High Ropes

By Avery O’Connor ’16 — When we first started talking about the Sargent Center, all I could think about was the ropes course. I am so scared of heights, and I kept telling my parents I didn’t want to do it. The idea of challenge by choice gave me a perfect way out. My mom said I should at least try. So that’s what I decided to do. The day of the climb my stomach was in knots. I remember sitting at breakfast having no appetite.
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After breakfast we headed to a big room, where we first met our counselors. We got our helmets and harnesses on and headed to the training center. Once we got there, they told us how to clip ourselves in to feel secure. I still did not think this was going to be fun or safe.

Once we were ready, we went to the actual course. The wires and ropes petrified me. I watched Chris, one of the counselors, go up. He made it look so easy, but I knew it wouldn’t be for me. I got in line with the rest of my peers. The girls in front of me were asking to get down—I knew I was probably going to do the same. I climbed up the log to get to the first stand. I think that had to be the worst part, because I kept on getting tangled in the ropes and pulley system. Someone was in front of me on the stand, so I had to wait behind the tree, on a very slim piece of wood, many feet off the ground before it was my turn. Finally, I was up. I decided to go the easiest route because I didn’t want to be up high for too long. I grabbed a carabiner and asked for a clip-in, then a safety check. There was a safety knot above me, which I had to raise higher because I’m tall. I didn’t know it then, but Medic Mike, the camp medic, was telling me to lean up against the tree so I could push the knot higher to make it more secure. This worked great at the time, because if I fell, I wouldn’t fall to my death; I would just float in the air.

Then it was time to take my first step. Once I did, I was shaking so much my legs felt like Jell-O. I took a second step and started to regain my balance. On the third step… I fell. I just dangled in the air with the harness digging into my body. I could hear Mrs. Olsen cheering me on and telling me to keep going. I got back up on the wire and continued to walk across it. Once I got to the last two steps, I felt accomplished. I realized then I was only halfway there, and I felt the nerves come back into my body.

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There was one more wire to cross with dangling ropes to grab onto. I started to walk, hoping it would be easier. I got to the first rope and fell. Medic Mike encouraged me to pull myself along instead of getting back up and walking across. I held on to the rope with one hand and pulled myself along with the other holding on to the wire. At first it was easy, and then my arms started to get tired. Once I finally reached the end, I struggled to get on the platform where I needed to walk across the bridge toward the zip line. There were seven people waiting for me on this platform, and barely any room for me to land. Once again, I didn’t feel safe, but I knew I had gotten through the hardest part. Harry Quillen helped me up and I just sat on a tiny corner of the platform. Natasha, one of the Sargent Center counselors, let me go before all the boys because she wanted to make room for my classmate Peyton, who was coming right behind me. I walked across the Shrek Bridge to the tall ladder that would lead me to the victory zip line. I finished going up the ladder and was clipped onto the tree. The platform that I stood on was wide and had several people on it. I looked out at the zip line  as a rush of excitement came over me. Finally, I would have the joy that pushed me to the end.

When it was my turn, I clipped in as my peers cheered. Once they shouted “Zip away!” I jumped off the platform and went flying across. It was the coolest thing I had ever felt. It was an amazing way to end such an exhausting and scary experience. I felt so proud. I realized this adventure was more than overcoming my fear of heights. It gave me confidence and taught me that I should always try new things and push myself. The Sargent Center was a great trip that made me feel strong, lifted my spirits and taught me things about myself and my peers. I’m so happy I did it.

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4 Responses to High Ropes

  1. Mrs. Loud says:

    Dear Avery~ You wrote so eloquently about your experience. You had my fingers and toes in tingly sympathy as I also fear heights and challenge. You did it! Joy beyond measure for your bravery to face your fears and accept the “challenge by choice!” Through perseverance and gumption with an unwillingness to let fear and “what if” get the best of you, the victory was won, regardless of the outcome. Next time you will stand a little taller and smile with even greater confidence. HOORAH!!!!

  2. Daniel and Stephanie Panker says:

    To our dearest “A Shea” Thank you so much for sharing your exhilarating confidence building experience at the Sargent Center. Your most vivid description of all you endured had Grammy and I weak kneed as we read your most vivid account throughout that special adventure. As we read on we wished we were there to shout encouragement as your wonderful caring advisors did. It was a very special day for you “A Babe”. You overcame deep fear and self doubt and with great determination, spirit and inner strength you won!
    We are so very very proud of you Avery. We wish had been there to share with you your rush of excitement and celebrate your win !
    Well done Ave. We are very proud of you. Thank you for sharing that special day in your life with us.
    Love, Grammy and Pop Pop

  3. Janet Evans-Fuller says:

    Dear Avery,

    I remember watching in wonder as you overcame your fears and pushed to the end. My camera captured your look of anguish as you first step out on the wire and your look of joy as you finished your “zip.” Congratulations on your accomplishment. It was truly noteworthy.

  4. dao says:

    Avery!
    Wow…In your words and description, I felt every terrifying, exhilarating second of your trek across those lines. Your bravery and fortitude to keep going in the face of that kind of fear is truly inspiring. From one acrophobe to another, kudos on the conquer! Next stop: Gunstock Mountain Zip Line??!!

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