High Adventure, High Opportunity

I know of a northern camp that built a climbing tower and ran a zip line off of the top. The climbing tower is used constantly, but the zip is too staff intensive and takes too long to run the kids through, so… they don’t use the zip! They only use the zip line in staff training.

Any camp that wants to add these type of activities needs to outline the expectations. In the above camp’s example, their entire schedule is based on one-hour activity time slots. Using the zip with the wall is too time intensive for the number of kids they send per activity. Why have it?

Now it’s just a visual disappointment for the kids to see what they won’t be doing! A simple rule is to get past what you want and move toward what you need.

Here at Camp Kern we are fortunate enough to have multiple high courses, low courses and soon multiple walls. But each has a specific purpose and each fits a particular type of group or client.

Our Pine course (15 elements high course) is used for corporate, team and group retreats whose purpose is the specific experience, and a whole day is scheduled for use. Only the Leader programs in the summer use the course.

Our current climbing wall is used by outdoor education, summer camp, weekend groups and rentals. It is quick, efficient, medium challenge. The giant swing is used much like the general climbing wall.

The Brisben High course is circular in nature and set 15 feet higher than our Pine Course. It also stands alone without trees close by. It creates a higher challenge experience. These resources each fit a specific program need, and create ability for us to customize the challenge experience.

If you add a wall or high elements try and design a progressive experience program around the activity. Avoid races! Racing to the top is not recommended as an activity! It allows kids and staff to get lazy on the safety and doesn’t send a great message to the kids. The fastest and highest climber is the best! Nope…

Here at YMCA Camp Kern we practice Challenge by Choice. You win no matter how high you climb or even by putting on your harness. Each camper knows that this is here to challenge them, not to live up to anyone else’s goal.

If a camper has a fear of heights and just climbing eight feet is an accomplishment, then that is celebrated! Challenge by Choice allows any participant to try without fear. The campers are taught to encourage their cabin mates and celebrate whenever and wherever the camper wants let down.

You need to stress to your counselors this type of philosophy and see to it that it’s practiced at all points. There are various challenges, such as individual, climbing, tandem, blindfolded and so on. Challenge by Choice allows you to go wherever the camper wants to go except for the not being safe! Explore different ways to use your wall. For example, build one with a really hard side and one with an easy side. Challenge by Choice is also a philosophy to be used with any high ropes element. It’s all the same! Just make sure it’s consistently practiced and displayed by your staff.

Jeff Merhige is the executive director of YMCA Camp Kern, Dayton YMCA, Dayton, Ohio.

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Related posts:

  1. Climbing & Traversing
  2. Hi-Ho Silver…
  3. Access to Adventure
  4. High Adventure
  5. Adventure Challenges

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