Manager Dave Black says: “I’ve been doing this for 45 years and haven’t been hurt yet. No one’s done statistical or professional studies on rappelling in this environment, but, if you do it right, which we do, then risks are minimal. You'll probably get scraped and banged up a bit, but nothing serious. It's all part of an adventure in the wild.”
Our equipment is the best — expensive and specially designed for the rigors of this sport. All gear meets or exceeds industry standards for strength and durability. Our ropes, for instance, are rated to 6000 pounds. Our carabiners to 5000 pounds. And, of course, we maintain it in top condition because, as you might guess, we use the same equipment as you.
Gear up like a pro: canyoneering backpack, helmet, harness, locking carabiners, safety lanyard (cowstail), rappelling device. Your harness fits waist sizes from 22 to 54 inches—step in it, cinch it tight, learn to lock the carabiners and discover how the rappelling device slows or brakes your speed.
You wear your own clothes or swim wear (shorts or quick-drying pants; no bikinis, please), but you hike, swim and rappel in our water shoes. The felt sole sticks to wet rocks like none other.
Hike up with your guides to the top of the ridge to do a practice run on the 60-foot dry, jungle drop. It’s an easy place to learn techniques and gain confidence.
They are top of the line and can handle thousands of pounds. We use these ropes more than you do so we want the best. We inspect them twice each day, and we retire ropes after 100 hours of use or when there’s any significant wear on them.
We use three anchors, not one, and the rope is attached to all three. It’s a fail-safe back-up system with each anchor sharing the load. Most anchors are bolts embedded in rock. If one anchor lets loose (unheard of), then the rope still has two safe anchors.
You won’t. You have a thick rope (10.5 to 11 mm) through your rappelling device to ensure slow, controlled descents. Once you get the hang of it, you can speed up, but you start out slowly, then learn as you go to descend with ease.
Your dominant hand controls the rope as it moves through the rappel device. You “let up” to descend and you cinch the rope in the device to stop yourself. It’s intuitive, and we also teach you well.
You can catch yourself with your rope and your braking skills, and your guides are also “on it.” One guide watches you from the top, while the other guide stands below with a hand loosely holding your rope. If you slip, the bottom guide does a “fireman’s belay” by tightening your rope from below, effectively braking you in place until you get your footing.
It’s rare to have a client we cannot talk down. But, yes, we can either lower you down or pull you back up. We have two guides with their eyes on you at all times.
You wear a pfd —personal flotation device. It’s a life jacket vest that keeps you afloat.
We don't rappel waterfalls in high water. Ever. Instead, we do three jungle drops, of 60, 100 and 115 feet. Your guides keenly watch the weather, both on the internet beforehand and on site.
Trust your guides. Keep your focus. Know you can do it. Because you can.