Testing Venture

A month of arduous sport on a rugged English moor teaches self-confidence and teamwork to youthful volunteers from 13 countries
June 19, 1960

The path under the log may be clear and easy, but it is of no use to the strenuously engaged youths at left. Their high-hanging contortions are designed to get the last member of their team over the hurdle while the instructor at right assesses their speed and initiative. The scene of this frantic effort is the Holne Park school of the Outward Bound Trust at Devonshire in southwestern England. There an international group of 79 young men from such diverse points as Malaya, Nigeria and Australia recently completed a month-long regimen that was always grueling, sometimes exciting and occasionally terrifying, but all adding up to a sporting venture that develops self-confidence, character and physical fitness.

Outward Bound was started in 1941 by Lawrence Holt, a British shipping magnate who became alarmed at the number of seamen lost during the war because of poor leadership in emergencies. He gave it that name because he saw an analogy between being "outward bound to sea" and "outward bound to life." The program became an industry-and government-financed trust in 1946 and now has 12 schools which handle 4,500 "students" a year. Many of these are company-sponsored office workers whose normal exercise hardly exceeds unwrapping a sandwich at a desk.

At Holne Park this spring the international group was divided into seven competing teams. They were spurred through the course at a blistering (and bone-breaking) pace. Among the high points: swinging on ropes from treetop platforms 40 feet up, scaling a 150-foot rock cliff, running six miles through the wilds of Dartmoor, shooting rapids in canoes, squirming through foot-high tunnels 70 feet underground. With each accomplishment, confidence, spirit and appreciation of teamwork increased. "You feel dreadful while you're doing something but grand once you've done it," summed up one Outward Bound graduate.

Looking for the Limit
Each day brings new tests for the Outward Bound trainee, but the rationale is always the same—to push a man to the limit of his endurance and there let him discover that his own ability plus teamwork will pull him through. Shown here are some critical moments in Outward Bound tests: the swirling canoe tossed in a frothy river, the hard-clutched log high off the ground, the scrabbling at a cliff face, the tension in a tiny cave, the pulling of a collapsing teammate toward a finish line and the lonely dangling over rocks and water. When each trial is over, there is a fresh knowledge of both team and self. "Nothing better for getting to know a chap than having his foot in your face when you're trying to boost him over a 12-foot wall," says Captain Charles Keys, 53, Holne Park boss (shown balancing himself on rope in background of the picture at lower right).

Finding Some Fun
As the Outward Bound course nears its end, the trainees become a close-knit group. Two teams are able to laugh heartily at the plight of a third, and two youths can camp professionally on a lonely moor. The camping is the program's final test, a 54-mile, three-day treasure hunt, with clues leading to each night's food hidden in such hard-to-reach places as halfway down a 50-foot cliff. It was their newly acquired self-assurance, not a spirit of rebellion, that led one team to serve as chorus for a member from Somaliland while he sent a native chant echoing brightly across the moor. Translation of the chant: "To hell with this."

PHOTOBRIAN SEED PHOTOBRIAN SEEDRiver provides course in canoeing, courage PHOTOBRIAN SEEDCandles light tiny cave passage for crawling campers far underground PHOTOBRIAN SEEDWhile leader at right urges them on, a team scrambles toward finish line of hilly five-mile road run PHOTOBRIAN SEEDTribal-scarred Nigerian boosts up straining English teammate PHOTOBRIAN SEEDCliff climber's face shows fear and tension PHOTOBRIAN SEEDTrainee gets one rope, while his instructor uses two PHOTOBRIAN SEEDTrainees rise with frigid dawn after a night of camping in barren, 200-square-mile expanse of Dartmoor PHOTOBRIAN SEEDWatching opposing team struggle through test, these students laugh with sympathetic understanding