So What Exactly Is Cheat Mountain?

Everyone is getting excited for the upcoming Cheat Mountain trip! This is the most advanced Mountain SOL class we offer, and it is where Mountain SOL scouts go with Jen to live on Cheat Mountain for the week with Maureen, Ivan, and their dogs and their cat. There is no internet on Cheat Mountain, no phone service, and no running water, and the only electricity is from a few solar panels for their beautiful, self-built house. Maureen and Ivan live by mostly homesteading, growing much of their food in their many gardens and also raising chickens and rabbits for food. The Level 1 students will be camping a little ways down the hill from Maureen and Ivan’s house, staying in a big tent with our summer Mountain SOL Intern, Katie. Our Level 2 student will stay in the tent and sometimes in his debris hut, and the Scout Camp students (other than Katie) will be sleeping in their debris huts. At Cheat Mountain, students learn advanced skills that enable them to not only survive, but “surthrive” in the woods with nothing but the things in their brains and their survival packs.


In the past, the Cheat Mountain trip has been just one group, which went through Skills 1, Skills 2, and the Practicum. We are thrilled to say that this year, the Cheat Mountain trip includes three different levels of learning! There are our Level 1 Skills students, one Level 2 Skills student, and our Cheat Mountain Scouts. The first 4 days of the Cheat Mountain trip will be the skills trip part, where Level 1 and Level 2 Skills students learn important skills that enable them to use the things Mother Nature has given us to thrive in the woods. For the first 3 days, we will focus on learning these skills, and the afternoon of the last full day we will do a scenario, where the students will test their capabilities of surthrival and working well as a pack. The next 4 days of the Cheat Mountain trip will be the Scout Camp part, where our most advanced pack will put these skills into practice by bringing only their survival packs and making camp at a new location each day.

IMG_0255The Level 1 Skills trip students will be learning several core skills for surthriving in the wild: fire, shelter, water, food, navigation, and first-aid. The Cheat Mountain Scouts will also be joining us for the Skills trip part, and they will pair up to help teach each of these essential skills. Of course you cannot surthrive in the wild without fire, so we have our dynamite fire team from the Scouts helping to teach a workshop on fire. Fire at Cheat Mountain is notoriously difficult, because the mountain is very, very wet, so the fire workshop also requires and teaches students an incredible amount of patience and teamwork (or sometimes anger management!). Shelter is another thing that is very important if you want to have a good camp, and at Cheat Mountain we will learn how to build debris huts to keep us warm and dry. We will learn basic woods navigation skills using maps and compasses, and we will also learn how to collect water and edible plants. Finally, we will learn how to effectively use first-aid when things go wrong.

The Level 2 Skills trip teaches the same skills, but at a higher level. Our Level 2 Skills student will both build and sleep in his debris hut! Since he already knows some of these skills, he will at times be learning more advanced versions of the skills in different workshops. He will also play a more challenging role in the scenario.

The Skills trip people will leave Friday morning, and the Scout Camp students leave too for their real-life application of these skills. The Scout Camp will be hiking through the area with only the things they can fit in their packs, setting up camp at a new location each day. Here they will build debris huts and forage for food, mixing what they find with food they brought. They will build a fire and boil water to purify it, and they will cook their food with their fire. An adult will be present most times as an insurance policy and to double-check wild edibles, but the adult will be hiding and not accessible to the students unless there is an emergency. The Scouts will resolve problems (and scenarios) on their own, working as a pack to surthrive in the woods on their own.


Cheat Mountain teaches a huge amount of skills that make it so that you feel confident that, if you were stranded in the woods, you could live with nature in a way that makes you and nature friends. Instead of thinking of nature as your enemy that fights you to survive, Cheat Mountain teaches you to think about nature as your friend that helps you surthrive. However, Cheat Mountain is actually, at its core, not about simple skills that make you capable of surviving in the woods. Cheat Mountain is, at a deeper level, about learning who you are and growing your self. What are you good at, and what do you need to work on to be able to surthrive in the woods? What role do you naturally fit into in a pack? How can you shift your roles to help weave your group into an effective and supportive pack? These are questions that Cheat Mountain inherently raises, and these are questions to which you might find answers. You will laugh at Cheat Mountain, and you will cry. You will learn something new about yourself, and you will grow. You will push yourself to the limit, and you will surthrive. You will have an amazing time at Cheat Mountain, and you will never forget it.

Soooo everybody get excited and pack your survival pack, because we are going to Cheat Mountain next week!!IMG_0332

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