Special Olympics Gymnastics




A challenging outdoor personal development and team building activity which usually consists of high and/or low elements. Low elements take place on the ground or only a few feet above the ground. High elements are usually constructed in trees or made of utility poles and require a belay for safety.


It is unclear where and when the first ropes course was created. Obstacle courses have been used by the military to train soldiers as far back as the ancient Greeks. Those courses, however, were primarily used for the training of extremely fit individuals and not necessarily aimed at the development of unremarkable persons as is common practice on ropes courses today. The use of belay and risk management systems on such courses was limited or often non-existent. Many practitioners cite Georges Hébert as the originator of the "modern" ropes course. A French naval officer in the early 1900s, Hébert developed his own method of physical education, apparatus, and principles to train in what he called the “Natural Method,” which included the development of physical, moral, and “virile” qualities in an outdoor environment. Drawing from his naval background, Hébert patterned some of his obstacles on obstacles found on the decks of ships. “Hébertism” grew during and between the World Wars, becoming the standard for physical education training for the French military. Many ropes courses and challenge course programs in French Canada and Europe are still known as Hébertism courses today. Marble, Colorado, the site of the first Colorado Outward Bound course, has been cited as the location of the first ropes course in the USA,[citation needed] although this is highly unlikely.[citation needed] Patterned after a military obstacle course and similar to the course in use at the Outward Bound school in Aberdyfi, Wales, the course was constructed of hemp ropes. Belay systems were minimal or non-existent