SumMAT Camp Activities
Risk Management and Challenge by Choice
(Perceived risk vs. actual risk)
The activities in which campers participate at Petra Cliffs are often perceived to carry more risk that the actual risk they present.
The actual risk at a well-managed climbing area, for example, is relatively low, but participants experiencing the small handholds and feeling of being high off the ground might perceive that the risk is much higher than it actually is. That heightened awareness can take them beyond their usual comfort levels and encourage them to accept challenges that will stretch their abilities and build their confidence. Petra Cliffs minimizes risk through careful planning, training (of staff and campers), leadership, good judgment, and accepting responsibility.
It can be difficult to convince the human brain that the actual risk is not as high as the perceived risk, and this makes some campers uncomfortable or unwilling to participate in activities. We operate under the “Challenge by Choice” philosophy, in which we encourage campers to achieve their goals and provide them with a safe environment where they can go beyond their comfort level. It is not our place, however, to push campers further than they are ready for or capable of. This also applies to how campers treat each other; we discourage campers pressuring one another into doing things they don’t want to do.
Indoor Climbing, Ropes Course and Games
We are fortunate to have such an amazing home base at Petra Cliffs, where we always spend at least one camp day, but we can return back to base if the weather turns foul. Our indoor day includes climbing, bouldering (climbing low to the ground without a rope), climbing games, the high ropes course, teambuilding games, and if good weather, a walk around the corner to Oakledge Park.
Outdoor Rock Climbing
Our outdoor climbing days take place in Bolton at “Lower West Bolton” or “The Nap”, both located along Bolton Notch Road. Some of the best and most appropriate climbing in Vermont for our age groups lies here, only 25-30 minutes away. Climbers climb 50-90 feet on top rope (just like the climbing at Petra Cliffs) on Vermont’s quartz-abundant green schist. Climbers wear harnesses and helmets for safety. During the outdoor climbing, an additional climbing “specialist,” who has specific climbing and rescue training, is added to make the ratio 3 adults to 10 campers.
Our groups participate in flat water and swift water kayaking (no whitewater). Locations may include the Waterbury Reservoir, Winooski River (Waterbury Dam to Bolton), or only on a very calm day, Lake Champlain. All campers wear PFD’s. On the kayaking day, an additional “specialist” with specific kayak safety and rescue skills works with the group to gain a ratio of 3 leaders to 10 campers.
We partner with the Community Sailing Center on Lake Champlain’s Waterfront for this day. We take Group 1 sailing instead of kayaking; we tried kayaking with this group in past years, but little arms get so tired so quickly! This 3-hour educational sail has the kids pulling, rigging, tying, moving sails, steering, and feeling the wind in their hair! We use two boats and have one Petra Cliffs leader, one Sailing Center leader, and 5 kids on each 19’-20’ sailboat, all wearing appropriately-sized PFDs.
We go to the Colchester Caves. The caves are on town property, but because the trail in is on posted private property, we cannot provide walking directions to the caves; Petra Cliffs has been granted permission from the landowner to access the caves. The caves are marble, and the kids learn about geology and how the caves were formed through erosion. Everyone will get very muddy and wet! Cavers wear helmets for protection with headlamps attached.
Petra Cliffs operates the high and low challenge courses at Bolton Valley Resort. The course is in a beautiful wooded area off of the Nordic Ski Trails. The high course includes a four-part circuit with balancing elements that is 30 feet off of the ground, and the Giant Swing. Ropes course participants always wear a harness and helmet and are attached to a rope at any height on the high course. The low courses include cable walks and low-to-the-ground balancing, problem-solving, and resource management challenges. The leaders choose which elements to prepare for the day based on timing, weather, and the ability of the entire group.
Some of Vermont’s greatest attractions are its cold streams and swimming holes. Although not a main activity, we often visit a stream or Lake Champlain in the afternoon to take a dip and wash off. We do not “swim” with the camp per se, we “dip”—that is, campers are not allowed to enter water over their armpit level without wearing a PFD (i.e. kayaking or sailing days). This also means no jumping. There is one potential spot on the kayak day where jumping from a small rock, after leaders have checked the landing, and from the sailing boats that is allowed.
Please ask a staff member about any specific questions or concerns regarding our activities.