Climbing High–The Making of a new COPE Course?

By Laura Lovell, Director of Camp and Properties

Earlier this summer, Scouter Wess Larsen told me about a climbing tower that had been erected for the LDS Jamboree group on the Van Vleck farm (see photo above) in Rancho Murietta, but was no longer being used. The Van Vlecks had asked for the tower to be removed. From what I gathered, this was not your average climbing wall, but a massive structure, made with huge metal beams. Could we somehow relocate it to NorCal and use it as the centerpiece of our new COPE course? Hmmm…

Fast forward to early autumn, and Scouter Clark Verkler was at NorCal to evaluate and help plan for a new COPE and climbing course.  The topic of the tower at the Van Vleck farm came up–it turned out that Clark was very familiar with the tower, and even had plans for it in his garage! I asked Clark the question that had been on my mind since I learned about it–could we somehow relocate this structure to NorCal? This seemed liked too much of a coincidence to pass up.

I invited Clark to go with Wess with me to the Van Vleck ranch to look at the tower and see if we could possibly take it apart, truck it to NorCal, and reassemble it. It turns out the tower is a heavy duty metal structure that was built to be able to be disassembled in the future–kind of like a super heavy duty erector set. It had plywood on two sides for climbing and two open sides for rappelling.


van vleck tower

We all agreed it was worth looking into the possibility of moving it to NorCal. Wess and Clark recalled that another fellow Scouter, Ken Hazelbaker, had been involved in the original erection of the tower 15 years ago and decided to contact him to see if he had any information that might help us with this undertaking. Ken jumped at the opportunity to help–but even if the structure was built with the capability to be taken apart, how would we move the massive 45 foot beams, numerous sheets of plywood and other supporting material?

Our idea of disassembling and moving this structure had become a logistical and cost challenge. Could we turn our dream of using this tower as the centerpiece for the NorCal COPE course into a reality?





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