An Afternoon on “the Ropes”

by Janet Henker

Sometime last year, eight intrepid SSU staff explorers launched off at the SSU Ropes Course between the Rec Center and Darwin Hall. We were all from different departments, and not everyone knew each other. We started out with a couple of introductory exercises to get to learn each other’s names and begin to work together. Then we headed onto the course. Most of us had never done anything like it before and didn’t really know what to expect.

We began by crossing an imaginary “river of fire” standing on bricks and using boards to move us all safely across in a not easily maneuvered pattern. We all made it unscathed just under the time limit. Then we moved onto another movement exercise that required us to transport one of us on a wooden frame by the use of ropes and arm power. It took us a while to get the hang of it but then things really moved out. We were really getting up to speed on this team work idea.

Next we moved to a difficult traverse across a cable using ropes and each other to stabilize our journey. It took us a while and may missteps to finally get a system figured out that worked. We all arrived at the other side tired but exhilarated as well. You are never more than two feet off the ground in any of these exercises hence the name "low ropes course” If you lose your balance, you just step off.

Another puzzle using platforms and people. We were really stuck on this one for a while until one of us “thought outside the box” and the answer became immediately apparent. This one required a lot of “togetherness”, but by this time we were all into it and no one minded. We all laughed about how stuck we were in thinking the solution had to look a certain way.

By now we were a well-oiled machine and breezed fairly quickly through the final challenge which included more platforms and boards. It was a great opportunity to bond with our teammates, problem solve as a group and begin to trust each other’s strengths. I can see why ropes courses touted as a great team building tool. We all had a blast. We were hot, sweaty, tired and happy. We had accomplished a lot. Best afternoon at work I’ve ever had.

The course takes from two-and-a-half to three hours.

The next Low Ropes Course is from 8:15 -11 a.m., Friday, April 12. RSVP’s are required by Monday, April 8 due to limited space. Contact Janet Henker, henker@sonoma.edu, to enroll. This is considered a work-related exercise and staff can participate on work time with permission from a supervisor. There is also the possibility of work groups taking the course together.