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Abseiling is a technique of making a controlled descent down slopes or cliffs too steep to hike down. It involves the use of special equipment such as ropes, harnesses, helmets and gloves.

It’s a method canyoneers also use to travel down cliffs and waterfalls, as well as in caving and speleology, for access to wildfires and rescue applications. There are a number of people who engage in abseiling as a recreational activity of its own, simply enjoying the descent and then climbing back up just to abseil back down again.

Abseiling's popularity is rapidly growing in South Africa, largely thanks to the country’s incredible landscape, stunning mountain rock faces, gorges and valleys. There’s really not much that can compare to the adrenaline rush you’ll experience when starting off hundreds of feet away from the ground, and conquering challenging obstacles on the way down whilst putting your full trust in the rope. Abseiling can be quite dangerous too, especially if you’re inexperienced. But with the help of a seasoned instructor it will be an experience you’ll never forget, whether you’ve got a head for heights or are looking to overcome your fears.

  

Brave Up and Rope Down

  

The word “Abseiling” comes from the German word meaning “to rope down”. The method itself was devised by a Chamonix guide, Mr Charlet-Straton, who perfected it in 1879 while going for the summit of the Petit Dru. Among a number of different techniques used today, one was dubbed the South African Abseil. Developed in 2000 by Andrew Friedemann, a South African mountaineering instructor, while delivering a mountain leader course in Mooi River. This double-roped technique is deemed to be less dangerous as it gets the rope wrapped around the climber’s body and therefore ensuring better support.

Once you’ve mastered the abseiling technique and feel confident enough, perhaps you’ll want to try another descent variant called Rapp Jumping. In this sport your harness is attached to your back, which means you go down the cliff facing forwards – basically running down the mountain and descending at a much faster pace. Rapp jumpers sprinting down the side of an office block is not a rare sight in cities such as Durban and Johannesburg.

  

Where are some popular South African Abseiling Spots?

  

South Africa offers more than a few locations which are ideal for abseiling, complete with stunning scenery. On the cliffs of Table Mountain in Cape Town you’ll find the legendary descent of 112m which is guaranteed to get your pulse racing. If you think the views from the top of the mountain are breathtaking, wait till you experience them during the abseil – the Twelve Apostles watching from the side, and Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean at your feet. Having hiked through beautiful fynbos at the Steenbras River Gorge, you’ll get a chance to conquer a waterfall abseil of 65m.

Scenic Knysna offers more options for abseiling enthusiasts. Descending down a completely exposed cliff while listening to the sound of waves crashing onto the rocks at the bottom, is a proposition reserved only for the bravest. Drive for an hour and you’ll arrive at Storms River Gorge where you’ll be offered adventure packages involving a 100m abseil into a beautiful valley. If that’s still too high for your taste, a similar kind of experience can be found near the Hartbeespoort Dam. Abseiling spots around Crocodile River will challenge you with a, height-wise, more modest 40m abseil into a spectacular mountain gorge.

  

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