Assume necessary spotting role (or invite other group members) when required, eg when a participant is attempting a difficult traverse.
Be an active member of the group.
Offer support to all group members both physically (spotting) and emotionally (supporting and contributing.)
Agree that if a fall is imminent, to step off the cable and immediately let go of other participants, ie this is generally regarded as a self-spotting exercise.
Recognise that when a fall occurs, they usually happen quickly and will occur in any direction.
Agree to refrain from attempting rapid, solo moves toward a support tree or pole.
Practical Leadership Tips
Ideally, if you choose to spot a participant’s move, position yourself behind the participant. This logic generally suggests that someone is more likely to harm themselves when they fall backwards than when they fall forwards (and can see what is in front of them.)
Note, some participants will continue to hold the hands or body of those who have fallen long after they have stepped off the cable. You may need to remind your group frequently that this practice is not permitted.
Time Challenge: Challenge your group to traverse as far along the cables as possible in a specified length of time, eg 25 minutes.
Tally Ho: Challenge your group to traverse the entire length of the cables with as few touches of the ground as possible. Repeat the task two or more times to record their best effort.
Back of Group: Instruct any member of the group who falls off any part of the Mohawk Ironworkers Walk to start again from the tree (or pole) directly behind the last (safe) person of the group. For example, if your group has successfully traversed the first two sections of cable and the last person is standing on the third cable, any person who falls will be required to resume at the start of the third section (not the first.)
Connected Moves: Any and all moves to traverse the cables must always be performed while connected to another person in the group, ie no solo attempts.
One Down All Down: Instruct the whole group to start over when one person falls or steps off the cable. This makes the task particularly challenging but it will certainly sharpen your group’s awareness of risk management.
Two Way Traffic: Split your group into two smaller teams, each starting from opposite ends of the Mohawk Ironworkers Walk traverse. Beware, the team which starts at the ‘end’ may find it very difficult to get started because this cable traverse is traditionally the longest, ie most difficult.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Legend informs us that there was once a very proud nation of First Nation people who, every year, would travel from one part of their land to another as part of their annual migration to warmer climes. A part of this trek involved traversing a very narrow section of land. So narrow, it was not uncommon for some people to sadly fall off the edge and hurt themselves. The apparatus set up before you represents the peril of this trek…
Your group has been tasked with a mission to transport a very important message across this challenging frontier. Each person will be given one part of this secret message, none of which will be revealed until you have completed the task. It is critical that all parts of the message are kept together, however, it is recognised that it may get mixed up and jumbled along the way…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after undertaking this challenging group initiative:
Did your initial plan proceed the way you expected?
How did your group make decisions, eg who would go first, last, etc?
What words would you use to describe your group’s decision-making process?
What challenges did you encounter?
How did you feel when you fell off the cable?
How did you feel when you suddenly found yourself at the front of the group?
Did you ask for help? Did you offer help? Why or why not?
Did you observe moments during this exercise that reflect the way your group operates day to day?
What lessons do you think we could learn from this activity?
The inspiration for the originally named Mohawk Walk was invented by a group of workshop participants (during a Project Adventure workshop in 1981 led by Karl Rohnke and Jim Grout) who were members of the Mohawks of Akwesasne in Quebec, outside Montreal, Canada.
As described to Karl and Jim at the time, the Mohawk people have a long history as ironworkers involved with the construction of high-rise buildings throughout North America. This history, combined with the group’s challenge course idea, led to the creation of this popular low challenge course initiative during the workshop. It was decided that very day to name it the Mohawk Walk in honour of their creativity and expertise.
Inspired by a recent article written by Jim Grout (Executive Director of High 5 Adventure Learning) and cognizant of issues regarding cultural appropriation, we have followed High 5’s lead to update the name of this low element in our database to Mohawk Ironworkers Walk, too. We feel that this name fully captures the rich history of the Mohawk people and their role in the building of skyscrapers in cities everywhere.
You may also be interested in seeing our blog post about this topic here.