Challenge Course #5: Dead Bugs and Partner Climbs

Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.

Frederick B. Wilcox


Waiting for class to begin……


Each week someone “volunteers” to practice delivering the pre-climbing instructions and completing the safety check. It is not an easy job.


Next, we tie ourselves into the belay ropes. We may tie in correctly on the first try, or it may take us a million gazillion tries.


At the other end of the rope, a classmate secures the rope to their harness and a teammate does another security check.  Sometimes that classmate exaggerates a little.


When the belayer is ready with their backup belayer, and the climber is ready to climb, the climber says, “On belay?”  The belayer re-checks the belay system and their backup, and replies, “Belay On.” The climber says, “Ready to Climb.” and, if all is still good with the belayer, they reply, “Climb On.”

And, then we climb.
And, then we climb.

To teach how to live with uncertainty, yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy can do.

Bertrand Russell

Paul challenged us to climb blindfolded or tethered together. Some did both.




All the while, there are belayers and backup belayers at the other end of every rope.


At the beginning of class, Paul taught us how to do the “dead bug” on the poles at the bottom of the tower. Then we played dead on the tower.

One dead bug.
One dead bug.
Two dead bugs.
Two dead bugs.
Three dead bugs. That's me!
Three dead bugs. That’s me!

Some of us tried a different sort of partner climb……





At the end of the day, we yell out to the belayer, “Ready to Lower!”

The belayer kindly replies, “Lower On.”



To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach for another is to risk involvement.

To expose your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To believe is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greater hazard in life is to risk nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their attitudes, they are slaves; they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.


An excerpt from our textbook, The Complete Ropes Course Manual.


“Be willing to take a risk.” is the last sentence of the chapter in our textbook on Personal Risk Taking. Each of our classes practice “Challenge by Choice” and we are not forced to participate in the challenges being taught. Sometimes I find myself hesitant, willing to ‘opt-out’ only to discover no challenge has been too great, too scary or unfulfilling.

Climb on……


4 thoughts on “Challenge Course #5: Dead Bugs and Partner Climbs

  1. Brings back memories of my mountaineering training in Ranger School on Mount Yona in North Georgia! We had to do “Ranger Pushups” if we failed any requirement (your feet had to be positioned uphill of your hands)!


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