High Ropes Facilitators Keep Campers In Good Hands


Biting her lip, 13-year-old camper Avery Walker shuffles to the edge of Battleship. As she gets her first glimpse over the edge, she whispers just one word: “Whoa.”

As the name implies, there’s nothing approachable about Battleship. The journey to get there is a feat on its own, and when you reach the top of the cliff, you’re greeted with a clear view of the ground over 120 feet below. Thankfully, Avery doesn’t have to face this alone.

“Now, Avery, when I clip this on you, it’s gonna feel like it’s tugging, but that’s just the weight of the rope,” explains Maggie Lennon, Laity Lodge Youth Camp counselor and certified high ropes facilitator. As she connects Avery to her ropes, she quizzes her on technique, gives a detailed explanation of what to expect, and asks how she’s feeling.

Slowly, assurance overcomes fear, and a look of confidence grows in Avery’s eyes. Maggie says, “You got this.”

Under Outdoor School’s program, Avery’s confidence is more than justified. Every high ropes facilitator goes through a grueling orientation process, including 40 hours of training and a full day of testing. In the end, facilitators have mastered all eight of the Canyon’s high ropes elements and can tie every knot, from a Bowline to a Clove Hitch.

Outdoor School uses only the best equipment and conducts monthly inspections on cabling, bolts, anchors, ropes, poles, and participant equipment such as harnesses and helmets. Facilitators are also trained to do individual checks of each participant’s equipment before starting the activity.

Ask campers what makes them feel safe, though, and you won’t hear about the equipment. You’ll hear about the counselors.

“My counselors always talked me through how it all worked,” says Maggie. “I knew I was in good hands.” After experiencing the support of her high ropes facilitators when she was a camper, Maggie is committed to returning the favor.

This empathy helps make Outdoor School’s adventure recreation a first-class experience. Senior Director Erik Silvius says, “It’s ultimately [our campers’] choice if they want to participate. A perfectly executed recreation program tests people just enough.”

“The amount of confidence they gain is remarkable,” adds Caity Martin, Director of Programming for Outdoor School. If participants can see that they’ve accomplished something they originally considered impossible, that lesson can translate to other scenarios.

And because the participants are fully reliant on their facilitators, they also learn how to trust others. Caity says, “When they ask for help, they realize they can do so much more than they anticipated.”

Adventure recreation is just one facet of Outdoor School. Each school year, their hands-on outdoor education program serves several thousand students from over 30 public schools. Nothing Outdoor School accomplishes would be possible without their highly skilled interns, from recent former interns like Jordan Branch, Daniel Lay, and Sloan Whites to the current crew of Tasha Zidek and Myles Amador.

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