Ropes for Everyone


In other parts of the country, the arrival of September would herald the arrival of fall weather. But as this is in Florida, where seasons exist only as abstract concepts, the weather remains conducive to outdoor activity. And this week, TampaSportsFitness found a really good one in the rope courses.

Ropes courses go by a whole host of idioms: Challenge Courses, Ropes Challenge Courses, Teams Course, and Low Ropes. Everybody uses these things: high schools, universities, the Boy Scouts, military, and the ever popular corporate training exercises. And we do mean everybody: there’s even an association.

Generally speaking, ropes courses can involve three kinds of activities. First there is climbing, in which the participant makes their way up a large tower, wall, or structure. Clad in a helmet and a safety harness with a rope attached, the participant climbs up and, depending on the design, across the structure.

Due to the varying levels of the structures, participants have two options for getting down: zip lining, where the participant rides down a wire after reaching the top of the tower, or repelling off the structure like a SWAT member in every action movie ever made.

Due to the height, safety gear and harness are required for both aspects. Rope climbing courses, both indoor and outdoor, have been popular for years, but the bay area has a noted interest in outdoor courses, as noticed by the sheer number of climbing structures in the area.

These courses can be found in multiple spots throughout Tampa Bay. The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) dropped the curtain on its Sky Trail ropes course last year and has been a major success; one can’t drive by MOSI and not see the multilevel apparatus on its front lawn just below the IMAX dome. The YMCA behind Gaither High School on Dale Mabry has a tall climbing tower hidden in the trees. USF has one at Riverfront Park on Fletcher Ave. And in Pinellas County, North East High School sports one on its campus, the result of a collaboration between the county and Common Ground Adventures. Lastly, for you  readers in Brandon, there is a ropes course near Lithia springs. At Cedar Kirk Camp and Conference Center, members can go through a ropes course that features 15 rope challenges suspended 24 feet in the air!

So clearly this is an area that likes to climb. Ropes courses offer physical activity unique to most outdoor sports, but it also offers a level of excitement unheard of in a gym setting. Rock climbing at the gym is great; climbing a giant jungle gym and then zipping back down on a wire is awesome. That might be part of appeal, actually: ropes courses look like a cross between those old school wooden playgrounds and the tree houses from Hook and Swiss Family Robinson.

Some basic things to know before attempting to reach the summit of a ropes course and/or zip your way back down: waiver forms will need to be signed, closed shoes and comfortable clothing will be required, and height requirements may need to be observed (MOSI requires minors under 47 inches be accompanied by an adult).

So what do you think, dear readers? Sound like an activity preferable to avoiding downtown Tampa during a large national convention?

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