Smooth-surfaced wooden wall approx 3 to 4 metres tall
Most walls in use today have some type of platform installed on the back on which participants may stand. The traditional wall has a smooth vertical face, while more contemporary designs feature a slightly inclined face.
Be an active spotter at all times and acknowledge that climbers may move and fall in any direction.
Offer support to all group members both physically (spotting) and emotionally (supporting and contributing.)
Be aware of the strength and body size of all group members, and agree not to have members lifting, supporting, or being supported in a manner in which they are not comfortable.
Commit to spotting all members of the group who are off the ground, including those who are on the wall.
Participants agree that all movements (up to and down from the wall) must be controlled and physically supported by other team members. If available, instruct descending participants to use all of the staples or steps provided.
Agree to remain alert for the prospect of kicking or moving feet when participants are climbing up the wall.
The climbing participant will only commence their ascent (or descent) after all safety and check-in protocols have been performed.
Practical Leadership Tips
There is no particular group size for this event. Naturally, the size of your group will influence the length of the activity as well as the number of people actively involved. Anywhere from 8 to 15 people is ideal.
Often, this challenge is presented as a timed event. That said, do not excuse poor planning and overly-rigorous moves to achieve a world’s record, lest someone gets hurt.
The most dramatic moments of this teambuilding task is often observed when the final participant attempts to scale the wall. Naturally, as the last person remaining, they have no one to assist them physically to ascend the wall. Typically, the solution involves one person hanging down from the top of the wall, while the last person makes a giant jump to grab some part of this person and climbs up their body. In these moments, everyone is a spotter.
Do you wonder why jumping from the top of the wall is not permitted? Research indicates that one of the most prevalent injuries incurred on this activity is rolled ankles sustained by those who jump from heights.
May I just reinforce the advice in regards to remaining alert for the presence of kicking feet as people attempt to climb over or down from the wall? These feet are often dangling at the eye-height of spotters and, therefore, are ideally situated to cause a lot of surprising harm.
A popular method to elevate the climber is to have them stand on someone’s shoulders, which is permitted, but ensure that all proper lifting and supports are in place first.
For obvious reasons, do not allow your group to use belts, shoelaces or other articles of clothing to assist in their efforts. They always break and that may be the least of your issues.
For safety purposes, do not allow participants to hang upside down, ie where their head is below their knees. This full-body technique is useful, but it works just as well when the body is situated upright.
Typically, the wall supports such as poles or trees cannot be used to assist in the climb.
You could integrate The Wall as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The dynamics of this challenging group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
Was everyone fully aware of the group’s goal? If not, why not?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? How?
In what ways was resilience demonstrated during the exercise?
Did you observe any moment of safety that concerned you? Why?
Off-Side Rule: Your group starts on one side of the wall and no one is permitted to physically assist others on the other side until they have passed over the wall themselves. For safety purposes, you may permit spotters from any side to assist on the other but they are not entitled to physically assist the person being passed.
Rope Assist: For a somewhat simpler challenge, install a sturdy hand-rope on the front and/or back of the wall to assist participants with their ascent or descent.
Immobile Limb: Introduce the handicap of an immobilised limb to simulate a broken arm, leg, etc, for one or more of your group members, ie these appendages can not be used at any time.
Can’t Hear You: Attempt the task non-verbally.
Take a look at The Beam for a similar up-and-over team-based challenge.
Classic group initiative to pass through a web of strings.
Span The Room
Challenging group initiative that inspires creativity.
Physical challenge to inspire creativity & planning.
Useful Framing Ideas
Perhaps you’ve watched military and commando training videos where the officers in training are lead through a series of very difficult and physical challenges, such as scaling a tall wall or a beam. Well, guess what…?
When you stand here looking up at this tall, imposing wooden wall, I am certain you have already figured out what is about to happen…
Our next exercise will present you with two very different challenges. One will be the task itself – to scale this tall wall – and the other will be the process by which your group chooses to complete the task. There is no right answer, but most groups land between one end of the spectrum (task) or the other (process.) Consider your perspective as we prepare for this challenge…
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 leading this classic teambuilding exercise:
What were the most difficult challenges of this task?
Where and when did you feel the least and most comfortable? Why?
How did your group manage these challenges? Were you successful?
What types of support were offered during the exercise?
Did you feel supported in your decision(s?)
Are these forms of support demonstrated in other areas of your group’s experience?
What is an example of a challenge you or your group have overcome?
What strengths did you call on to help you succeed?
The inspiration for The Wall is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s Challenge Course curriculum in the early 1970s.