Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Serving the Community in September

Springhouse Farms

Mountain Alliance took two trips to Springhouse Farm in September. Max Maling, a junior, went on both of the trips. "We hopped on Fran the Van and headed out to the farm," said Max. "At the farm we fed some adorable piglets and their equally awesome mothers. [We] went to go shovel horse manure and then harvested the last of the tomatoes and pulled the plants. By the time we did all this it was time to go! The next week we pulled out old pepper plants and harvested what was left - with close to 100 plants this took quite some time!" Springhouse Farm is a local farm located in Zionville, NC. Max said he really enjoyed getting to meet the owner and working on the farmer. 

Horse Helpers

Horse Helpers of the High Country is a local non-profit in Zionville, NC. It was established in 2004 and has been rescuing horses and other equine ever since (they also take in a variety of other abandoned animals). Horse Helpers took in a huge number of animals this summer - they have 26 horses and just adopted a hog and eight goats. We sent three groups of students to Horse Helpers in September to help them with all of the work that needed to be done. Students that went on the trips helped with the care of the animals, building fences, and mucking out stalls among other things. They got to interact with the various "residents" of Horse Helpers and help them out with the tons of work they have to do!

Hospitality House

Our monthly trip to the Hospitality House was another success. The weather was great, students were engaged, and there was a lot to do! The helpful and interactive Hospitality House staff put students to work on a variety of tasks and they got a lot done. The Hospitality House is a non-profit crisis agency that serves seven counties (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey) in northwestern North Carolina helping those living in crisis, poverty and homelessness rebuild their lives. The organization provides housing, nutrition, and prevention in a safe, nurturing and healthy environment through a variety of programs including emergency shelter services, family housing, long-term transitional housing, their Bread of Life Community Kitchen, a food box pantry, and more. Mountain Alliance brings students once a month to the Hospitality House to help in the kitchen and garden as well as other projects around the organization.

Trail Building 

With weather great for a day on the trail, a group of students drove over to Boone United Methodist Church to help with the ongoing project of the Boone United Trail. The trail is located on the church's  property, but is open to the public. The project was created in an attempt to offer more easily accessible, in-town hiking options. Eric Heistand, our main contact for trail building work at Boone United, gave the students background information on the trail and instruction on the tools that they would be using before they set to work. We have been helping with this project for quite a while now and it has been great to see the progress that has been made on the trail.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Climbing to High Places

We love a good climbing trip at Mountain Alliance and September has been full of them! In addition to two trips to Holloway (a local climbing site in Foscoe), a climbing trip to Center 45 (the new bouldering gym), and an all girls trip out to Little Lost Cove (in Linville Gorge), we also had several groups and classes come out to the Alpine Tower.


We had two trips go out to Holloway to climb - one for freshmen only and one for anyone who wanted to go. Max Maling went on both of the trips and went on the freshmen based one as a student leader. "On the ninth [of September] we headed out to Holloway where we rigged several spectacular climbs. I had a shoulder injury at the time so I did all of the climbs with only one arm! I really enjoyed this trip despite my injury," said Max. "The following day we returned to the rocks where all of us upper classmen acted as leaders and taught freshman how to climb and all the other basic essentials. It was awesome! I learned how to coil ropes and became a better teacher!" Holloway is a great local site relatively close to the school that allows us to do after school trips.

Center 45

"I had a great time bouldering at the new Center 45 climbing gym," said junior Zach Holtkamp. "We learned proper technique and bouldering etiquette while having an awesome time." The climbing gym just opened at the beginning of October and is a unique way for students to learn more about different types of climbing. Bouldering is a style of climbing in which climbers do not use ropes, but have spotters and only climb short distances. It combines strength, balance, and control. Zach said that getting to the top of his first V1 (a type of bouldering rating) climb was the most memorable part of the trip for him.  "I met lots of cool people in the local bouldering community," said Zach. "I had a great time!"

LIFT Climbing

A group of adventurous girls made their way out to Little Lost Cove for a beautiful day of climbing. The weather was amazing and the group was joined by other organizations out on the cliff. We taught the group about helmets and harnesses, how to belay, and some basic climbing technique. Students had the opportunity to climb a few different routes as well as participate in a rappel/ climb combo where they got to rappel themselves down the cliff and then climb back up it. Everyone on the trip got to try something they had never done before! It was an amazing day with just the girls!

 Alpine Towers

September kicked off our Alpine Tower programming for this school year with a bang! We had a group of Mountain Alliance students get started on a tower before it got thundered out, a Student Leader Alpine Tower in which students learned about how to help run a tower program, a Freshmen Alpine Tower specifically for freshmen and the student leaders who attended the training, AND Mrs. Lora Davis brought her Healthful Living classes out during the school day. During all of the programs, students are taught how to belay and keep each other safe. They are also asked to set goals and challenges for themselves. This gives them something to work towards and a way to try to push past their comfort zones. Alpine Towers are great team building and trust building trips because students must rely on one another to be successful. Throughout the school year, we will host a variety of groups at the tower including Mountain Alliance students, middle school groups from around the county, and various classes at Watauga High School. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rally for the Valley

Rally for the Valley was a brand new opportunity for Mountain Alliance this semester. Eight students traveled to Hidden Valley near Abingdon, VA to help out with the Rally for the Valley event that was celebrating the re-opening of the Hidden Valley climbing area as well as raising money to support the area as well as the "Live Your Dream" grant. In addition to selling breakfast to climbers, students also got to climb in the newly reopened area. "We helped serve climbers breakfast burritos and climbed the beautiful cliffs," says senior Emma Gummerson. "We met a great deal of climbers from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. We also met a guy who trains people in First Aid that applies to climbing. He offered to come an teach us some other time!" Emma said that the most memorable part of the trip for her was having the opportunity to talk with the professional climbers while the group was serving burritos for breakfast. "In exchange for hilarious jokes, climbers could win some of the left over burritos!"

Welcoming in the New Crowd

Hike and Swim

This year we introduced Freshmen trips for the first time! Some of the trips had only freshmen students and some of the trips also had returning student leaders. The first of these trips was the Freshmen Hike and Swim on September 1st. The seven freshmen on this trip got to play games, hike to a swimming hole, and go for a swim! The crew had a great time and had great conversations. 

LIFT Freshmen Welcome

The LIFT Freshmen Welcome trip was planned and executed by returning female students in our program with the purpose of allowing freshmen girls to meet new people and welcoming them to high school. The returning students planned activities that would allow for discussions about various issues girls might face as the enter into the high school world. "It was so incredibly wonderful to be able to give these freshman girls the help and support I probably would've appreciated," said senior India Byrd. "All the returning girls worked so well together, and the staff really allowed us to take the lead roles on this trip which was nice. I learned that as a student leader, it's not just our job to lead the underclassmen on trips, but also provide them support and help when they need it." The trip finished off with some ice cream from King Street Creamery. 

Alpine Tower and Holloway Climbing

Two climbing related trips also made it to the list of freshmen trips this year - Alpine Tower and Holloway Climbing. Both of these trips had student leaders on them. Student leaders spent the afternoon on Wednesday, September 16th getting trained on how to help run an Alpine Tower trip and then returned on Friday, September 18th to assist with the Freshmen Alpine Tower. "This trip was wonderful because I got to learn how to set up climbs," said junior Zach Holtkamp. "I also got to teach freshmen how to climb and belay on the Alpine Tower." Freshmen students learned how to belay and climb on the tower in addition to getting to go on our giant Swing by Choice. Climbing at Holloway on September 10th had similar outcomes. "It was awesome!" said junior Max Maling. Again, freshmen students learned how to climb and belay as well as push their limits. Max said that the best part of the trip for him was getting to teach and learn how to coil ropes. 

We hope to be able to continue providing freshmen trips in the future where students can meet others both in their incoming class and upperclassmen!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Making the River Squeaky Clean

River Clean Up 9/1/15, 9/2/15, 9/17/15

These trips were awesome excursions through the various sections of the New River. Lots of trash and even siding from a house, a gutter, and bricks were collected from the river. Even though it rained on the first trip that did not stop Max Maling from dancing in the river. He even joked that his favorite lesson he learned that day was that "waterlogged trash bags are very heavy."

BIG SWEEP 9/12/15

10 amazing students spent all day Saturday making the New River clean. This annual event, with the New River Conservancy, is one that is looked forward to by all of our students. Something that was super amazing about this year was that there was less trash that has been in the past. Although one group did pulled out an old row boat! We can't wait for this event next year.

Through these efforts and the efforts of other groups, Mountain Alliance was a part of a greater initiative that helped pull over 7,000 pounds of trash out of Watauga County Rivers!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September 2015

Students are working hard to help update the blog for this year - check back soon for an update on our September adventures!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

March Madness!

Hospitality House

A group of 10 awesome students made their way to the Hospitality House on Monday, March 9th. There was plenty of work for them to do on this beautiful day and everyone was in great spirits! The group got to do a little of everything, including working in the kitchen and in the garden and it was another helpful day at the Hospitality House.

Humane Society

Fluffy pups and adorable kittens were on the minds on the 12 students that went to the Humane Society on Thursday, March 12th. After taking a look at some of the cute animals that inhabit the Humane Society, students got to work sweeping, mopping, and cleaning up the organization for an event they were holding the next day. Student Zach Holtkamp said he enjoyed getting to pet cats and met the people working at the Humane Society.

Extreme Challenge

Eight courageous students braved the woods of the Greenway during our second Mountain Alliance Extreme Challenge. Two staff members acting as the "hares" laid down a trail for the rest of the group - the "hounds" - to follow, leaving challenges and teamwork activities for them to complete along the way. The group took advantage of this beautiful, sunny day and enjoyed tracking down the two elusive staff members, Jessie and James. 

LIFT Backpacking

The cold, rainy weather didn't stop this strong, energetic group of girls. We ventured out to Grayson Highlands in Virginia to hang out with the ponies and spend a weekend with just the girls. Junior Lucy Edy was a student leader on the trip and helped plan the menu, the route, and the activities that took place during the trip. After spending the spend in the Wise shelter, we hiked along some of the trails, saw a pony, and looped back to the Wise to spend another great night under the shelter. Despite the rain, the group had an amazing time! The sun finally broke through on Sunday morning and we enjoyed a nice, warm hike back to the bus as well as a great final picnic before we came back to Boone. 

Cooking/ Baking

We FINALLY got to do a Cooking/ Baking trip after all of that snowy and icy weather cancelled our other ones. Ten bakers went to Boone Healing Arts Center (who generously donated their space) on March 19th to make some delicious food. Recipes made included a yummy lasagna and some deserts. Students also got to meet Lynn Hill, the manager of the center. 


A group of adventurers made their way into the woods for a weekend of camping and hiking. They spent time in the Wilson Creek area and ran into plenty of other people who had the same idea! The weather was absolutely beautiful which made the creek crossings a little bit nicer. Great views, great people, and great food made this an awesome 3-day trip!


Our climbing group was small, but mighty. They spent the day climbing and having a blast at Rocky Face Recreational Area. The easy access to numerous climbs makes this a great spot to bring groups. Everyone had the chance to climb as much as they wanted and the group really pushed themselves as the day went on. What better way to spend a Sunday than climbing outside in great weather with fun, amazing people?

Alpine Tower

The first Alpine Tower of the spring semester was a great success! We started off with the Swing by Choice on which students get to choose how high the rest of the group pulls them up and then, after saying commands, get to swing through the air with the greatest of ease! Students got to learn about the safety aspects of the swing and, which staff supervising and checking to make sure everything was correct, had the opportunity to help each student after them get set up. After swinging to our hearts content, we moved over to the tower and had accomplishment after accomplishment. Students who had never been to the top of the tower before conquered their fears and many students worked together to accomplish some of the more difficult aspects of the tower (including Hattie Cox and Lily McDannold conquering the corporate ladder together). All in all, it was an AWESOME day!

LIFT Horse Helpers

There was plenty to do out at Horse Helpers of the High Country in Zionville on March 26th. Seven girls ready to do service helped out at the organization that rescues abused and abandoned horses and helps them get back on their feet. The group really enjoyed having the opportunity to groom the horses, help out around the organization, and give back to a local non-profit. 

Amazing Race

Are you ready to run around Boone and complete tasks to become the ultimate champion? That is exactly what 14 students did on this semester's Amazing Race trip! After splitting into groups, the students were given a list of tasks that had to be completed before the end of the trip. The group to finish the most tasks OR to complete all of the tasks first was crowned the winner!

Banff Mountain Film Festival

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is one of the biggest and most beloved events in Boone! Each year we take a group of students on both nights of the film festival to watch outdoor and cultural films from around the world. They are films that inspire exploration and adventure and that make you want to get outside. Every year, students get to shoot shirts and hats off of the stage before the start of the show. Their efforts this year were fantastic, with several items getting up to the elusive balcony level. Both groups had a great time!