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Every boy likes climbing, and if you stick to it and become really good at it, you will go on at it forever.

Most of the great mountain-climbers began as boys climbing up ropes and poles, and then trees. After that, a long way after- because if you haven't had lots of practice and strengthened your muscles you probably would tumble, and attend a funeral as the chief performer-you take up rock climbing, and so on to mountain climbing.

It is glorious sport teeming with adventure, but it needs strength in all your limbs, pluck, determination, and endurance. But these all come with practice.

It is most important for mountain climbing to be able to keep your balance and to place your feet nimbly and quickly where you want them. For this there is nothing like the game of "Walking the Plank" along a plank set up on edge, or "stepping stones" laid about on the ground at varying distances and angles to each other.

When I was a fairly active young bounder I went in for the vigorous kind of folk dancing. It amused people at our regimental theatricals and it was good exercise for me. But I came to realize a new value in it later on when I had to carry out some scouting in service against the Matabele in South Africa.

I had climbed into their mountain fastnesses in the Matopo Hills and was discovered by them. I had to run for it. Their great aim was to catch me alive as they wanted to give me something more special in the execution line than a mere shot through the head-they had some form of unpleasant torture in view for me. So when I ran, I ran heartily.

The mountain consisted largely of huge granite boulders piled one on another. My running consisted mostly in leaping down from one boulder to another, and then it was that the balance and foot management gained in folk dancing came to my aid. As I skipped down the mountain I found myself out-distancing my pursuers with the greatest of ease. These, being plains men, did not understand rock-trotting and were laboriously slithering and clambering down the boulders after me. So I got away. And with the confidence thus engendered, I paid many successful visits to the mountains after this.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

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