Up-cycling Ropes with Summer Search

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Ever wonder what happens to all of our retired top-ropes? While a small amount is reserved and repurposed by our gyms for things like belay practice/testing ropes & mock leading ropes; the majority of our retired ropes are donated to local non-profits, artists, and community organizations. Recently, Great Western Power Company donated several hundred feet of rope to Summer Search, a local youth organization that combines ongoing mentorship and unique wilderness experiences to help young people “rise to their potential and become beacons of change in their communities”.

Kyle Freeman, a Senior Program Associate with Summer Search was kind enough to give us a rundown of how our ropes helped at their recent mentor training.

Part of what we do is send low-income students on wilderness expeditions. We also match them up with full-time, trained mentors for the last two years of high school and then in college. Our mentors love experiential learning and low-ropes type activities. Every year, we have two 3-day mentor trainings where we review our program model, talk about youth development and align between the three Bay Area Summer Search sites we have. We decided to do an experiential learning activity to start off our second day.

Great Western Power Company in Oakland

For this activity we gave each team a set of different lengths of rope and two bicycle inner tubes. They could not enter a pit of “toxic waste”, delineated by about a 30 foot section of rope. Within this pit, there were three small circles marked by scarves, and two stuffed animals. Each stuffed animal was in a scarf, and the task was to move both stuffed animals to a different small circle without entering the pit of toxic waste.

Our staff of highly trained youth mentors did pretty well, although the groups differed in their success. While one group instantly gelled and moved the stuffed animals within 5 minutes, another took a full 17 minutes before they moved their first stuffed animal. They then spent a few more minutes trying various challenges such as doing it blindfolded, with one hand etc.

We debriefed afterwards as the activity was meant to be a learning tool as well as fun and team-building. Various members of the group went around and shared what the experience was like for them. Some felt like they had either been too vocal and participated too much while others stood back and felt like they weren’t contributing. They talked about their shared excitement when they succeeded and frustrations with each other when they were failing. We related these experiences to our students going into unfamiliar groups that may not share racial, ethnic or social backgrounds with them. How do they show up in a new group on day 1? What about day 21, after they have been hiking through the mountains together for 3 weeks?

GWPC in OaklandThe group of mentors in the activity also talked about how their lack of knowledge of knots hindered their progress. Had I, a person with climbing experience, been in their group they probably would have succeeded much faster. This was a metaphor for the lesser amount of knowledge and privilege that some of our students on a NOLS or Outward Bound course have compared to other students, who may have camped and traveled extensively.

All in all it was a great success and an energizing start to a day full of deep discussion and learning. Your generosity with the retired ropes made this activity possible. Thank you again so much!

Thanks Kyle for sharing! We love the work that Summer Search is doing and are happy to have played even the tiniest of roles in making this training event a success for you and your mentors!

Find out more about our outreach programming and how we’re getting involved with our community!