Scaling Challenge of Choice

High Ropes Course Processing & Reflection

high ropes course team building and leadership


  • High Ropes Course. Can be a circuit course, or individual element. Application of scaling process will require the facilitator’s best judgment.
  • Flip chart paper & markers

Group Size:

  • This version is meant for Adult & Corporate audiences. For youth variations contact mike.
  • Works well with any size team. In my experience with ropes course processing and reflection smaller teams of no greater than 6 people work best. For variations with larger groups contact mike.


To frontload and increase the comfort zone for people on the High Ropes Course western new yorkhigh ropes course.

To develop a language and system for sharing external signs of comfort and reactions to challenge.

Completing the process with the group and individual being able to know and recreate situations where discomfort was addressed and through practice increase the person’s knowledge and skills to lessen reaction time from discomfort to comfort.

Leading to greater ability to;

  • focus while under stressful situations
  • knowledge of self and reactions
  • skills in noticing stress and quickly gaining comfort
  • others on team knowing your signs of discomfort and how to coach you back to a comfort zone
  • empathy and understanding of others
  • respect for the talents and diversity of the team


This entire process needs a great deal of time…and is worth it if you allot the timeHigh Ropes Course buffalo new york team building & leaderhship and focus on creating breakthroughs with the individuals and team on the ropes course.

Also before the group is brought to the high element that they have a comfort, positive norms and behaviors with each other, that they feel safe sharing ideas, and are able to be supportive of each other.

Prior to moving any group to a high ropes element ensure that it is sequenced properly into the team building program. Additionally be honest about the risk both physically and mentally, ensure that any and all facilitators who are on the course are trained and have experience with adult and corporate clients plus high elements on a ropes course.

All operating procedures for the course have been completed.

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

This description will use a pamper pole as the element, remember that not all ropes courses are the same. Here is how I front load the pamper pole, following a discussion of risk, harnessing, equipment, etc…

Feel free to change what is said to fit your conversational style.

“Now that we have covered all the technical and safety protocols we are going to engage in a processing activity before we begin the pamper pole.

Think of a continuum scale of 0-10. On this scale think about where you would place your current comfort level of the pamper pole with 0-being No comfort, and 10-being Total Comfort. Think for the next 90 seconds to yourself about your personal comfort continuum with the challenge and where you would place your comfort”

Allow for about 90 seconds to pass in silenceteam building leadership retreat buffalo, rochester, syracuse ny

“Find a partner and share your level of comfort and discuss why you chose that level, take about the next 3-5 minutes with a partner to share where you placed yourself on the scale and why.”

Allow 3-5 minutes if the group is still talking, choose how long you want to let them share.

“Thank you, using that same scale as before with 0-being No comfort, and 10-being Total Comfort where do you have to end on that scale in order to feel that you were successful with the pamper pole challenge today. Where on the scale would you have to be to feel that success was reached on a personal level for you? Take another 90 seconds and think about it.”

Allow for about 90 seconds to pass in silence

“Does everyone have a number on the scale for success? Great now please break into groups of 4 people per/group”

You can assign the groups according to a myriad amount of things, work teams, family members, learning co-horts, etc… OR you can just let the people choose who they want to be in a group of 4 with.

“Each person in the group please share the following information 1) What your current level of comfort is on the continuum 2) where it would have to be to feel that today is a success. About 10 minutes and each person share those 2 things; Current level of comfort and where it would have to end to feel that today is a success.”

Allow for about 10 minutes if they are still sharing allow for extra time as needed.

“Thank you for sharing those 2 items. The final question before we begin the pamper pole is within the team take 2 minutes per/person to share with your group what external signs they will notice about you when you are achieving success according to your comfort scale. Each person is going to share what external signs they will notice when you have moved closer to and achieved success.”

Allow for 8-10 minutes.

“It is now time for the pamper pole – who is going first? People on their team take notice of their external signs of moving towards success and let them know when you notice the signs they mentioned. Person climbing remember where you placed success on the scale, you can stop at any point.

Those watching please be positive and respectful. Also we all placed success at different levels, the focus is on knowing what to look for and how to recognize your success plus sharing how others can assist you in recognizing and achieving success”

Allow all the people to go through the element.

Once all the people have taken their time on the pamper pole, call the group together for some final reflections and processing.

“Thank you all, that was great! Now let’s process and reflect upon what we have done. Returning back to our continuum scale – 0-Being No Comfort and 10-being Total Comfort where would you place yourself now?”

Allow for about 15-30 seconds of quiet.

“Does anybody wish to share?”

Allow for people to share their current levels on the scale.

“Another question how do you know that the number is different? What external signs, sights, feelings, observations do you have to tell you that you have moved either up or down on the scale?”

Allow for people to share their responses with the group

“Great please return to your groups of 4 from earlier. Each group is going to take about 10 minutes to discuss their experience and thoughts of the pamper pole, and their levels of comfort. Following the 10 minutes each team is going to share an overview of what was discussed with the rest of the groups. Is that alright…any questions?”

If you wish supply the group with markers and flip chart paper to write and draw notes.

Give the group a 2 minute warning – and ask who wants to go first.

“Each group will have ~3 minutes to share, following that the rest of the groups may ask questions and share comments, let’s start.”

Once each group has shared and questions, comments have come to an end, thank them for a wonderful time and say good bye or move on to your next part of the program.


Take your time allow for people to define their own scales of comfort.High Ropes Course rochester new york team building & leadership

A concern that I always have – What if the person does not achieve the point on their scale of success? Or what is they go down a level or more on their comfort scale following the activity?

Tough stuff – this is why you are a facilitator. Whether you choose to use this process or not there is a risk that people will be disappointed with themselves on the high ropes element. That is why high elements for groups are risky and challenging to facilitate.

If you are not prepared to deal with the chance of failure on the element, then you should not be taking the group to the element.

In the past when someone has openly shared that they did not achieve on their scale what they set for success, I ask that person if we can speak privately at a later time. Most people say yes, during our time together we talk about their scaling options, the numbers they chose and how they chose them.

I would like to hear any ideas, stories, solutions, problems, thoughts in the comments about this process.


The scaling continuum idea is from Solutions Focused Brief Therapy.


michael cardus is create-learning

High Ropes Course facilitation training team building & leadership