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From City Kid to Mountain Climber: How Summer Camp Changed a Life

Today’s guest blogger, Tyrhee Moore, is a member of Expedition Denali, the first all-African American team of climbers attempting to summit Denali in June 2013. Tyrhee is a freshman at the University of West Virginia working toward a bachelor’s degree in visual journalism. 

If you had asked me to a climb a mountain when I was growing up, I would have totally been down for it even though I had no idea what a mountain even looked like.

I grew up in Washington D.C. where the closest thing to a mountain was the pile of clothes that built up in my room. I grew up loving basketball, baseball and soccer because those were the sports offered at the nearby recreational center. My mom kept me doing activities and different programs to keep me from falling into gang violence and drugs like some of my friends did growing up.

Tyrhee Moore

Once I was old enough, my mom put me in a public boarding school in D.C. where I was surrounded by positive role models. It was during the summer of my 7th-grade year that my school sent me to a camp in Wyoming. That was when I had my first real encounter with the outdoors.

When I first got to the City Kids camp in Wyoming I had very little outdoors experience and almost everything was new. Even little things like tubing in the Snake River were amazing. I had never been in moving water like that before. Riding horses was really exciting—before Wyoming I had only ridden ponies at fairs.

One of my favorite memories was when my group went on our first backpacking trip. It was supposed to be a 4-day 32-mile trip but we made a bet to our camp counselors that we could finish it in 3 days. When I think back on all of us setting a goal and planning to get up at dusk on our last day and hike 15 miles to carry out bags half our size, I'm still amazed at the thought. I guess we must really have wanted ice cream… haha. It was really cool to get back to the camp and feel like we sort of made our own history at camp by doing that route in 3 days. We had all worked so hard and put our everything into achieving such a tough goal for us.

In Wyoming I camped, hiked, rock climbed, went horseback riding and canoed. It was amazing. On the flight home after that summer I couldn’t help but wonder why I never knew places like that existed. With all the time I spent at the rec center trying to find activities to be a part of, not once had we gone on hiking or camping trips, nor had my parents suggested it.

I had the time of my life in Wyoming; I definitely knew I was going to go back again. I returned for the next 6 years and each year just got better. During my last 2 years at the summer camp I worked as a junior staff member and also help teaching kayaking at a school in a nearby town.


While working at the camp, I was offered a scholarship to do a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) wilderness course in Alaska. It was a great experience! I had never been camping for such a long period of time or been in such close quarters with complete strangers. By the end of the course I felt as though I could do anything.

The following year I was given another scholarship to do an NOLS Outdoor Educator mountaineering course in the Pacific Northwest. When I got there I wasn’t sure what exactly mountaineering was but I just went with the flow. I left that course with a lot of knowledge and had a new appreciation for the outdoors. One of the things I like most is that you have to find yourself out there, and you have to work for what you want—nothing is given to you.

While on that course, I talked with my instructors about working for NOLS and received a Fellowship to work at the NOLS Alaska base for the summer and an invitation to join Expedition Denali. It was amazing.

I’m not only climbing Denali for myself but I’m also climbing it for those kids who are growing up without exposure to the outdoors. I just want people to know that there are so many things the world can offer.

Posted on at 9:00 AM

Tagged: Expedition Denali, diversity, mountaineering and summer camp

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Ranger Rick 1 Staff Member

This is really an inspirational story and a testament to how outdoor recreation can impact a young person's life. Thanks for the great story Tyrhee!

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