August 15, 2010

Go Climb a Rock

Climbing is the best possible physical developer of nerve and muscle and endurance. A good rock climber cannot be a weakling (Baden-Powell, Rovering to Success).
We could dwell for many an hour on the life and works of Lord Robert Baden-Powell of Gilwell, founder of the Scout movement, hero of Mafeking, and teacher of youth. Strange to say, but Baden-Powell’s book detailing the rocks that will hinder the boy’s passage into manhood has not lodged so firmly into the popular consciousness as his Scouting for Boys. Sure, it sold a canoe-full of copies, but I suspect not many fathers will be giving Rovering to Success: A Guide for Young Manhood to their budding sons. More is the pity, for despite its antiquated style, it still has much to offer.

The ‘rutting season’ was a principal concern of Baden-Powell’s guide to becoming manly. Of course, his image of young stags with warm blood seems far removed from anything we might connect with the adolescent sweat boxes of today, but the metaphor is not so far-fetched. His prescription was a tried and tested mix of active participation, hard work, team work balanced by self-reliance, and, perhaps above all, temperance in all things. Baden-Powell pointed to rock climbing as the exemplary activity to instil these qualities. He exhorted teams of rutting stags to club together and support each other up some craggy edifice in order thereby to learn the lessons of life. They would reap ‘the moral effect of learning to face a difficulty, even when it looks like an impossibility, with calm determination and good cheer’. They would thereafter ‘face the difficulties of life in the same spirit, and by sticking to it and trying the different ways round or over the obstacle [they would] get there in the end’.

We don’t all have to go climb a rock, but the example is a good one. One way or another, young men must get a foothold on life.

1 comment:

  1. Who doesn't love a good climb? I think that keeping in reasonable shape, is part of being a responsible adult. Once a Scout, always a Scout, and who knows who you might need to help in life? And enjoying nature is a great bonus!


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