The sky lights up with warm reds draped with pink and orange. Behind this, the temple becomes a beacon of light, shining bright for many to see. This part of the day is when the smoke clears to make way for an incredible view of the mountain range. Brooke Laing, a junior studying recreation management, describes a breathtaking scene from the top.
Back on the ground, on the side of an equipment shed is a chart. It highlights the different zones someone can go through while on the course. There is the comfort zone where people can stay if they do not want to do new things.
Then the growth zone. This is where someone may experience fear, with the goal of learning new things.
The final zone is the panic zone. The ropes course team does not want anyone to enter this zone.
“It’s our challenge by choice,” Laing said. “You pick your challenge. You pick what is going to push you a little bit outside your comfort zone into the learning or growth zone so you can grow as a person. If you go into the panic zone, you will learn how to be scared.”
This ropes course has three different levels ranging from moderate to difficult. Most people are not going to look like Tarzan casually swinging through the course, and some have already gotten stuck due to physical exhaustion.
Physical activity is expected, but many also experience mental activity. There are some common mental categories that are worked within this ropes course: trust, cooperation, confidence, positive outlook on life, empathy, overcome fears, self-esteem and ease of stress are some of the top social and emotional categories impacted, according to a study by researcher Jenny Phan of California Polytechnic State University.
Jason Thornton, activities advisor and ropes course manager, said he wants to give each student a memorable experience that pushes them out of their comfort zone and helps them get away from the sedentary life.
“What we’re excited about is incoming freshman going through the Get Connected program. We have offered to have all of them come through the ropes course during their first semester,” Thornton said.
Outdoor orientation programs can help students grow in a multitude of ways: freshman retention rates are higher; connections between peers blossom; and they grow personally, spiritually and socially, according to Gerald Huber.
Laing, along with all the other staff, had to go through 40 hours of training to work on the course. After they complete that, they must pass both an oral and written exam. She said that the hardest part is practicing rescues — people do not typically get stuck in convenient places.
“The reason we went for something like this was the safety factor,” Thornton said. “The system that we use, the continuous belay, makes it very difficult to have a serious accident on this course where you become disconnected. This type of ropes course has a very good safety record.”
By leaning into what is a bit uncomfortable, participants are able to enter the growth zone when they do new things. So, while most people won’t be casually flowing through the obstacles, they will most likely have positive takeaways.
To find out more information about the course, click here.