The Audacity of Rope
From the article “Practice Makes Perfect” in our November 1985 issue. Photograph by Neal Parent.
In many ways, the first segment of the five-day Hurricane Island Outward Bound Fall Invitational Mountain Wilderness Program involves learning to walk all over again. The difference, of course, is that participants are required to waltz along ropes, as well as to scale a 14-foot wall at expedition headquarters on the Sunday River in western Maine. Intended to teach the balance, footwork, and team spirit necessary for actual mountain climbing, these exercises also tend to turn grown adults into bemused and tentative toddlers, as this photograph by expedition member Neal Parent suggests. Open to adults from 21 to 65 years of age, this particular party included the owners of a New Hampshire radio station, the head of a Maine ice cream business, and Dartmouth College secretary Shirley Mitchell, who appears to be finding out for herself just what being “on the ropes” is all about. Once these lessons are over, the novice mountaineers put their hard-won expertise to the test in the wilderness of the Mahoosuc Mountains.
When it was founded in 1964, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS) was the third such school in the U.S. Today, there are 11, from the High Sierras to the Minnesota north woods to the streets of NYC. When we ran this story, Hurricane Island, off Vinalhaven, was still HIOBS’s headquarters, but the school developed more mountain programming over the years, and these days, HIOBS leads mountain and coastal courses, along with programs in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Brazil. You’d best believe there’s still a ropes course in Newry, though.