"We cheered each other on and encouraged each other to keep going, to climb higher. ...fear was transformed into fearlessness as bodies disappeared up the side of the wall, so high they were almost out of view..."
The day many of us had been nervously anticipating was here: rock climbing. After our breakfast and tefillah routine, we met our adventure guides at the Zion Mountaineering School in Springdale. We split up into vans—girls only, as the boys were off for a day of canyoneering—and soon became fast friends with our guides: Rachel, Dionne, Hannah, Mikey, Al and Alan.
They introduced us to the cultural and natural history of the area and explained how sandstone is actually formed from microbial poo glue! We were thrilled that Mikey’s rescue dog was also along for the trip with us, and we all took turns petting and snuggling him.
After a rocky scramble up to the climbing area, the guides set up ropes for six routes on the sandstone ledge. We all huddled on the sunny outcropping, enjoying our bagged lunches and finding the right size of climbing shoes. After a short introduction to climbing where we learned some important tips like looking at your feet, using your legs, and sitting back to take rests, we were ready (sort of) to try our hands at the ropes. I thought about the starry sky we had looked at the previous evening; just as we had learned to “read” what at first seemed to be chaotic clusters of stars, we were now about to decipher a rock wall that at first looked random but soon revealed all sorts of foot and hand holds. The most incredible moments of the journey so far were about to happen.
I was humbled and enthralled as I saw student after student face the unknown with trembling hands and a panicked face and then suddenly gain footing—and confidence—after a few moves up the wall. We cheered each other on and encouraged each other to keep going, to climb higher. In what seemed like an instant, fear was transformed into fearlessness as bodies disappeared up the side of the wall, so high they were almost out of view. Everyone tried it. Everyone faced their fears. Everyone said yes, when they might have wanted to say no.
After we all had the chance to climb a couple of times, we headed back down the rocky path exhilarated and proud. We drove the hour and a half back to Springdale and had a bit of down time before our evening assembly, dinner, and tribe meetings. Maya R. shared some hilarious and uplifting words with us about taking off our masks, and we all thought about the myriad ways we have already done so in the just three days we have been here, three days that seem much longer than just a mere seventy-two hours.
After tribes, the Sophomores enjoyed student-led games expertly organized by Ellie and Louis at the nearby Springdale community center. Another full day of activity and fun led to very sound and deep sleeps.
JCHS is grateful for generous operational, programmatic, and financial support from:
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.