On the Rocks with MOE Climbing
By Ellie Liu ’21
I began my journey with the climbing program through Mercersburg Outdoor Education (MOE) in the fall of my sophomore year, and I only wish that I could have joined the program earlier. I have been interested in climbing since I was little, but because I come from a flat and heavily populated city, there are not many spaces for climbing nor are there many opportunities. I was very excited when I heard that our school had a climbing program, and I thought I would be happy just to climb every day. However, this program has allowed me to do more than just climb; it has taught me so much more than I could ask for.
In MOE climbing, we are taught by fun and friendly professional climbing instructors who have a number of climbing certifications and many years of experience. They look out for our safety and teach us how to climb. Under their patient instruction, we learn not only how to climb with advanced techniques, but also how to protect ourselves from injuries, set up anchors using trees and our surroundings when we are climbing outdoors, and even how to set routes when we are indoors in climbing gyms. After a term or two in climbing, I think anyone would be confident about their ability to bring a rope and some gear outdoors and set up some routes for themselves or others to climb.
Since we are lucky enough to be one of the few high schools in the area with a climbing gym on campus, we have the opportunity to climb four days a week indoors and two days a week outside on real rocks. The program also gives us many other opportunities, including overnight trips to world-class climbing areas like Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. These trips are a great opportunity for us to bond with our peers and boost our climbing techniques, while meeting and talking to professional climbers from all around the world. We can also choose to attend climbing competitions in our local area, watch professional climbers climb, and maybe even climb alongside them.
I went into the program without knowing anyone, but now I am always surrounded by friends who encourage me to challenge myself and give me good advice when I need it. There is no competition or ranking in the program; everyone will try to push their limits and pull something out of their pocket so we can grow as a group. I have also gotten to know people from different grades and countries who I would not know otherwise, and I have met friends who are very passionate about climbing like I am and would go out to climb with me outside of the program during the summer. Climbing has also been a good way to prepare me for my squash season in the winter. It has helped me stay in shape and get stronger while having fun. I will definitely continue to climb with MOE in future seasons, and since I have never skied before, I would also love to try MOE skiing.
I think MOE is a very special program that Mercersburg provides for students. It is amazing how we are located in a place that has easy access to nature for us to climb, kayak, hike, ski, and bike. In MOE, we can go out into nature to reward ourselves in the afternoons after working hard in the classrooms during the day; we can go into any program in MOE with no experience, or with high proficiency, and still be able to enjoy ourselves and improve our skills during the season. I am very grateful that I can be in the program because I do not think I could learn the skills that I have acquired through MOE anywhere else. Climbing is something I will continue to do after Mercersburg and throughout my life.
Editor’s note: Ellie Liu ’21, from Shanghai, China, is in her third year at Mercersburg Academy. In addition to climbing with the Outdoor Education program for two seasons, she is also a member of the girls’ varsity squash team and a member of Stony Batter Players (theater).