Maximum Participation

Phase I was completed one month before the summer of 2009. Full-time and seasonal staff spent training time on the course with the builder, Ropes Works. Adjustments were made almost immediately to the height of the belay cable, and some additional staples were added to the pole for staff. Participant tethers also were added to single pulleys to make the tether move more smoothly on the belay cable; this additional equipment also assisted staff members in getting a participant to the next platform if someone would fall.

Phase II

The second phase of the project included two additional satellite towers. Each tower has a platform at 20 feet and 35 feet, a metal shed roof, an accessible boom at each level, and an additional zip line. Some simple adjustments also were made to Phase I, based on how it was being used. Simpler elements were added on the lower level to allow campers to challenge themselves at different levels, while staff members moved between elements more quickly, if needed. An incline wall also was added for access to level one because it was determined that the ladder and pole climb up to level one was intimidating for some campers, while the tower with the incline wall proved to be successful. DuringCampDreamcatcher, an oncology camp that uses the facility, I watched a camper climb the incline wall. When he got to the top, he stood up, put his hands in the air, and said, “I did it!”

Phase III

The third phase of the high ropes included two more satellite towers. Each tower has a platform at 20 feet and 35 feet, a metal shed roof, and an accessible boom at each level. The third phase had the most drastic changes from the original design. Instead of the three-spoke design, we decided Phase III would be an extension of Phase II, so when the entire course was used, there would be a natural flow for the campers to complete the course without doubling back. It is noteworthy to mention that the design adjustments were made by staff who used the course regularly and not by administrative staff. The final elements selected for Phase III were a catwalk, net walk, plank bridge, and tarp bridge.

The Future

We will continue to make adjustments; in fact, we already want to add a second stand-alone giant swing.  We also would like to share our design and process with any camp that is interested. We are always willing to give tours, and are planning to host training on an adaptive high-ropes operation, as well as share what we have learned from this project:

  1. The planning process made building the facility easier. Not only was the course planned in advance, but knowing that changes would be made once the course was used made it easier to make adjustments.
  2. Administrative staff did not make all of the decisions; on the contrary, program staff using the course made most of the suggestions for the final design.
  3. A partnership with the builder helped to minimize costs and plan for the training and adjustments ahead of time.

Regardless of the planning and design, campers had the final word; one camper said it best last summer: “I knew I could do this. I was brave just like Percy Jackson!”

Learn The Lingo:

Two-line bridge –It contains a cable for the feet and one rope at waist level to help with balance.

Multi-vine — A series of vines hang down, requiring participants to move from vine to vine to traverse while walking on a 3/8-inch cable.

Vertical wall — Climbers wear a harness attached by a rope to a belay. As they move up the wall, the belay takes in the rope to limit any falls to only a few inches.

4:1 pulley — This device makes it four times easier for a person with upper-body functioning to haul himself or herself up an element.

Giant swing — This swing has an anchor point about 30 feet long.

Source: The Summit and Wikipedia  

Kurt Podeszwa, the director for Camp For All in Burton, Texas, has been a camping professional for more than 17 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in education, and has spent much of his adult life working in outdoor and adventure education. For more information, contact Kurt at or visit

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