We recently spent a week at a family camp and one of the activities was rappelling from the top of a 45′ tower (or you could climb the other side of it). My eight year old couldn’t get enough of this. He was absolutely fearless and did it over and over. I made him stand for the portrait above before he bounded up the stairs so he could do it once again.
My son Evan has successfully completed all sorts of emergency/rescue training over the past two years. In addition to having become a fully licensed paramedic, he’s obtained diving certifications, high-angle and swift-water rescue certifications, sawyer certifications (yep), specialty medical emergency certifications, and who knows what else.
For his birthday we bought him a rappelling rope so naturally he got it in his mind to take his family rappelling. Off we went to the Barton Creek Greenbelt in search of scary cliffs to hang from. Evan scouted out a nice spot for us — a cliff ~25′ high, with a hollow cave-like area halfway down the wall which you had to rope past without having the benefit of using your feet.
Three of my girls and I learned how to tie a Swiss Seat — the poor-man’s harness — and were then schooled on how to attach the “eight” to the rope and to our harness. We practiced rappelling and belaying from a ledge about 6′ off the ground (none of us had ever rappelled). From the standpoint of the mechanics it really couldn’t get much simpler. With a little practice one learns to control their descent relatively smoothly.
On to the top of the cliff…got a little scarier up there. Out loud, I quoted (roughly) Rizzo the Rat from Muppet Christmas Carol — “There are two things I hate: heights…and jumping from them”. Now, I’m not *really* that afraid of heights and am fine looking over the edge of a cliff or climbing extension ladders, etc. However, the thought of backing myself over this cliff (rope or no rope) was making my stomach turn and my hands shake. I honestly haven’t been afraid like that since I was a little kid. I did it though. Walked back, pretended to be a cool cat. After all, I was encouraging my girls to overcome their fears and do this as well (all three did the 6′ ledge and two of them did the cliff). It was awkward going over the edge since the rope had no leverage point except a tree 20′ away, but once I got going and the rope resting in the cliff’s edge it was a piece of cake.
We glanced over and noticed my 3 year old attempting to tie a Swiss Seat — it was hilarious to watch. He was as serious as ever. I’m sure he’ll be rappelling down cliffs before long. I had to include a shot of that.
Since we were in deep shade I placed a remote-triggered (via an Elinchrom Skyport) flash on the ground while we were up on the rocks. We were busy climbing so I couldn’t always place it optimally or adjust the power but it worked pretty well for many of the shots.