The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 27, 2013

Winter warriors: Boy Scouts Winter Camporee at Burning Rock

What they had to do for a Klondike derby

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— Tony Wheby, Sophia scout master and derby organizer, explained that Klondike derbies are a traditional winter scouting event that highlights many of the skills scouts learn throughout the year.

A team of scouts must first create their own Iditarod-style sled, and the boys both pull and push the sled through a long course,

stopping to compete at 10 timed stations.

At the first station, the boys had to throw a rope around a log at 45 feet and pull it toward them where they then used a two-man saw to cut off a portion.

They then had to load a piece of the log onto their sled and continued on.

George Lechalk, scout master with Troop 179 in Fayetteville, explained that many of the exercises have a practical application.

“If someone were to break through the ice on a pond somewhere, someone would need to be able to throw a coiled rope to them,” he said.

Wheby explained that other exercises in the derby included lashing together a ladder to be able to climb a tree and ring a bell, start a fire and burn through a rope using only one match, and build a stretcher from a wool blanket and return an “injured” team member back to the finish line.

Wheby commented that some of the tasks that seem easiest for the team have been trickier while the boys were able to quickly complete other, more difficult tasks.

“You really never know how well they are going to do,” he said.

Among other surprises throughout the day, Wheby was surprised many of the modern-day scouts showed such proficiency with a two-man saw.

It’s hard to imagine spending a weekend camping in snow on frozen ground and dragging a sled around a course for 90 minutes, but Seneca District chairman Doug Proctor said these Winter Camporees give the boys “an appreciation of Mother Nature in winter.”

“The boys need to be out to experience the hard times as well as the easy times. Winter camping is just a different beast,” added Lechalk.

Wheby said he hopes the scouts will take away the understanding that physical activity and scouting are year-round.

“We are blessed to live in this wonderful state, and it has been part of my goal to get scouts to understand they can get out in January in snow and be physically active just as easily as they can in summer camp in June or July,” he said.

Most of all, Wheby said the Klondike derby, which became a popular scouting activity in the 1950s, is a team effort.

“They have to work as a team. It is not designed for one scout to complete. They have to work with each other’s individual skills and come together and make decisions along the track,” he added.

Proctor said the scouts would compete in a chili cook-off later Saturday evening.

“After that we will have a closing campfire and the kids will perform different skits and then hopefully they will snuggle down warm and sleep for the night,” added Lechalk.

The troops participating in the weekend Camporees at Burning Rock are Troop 75, Sophia; Troop 91, Mount Hope; Troop 1055, Beckley; and Troop 179, Fayetteville.

Webelos from Montgomery and Ghent were also attending.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com