Fear of Heights on a Ropes Course
Recently, my work had a “Staff Appreciation Day” with team-building exercises. Our entire staff went to a place that specializes in corporate team-building events. We started the morning off with some simple ice breakers, with elaborate handshakes and short improv exercises. Then we broke up into teams and did problem-solving activities. After that, the event coaches announced they were opening up the optional ropes course. I felt a pang of fear run through my body. The idea scared the crap out me, so I knew I had to do it.
A ropes course, for those who don’t know, is an obstacle course suspended 10-20 feet in the air. There are various platforms, swings and tightropes suspended in the area. Above the course is a zip-line. You put on a harness, clip into a belay, and run the obstacle course, knowing that the harness will hold you if you fall. It’s one of those activities that seems more dangerous than it really is. Nevertheless, I tried one in college and failed spectacularly. I got up to the platform and freaked out. I ended up climbing down. 15 years later though, I was determined to succeed.
Thankfully, I had one other experience with being on belay. A number of years ago, I went indoor rock climbing with some friends. (Top-roping, as the climbers call it.) It was mentally tougher than I imagined. (It was physically challenging too, but I was expecting that.) The thing is, I don’t have a crippling fear of heights. I work in a tenth floor office, and I can stand next to the window without apprehension. But get me on a top-rope five feet off the floor, and I freak. When I went rock climbing, it took me five tries to make it to the top of the two-story wall. Once I did though, I was fine. The only way down is on belay. It was surprisingly fun. So when the opportunity came up to run the ropes course, I knew I could do it.
If The Harness Fits
Out of a staff of 100, about half of my coworkers signed up for the ropes course. The event coaches led us over to a rack and started handing out harnesses in small, medium and large sizes. I took a large harness and joined the group in a large semicircle. Thanks to my previous rock climbing experience, I had a vague idea of how to put it on. Still I followed along with the instructions. The harness was awfully lose, and since I’ve lost a lot of weight lately, I asked if a medium would fit better. One of the coaches got me a medium, but it was too tight. I went back out to the rack to grab the large one again, but when I took off the tight medium-sized harness, my pants came with it. Thankfully, I was standing about 30 feet from my coworkers. I pulled up my pants and hoped for the best.
Confronting My Fears
With some help from one of the coaches, I got the large harness tightened up. I paired up with one of my coworkers from HR, and we headed over to the first course. I was still full of adrenaline. If anyone saw me drop trou, they didn’t say anything. I had just been confronted with literal nightmare fuel, being pantsed in public, and I was fine. Knowing this, I had the confidence to confront another fear, my fear of heights. My coworker and I were the first in line. I waited till I was two-thirds of the way across to admit that I was scared. I told one of the event coaches about freaking out at my previous ropes course experience. He asked me if I was going to freak out this time. I said no, jumped off the ledge and zip-lined to the end of the course.
The ropes course was exhilarating. After completing the first one, we got back in line for the second course. I still felt that pang of fear, but I pushed on. Halfway through, I heard on of my coworkers on the ground cheering me on. The encouragement was helpful. By the time we finished, I was ready for the third ropes course, though unfortunately, it was time for lunch. And what a lunch it was! It was just a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, but it was delicious with a heaping side of accomplishment. I was on Cloud Nine for the rest of the day, albeit with a few aches in my core and my legs. It was quite a workout for both my body and my mind, and I would absolutely do it again.
Have you ever done a ropes course? Were you scared? Let me know in the comment section.
[…] out of shape. I strapped up and clipped into the belay. Then about three feet off the ground, my fear of heights got the best of me, and I […]