My favorite activity to watch campers participate in is our high ropes course. Challengers and Explorers (finished grades 7-11) can take high ropes, and it is an activity area that many of our younger campers look forward to doing for years! Our high ropes course features eight elements, including rope ladders, wire crossings, a zipline, a trapeze, and rope bridges, all to be completed while wearing a helmet and harness for safety as they are pretty high up. Each element tests or challenges different areas of strength, determination, and skill. If you ever wanted to climb in trees as a kid, high ropes is the place for you!
A few very determined campers will make it their goal to complete each element successfully while they are at camp; however, the most valuable thing campers can do at the high ropes course is to try something outside of their comfort zone. Many of our campers are quite adventurous already, but I believe that camp is a
special place where they can be empowered to do more than they knew they were capable of doing or to try things they never thought they would try. Whether it is finishing the whole course in a week, or just trying to go up to one element and get further than they did the last time, I’m proud of each girl who makes an effort.
The trapeze is my favorite element to help campers attempt. This element requires a regular waist harness as well as an additional chest harness. First, the camper will climb up a simple ladder to reach the bottom of the “staples” in the tree to act as a ladder. Then, they will climb up the staples to get to a wooden platform. Campers must then stand on the edge of the platform, and jump with their hands out to try to reach and hold a hanging metal bar, just like a trapeze artist! Even when I have done this element, it can be very scary to stand on the edge of that platform, with your toes hanging off while you’re about to jump. You forget for a moment that you are securely held in two harnesses attached to a belay rope controlled by at least one trained staff member on the ground.
The trapeze is a great analogy for our Christian faith. Sometimes, we forget that God holds us in his arms, securely, ready to catch us at any moment if we fall. He is always there, but sometimes we just have to “jump” into whatever He has called us to. Talking about this relationship between the jumper and the belayer and how it relates to our relationship with God is a great way of making faith real to our campers. As Psalm 121 says, “My help comes from the Lord,/the Maker of heaven and earth./He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber.”
The coolest thing to watch is campers completing an element they haven’t been able to do before. That satisfaction in their faces gives them a great moment of confidence and something to be proud of. I love teaching and assisting high ropes classes because I get the opportunity to see campers do the elements faster, easier, or better than even I can do them, which is incredibly fun to share with them because it gives them this confidence that they might not get elsewhere.
As you can tell, I highly recommend that Challengers and Explorers take our high ropes activity for at least a week to see what they might be capable of or to challenge themselves in new ways. I also highly encourage staff to train in this activity area to be able to witness these amazing things going on at the ropes course!
Kelly “Tweetie” Turnbull is a Northern New Jersey native and a Penn State graduate and is now a 9th grade social studies teacher. When she’s not planning lessons, she enjoys traveling and is sure to pick up a cupcake from the nearest bakery. She has served as a counselor in both the Pathfinder and Challenger divisions as well as the ropes course specialist at camp, and loves to come back whenever possible!