On a windswept mountain top, holding on to a craggy mountain face by means of a fist jammed into a narrow opening in the rock –– that’s when you really learn about yourself. That’s just the situation Nick Cline found himself in this summer on an Outward Bound trip to Sequoia National Park in California.

 

Cline and two other Duxbury High School students, Lauren Feeney and Charlie Cowen, participated in Outward Bound trips this summer (Feeney received a scholarship through the school district.)

 The Outward Bound program “delivers programs using unfamiliar settings as a way for participants across the country to experience adventure and challenge in a way that helps students realize they can do more than they thought possible,” according to the group’s Web site.

Cline was on his trip for 22 days. The purpose of the trip was mountaineering, which is a hybrid of hiking and rock climbing and often requires participants to be strapped into safety harnesses or don helmets.

Cline and the people in his age group camped as they climbed across the Sierra Nevada mountains, cooking their meals as they went and occasionally stopping to summit a peak or do some rock climbing.

“We were always moving,” he said.

Cline has done some camping, and some recreational rock climbing, but nothing like the grueling activities of the Outward Bound trip.

“I’ve been to rock gyms, but those aren’t quite the same,” he said.

The instructors also showed participants how to pitch tarps (the campers didn’t stay in tents), of which Cline offered this ringing endorsement: “It keeps most of the rain out.”

At one point, Cline was one of the first group members to reach the top of a mountain called the Triple Divide Peak, where three major mountain ranges meet.

“That was one of the coolest things,” he said.

Part of the goal of Outward Bound is creating bonds, and Cline says the part of the trip he was most nervous about was meeting other people. However, he said as the group members said their names during the first icebreaker game, his fears melted away.

“The connection was pretty instant,” he said. “Everyone was laughing like old friends.”

Cline was actually inspired to go on the trip after hearing the stories his older brother Bobby brought back from his Outward Bound adventure last summer. Bobby Cline did a slightly longer trip, about a month. He went rock climbing in Smith Rock National Park, mountaineering in the Three Sisters range for two weeks and whitewater rafting down the Deschutes River.

“For a long time I had wanted to do it,” Bobby Cline said. “I like camping, and being outdoors.”

He said the most important aspect of the trip wasn’t how to tie a belay line or how to read a map, but the bonds he formed with his team members –– they’ve kept in touch since –– and what he learned about himself.

“There’s a lot of learning about yourself and your limits,” Cline said.

Bobby Cline’s experience also included a few days camping by himself, away from the group, called a solo. He said the experience was interesting –– but the silence was deafening.

“It was kind of weird after 24 hours,” he said. “You just wanted to make noise because it’s so quiet. You just started banging rocks together.”

The Outward Bound program is known for helping people prove what they’re capable of. At the DHS SUMMA awards ceremony last year, when Feeny received her Outward Bound scholarship, Superintendent Susan Skeiber read part of her application essay, which the scholarship requires. She wrote about the fact that she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and wanted to participate in the Outward Bound challenge to prove that kids with the disease can do almost everything that kids without JRA can do.

Bobby Cline was the scholarship recipient last year. He had this advice for any students interested in the program: “Go for it,” he said. “And if you do go, go for the longest one you think you can handle.”

Nick Cline said that he’s been more adventurous since returning from the trip. The other day, he tried his first raw quahog. It’s something he might not do again –– but the point is, he tried it.

“It was really a confidence booster,” he said. “Since I’ve been back I’ve been willing to try more things.”

He said that he’d recommend the Outward Bound program to anyone.

“Keep in mind home is not going to be different when you get back there, and just enjoy it,” he said.