2018-2019 preview: Paul R. Christen High Adventure Base at Summit Bechtel Reserve

It’s the fourth-annual High-Adventure Week here on Bryan on Scouting. This week is all about the once-in-a-lifetime experiences awaiting Scouts and Venturers at the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases. Plus, we share tips for securing your spot in 2018, 2019 and beyond.

Skateboarding, rock climbing and an unbelievably awesome activity called “bikepacking.” At the Paul R. Christen High Adventure Base at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Scouts choose their own adventure.

Immensely customizable, the Paul R. Christen base allows troops and crews to split into smaller groups when they arrive. So if you have two Scouts interested in shooting sports, three who want to try BMX and four into rappelling, the answers are: yes, yes and yes.

“If you have a unit with varying needs, come to our onsite high-adventure programs where each individual can sign up for the program they are most interested in,” says David Kopsa, director of the Paul R. Christen base. “We can meet the needs of a variety of units. Looking for that challenging journey for the whole crew? Check out our unit-based Trek Programs.”

Spaces are still available for 2018, though the base’s popular 50-mile paddle trek on the New River is filling up fast. In 2019, the Paul R. Christen base is open on a modified schedule so SBR can host the 2019 World Scout Jamboree — the first on American soil since 1967.

What is the Paul R. Christen base?

It’s the BSA’s fourth and newest high-adventure base. It’s located at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

High-adventure at SBR comes in three main flavors:

  • The Summit Experience: This is the sampler platter. Scouts and Venturers spend a half-day at each of SBR’s adventure sports venues: The Canopy, The Rocks, Low and High Gear, The Park, The Trax, The Bows, The Barrels, Bravo Lake, and The Ropes. Summit Experience groups also get a thrilling ride down the 3,100-foot Big Zip and participate in a half-day service project.
  • Focused Programs: This one’s for Scouts and Venturers who know what they want. It lets participants focus in for three days in a single program area. The fourth day is a full-day elective activity in an adventure area. The fifth is a service project and, of course, a ride down the Big Zip. Focus areas include:
    • Helmets & Harnesses: Instructional rock climbing and rappelling at climbing facilities onsite, climbing and rappelling on natural rock offsite, and an adventurous day on the challenge course and canopy tours.
    • The Marksman: Three days of multiple archery and shooting disciplines, including crossbows, static archery (multiple distances), sporting arrows, 3-D archery trail, trap shooting, five-stand, sporting clays, pistol (.22 and 9mm), and large-bore rifles.
    • Berms & Bars: BMX riding and skill development in three different styles of BMX — dirt jumping, racing and freestyle.
    • Ramps & Rails: Individual skateboarding skill development in ramps, bowls, street and transition elements.
  • New River Gorge Treks: This is for Scouts and Venturers who want to explore wild, wonderful West Virginia — specifically the gorgeous New River Gorge. Offsite treks are for registered Scouts and Venturers 14 or older, plus their adult leaders.
    • Mountain Bike Trek: Can you say “bikepacking”? Participants enjoy 50-plus miles of backpacking-style travel on bikes. All gear and food for the week is carried on the bikes. Trails include a mixture of singletrack, doubletrack and a small amount of gravel or paved road. Most of the trails are easy to intermediate in difficulty with some optional expert routes and sections. Vertical climbs are mostly 600 feet or less, with two challenging climbs of around 1,000 vertical feet.
    • New River Trek: This is a 50-mile paddle trek on the New River. Participants navigate the upper portion in inflatable kayaks (one- or two-man) called “duckies.” This portion of the river includes Class I to III rapids. The final whitewater day in the Lower Canyon is a rafting experience and includes Class III to V rapids. Crews camp along the river through the New River Gorge. A gear boat (raft) accompanies the group to transport gear and food.

2018 registration and availability

Onsite high adventure, including the Summit Experience and Focused Programs outlined above, are held on these dates:

  • June 10–16
  • June 17–23
  • June 24–30
  • July 8–14
  • July 15–21
  • July 22–28
  • July 29–Aug. 4

Offsite New River Gorge Treks — “bikepacking” and whitewater — have a longer season. The first trek departs June 10, and the final trips begin Aug. 26.

For more information on fees, availability or to register your unit, go here.

And if you have Venturers wanting to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Venturing program in 2018, check out VenturingFest 2018 at SBR.

2019 registration and availability

The 2019 World Scout Jamboree will be held at SBR from July 22 to Aug. 2.

The onsite high-adventure programs at the Paul R. Christen base will cease just before the World Scout Jamboree and not start up again until 2020. There will be five weeks of onsite high-adventure programs in 2019:

  • June 9–15
  • June 16–22
  • June 23–29
  • June 30–July 6
  • July 7–13

New River Gorge Trek programs, however, will only pause during the WSJ and then start up again after everyone returns to their respective countries.

The Mountain Bike Trek will have nine sessions:

  • June 9–15
  • June 16–22
  • June 23–29
  • June 30–July 6
  • July 7–13
  • World Scout Jamboree break
  • Aug. 4–10
  • Aug. 11–17
  • Aug. 18–24
  • Aug. 25–31

The New River Trek will have 24 sessions in 2019. Instead of two arrival days per week, the Paul R. Christen base will offer three weekly arrival days — a move designed to meet increasing demand.

  • June 9–15
  • June 14–20
  • June 15–21
  • June 16–22
  • June 21–27
  • June 22–28
  • June 23–29
  • June 28–July 4
  • June 29–July 5
  • June 30–July 6
  • July 5–11
  • July 6–12
  • July 7–13
  • July 12–18
  • July 13–19
  • July 14–20
  • World Scout Jamboree break
  • Aug. 2–8
  • Aug. 3–9
  • Aug. 4–10
  • Aug. 9–15
  • Aug. 10–16
  • Aug. 11–17
  • Aug. 18–24
  • Aug. 25–31

More Paul R. Christen news you need

  • The New River Gorge treks — on bike or boat — qualify participants for the coveted 50-Miler Award.
  • Troops/crews can add a half-day whitewater rafting trip to any program (except the New River Trek, of course) for an additional fee.
  • Not high on high adventure? Look into the James C. Justice National Scout Camp and John D. Tickle National Training and Leadership Center, also at SBR.
  • Be sure you mark your calendars for the 2019 World Jamboree, July 22 to Aug. 2. After that, SBR will host the 2021 National Jamboree.


  1. So basically you can do everything you could at a Jamboree, with fewer people (and much shorter lines!), for half the cost.

    And then we wonder why they have such a hard time getting participants at Jamboree: there’s nothing special about doing the programs at the Summit during Jamboree when you can do them any time you want.

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