Sophomore Journey: Taking on the Canyons Together

Sam A., Class of 2019
On the Sophomore Journey, the guys cheered each other on as they faced the challenges of canyoneering in Zion. Sam A. send us an inspiring update from Utah.
Today, we were awakend at 9:00, an hour later than yesterday's wake up! The blinding sun beamed through the hotel windows, illuminating the frosty ground and our tired faces.

We were still exhausted, but were soon re-energized by the sun’s warmth. Breakfast was short and sweet, a gentle introduction to the busy day ahead of us. After breakfast we had tefillah and in the session I participated in, Ms. Rubin led a guided listening of some songs. The music enhanced the nature around us; the trees felt taller, the grass greener, and the sky bluer. Pretty soon, the songs ended, and it was time to go to our respective activities: the guys were going canyoneering (rappelling down the canyons) and the girls were going rock climbing! We’d switch groups tomorrow, but now it was finally the time to get on the buses and head out to the wilderness of Zion National Park.

The bus ride was short, but it felt like forever. We stared out the windows, and absorbed the picturesque canyons as they flowed in and out of sight, taking in the scenery with hungry eyes. When we arrived at the canyon where we were going to rappel down, we met our guides, and started the precarious hike towards the top. Rocks crumbled with the weight of our bodies, and soil shifted beneath our hiking boots. After a short climb, we reached the top of the canyon taking in the panoramic view. One by one we stepped up to the edge of the canyon wall, and tried not to look down.

Our instructors told us how the process of rappelling worked, but when I was given my opportunity, I felt that there was no real preparation for what was to come. I was scared out of my mind, with clenched teeth and stiff muscles. I knew I wasn’t the only one who was afraid, but it didn’t seem to make the experience any easier. What got me through that paralyzing fear was the other guys. They cheered me on, which boosted my confidence and put me at ease.

All at once, something clicked within me- I knew that I could succeed with them by my side. So, against my own will, I backed up towards the edge and lowered myself down--which was anti-intuitive--and I reached the bottom without a scratch! Little did I know that I had two rappels ahead, but in the moment, I felt like I had just climbed Mount Everest, all thanks to the guys who supported me.  I cheered on the others because I knew how much the positive reinforcement helped me. The sophomore guys were bonding like we never had before, despite our differences.

The bonding didn’t stop there, however. As we exited the vast canyon through a stiflingly small passage, one of the guys got hurt and he was in a lot of pain. At first, we were at a loss for words and actions, awkwardly pretending like nothing happened. But all of a sudden, we looked at one another, and it was as if a spell had been broken. We all realized that one of our own was hurting, and we knew we had to help him. Even people who weren’t natural caretakers stepped up, reaching outside their comfort zones.

Today, the sophomore guys broke down barriers and stereotypes by being compassionate with one another. We found we could help a friend in need without being judgmental. No one got left behind--if one of us went down, we all went down with him.

After the long and tiring day at the canyons, we headed back to base camp in Springdale to meet up with the girls and hear about all their experiences climbing the rock walls in the boiling heat. They all expressed how much fun they had helping one another and enjoying their time in Utah. Our class had an amazing day full of new experiences that ended with an engaging game night led by the rashim.

I’m excited to see what tomorrow has in store for the class of 2019, because today sure was a blast!
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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.