It's one of those questions I get asked repeatedly.
“What if I get stuck! What happens then?”
This question generally stumps people. I like to see what answers people already have in their head for this – folks with little to no training in ropes and repelling seem genuinely mystified by this problem.
If you’re keeping score, incorrect answers include:
“We keep sending food up there until you unstick yourself.”
“We electrify the safety line for extra motivation”.
“We get out a big trampoline and ask you to jump like the Keystone Kops. Trust us!”
All kidding aside, the answer doesn’t involve ladders, emergency personnel, or even all that much fuss. It also isn’t that big a deal if you hit a limit or an obstacle that just seems too daunting – it happens to everyone, and the fact that you’re out there trying is what’s important.
The answer is that one of our staff will slowly repel you to the ground using nothing more than the harness you’re already wearing, a climbing rope, and a piece of equipment called a friction multiplier.
A friction multiplier can be very simple – there is one version in the heading of this post called a Figure 8 (because it… looks like an 8…). When the rope is passed through in the configuration shown, it allows the guide (a GVA employee) who needs to get you to terra firma to control the rate at which you are dropping. If you follow the path of the rope through the picture, you can probably figure out how you could manipulate the friction to cause the rope to pass through the rings more slowly or more quickly – it’s as simple as moving your hands and changing the angle of entry and exit of the rope from the Figure 8. If you’re interested in more information in how this (and the many other similar types of devices work), check it out on youtube, but before you try it, visit your local rock climbing gym or other certified instructor for some hands-on training.