Building Trust in The Canyons

Canyoneering, especially technical canyoneering, is never done alone. It is one of the adventures that our clients most often remember from their time at Legacy or Juniper Canyon, because it is such a special and powerful experience, requiring physical and mental strength as well as the ability to work with others. Our staff of expert field guides are fully qualified to be leading Canyoneering adventures, and adhere to all necessary and required Safety procedures. 

Canyoneering necessitates at least one other, more often a group of people. One who wishes to rappel into a canyon needs to set up an anchor, and also needs someone to belay them down into the canyon. Setting up an anchor is difficult, and even those who have been canyoneering for many years would be wise to have another experienced person check over their anchor. Once the anchor is set, the rappeler needs to tie into the rope system. Having another person check that you are tied in safely and correctly off-sets the possibility of making a careless and tragic mistake. 

Before beginning to rappel down into the canyon, the rappeler calls to the belayer in a loud and clear voice, ‘On belay?’ And the belayer answers, ‘Belay on.’ Then the rappeler calls, ‘Rappelling.’ And the belayer responds, ‘Rappel on.’ The rappeler must trust that the belayer will keep their hands on the rope, and must trust that the anchored support system will hold. Trusting the belayer involves facing one’s real and understandable fears of hanging in mid-air, suspended over a deep gorge. The rappeler keeps one hand on the rope at all times and lowers themselves down the rope into the canyon, falling steadily. If the rappeler starts to fall freely, or accidentally takes a hand off the rope, the belayer pulls down on the rope from below and holds the rappeler in mid-air. Once the rappeler lands firmly on the ground of the canyon, and unties himself from the rope, they then have both hands free to offer support to the next canyon explorer.

For our young adult clients, recovery from mental health struggles and/or addiction is not to be accomplished alone. Recovering necessitates a community of supportive persons who understand your journey, as well as the unique challenges each individual faces, based on particular personality and way of dealing with life. One who wishes to descend into the deep canyons of the soul needs to set up a support system. You need a belayer who will catch you if you begin to fall too fast– a guide who will lead the way through the dark and treacherous narrows. It is not easy to traverse tricky situations and terrain alone. 

Many times clients come to our program after having experienced trauma and broken relationships that have resulted in the inability to form healthy relationships or trust. Early in their journey towards healing, our clients at Legacy Treatment Center and Juniper Canyon must learn to trust our staff and their peer group. They must trust that our competent guides and clinicians can and will help them in their process- whether in a therapy session or while repelling into a canyon. To trust another person so completely involves facing one’s real and understandable fears of metaphorically hanging suspended in mid-air, unable to find solid footing, as well as facing one’s distrust of other people, of oneself, and of life itself. 

Rappelling down into the canyon is exhilarating and scary. It facilitates a feeling of accomplishment for clients, as they overcome their fears and learn to accept help to complete the adventure. An excursion through the magnificent grandeur of a canyon provides the space for the voyager to explore their boundaries and form trusting relationships with the others around them.

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