt. Hood National Forest to introduce young people from under-served communities to the forest, and the outdoors recreation and even career opportunities available in the outdoors and land management fields.
“At French’s Dome, we met up with several different organizations including members of the Portland Parks and Recreation’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew, and an organization called PDX Climbers of Color.
“YCC creates job opportunities for high school students between the ages of 14 and 18 in and around Portland, Ore. The organization focuses on summer jobs for a diverse population of teens to work outdoors and explore the environmental sciences.
“PDX Climbers of Color is an organization that welcomes everyone, acknowledging that not everyone has equal access to climbing opportunities and trying to create those opportunities for those who otherwise might not have them.
“Nate Buch worked with the YCC group during the first half of the day. The participants were divided into three groups; one worked on restoring the fences on the steep side of the trail, and another group worked on blocking ‘social trails’ (trails created outside the managed trails system) around the dome. The third group used loppers to trim the plants and branches crossing the trails.
“Lunch was homemade, provided by a member of Climbers of Color, and included a Venezuelan dish, the empanada, made with locally-sourced ingredients.
“After lunch, the Climbers of Color were in charge. They set up some climbing routes for us on the wall of French’s Dome.
“It was an adrenaline rush and we got to test our fear of heights and our ability to trust the person on the other end of the climbing rope!
“At the end of the day participants received books regarding outdoor equity in the Pacific Northwest.
“The Forest Service supports opportunities like these because exposing young people to the outdoors, and specifically opportunities to work outdoors, may open up job opportunities that they would not have thought of for themselves.
“For more information about PDX Climbers of Color and climbing meetup opportunities, visit https://www.facebook.com/pdxclimbersofcolor/.”