LightHouse Students Climb High

Courtney Mazzola climbs ladder into a tree leading to the zip line.In October a group of eight LightHouse students went to the San Francisco State University’s Challenge (Ropes) Course at Fort Miley. The Fort Miley Challenge Course is an outdoor ropes course and zipline program run by Pacific Leadership Institute (PLI) and located at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, at Lands End in San Francisco. They offer a fun, safe and positive environment in which individuals and groups work together to develop confidence, trust, support, communication, cooperation and leadership skills.

LightHouse Community Services Program Coordinator Beth Berenson wanted to challenge the stereotype that blind people can’t do challenge courses and organized the outing. She told us, “Our group of blind students really wanted to challenge themselves physically and they also wanted bragging rights – they wanted to be able to say, ‘I did it!’ There’s an assumption that blind people cannot participate in exciting and sometimes extreme sports, but that’s just not true.”

The highlight of the adventure was riding the zipline. LightHouse students climbed a tree then walked a tightrope to get to the zipline, wearing safety harnesses attached to ropes held by PLI staff ready to belay to safety anyone who needed help. Beth told us, “First you climb, placing your feet on (ladder rungs) secured to a large tree – once you get to the top, you put your feet on markers – in that position you step onto the wire (there are support ropes at your side to hold onto) and walk on the wire until you get to the platform for the zipline which runs along the top of the trees.”

Student Courtney Mazzola described why she participated, “I really wanted to do a zipline and I’ve had issues in the past with other places that wouldn’t let me try it because I’m blind. PLI was great – they had no hesitation working with blind people. You don’t need to have vision to do this, you just need to be able to follow specific, detailed verbal directions.” About the experience, she said, “It was great – part of it was just the sense of overcoming fear, a cross between accomplishment and having conquered, physical mastery. Now that I know how it works I would definitely do it again.”

We are planning another high flying adventure in the Spring, when the weather is good. Interested? Contact Beth Berenson at 415-431-1481 or