Crate Stacking with Harrogate Guides

Today I have been working for the Lupine Adventure Co-operative providing a thrilling and challenging crate stacking activity for the Girl Guides at the Harrogate and Nidderdale Scout (HANDS) camp. Upon arrival at the Thornthwaite Scout camp I was blown away by the remote feeling that this place has, the rolling hills and luscious green backdrop dotted with farms and woodlands. I was welcomed in by the troop and offered coffee within seconds of being through the door, a fantastic start. Once refreshments and greetings were done we took the short walk to the activity area, this took us through some of the available camping pitches which are well spaced between native trees and separated by huge grit stone boulders, a beautiful spot. Rachael, my girl guide leader for the day, headed off to collect the first of 3 teams of girls to take the crate stacking challenge.

They arrived with a fine balance of excitement, nerves and all the curiosity you expect from a group of young girls who are about to climb up a pile of milk crates to way above their own head height. After a safety briefing and some hints towards success the game ensued. 1 on the crates, 2 passing them more crates and the rest manning the ropes to ensure their safety. The group quickly learned from their experiences and before the whole team went through they were already reaching double figures for the number of vertical crates. With only 5 minutes to get as high as possible, there isn’t much room for error. With the whole of our first team through the record was set at 14 crates high, about 12ft high!!!

Our next group approached as the others left, a very quick turn around. The previous record had obviously been passed on as the 2 groups passed each another, amazing how much info can be exchanged between girls in the matter of a few metres. The one bit of info not shared was the recipe for success… Those nuggets are far too valuable. Prior to coming to the activity the second group had been cooking on an open fire with their other instructor, so the lot of them were full of sugar from many marshmallows and other sweet goodies from the campfire. This made for a very active group who were raring to go. This group had their own tactics to reach the top of the crates league, 1 person stacking the other supporting the ever growing and wobbling towers. This technique paid off with a record number of 15 crates being reached. Some spectacular balance and players pulling wobbling towers back in with the tips of their toes.

We then headed for lunch which was served by the troop in a very courteous and polite manner. Even once finished I was told by the girls to just leave the plates they’d sort it. This is something I’ve seen from both Girl Guides and the Scouts, a fantastic organisation that teaches young people to look after themselves and others. A credit to the leaders for being influential role models for these children.

The 3rd and final group of the day had spent the morning doing archery and a bit more camp cooking, they were full of beans and the cheese and tuna and marshmallow and…. You get my drift.. You’d expect that to mean less energy but no.. Thankfully still right on it. This group adopted a few different strategies, namely the dance side to side between crates technique which seemed a little contrived in the search for success, the other was for the person who was on the crates to always have crates in their hands to reduce the need to pass more up once they were higher up. This seemed to knock them off balance whilst already fighting to stay upright on a very rock n roll pile of crates. In the end this group did not break any records but they had a good time trying.

Upon reviewing the activity the girls all saw a marked improvement between their 1st person up the stack to the last, they put this down to learning from the experiences of others within the group. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

One question asked by all 3 groups… Who first decided that crate stacking was an activity?? To be fair it is a bit odd, piling plastic crates one on top of the other and seeing how far you can get.. Odd but definitely good fun.

A massive thank you to the girls for a great day on the ropes, to Rachael for her continued assistance throughout the activity and to the rest of the team at Thornthwaite for the coffee and delicious cake.

Kevin Smith
Freelance Climbing instructor and Mountain Leader based in Ambleside