Today was the perfect day in every way to tackle the World’s Highest Commercial Abseil. With temperatures souring to 25 degrees Celsius and not a breath of wind, the beautiful Table Mountain in the spectacular Mother City of Cape Town made for an impressive and adventurous opportunity to challenge my fear of heights.
After a hearty breakfast I took a fast drive through to Cape Town. On the way, I listened to some blaring Evanescence along with the Scorpions to positively agitate my vibrations in the hope of generating some adrenaline to hopefully quell the slight feelings of anxiety as I prepared myself for the highest abseil.
I arrived at the cable car station and was impressed to witness thousands of tourist revellers queuing to appreciate what we hope will be the 7th wonder of nature. As Nelson Mandela says “The proclamation of this new national park will be a South African ‘gift to the Earth’”. These powerful words ring true.
On arrival at the top of Table Mountain I decided to amble around and enjoy the spectacular and breathtaking views of the city below. Every time I visit the Table Top I am in awe of the beauty that surrounds me. The views are so inspiring that I find it almost impossible to breathe. There is so much space for tourists to spread out, allowing individuals, couples and groups to find their own quiet space in which to spend time in reflection.
Once I found the Abseil Africa team I met a young American tourist who had just completed the abseil. She was filled with adrenaline pumped achievement for what she had just accomplished. Her glasses, hairstyle and sport outfit were crazy so I new this experience was for those who are slightly insane.
I introduced myself to Gareth, the Abseil Instructor and waited with another couple for our presentation and safety brief to start. Gareth spent enough time discussing in detail what it is to abseil, where it originates from and the method of abseiling along with safety precautions to bear in mind. I found Gareth humorous and very personable. His banter was infectious and soon we all felt at ease even though the task ahead was daunting. It was slightly alarming when Gareth confirmed that today was his 2nd day on the job, but we all knew clearly that he was teasing by the sense of total control that he had over the activity and those placed in his care.
Today’s activity provided no opportunity to wear my usual business attire. I did, however, still apply some lipstick! The fact that I had to wear a silly looking (yet very essential harness) didn’t make me feel very fashionable especially as I saw a crowd forming to witness the induction followed by our first step of the edge!
Once ready, we clambered over the side of the Table Mountain boundary walls and moved towards the edge of the mountain below. I was struck immediately by how professional and safe I felt with the guides. We were clipped to safety ropes for the duration of our short scramble and guided step by step in terms of how to move over rocks and inch closer to the edge. Once we reached the platform for the start of the abseil, the guides became very serious as they unclipped and clipped us onto different safety ropes preparing for the start of the abseil experience.
The worst part of the abseil experience is the conscious decision to walk backwards over the edge of the mountain. I mean, walking backwards isn’t a natural way of doing things! To magnify this fear would be to look down and truly appreciate the magnitude of sheer depth beneath. Gareth and Catherine entertained myself and two other participants right through the entire process. When it came to my turn I didn’t feel as scared as I thought I would but more concerned about the technique and coordination required to execute the task correctly. Let’s face it…. it takes years of hard training to become like the Royal Marines who can abseil down anything within seconds in fact Gareth said that one of the abseil guides is able to do the entire abseil in 17 seconds!! Now that’s someone who has intense experience and knows no fear.
I reluctantly inched myself over the edge and sat back into the harness. I spent a few moments deliberating before I gave in and opened my arms wide for the infamous picture, most popularly taken for all abseil participants. Then there was no turning back… I moved myself slowly down the face of the mountain and focussed only on the rocks in front of my vision until I reached a small platform 5 metres below the launch platform above. I was on my own and Gareth was barking instructions from above (with a massive grin on his face, in fact I think he was rolling around having a belly laugh attack as he watched my ridiculous body position). The 2nd stage of the abseil for me was the most terrifying….. this part I had no one to coerce me over the edge, I had to do it myself. I still remember looking down thinking…. oh my …..bleep……bleep…. how on earth will I make it on my own and for all that way. I looked up and said to Gareth that this is impossible – all I remember was looking at him laughing and rolling about above telling me to get cracking because there’s no pulling out now. I inched off the 2nd platform and refused to look anywhere else apart from straight in front. The initial reaction is to cling with both hands to the rope, yet the method is different (go figure…. it would be). With my left hand on my harness I had to discipline myself to keep my right hand placed behind my back and continue to slowly let go of the rope as I moved downwards. The most difficult was the placement of my feet and to relax and sit back. To walk backwards, relax and sit back is not an easy feat especially if you truly knew the magnitude of height between yourself and the ground. I continued for what felt like hours until the rock simply vanished….. I felt slight unease as I found myself dangling like a spider in mid air until I heard very comforting and coaching commands being barked by another abseil guide below. Eventually I continued to let the rope slowly move through my right hand and after settling into my own pace I was then able to enjoy the surrounding view.
I was struck by how quiet it was. There was a gentle cool breeze and nothing else but stillness and spectacular nature. I felt so grateful for the opportunity to experience the Table Mountain Abseil. It really was spectacular in so many ways. Eventually when I felt my feet firmly on the ground, I was able to look up and appreciate the distance I had descended completely on my own. I was jubilant, euphoric and felt an overwhelming sense of achievement. With that I felt adrenaline coursing through my system and decided to run up the trail back to the Top of Table Mountain. I stabilised and exhausted myself to the extent that I thought my lungs were going to collapse once I reached the top.
Today’s experience was expertly executed by Abseil Africa. The guides were outstanding in every way but most importantly I felt totally safe and in very capable hands. The equipment used is world class and it was vividly clear that my safety was their first priority. It was because of this sense of security which I felt, that made any fear I may have had dissipate.
The Table Mountain Abseil is truly spectacular and highly recommended to anyone who wants to try something new, face another fear and appreciate glorious surroundings laced with adrenaline and a lasting memory.
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Prepared for by, Odette Butcher, Chief Experience Officer, Celestial Gift Experiences