When warm weather rolls around, many students take to the outdoors, whether it be playing frisbee on the Oval or breaking out the running shoes that haven’t seen the light of day for several months. The Mountaineers at Ohio State take outdoor activities to another level— sometimes quite literally—and often don’t let bad weather keep them shut in all winter.
If you’ve ever wanted to give your parents a heart attack, the Mountaineers might be the club for you. The group has been around since the ‘70s, providing opportunities for students to access the outdoors for over 40 years.
“Some people say it’s just like we do dangerous stuff outside, but it’s more than that,” said the club’s president, Harrison Fillmore.
We sat down with Filmore and the club’s vice president, Nomi Poprish, to learn more about the makings of the group’s adventures.
Come As You Are
For those who crave adventure but haven’t had the opportunity to leave the safety and security of the couch, you’re not alone.
Even those who have been hitting the slopes, climbing big walls or making their way down rivers for years can continuously challenge themselves in the outdoors. Fillmore and Poprish wouldn’t say anyone in the club is an expert, and many who join the Mountaineers don’t have outdoor experience before joining.
“I think that the cool thing is that no matter what you’re doing, no matter where or what level of skill you’re at, you’re always humbled by the outdoors,” said Fillmore. “You might have different obstacles to overcome, but everyone on the trip is overcoming something.”
There’s no “outdoor shape” anyone needs to be in before joining, said Poprish.
“If you’re out of shape there’s nothing that’s super physically demanding,” said Poprish. “Weekend trips that we do in the fall like to New River Gorge, Red River Gorge, that’s all skill levels, beginner to whatever.”
Getting Off The Grid
One memory shared by many Mountaineers who have participated in the yearly Moab trip sticks out to Fillmore. He describes the 24-hour drive to the Utah city in one word: horrible. After arriving at nighttime and setting up tents in the dark, everyone passes out. In the morning, those who have never been to the area feel as though they’ve landed in another world.
“It’s really cool how it’s just like, boom, you’re transported,“ said Fillmore. “All of a sudden you’re in the desert and everything is red and the canyons are super beautiful around you, and that’s how your trip begins.”
However, the beauty of the outdoors often comes with the challenge of navigating difficult terrain and situations. Additionally, sometimes having skills that go beyond the scope of the outdoors can be helpful.
Poprish and Fillmore experienced this when leading a canoeing expedition in Big Bend National Park last Spring Break. After landing at what they believed to be their campsite, they were unsure if they were on the American or Mexican side of the Rio Grande. While they were figuring it out, another group showed up.
“All of a sudden these Jeeps roll up, and they’re filled with construction workers because they were building an electrical line and they were like ‘Oh, what are you guys doing?’ and they were kind of upset for a second.”
After a tense moment, one man called to the Mountaineers, “Habla Espanol?” Conveniently, Fillmore speaks Spanish.
It turned out the man who called out just wanted to fish with his buddy who would soon be coming down the river, and Fillmore was able to ask if the group could stay and camp.
“He went to make sure with the people who owned the property if we could stay there, and then he came back and he had brought us this big cooler filled with cold drinks, which was perfect, it was so hot,” said Poprish.
Uncomfortable situations are fairly common for the Mountaineers. Fillmore suspects that it’s because anyone who is excited about engaging in outdoor pursuits likely also has a knack for navigating uncomfortable situations of all types.
Sometimes people look at it like we go do dangerous things outside, the general person that fits in with the mountaineers at least at some level is looking to be scared,” said Fillmore. “I think there is a correlation there, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations on the mountain, but also uncomfortable social situations.”
Join The Club
Mountaineers members can enjoy access to the group’s gear closet, which rents out items like sleeping bags and tents. Additionally, members can go on trips throughout the year on the cheap. All trips are led by Mountaineers that are hold skill sets for the type of trip being held.
There are several trips that are held every year, such as the trips to Moab and Big Bend National Park, and to lead these trips members must have gone on the trip before. For general weekend trips, anyone can come to the club with the idea, but will not likely garner much support for the trip if they aren’t well prepared.
“If you haven’t done any planning, and you clearly have no skill, no one’s going to want to go on the trip, so it’s kind of like a community informed consensus,” said Fillmore.
To make their trips even more accessible, this year the group has added two scholarships: the Type II Fun scholarship, which covers their Mt. Washington trip, and the Dirtbag Scholarship, which covers dues for the year and the cost of one Spring Break trip.
The Mountaineers require dues, which are $20 if paid per semester and $30 if paid for the year. Members and non-members can learn about the club’s happenings by joining the Listserv, checking out their Facebook group and attending meetings, which are Thursdays at 8 p.m. in the Union.•