Travel - Rope ClimbingAn indescribable feeling: Hanging from a rock face with nothing more than fresh air between your feet and the sun-scorched ground below
Rappelling – sliding down a fixed rope using a braking device to control your descent – could have been invented for Utah’s colossal sandstone fins, improbably balanced boulders and soaring spires.
The 73,000-acre Arches National Park contains endless challenges and dizzying drops, plus thousands of stone arches that give the park its name. “Take a course of instruction before you dangle your body off of any high feature on the planet’s surface,” says Todd Goss, who is the brains behind Paragon Adventures, a company that organises guided outdoor activities in Utah. And anyone wanting to tackle them armed only with a rope requires a clear head and nerves of steel.
“Walking backwards off a cliff goes against most people’s concept of self-preservation,” says Goss. “So, unsurprisingly, there’s a big adrenalin response. The biggest issue for people starting out is trying to manage that.” Instructors can help prepare first-timers for the feeling of taking their lives into their own hands.
“My heart was racing as I went over the edge,” says Katie Sanders, 24, a legal secretary from Santa Monica, USA. “You can’t shake the knowledge that the only thing stopping you plummeting more than 100 metres to the canyon floor is the piece of rope. But then the adrenalin surge subsided into this amazing feeling of freedom and control over my actions. I could then really be part of the descent and appreciate the incredible surroundings.”
Anyone that musters the will to hang off natural structures often hundreds of metres tall is repaid with unbeatable views. Hanging from a rock face with nothing more than fresh air between your feet and the sun-scorched ground below offers a completely new way to appreciate landscapes that in photos often defy belief. “When you’ve got the amazing beauty of the red desert, slot canyons, sweeping vistas, and massive cliffs,” says Goss, “the technique of rappelling gives you a whole new perspective. And a great thrill, too.”
Advice from the inside
“Before you go rappelling, make sure you learn how the system operates and how to stay alive if something goes awry,” says Todd Goss.
Utah: More to explore
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