Growing up in Seattle, Bill Jacox always enjoyed sports, but it wasn’t until he graduated from college in the summer of 1994 and decided to scale Mt. Rainier – the region’s tallest peak – that he knew the outdoors was his calling.
“The weather was tough and unpredictable; and the route passed big, enigmatic glaciers,” says Jacox. “You climb 14,000 feet straight up from sea level. It was a very powerful experience.”
That day on the summit set Jacox on one of the most inspiring paths of all: to help others reach their own heights of achievement.
As Outdoor Adventure program director for UCI’s Campus Recreation department, Jacox developed the high ropes challenge course – a team-building, problem-solving obstacle course that stands 50 feet high and 360 feet long, located at Anteater Recreation Center.
“We have the biggest and best ropes course on the West Coast,” Jacox says. “Participants have to work together and stay together throughout the whole course. It builds skills that can be transferred to life or work.”
Last year, the course attracted 3,500 participants from a variety of backgrounds, including students; faculty, staff and community members; people with physical disabilities; and business groups.
“The ropes course provides a supportive atmosphere where people learn they can achieve anything by leveraging their strengths and working as a team,” he says.
Jacox first combined his love of the outdoors with a desire to teach others in 1996, when he became an instructor with Outward Bound, an organization that offers character-building wilderness adventures.
He led groups on numerous expeditions over the next several years, including mountaineering in the Rockies, exploring canyons in the Southwest, sea kayaking in Baja California and climbing glaciers in Alaska. He earned a master’s in outdoor education from the University of New Hampshire in 2002 and married Sunny Lee, UCI graduate and former assistant director of the Cross-Cultural Center.
Since joining Campus Recreation in 2004, he’s initiated programs in surfing, kayaking and other sports. He also manages the recreation center’s rock climbing wall, where beginners learn how to rock climb and experienced climbers improve their techniques.
Jacox now plans to expand the ropes course and offer more outdoor programs that challenge participants to reach greater heights.