This post takes me back to time!! The clock tickling, still the experiences are rich enough to let me pen a blog.
Back to the time when I was in Class 7. Thankfully it was mandatory for all the students to participate in Annual Nature Camps a 2-4 days outbound for various classes . And that year being nature camp and adventures to Mount Abu.
Mount Abu is the only Hill station in Rajasthan- surrounded by Aravali Ranges, the highest peak being ‘Gurushikhar’ situated near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border flocked by gujarati tourists all the year.
Out of many activities like camping, team games, rock climbing, trekking(nature walking) , ‘Rappelling’ was the major one for me- the reason being I was afraid of heights back then. A literal meaning as per dictionary of Rappelling is : ‘A descent from a height, such as a cliff or wall, in which one slides down an anchored rope and applies friction to control one’s speed, either by means of a specialized device or by passing the rope under one thigh and over the opposite shoulder’.
Like many of my friends, I was enthusiastic and was eagerly looking forward to it since it was going to be my first instance of a mountaineering activity. And all the excitement landed flat down when I hit the reality. I climbed a 40 feet so rock and looked below. The rock patch was so straight that from above I could see only land nothing more and a few of my friends cheering. From above, I was observing my class mates going down one by one many of them hanging in between, most of them trembling and a very few getting straight down.
To rappel is a technique. Not all the cliff/rock patches can be rappelled- these have to be straight while descend, long enough and having no other rock patch opposite to it, providing sufficient space for descend. While rappelling, the legs have to be straight, not to be bent from knees- this is a must and your entire body must lie perpendicular to the rock patch/cliff. You then need to loosen the anchored rope from one hand holding the rope from the top and the other beneath the thigh. Then the feet have to be rolled down, one following the other in sync with the anchored rope being loosened. And during the entire descend your body must be perpendicular or close to perpendicular to the rock, else you will swing like a ‘pendulum’. More than you, it is your guide who can control your movements and direction. Even if both your hands are free, worry not. your guide has the safety control of the rope.
And then was my turn, I was panting, my legs were shivering to an extent that the guide was furious at me telling me all that can go wrong and shouting on top of his voice- but I didn’t have an option but to pay heed to all that he said. I still remember his accent- “are ladki, aisa kya kr rhi hn..jadba toot jayega” which translates to English like ”Oh silly girl, with the mess you are doing, you will break your jaws” . My hands were shivering to an extent that I was unable to hold the rope but seeing my friends completing the task, I took this as a challenge. And then I decided not to look down it scared a hell out of me. Held the rope, stood on the edge with my legs and arms still shivering and gathered the guts to flip around and face the rock. Then I carefully tried to loosen the anchor rope with both the hands and made tiny baby steps on 40 feet cliff. Sooner with the fear subsiding, I let my one leg religiously follow the other. Midway, I made a mistake and bent my knees such that my feet firmly placed on the rock lost the grip and I was hanging mid way. My guide was quick to realise stopped my movement from the top, scolded me and I got going again.
Finally I made it safely to the ground with all my teachers and class mates chearing me. This experience made me conquer my fear of heights and is still a solid example of presence of mind.
My next rappelling experience was at Jayalgarh, in the Gharwal ranges of Himalayas. This one was pretty smooth, considering I didn’t fear this time and Mount Abu memories vividly engraved.
And the third rappelling ordeal was in Sandhan. I have written about this in my previous blog: Adventures of ‘Dhan Dhan’ Sandhan
In Sandhan, We had to rappel 3 patches, now this time rappelling was not just a ‘activity’ but a mandate to get us going down. Here going up wasn’t even an option. This seemed more difficult since we were tired having climbed down the valley and a heavy bag pack at the back. I remember- I couldn’t even smile for a picture and was going in totally opposite to what I was asked for. Fear had trapped me again but this time I was very quick in coming out of it. The first patch were difficult, in the other two, I easily made it.
And after a month of my experience in Sandhan, if the tough climb with the support of rope wasn’t enough, I had to rappel since there was no other way to trek down in one of the Maharashtra’s most difficult climb- ‘Trek to Bhairavgarh’.
Rappelling for me was pushing my limits, getting out of the comfort zone and conquering my fears.