By Tyler North
Jun 12, 2017

What Rapelling and COPE Teach Youth About Trust

I look to the top of the rappelling route in Maple Canyon, and a boy’s frozen in fear. His legs tremble, as he contemplates whether he has the courage to straighten his legs and descend the cliff.

Four or five minutes pass like this. He descends a foot or two, then screams to go back up. To calm his nerves, the climbing director hooks himself into the adjacent rappelling route and gets side-by-side with the boy. Now bawling and screaming, the boy lowers himself with the climbing director, and finally lands on solid ground.

The boy unharnesses the ropes and is immediately welcomed by cheers of “you did it!” and “hey great job, you made it!”.

His leaders surround him with love, hugs, and words of encouragement for seeing the task through. After the dust settles, one of the leaders approaches me and tells me just how much this boy has been through lately. His parents recent divorce and his quiet nature have kept him from trying physical challenges or sports, so this was a first. The fact that he was willing to try something new, even when it froze him with fear, was quite the accomplishment.

This is the story of a young man who overcame his fears at Tifie Scout Camp’s stake youth conference last week. During the Zion Camp youth conference, the Pleasant Grove Northfield Stake sent over 450 youth to Camp Tifie for a fun, uplifting experience. Climbing was just one of the challenging experiences these youth encountered during their stay.

The young man’s leader, Cliff, told me how they use reflections to teach the youth life lessons from the experience.

 “It’s about trusting 100% in the rope and in your belayer because at some point you reach the edge of that cliff where you have to trust completely. It’s like how we have to turn our will completely over to God sometimes and just trust,” he said. 

About the other participants, Cliff said that three or four other youth had similar life changing experiences that week.

Another challenging event was the COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) courses. The course is divided into low and high COPE courses, with the low-COPE being more of team building exercises.

The exercise I observed was called the “helium hula hoop”, which challenged the team to maintain their individual objective while trying to complete the group objective. Participants had to keep both fingers on the hoop, while lowering it to the ground. Seems easy, right?

Actually, it almost always tends to rise when the group starts blaming others for their failure. When the group finally got the hoop to the ground, it was because they all relaxed and quieted down. They weren’t pointing the blame anywhere. When everybody stopped worrying and just trusted gravity to do the job, they finally got it.

Overall, what I got from my visit to the stake youth camp is that reflection is key. The activities themselves are powerful learning tools for  youth to learn life lessons, but the reflection afterwards is most important.

“You can go to camp and have tons of fun, but if you forget to think about the applications and what it all means, then you miss out on the spirit of the activity,” said Cliff. 


Author: Tyler North | Hispanic Outreach Specialist, Utah National Parks Council

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