COVID-19 has affected numerous events and groups on the Maryville College campus, including Mountain Challenge. However, the outdoor adventure organization has not let the pandemic dampen their spirits as they adapt their schedule of activities for the semester.
Mountain Challenge and Camp4 are staples of the campus community at Maryville, but their familiar agenda has shifted somewhat to adhere to safety precautions.
“I’ve had to adapt things that I learned from last semester, but I’ve been having a really great time with it,” Emily Cooper, a sophomore and first-year Mountain Challenge employee said. “I really love that I still get to watch people that might be afraid come in, face their fears and be proud of themselves.”
Mountain Challenge is staying true to its goals as a healthy and entertaining organization for Maryville College and is doing so by setting up new guidelines for open trips and a careful sanitation process.
Open trips now include a cap in group size, only 10 people per excursion in what is referred to as “small batch” trips. These small-batch trips present a range of outdoor expeditions such as paddling, freshwater snorkeling, hiking, caving, and spelunking. They last anywhere from four to eight hours and delve deep into the natural world.
In years past, Mountain Challenge was able to offer transportations to any of their off-campus destinations. However, this year in order to stay safe and limit any spread of the virus, the adventure group no longer grants rides, but students who can find other transportation are welcome to join any open trips.
Tyson Murphy, Mountain Challenge’s Program Director, says that these limitations have not stalled participation, though. In fact, participation has only grown from where it was last year.
“It’s a setback, but it hasn’t hindered us,” Murphy said.
On campus opportunities have been modified as well. Camp4 still offers its usual yoga classes and Alpine tower climbs but with added measures in place to ensure the health of participants. The Alpine Tower equipment stays with its users during climbs now instead of being shared with other climbers or being put into a community pile. There is absolutely no transfer of gear from one person to another, and Mountain Challenge’s workers teach participants how to tie and clip themselves into harnesses themselves instead of doing it for them which would involve breaking social distance.
There is also a process for the cleaning and sanitation of gear in which all equipment is sprayed and wiped down. In some cases, gear is rotated in and out so that pieces are not used week to week and have time where they are not interacted with to keep them safe from any possible contamination.
“The natural world is our friend in these situations,” Murphy said., “It’s very easy to maintain social distance outside. The heat and rain during this time of the year help to kill the viral load.”
The schedule of events for Camp4 is still moving forward, but instead of having all activities on Wednesdays they are moving things around.. This means that they will have a rotation of one event such as yoga, personal training, or the Alpine Tower every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Signups for Camp4 and open trips are available weekly on Sign Up Genius and are open to the entire student body.
“There are so many benefits of getting out and getting away from Zoom,” Murphy said. “Balancing your indoor and outdoor time is just good for you. Whether it’s with us or just by yourself, schedule time for the outdoors; it’s the safest place to be right now.”