Anatomy of the DOC

by Jilian Gundling | 5/9/08 4:39am

by Tilman Dette and Tilman C. Dette / The Dartmouth

Raise your hand if this sounds like your typical schedule: Leave Hanover at 1 a.m. on Friday. Drive out to Cathedral Ledge. Sleep in the car. Wake up early. Climb all day. Walk down the mountain. Drive home.

Or how about this: Leave after class on Wednesday. By Thursday afternoon you are hanging 900 feet off a cliff.

Sound familiar? Maybe it does if you are like Marc Shapiro '10, a member of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club who told me of several of his weekend adventures. For most of us, these adventures sound surreal and unreachable, but Shapiro described the beauty of such an experience: "I think there's a wisdom invested in the trust developed out of doing things out of the ordinary. To use the climbing example, you are hanging off a kid 900 feet in the air. He's holding your rope. There's a little humility and wisdom grown out of it that you can't find often."

Looking behind the scenes of the Dartmouth Outing Club is harder than one might expect. The non-outdoorsy attempt to identify DOC members through hair color: "She has pink hair, she must be in the DOC," we think to ourselves with a mixture of admiration and amusement. But how can you separate the stereotype of a "DOC-er" from the reality? What goes into that group of people who have the most intimate relationship with the outdoors, who are as familiar with the New England landscape as some people are with a pong paddle? And are the two mutually exclusive?

Jacob Feintzeig '09, a member of the DMC, the Winter Sports Club and former summer DOC president, defines the DOC-er as "anyone who participates in a DOC trip of some sort." According to Feintzeig, the level of commitment varies greatly based on the individual.

"There are a lot of different levels of involvement," Feintzeig said. "Some people go on a hike with Cabin and Trail once a term. Other people take a p.e. class with the DOC. Other people do things on a weekly basis and are more involved."

According to Xavier Engle '09, who is involved in the Ledyard Canoe Club, DMC and Cabin and Trail, the term DOC is rarely used among its members.

"The term 'DOC' in my mind really only exists for freshman trips," Engle said. "After that, different organizations run different trips. For example you go on a trip through Ledyard or through the Mountaineering Club."

The DOC web site lists a myriad of clubs, many of which the average Dartmouth student has never heard before: Bait and Bullet, Boots and Saddles, Cycling Club, Cabin and Trail, Environmental Studies Division, Ledyard Canoe Club, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club, Organic Farm, Snowboarding Club and Winter Sports Club.

According to Engle, however, "There are three main groups: Ledyard Canoe Club, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club and Cabin and Trail."

Naturally, a friendly rivalry exists between these three groups.

"Obviously the DMC is the best of the three groups," Shapiro said with a laugh. "It's a friendly rivalry between who is more bad ass. Ledyard and DMC have a little bit of an edge on the hiking club."

Cabin and Trail seems to get the most flack from other groups: "People give C&T a rough time sometimes because their sport is hiking, so it's not climbing or boating," said Cody Doolan '10. Doolan is a member of the DMC and also has done a lot with the Ledyard Canoe Club.

Kathleen Onufer '08, the former president of Cabin & Trail, describes the different personalities of the groups: "For Ledyard and DMC, things are measurable in terms of ability level," Onufer said. "Hiking is less of a competitive outlet. C&T is more of a pastoral idea about enjoying the outdoors and helping people learn about the outdoors. At the same time we have many people who consider it a rite of passage to complete The 50."

DMC and the Ledyard Canoe Club fondly call Cabin and Trail "chubbers." The origin of this nickname is not completely clear, but most DOC members agree with the explanation of Mark Davenport'10, chair of the DMC. "The story I've heard is that in 1910 The D was writing about the formation of Cabin and Trail," said Davenport, who is also involved in Organic Farming. "They meant to write in the heading something about clubbers and they wrote 'chubbers.' Everyone thought that was a gas."

The competition between the three groups culminates in what is called the "vertical challenge." "It's based on how many vertical feet you climb, paddle or hike," Engle said. "The losing team throws a party for the other two clubs."

Anna Schumacher '09, president of the Ledyard Canoe Club, explained the origins of this competition: "The vertical challenge was started by a kayaker and a climber. They collaborated and made this competition. Most of it was to encourage people to get outside. At the heart of it there was sort of a coming together of the clubs."

Ledyard is currently in the lead. "This term Ledyard is destroying everyone else," Davenport said. "Ledyard has some absolutely fantastic boaters."

Competition is manifested in more light-hearted ways as well. "It's a tradition that every time Ledyard has a formal the climbers streak it," Engle said.

Davenport elaborated on the DOC's version of streaking. "People streak things quite often. It's not like a single person or a few people whizzing through the room," he said. "It's usually a little more prolonged. It's peoples' way of blowing off steam ... usually dancing is involved. It's just a silly thing."

Despite the rivalries, there is a crossover between many club members. "There is a lot of overlap between the clubs," Doolan said. "Most people have done stuff with most clubs. It's a pretty fluid mixture."

With their own formals and streaking rituals, the DOC social scene exists within parties at the Ledyard Canoe Club and off-campus houses. But how does this scene mesh with the Greek scene?

Engle believes the two are not mutually exclusive, although there definitely are differences between the two scenes: "We don't play as much pong," Engle said. "It's kind of a different vibe. You know how there are different vibes within frats? The DOC is more like an '80s dance party and less like a Chi Gam dance party. It's just more goofy, light-hearted and less sweet dude-esque. It's all laid back."

According to Doolan, "there's a lot more overlap than people realize."

"There is a stereotype that the DOC is separate," Doolan said. "A lot of us would rather go to bed early and go climbing early the next morning than go out to frats. But it doesn't prevent us from going out if we want to."

For Davenport it's all a matter of time. "If people had 40 hours in a day they would live outdoors and be in Greek houses, but as it is, there is only so much time in a day," Davenport said. "A lot of '10s joined houses and then depledged saying I want to get up early and go climbing, which is hard to do when you are pledging."

Onufer commented on the balance the DOC social life provides, "There are people who don't rage at all and people who rage really hard. There is an accommodation for all that and everything in between. It allows people to have a social life without feeling peer pressure."

Like every club, the DOC comes with stereotypes, like "crunchy." According to Engle, these stereotypes often vary based on the club.

"The chubbers and the hikers are the stereotypically crunchy ones," he explained. "Ledyard has a reputation for partying a lot. The climbers do all sorts of crazy things."

Davenport expressed amusement at the term "crunchy."

"I think 'crunchy' suggests a lifestyle and political side to it that I don't think exists," Davenport said. "Not everyone in the DOC is a hang your clothes on the clothesline, far left liberal ... The crunchy stereotype we get is kind of a joke at this point. I don't think it bothers anyone in the DOC."

For Shapiro, the term crunchy has a rationale behind it. "If you're in the outdoors all the time it is kind of in your interest to preserve it," Shapiro said. "The whole 'crunchy' aspect comes about trying to preserve the environment you are in all the time."

Crunchiness levels aren't the only stereoypes about the DOC perpetuated on campus. "I have definitely talked to some people at Dartmouth who are like, 'Oh you're in the DOC. It must be like freshman trips all year long,'" Davenport said. "We're not actually the people who are always dying their hair and doing the Salty Dog Rag on top of a mountain. Freshman trips are all about bringing new people in and making their experience ridiculous ... There is a little less zaniness in the DOC."

Vanessa Sievers '10, a co-chair of Bait and Bullet, said that Bait and Bullet brings in less stereotypical DOC members.

"I am fairly surprised by some people who go to Bait and Bullet," she said. "The girls who I see out all the time, I'll see go on a shooting trip. I guess guns bring a different audience ... people you wouldn't think would be in the DOC. I was really happy to see that. I wish the DOC would more regularly bring in more diverse people from campus."

When asking each of the members what drives their love of the DOC, most highlighted the landscape that surrounds Dartmouth. "People come from all over New England to hike these mountains, and they are right there in our backyard," Onufer said.

Sievers described the incredible opportunities that the DOC offers. When she and her friend first started going on trips through the DMC this summer, they had never climbed before.

"We weren't the typical DOC people but got really involved," she said. "We learned how to climb and ended up becoming trip leaders for the climbing club. We used their cars and their gear for free. We recently got $1,000 to go climbing in Thailand next December."

Another opportunity Sievers discovered was the availability of guns at Dartmouth for shooting trips. "Did you know that you can check out guns from S&S?" she asked. "You can go to S&S, take out a gun, take out some ammo and go to the shooting range we have in Hanover. It is more easily accessible than I thought."

Davenport sums up the feeling of most DOC members.

"I think it's just awesome that we have hundreds of undergrads in the prime of their lives who love the outdoors and have school funding to do what they love," Davenport said. "It gives it a totally ecstatic quality sometimes. You couldn't have paid a lot of us to go anywhere else. The DOC is just the biggest and best outing club in America."

Jilian is a staff writer and deputy editor for The Mirror.