Here is some atmospheric, unedited video footage taken whilst abseiling (rappelling) from an Abalakov thread down an ice climb in Morocco. There was an extra sense of urgency because moments earlier, the icefall on our left had collapsed as the warm sunshine loosened its nocturnal, frozen grip on the mountain.
This sort of thing gives an insight into why most experienced climbers regard abseiling more as a necessary evil than a leisure activity. Unlike when you are free climbing, abseiling is one of the few occasions when you are entirely reliant on the rope and anchors. It is also the time when you are most likely to reflect on the age and durability of your harness, rope and slings. On particularly sketchy descents a voice in your head might say something like “Please let me survive this one and I’ll sell all my gear and never climb again.” Fortunately, this internal dialogue is usually forgotten or ignored once you’re safely in the bar drinking beer with your friends.
Anyone who tells you they aren’t frightened when they are making abseil descents like this, is either lying – or has not understood the situation. This is worlds apart from those charity abseil events down the side of an office building, from solid anchors, backed up with a safety line 🙂
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