auto rappel

Pam and I went with some folks to Grand Rapids Treetop Adventure Park to “experience aerial adventures among the treetops”. The place has a number of paths of varying difficulty from one tree to another, usually at 50ish feet above the ground. You wear a harness with various attachments to keep you from doing any serious plummeting.

We had a practice path that was about a foot or two above the ground to get used to everything and then we were off to the real stuff. We went to the equivalent of the bunny slope.

One obstacle had us walking along a cable while hanging onto ropes that dangled from above. Another obstacle was a series of hanging platforms that you’d walk across using the ropes for support. The tricky bit was trying to avoid having the platforms swing away from each other while you’re trying to get from one to the next.

At some point during this, Pam asked me how I was dealing with acrophobia. I looked around and reviewed some of the heights that I’d been clambering across. Pam was right. I should have been scared spitless from all of this. Well, the harness helped. Also, I guess that I was too busy trying to get to the next platform to notice just how far away the ground was.

The last obstacle of the “easy” path was to click your harness onto the auto rappel, step off the platform and glide down to the ground. The interesting bit is that the device doesn’t feel locked or even slightly resistant when you pull on it. I watched other folks use this device and land without plummeting or splattering on the ground. I knew that it was safe but I didn’t feel it.

I attached myself to the device and stepped toward the empty air. Then I stepped back. I stepped toward the empty air again. Then I stepped back. I stepped off the platform…


A while back, I wrote about falling off a scaffold, convinced that I was going to die or be horribly maimed. It’s the only time that I had that feeling. I relived all of that in the instant between stepping off the platform and the auto rappel finally slowing down to a non-plummet speed.


… and was gracefully lowered to the ground.

I then, less than gracefully, fell on my ass, still shaken from reliving my earlier near-death experience.

After dusting myself off, I went with the others to climb across other weird obstacles with varying degrees of success and had a pretty good time of it.

For homework, I’ll let you guess where the acrophobia came from.

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