Mountain Day, Outing Club, and Their History

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The whole school was given a chance to do an activity of their choosing as long as it involved being in the outdoors on September 24th. People went hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, and canoeing. After this glorious day outside, I had a chance to catch up with the Director of Outdoor Programs Erik Thatcher ’08. He said that the general feedback of the day was very positive with a couple of people saying that their hikes were too hard. I, too, got that same impression after talking to my peers about their experience, but generally, people were glad to have a break from school for a day and were happy to enjoy the opportunities that the White Mountains have to offer. I also asked him how this day can help introduce people who don’t consider themselves “outdoorsy” to some of the joys of the outdoors. He said that the goal of Mountain Day is not to make everyone “outdoorsy”, but to make it so that everyone appreciates Holderness’s surroundings.


An Outing Club journal (Holderness School)

Mr. Thatcher ’08, along with reinstating Mountain Day, is working to rebuild the Holderness Outing Club.  His goal is to get different trips going each weekend, plan different events, and generally just make sure the school is connected to the outdoors. Starting last year, he began to gather student input through the Outing Club, which helps organize and lead events and activities. Last year, the students helped to organize an event for women in the outdoors, which brought a film festival about women in the outdoors to Holderness. When asked about his plans for the future, he said that he has recently finalized plans for the Five Points film festival to be brought to Holderness on the Saturday night that we return from parents weekend. The film festival is a group of short films that highlighted different outdoor sports such as mountain biking and rock climbing.


With the return of the Holderness Outing Club, I wanted to learn more about its history. For this, I went to the Holderness archives to see journals and photos of the past Holderness Outing Club. There, I saw four Outing Club journals that spanned from about 1969-1986. On the first page in the first journal, I found that the entry was dated in the spring of 1969, but it mentions in the margin that there may have been other hikes before that in 1968. Each entry was similar in that they had a description of what the group did, what trails they hiked, who went, and many of them had photos attached to the description of the hike.

Outing Club members taking in a view (Holderness School)

Holderness has had a rich tradition of an Outing Club, but the size and activity of the club have varied. In almost all of the entries, a man named Mr. Biddle is mentioned. According to Emily Magnus ’88, he was one of the original leaders of the Outing Club and helped to start the program we all know and love: Out Back. I also read many of the entries and gathered that there were hiking trips pretty much every weekend, and those varied in size. The largest one I found was one of the first hikes of the 1972 school year that had 30 people sign up. Along with hikes I also found entries about skiing trips in Tuckerman’s Ravine, rock climbing trips, and cross-country ski trips.


There were also many mentions of a place called Crag Camp, which is a hut run by a local mountain club in King’s Ravine off of the Mt. Adams. To my surprise, when I looked at it on a map, I had actually seen the camp two days before when I had been hiking down a different trail from Mt. Adams. This Crag Camp seemed to be a popular destination for the Holderness Outing Club and was often times the destination of several backpacking trips. The journal seemed to be written by different students because there were many different entries. They seemed to have fun writing these entries because there were many humorous things like one trip ate 66 eggs for breakfast, one student named Howard captioned himself as “the very photogenic Howard”, and one had a doodle of a sandwich that a student had eaten that contained some questionable foods.


There was also a newspaper article and an entry about how some students had staged a walkout with the help of a teacher and they went to some local ponds to see how pollution was affecting the environment. One thing, however, that showed just how much the times have changed since the Outing Club started was that the sign-up lists for the trips were obviously not done by email. Instead, they had pieces of paper and, in one case, the back of someones E&R laundry card. These journals that I read ended in the Spring of 1986, but according to Ms. Magnus ’88, the Outing Club continued.


The Outing Club Logo (Holderness School)

The last interesting thing I found about the Outing Club in my research was the Holderness Outing Club symbol. Mr. Thatcher ’08 showed me a sign that he had found in the OB room, but I never found any mention or sketch of it in any of the journals. Therefore it will remain a mystery as to where that symbol came from.


While some things have changed over the years, some things will stay the same, like the club’s love of food. The Holderness Outing Club and Mountain Day are a vital part of the history of Holderness.