For some people in the circles we see at Women’s Wilderness, the “new American Dream” is one of packing all possessions into a vehicle and living minimally – but intentionally – on the road with the goal of adventure. It might be an easy decision to make, or one that means calculating risks. The idea could be hatched out of sheer “dreaming big.”
For Women’s Wilderness’ board chair Christin Bellian and her husband, the idea to create the ultimate vehicle to live out their adventure dreams was hatched in 2007 on a hike with family and a climbing friend in the mountains of North Carolina. “We laughed about it and then moved on,” Christin says. Or, so she thought. About 6 weeks later, the two rolled up to the Cumberland County School Transportation Office. A whole fleet of retired buses filled the lot; all for sale. A half hour and $2500 later, the Bellian family were the proud owners of a 1986 Ford School Bus.
From dream to reality
Dreams of adventure for this family meant bringing climbing to their kids’ lives in their rural town in North Carolina. Over a six month period, Christin’s husband Ken and climbing friend Rolf removed all of the seats, welded a steel frame onto the inside of the bus, attached textured wall, drilled over 1000 holes, attached climbing holds and installed gym foam on the floor. Their dreams of boundless adventure were becoming a reality in the form of a mobile climbing gym.
Seven years later, Women’s Wilderness is now extolling the possibilities of adventure with the Bouldering Bus. Through programs like the Science of Climbing, created with partner Colorado Mountain Club, kids along the front range of Colorado have had the chance to learn about the biology, geology, and physiology of climbing and have the visceral experience climbing in the bus.
Climbing is a central piece of Women’s Wilderness’ curriculum for girls through our Girls’ Wilderness Adventures, as well as on our Women’s courses. It creates a really beautiful metaphor for relationships, trust, and body confidence. And, it’s an activity that requires thought and connection. “It’s been amazing for us to see how much the girls in the classes enjoy the climbing, particularly when they get to try it without any boys around,” Leach says. “The girls are also pushed to be more engaged in the science portion of the program without any boys in the room. We believe the Science of Climbing program is a very hands on way to meet STEM goals and objectives, and to inspire girls to think outside of existing social and cultural norms in the areas of science as well as physical body standards.”
Adults also engage in its challenge and marvel in its creativity. We’ve organized a route setting clinic and several “roof routes” and traverses extend the entire 25 or so feet length of the bus.
It’s a literal vehicle of exploration, adventure, and opportunity for learning – for any age. An intention with the bus is to be able to bring climbing, and the spark of adventure, to people. The possibilities are as far as dreams will take us. Adventure awaits.
Women’s Wilderness is a non-profit organization with the mission of building courage and confidence in the girls and women it serves through wilderness and community-based experiences. Operating in an office in Boulder, CO, Women’s Wilderness offers programs for youth and adults and custom experiences for single gender and co-ed groups. And, pretty rad birthday parties with the Bouldering Bus.“The Science of Climbing helps kids understand the real world applications of science, and how science applies to their everyday lives,” our Executive Director Shari Leach remarks. “You could do the Science of Kickball as well, and talk about angles, force, vectors, etc. But climbing is a more individual sport, which allows each student to connect with it personally and very directly.”