The word 'abseil' is from the German abseilen “to rope down”. Also known as 'rappelling' in America, it is a means by which climbers and mountaineers can safely descend from the heights they have just scaled. The ropes used by members of this Club are usually of kernmantlestatic rope (as compared to the far more elastic climbing or dynamic rope). construction, of 11mm in diameter and are called static rope (as compared to the far more elastic climbing or dynamic rope).
Two or three ANCHORS are set up at the top of a cliff or waterfall; a very experienced Leader will make sure these are “bomb-proof” so that nothing will slip. Only ropes and other equipment which have been looked after with the utmost care, are used. One person I know keeps their ropes in the same cupboard as their linen – away from sunlight, sharp objects and chemicals of any kind.
For the purposes of the Sydney Bush Walkers, it is an essential skill in order to gain access to the magnificent Canyons to be found in the Wollemi, Blue Mountains and Kanangra Boyd National Parks, between 2-3 hours from Sydney. These beautiful places are at once roaring waterfalls appearing out of nowhere beside which, (sometimes through), you carefully abseil down into the depths. The length of the abseil can vary from ten meters to one hundred meters. These trips can last a whole weekend or take the form of a Day trip. A base camp is sometimes used from which two separate Day trips can depart. At the end of the Canyon the party exits via a track up and out through the bush and back into the bright sunlight. A terrific sense of achievement is felt.
Instruction You'll Get
Instruction is provided by the Club where you will learn basic abseiling skills as well as techniques in going up the rope, should you ever need to. This is known as prussiking. Leaders can provide an extra top rope as a safety line to help those who want a little extra peace of mind. It is important to remember that it is a slow activity; no point in rushing past some ledge with a dear little fern peeping out. You may then find yourself wading around a corner to find a hauntingly beautiful cool dark place; sometimes deep water, at other times a shallow paddle. At just the right time of day, the sun can send a shaft of light and warmth down into the depths between the massive walls rising either side of you. Old sandshoes are worn through the water for protection. There is quite a bit of rock-hopping in and out of the water constantly clambering over and under boulders of varying sizes.
Your nudge your buoyant, waterproofed pack through the canyon. You can buy Canyon Bags in varying sizes from camping shops which positively keep everything dry, from a down sleeping bag to your pitta bread and dry clothes. These bags fit inside your backpack. An economical solution is to use double strength tough garbage bags tied up, however the special purpose canyon bag is far more robust. You may find yourself having to throw your pack down a ten meter abseil into the water before you then follow it down, abseiling slowly.
What You'll Need
Helmet - for protection from any falling debris or an inadvertent drop of an object from above!
Harness - not the more bulky climbing type, but rather a lighter one which will not weigh you down once
Descending device (e.g. a 'figure eight')
A locking screwgate karabiner - NOT the snapgate type!
Gloves - for protection from the rope and any sudden swing into rock
Wetsuit - The canyon season is from November to the end of March for good reason; even on a hot summer's day it is extremely cold down in the depths.
Sandshoes (e.g. Volleys which let the water out quickly)
Small pack - waterproofed (see above)
Leaders will give you a full list of what else to bring. There is probably no greater adrenalin rush or adventure-packed day to be found for so little cost to the hip pocket anywhere, so get planning on an abseiling adventure soon!