Fear, Success and the High Ropes Challenge

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Actually the high ropes challenge didn’t really teach me anything about fear that I didn’t already know, it just helped remind me to be alert to it, what it’s purpose is, and how to overcome it.

I was really excited to participate in the high ropes Challenge course at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and as I watched the introductory safety video, I did not feel one bit of nervous anticipation, only the humid air that was now trapped in my bush-fireman outfit suit. I was ready to go.

This was something I had wanted to do for years. I couldn’t wait to Tarzan swing and zip through the tree tops on the flying fox. After what seemed like ages, the video stopped and we were lined up ready to go.

Currumbin wildlife Sanctuary High ropes challenge
Pumped up and ready to zip line

Craig was in front of me, just in case I neededΒ  a hand up. I was a little concerned how his fear of heights may impede on his experience. Silly me! I should have known better, give him any physical task and he will absolutely conquer it effortlessly.

There were only two allowed on any of the tight ropes at once and I waited until Craig was halfway across before I stepped out onto the thin, yet strong- so my mind kept telling me- steel cable. One foot on and I started swinging from side to side, wobbling unsteadily. And then I looked down. “Oh my God. What have I done? This is a long way up.”

The adrenalin began creeping its way up from my stomach, kickstarting my heart into gear, and making the sweat stream down my face.

“Ah, Craig.” my voice squeaked. “I don’t think I like this. How do I do this?”

“You’ll be right. Just take it slowly. Turn your feet sideways and walk forward.”


Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary High ropes challenge

It had been raining, everything was slippery and I suddenly lost all faith in my Kigo footwear, that had never let me down before. I made it across the first tight rope and was confronted with high rope challenge after challenge.

At each caribiner interchange, I took a deep breath in order to push the fear away “Why do I keep doing this to myself. I’m getting to old for all this high adrenalin stuff.” I kept looking for the nearest exit route and the only one I could find was straight down. And so with head down, I continued to soldier on.

The fear of course was all imagined, as with two safety caribiners attached there was no way I was going to plummet to my death. Strange, how when you are suspended above the air, moving across a cable by using your arms to swing from rope to rope, you tend to forget this.

My concentration soon turned razor sharp. I had to focus on each step forward. That was the only important thing. I could not look behind from where I just came nor get overwhelmed with the height I was walking over, or how far ahead Craig was. Any of that would distract me from what I needed to do to get me to the other side. Pure focus on taking one step at a time.

I thought of how this is how true success comes along, by having razor sharp focus on what needs to be done now. So many times we let the tasks of yesterday and tomorrow overwhelm us and we cease to focus on what needs to be done now. If we get that right then before we know it our slow steady steps have brought us to the goal and has prepared us for the next challenge.

And when you finish that one you’ll discover a flying fox, your reward for a job well done. Clip yourself on and go for a wild zip-lining ride high above the canopy.

Zip lining above the canopy
Relax and zip line

Fear kept arising with each new challenge and I soon learned how to be a controller of that before it sent me sliding down the batman pole prematurely.

For each new high ropes challenge and Tarzan swing, I would spend a couple of seconds analyzing the challenge, going through the motions I needed to perform in my head to successfully reach the other side, and then once on the challenge, focus purely on one foot in front of the other.

And when my mind started to think about the wobbles, the aching shoulders, the slippery cable, and the drop below, I turned my attention back onto my breath. “Just breathe Caroline. Breathe.” Deep breaths in and out.

In essence, this is the only thing in life, we need to worry about. Are we still breathing?

How we forget how much power there is in our breath! It is our life force and we rarely pay attention to how much it can help us. It centres us, keeps us focused, calms us, and gives us powerful energy.

And with that one simple redirected focus, I was safely through to the next caribiner change.

All was going well, I had gotten a hold of my fear and I was actually really enjoying the physical challenge. That was until I reached the black tunnel. Two black tubes gently swaying 1.8 metres from the ground. I’m glad Oprah wasn’t brought here on her recent trip to Oz as there was no way she was fitting through the small tunnels.


High ropes challenge Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

It took me several minutes and shouting instructions from Craig and a safety dude below to work out how to even get into the thing. And then halfway through the safety dude decided to shout out that his instructions were wrong and I was stuck in it wrong way up. You certainly couldn’t turn in it, so I’d have to find a unique way to crawl out of it.

A small gap represented the transition from one tube to the air, and while there was no way Flat Stanley could fit through the gap, I suddenly became paralyzed,Β  claustrophobic with each passing second as I tried to work out how I was going to crawl over that gap from one tunnel to the other. I couldn’t go backward and I couldn’t go forward.

The curse words started flying, as I just couldn’t think of anything else to say or do. After about 5 minutes of lying, sweating and swearing, and with no other option, I took a deep breath and talked myself into just moving forward.

I made it over the gap, and I managed to climb out of the tunnel. Craig had gotten way ahead of me now, and I saw him higher up the course about to get into two more black tunnels, that were actually smaller than the ones I had just been stuck in. Uh oh.

High ropes course Currumbin wildlife sanctuary
More black tunnels ahead. Look at that gap!

A sign in front of me pointed to the right which said “More challenging exit” There were 2 challenges– a swinging rope cable walk, and then an exit down a rope ladder wall. It didn’t look too bad, but I was over more challenging so I looked to the left, the exit Craig took.

“Oh dear, this is the end of me.”

I tried to call to Craig to come back and help me. But it was too late, he was too far ahead. I had reached a road block. I’ve come across them on hikes before, and I’ve always had Craig to talk me through them, and I’ve done it. But now, on my own, I was a goner.

It was a ladder. A ladder surrounded by only thin air. A ladder with about 5 rungs on it and about 3 caribiner changes while on it. I’ve bungy jumped before, and approached rock climbing with enthusiasm and reckless abandon, but get me near a ladder and I cower in fear. I do not know why, but I hate them. And that ladder was leading to the black, claustrophobic tunnels anyway.

“Well, that is me done then.” I said to Kristy, who was behind me. “I’m taking the quick,yet “challenging’ exit out.” Fear had just completed a knock out punch, and I was left with the bitter feeling of not completing a challenge. And not completing it purely through my not being able to conquer my fear on my own.

High ropes challenge Currumbin wildlife sanctuary
The quick yet “challenging” exit

I exited off and followed Craig underneath to the end, berating myself the whole time, “You could have done that, you shouldn’t have given up. Look at all that fun you have missed out on

High ropes challenge Currumbin wildlife sanctuary
A successful finish

Whatever it is you are setting out to achieve in life, it is so important that you have someone along with you for support. Fears will come and go, and you can beat them yourself with your focus to the task, by following a set of procedures that work, and by using the power of your breath.

But soon enough, a challenge or a fear will come along that is too much for you to bear on your own. This is when you need the support of that stronger person who can hold your hand and talk you through it.

Otherwise you will be looking for the quickest way out of there and will be filled with regret because of it for years to come.

27 thoughts on “Fear, Success and the High Ropes Challenge”

  1. eat-laugh-love-anon

    Wow, those tunnels look hard! I think you did a great job to tackle the course. Were you tempted to go back and do it again, just so you could finish?

  2. Regret and self loathing can be more damaging than the fear sometimes. That feeling of “I should have been able to do X” is both very powerful to get you over fears and counter productive makeing you feel bad about your fears. Every time I beat myself up about no taking a single step out of fear, the fear and anguish start earlier. “I should have been able to” extends into “what if I can’t”.

    Great article and I guess what I’m saying is it sounds like you beat plenty of fears, so no sense if suffering due to one decision at the end.

  3. It’s funny how fear is also replaced by such an intense high when you do something you’re scared to do. I hate/love ziplining but my fear of heights never stops me.

  4. Wow! I’m so impressed all of the challenges you faced and overcame. I honestly don’t know if I could have made the first step in all of this — but that’s not how I should be thinking, right? Thanks for the reminder about “breathing”! So simple, but so easy to forget in some situations. I can relate this to when I’m skiing and make the decision to try a challenging (for me) run, even though I know that as soon as I get past the point of no return, I’ll start to regret it. Somehow, I always make it down, but not until I get my wits about me and remember to breathe.

  5. It’s true, we always regret the things we didn’t do, not usually what we didn’t do. I’ve done a similar course and although I’m not afraid of heights, it was tougher than I thought it would be. I think the small tunnels would freak me out the most since I can be claustrophobic.

    1. Yeah, It was those tunnels that undid me. They were really freaky. Being suspended in that small space that far above the ground was a little too much

  6. I completely agree- Bob is such a great supporter and always encourages me to try and do things that seem way too hard or scary. But, I always feel really proud of myself when I attempt them, even if I don’t succeed, I feel so happy that I tried.

    I’m with you though, that ropes course would have scared me- I’m proud of you that you went as far as you did!!

    1. Thanks Jade. It was way scarier than I thought it would be. I want to be a lot fitter when I try again as well. You really do need a lot of arm strength and I am carrying a few extra kilos at the moment.

  7. This looks like something I went through in Belize. I had several zip lines to go down and it was so much fun. And just remember that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for your fears, just learn from them.

  8. I read about your challenge and just focused on the metaphor the entire time. To be honest, my thoughts about the challenge turned to writing – the last year of it and the year ahead. I get what you are saying. When a task is daunting, the need for tunnel vision (no pun intended, OK, maybe a little) to focus on the task right now is important. I can get so discouraged looking back at failures or not being where I want to be. And then I think about what is ahead and sometimes I just want to quit.

    People here and there have commented how they don’t know how I maintain my effort. However, it seems like it is all for nothing. And now I want to take on even more without even being sure of a clear direction. I do understand how important encouragement is and so much of what I have done is just my own will to move forward.

    Honestly, the lessons here go beyond a rope challenge or any particular task. I think about being that encourager to my kids and family as well. And like you, these challenges are scary. I don’t know what is ahead but the one thing I take from this for now is just to focus on what I need to accomplish now and not what is ahead or behind.

    1. I think it is really hard to stop looking backwards and forwards. I am slowly learning how unproductive that is. I can’t do anything about either of them. I can only do the best with what I have from where I am . The now is the only place of power, and the only place I can change.
      Looking at the past will bring your fear and doubt, and the future will overwhelm you- both of those will make you want to quit.
      You have to just let it go, learn from yesterday and let the tomorrows take care of themselves. If you know that everything that is happening right now is meant to be happening then it is easier to do.
      Have you read The Power of Now or A New Earth by Eckart Tolle? They are worthy reads

    1. You’ll have to go when you arrive Down Under! You can cuddle a koala while you are there. πŸ™‚ It is a rewarding challenge (if you finish it)

  9. you said what about oprah!? LOL! another awesome adventure and i can especially imagine how anxiety-building the tunnel could be. you mastered so much fear in that one experience and sometimes we just can’t handle it all in one shabang. that’s alright! life would be boring without a little left for later πŸ™‚

    1. That’s right. Next time I concentrate on getting through just the one fearful task, instead of so many at once.
      Oprah is just on the brain with her recent jaunt down under. We’ve all gone Oprah mad

  10. If it has me jumping, crawling, sliding, and if it looks hard to do… I’m in it!!! Not only i like those things because I’m an “adventure junkie” but also because the adrenaline and fear they bring feels really good in many was. It presents a challenge that makes me want to overcome it and doesn’t allow me to quit on the way. This is a way to look at fear in a positive way… fear pushes me to do things otherwise I would have never thought doing.

    1. I think fear can be used in a very positive way. In fact this is the only way it should be used. We have to learn how to control it rather than have it control us. You would love the high ropes challenge Norbert.

  11. Hi Caz, we would love to have you and Craig back to finish what you started at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary onour Green Challenge Adventure Parc and please bring Oprah with you, I’m sure all of our koalas have heard about her:) Have a fantastic 2011!

    1. Would love to Ken. I’m determine to finish the whole course. It is such a beautiful place to visit and thank you so much for showing us around and for the delicious lunch. The best risotto I’ve ever had. πŸ™‚

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