Abseiling (from the German word abseilen, which means ‘to rope down’), is a technique utilised and enjoyed by many people who partake in the likes of climbing, caving, and other such activities. It’s likely that you have heard of the activity before, but you might not be entirely sure about what it is and what it entails if you haven’t tried abseiling yourself. If this is the case, keep reading to find out just what you need to know about abseiling.
What is Abseiling?
Abseiling involves the use of specialist rope as an individual descends down terrain that is otherwise difficult or impossible to travel down. With the right equipment, training, and experience, abseiling allows you to descend down from a height in a controlled and effective manner. Depending on the setting, abseiling can be difficult and dangerous, and so it requires expertise and practice before being attempted.
When and Where is Abseiling Used?
Many people like to abseil for fun; it’s a challenging but rewarding activity and it can often be done in fantastic settings that offer brilliant views. The activity can be done at various locations – it is most often associated with descending down a rock or mountain, but it can also be done off of a bridge or out of a helicopter. It’s also important to note that the technique is widely used in emergency situations that involve rescuing individuals from difficult areas, such as mountains.
How Does Abseiling Work?
For abseiling to be done safely, the correct specialist equipment is essential. Without this, the weight of the climber can be put at risk.
Individuals must make sure that they have the right harness on. This allows them to connect to a friction device, which is what allows individuals to descend down in a controlled way. Individuals also need a helmet in case anything above them becomes dislodged.
Having the right rope is absolutely essential, and this rope then needs to be safely secured to two separate secure and unmovable objects. This is called an anchor. The type of anchor used is of the upmost importance as if it is inadequate it will not provide the right level of support and can result in a dangerous fall. It must be remembered that when loading a rope it will stretch and bounce. This movement can cause the rope to fail if it is rubbing on the edge of a rock. All places where this happens must be protected to prevent the rope from failing. There are special rope protectors that can be purchased or homemade ones can be applied.
Before setting all of this up, it’s important to look and assess the area below you before descending down into it. Make sure it looks safe and clear for you to lower on to.
Once the rope is secured and you are safely attached, you can begin your slow and controlled descent down. It’s important to make this as smooth as possible, as large and jerky movements can have dangerous consequences. You can control the rope to allow yourself to travel down at a pace that feels comfortable to you. For beginners, slow and steady certainly wins the race. Trying to go quickly can lead to mistakes and even if this doesn’t mean falling, it can mean crashing into the rock-face and causing injury. As you know, friction causes heat and if you go too fast you will start to melt the rope. Opting for a slower pace is much safer and will allow you to have better control.
There are many different types of devices used to slow the decent when abseiling. The most common is a figure of 8, named so because it is that shape. Some devices are like mini ladders that the rope runs through, or specially designed rollers that operate with a leaver.
If abseiling with a leaver, you will stop descending if you let go. Whereas with a figure of 8, you will fall if you let go. To avoid this happening, you should have a safety line attached to you or, if alone, you need a prussic or similar device that will catch the rope before it escapes through the device.
Abseiling for the first time can be a daunting prospect, but the challenge is still fun and rewarding. It’s a peculiar but exhilarating feeling as you lean backwards, facing the rock, to slowly lower yourself down.
Making sure that you invest in the right equipment is extremely important, but you don’t have to worry about this if you sign onto our abseiling activities at How Stean Gorge, as we provide all of the right equipment for you.
Learning to Abseil
Abseiling isn’t something that you can try yourself without prior experience or training. The key to trying it for the first time is to have a fully qualified instructor on hand, as they will make sure that you don’t step a foot wrong (literally).
With our qualified and expert instructors at How Stean Gorge, you will be shown the ropes of abseiling whilst taught the right techniques to master your abseiling abilities.
What is Abseiling With Rock Climbing?
At How Stean Gorge, we offer four different types of abseiling. One of these is done during a rock climbing session. This three-hour session involves a thrilling rock climb at the incredible Brimham Rocks. But as you will be aware, what goes up must come down! After finishing the rock climb, you can try your hand at abseiling back down the face of the rock.
This isn’t the only way to experience abseiling at How Stean Gorge, though. You can try it on a caving excursion, during an exciting gorge walking activity, or something a little wetter – down waterfalls during canyoning.
Whether you’re looking to set a personal challenge, try something different for a stag or hen do, or want to plan your next family outing – abseiling at How Stean Gorge has so much to offer everyone, of all abilities. Get in touch to find out more!