Abseiling is a thrill to stimulate every cell in your body. The heart beat increases, apprehension and flashes of fear pump adrenalin as the abseiler considers the 90 metre descent. Philip Hammond.
I was 16 the first time I dropped off a cliff. It is one of the scariest things I've ever done but the thing is its only right at the top of the cliff it's scary. The very hardest part of abseiling is dropping onto the rope & trusting that the rope will hold you. After that it's a piece of cake; even extraordinary fun.
Flying down the rope is exhilarating & I don't like heights.
We started with the little 30 metre cliffs down near Heathcote. They looked like Everest that first jump. Such a long, long way to fall. That experienced jumpers were making it down without cracked skulls was no reassurance at all.
One by one we strapped our webbing on & secured the crabs. One by one we clipped ourselves to the rope on top of the cliff. One by one we battled our fear as we dropped that mere 2" onto the rope & felt the rope draw taught with our weight before cautiously negotiating our way down the cliff. Before long we were swinging off our ropes like Tarzan.
We graduated to bigger cliffs. We abseiled into caves. We did an all day hike, jumped 1 000m in 3 stages & climbed out. We found all the best cliffs in the National Park & jumped them. We got cocky.
In the middle of a Sydney summer we dropped a rope over an 80m cliff, with overhang & deep pool, & proceeded to jump. You leave the rope a foot or two short so you come off the rope & free fall into the water at the bottom. Heaps of fun for a bunch of teenagers who had sweltered to lug all the gear in & would swelter some more to lug it all back out but hours of fun in between.
There'd been rain so the waterfall was running & there was plenty of water at the bottom. One of the supervisors did a check of the pool & did the first run to make sure the rope was short enough. As an experienced jumper I was happy to let the younger kids go first & pretty soon there was a wet gaggle of kids sprawled around the rock ledge sunbaking like lizards.
The rope had stretched, as wet rope tends to do, but there was still plenty of height when I clipped myself in & happily proceeded to swing out down the cliff face like an overgrown spider on its length of silk thread. All went well until I swung out over the overhang.
Now I'm five foot five inches & for most of my life have struggled to weigh 99 pounds. Scrawny is the term most often used. I swung out over the overhang but with nothing to push off against & no weight to speak of the swollen rope simply jammed in the crabs & there I hung, to everyone's delight, swinging in & out of the waterfall like some strange & exotic hallucination: now you see her, now you don't.
I jiggled. I wiggled & squirmed. I forgot the first rule of abseiling & removed my brake hand from the rope with the predictable result of upending myself. Now I was upside down & still swinging in & out of the waterfall.
Down below people started laying bets as I performed gymnastic feats to right myself. I bounced on the end of that rope in the vain hopes of suddenly gaining a few extra pounds. Inch by inch I squirmed down that rope. I was so intent on moving I never realised I'd reached the end. I came off the rope in a whooping whoosh & plunged into the pool like a breaching whale.
I wasn't allowed a 2nd jump. The only time in my life I've seriously regretted not being built like the proverbial outhouse & weighing double what I did.
Liddy was so excited when she got to try abseiling. She even took pictures. I looked at them sadly. It was all so safe & antiseptic. There was my little girl with a hard hat on her head carefully negotiating her way down a flat wooden wall & if it was 10m she was lucky. She was thrilled so I held my peace & thought about the size of the cliffs we jumped just for fun. Sometimes without the risk you miss most of the fun.