The Cable and Harness

A university student group organized an outing to a ropes course for their members to build confidence and teach teamwork. The course comprised a number of activities designed with varying levels of difficulty so people would have to push themselves to accomplish goals.

One of the challenges consisted of two poles standing twenty yards apart, each with a platform twenty feet off the ground. A steel cable stretched from one to the other above head height. Below hung a net.

The ropes-course instructor explained this activity to the group: “The idea is to get from one side to the other without letting go. We have a harness here”—he held up the collection of straps and carabiners—”that’s connected to the cable. You can try to go across this without it, which is why we have the net down there, but it’s pretty hard. With the harness, it’s not all on you, and you can stop and rest a bit if you need to. Now, who wants to go first?”

A young man stepped forward with a confident smile. He waved away the instructor’s offer of the harness. With hardly a pause to roll his burly shoulders, he gripped the cable with one hand and pushed off with his feet. His other hand came up, and then he was moving, his momentum carrying him forward like Tarzan swinging from one vine to another in the jungle.

But about two-thirds of the way across, he slowed. His face had become a reddened grimace, and sweat broke out on his temples. Then as his hand reached forward to grip the cable, he missed, and the momentum was gone. He narrowly avoided losing his grip altogether in that moment. He hung there by one white-knuckled hand. The other hand came up and reached again, the fingertips wrapping around the cable, and then they slipped free.

Moments later, the young man lost his hold and tumbled downward. The net rippled as he landed. His face still red but this time from embarrassment, he climbed out.

The next person on the platform accepted the harness. The instructor strapped her in, and away she went. She followed the pattern of the young man, going hand over hand; as she moved forward, she gritted her teeth and gasped with the effort. The carabiner that attached the harness to the cable scraped along just behind her hands. At one point, the young woman stopped for a breather, grateful for the carabiner that kept her fastened to the cable.

Then, with renewed strength, she lifted her hands once more and carried onward. Once after that, she slipped as she went from one hand to another and let go entirely, but she quickly recovered and was on her way again.

To the cheers of her group, she reached the other side, set her feet on the platform, and pumped her fist in victory.


Photo by Nishant Aneja on Pexels.com


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