by Kaye Patchett
"I’m petrified of heights. So what was I doing 20 feet above the ground, with two ropes and a couple of cables between me and utter panic? And why do people line up to do this?"
As a staff writer for Canyon Ranch Connection, I got the chance to try our new High Ropes Course in Tucson, so I could better describe the experience. It’s a challenging maze of ropes, platforms, cables, a climbing wall, Zipline, giant swing and more, most of them connected between telephone poles. I had written before about the popular Ropes Course at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, and thought I was prepared for a first-hand try.
First I mounted the swaying cargo net and clung convulsively as I ascended 20+ feet to the initial platform. I reached the small wooden deck and embraced the support pole for dear life.
My task was to walk across a single cable, tightrope-style, with only a loose rope on either side for balance. My brain knew I was clipped into the safety harness and could not fall, but it forgot to tell my trembling body. I needed encouragement, and that’s what I got – from friends on the ground and especially from the Ranch guides. One of them told me to imagine something at the other end that I wanted to reach. I thought of my unfinished novel as I took my first step. An expert guide was on the next platform, my destination, encouraging me with every step.
Minutes later I achieved what I’d thought was the impossible – an amazing triumph for me. Many people since then have found their own rewards on the high ropes.
Jane Davis from New Mexico is a mediator and former ski instructor who says, “I’m not generally afraid of heights, but the Ropes Course didn’t present a secure stance, except for the few inches of wood attached to the poles. The most challenging element was when I reached the top and realized I hadn’t asked how one got down.”
To finish the course, Jane had to face the giant swing, which starts with a brief free-fall followed by a great descending arc. It called for complete trust in her safety harness, the support of the Outdoor Sports guides, and in her fellow climbers. “After 30 minutes sitting terrified on the platform, I leaned off my safe perch and screamed. Then everything merged into exhilaration as I swung like a free spirit.
“I learned a lot about myself,” Jane says. “When asked, ‘Who wants to go first?’ I was reminded that I’m a leader and a communicator. I also confirmed that I love to push myself, I love teamwork, and I welcome a good challenge.”
Taking the challenge
Some people, like Californian Sandy Baker, approach the Ropes Course without trepidation. The Pilates teacher, national aerobics champion and marathon runner says, “It was the most exhilarating, empowering experience. The balance challenge, the need to stay in the moment and the sheer contrast to normal life were intriguing and thrilling.”
The course incorporates many skills learned in “on-ground” classes, Sandy says, from balancing on a Bosu® Ball to meditation. “Things sway, the ropes are unstable. You need to focus and be at one with the experience. For anyone, this is going to produce some adrenaline. Height is not natural for us – humans don’t fly.” But, she adds, “So much of life is risk-taking, and that sheer imagined fear can be limiting. I thought, ‘I’m at Canyon Ranch.’ There weren’t any real dangers. I could separate the ‘what ifs’ from the reality and enjoy the process.”
Something for everyone
Whether you try the Ropes Course in Tucson or Lenox, you’re sure to have a unique experience that reflects the background you bring to it. I started with fear and finished feeling like a million bucks. Jane rediscovered truths about herself. Sandy found thrills that surpassed even her exciting athletic pursuits. What might you find up in the high ropes?
Kaye Patchett is part of the Canyon Ranch writing team. She is no longer afraid of her kitchen step stool.
What else is up?
Many guests make it a goal to try something different every time they visit Canyon Ranch. That’s easy to do with everything we offer. Try these experiences:
If you enjoy Pilates, this class adds a whole new dimension to the familiar: You do your stretches and movements on a five-foot long, three-inch-high, four-inch-wide pad that sits on the floor. There’s absolutely nowhere to fall, but the mental challenge is fascinating and it’s a great way to bolster your balance.
Let loose in this innovative, partner-free dance fitness program created by renowned dancer, choreographer and fitness expert Louis Van Amstel. Each class gives you a great workout with elements of the merengue, salsa, paso doble and more.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
If you’re an able swimmer, you’ve got to try the fastest-growing water sport in America. It’s fun, easy to learn, and a terrific way to challenge your balance and strengthen your core.
Muscle Melt for “Road Warriors”
Quickly becoming one of our most popular treatments, Muscle Melt features heated herbal balls in pouches that are pressed into the muscles. This deep massage work has a strong Thai influence and will vanquish the last traces of stress.
Navigating Life’s Transitions
Ready to move on or create change? This powerful, 50-minute session will help you learn how to navigate life’s transitions with greater success, wisdom and focus. Through dialogue, effective goal-setting and guided visualization, you’ll learn how to let go of old fears and limiting beliefs, and embrace a more expansive vision for yourself rooted in your core values.
Svedhana Herbal Steam Treatment
This exquisite ayurvedic ritual bathes body and spirit in healing warmth and fragrant essential oils. Relax totally as you soak up a soothing ayurvedic oleation and a full-body exfoliation. Then receive a luscious scalp massage while you’re enveloped from the neck down in aromatherapeutic steam. Svedhana (sway-dah-nah) removes deep-seated toxins, warms muscles, relieves heaviness due to bloating and improves the radiance of the skin. And it feels fantastic! 50 minutes.