Rappelling: How Safe Is This?
There are no statistical or professional studies on rappelling in this environment, but the serious risks are minimal. This is a rugged outdoor activity in a natural environment, however. So you may get scraped or bruised, as most adventurers in the wild do. Avoiding all the common hazards associated with canyoneering is part of what makes a rappelling tour safer than a day at the beach. Of course we use top-notch equipment, follow proven safety protocols and train guests on the basics of precautions. The activity is not for everyone, so we encourage you to speak with an agent if you have questions like, "How safe is rappelling?" or even, "What do I wear to this activity?" You also might find many of the posts in the blog helpful if you're wondering "How scary is this?" or "How physically demanding is this?"
Safety and equipment are top priorities. They Have To Be.
When breaking down the question, "How safe is rappelling?" we start with gear. Our equipment is the best — expensive and specially designed for the rigors of this sport. It's monitored constantly and retired regularly. 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, your guides use the same equipment you do. All participants wear a helmet throughout the tour, even when swimming. And all participants wear a flotation jacket, regardless of swimming ability. All guides are rigorously trained in CPR/First Aid and wilderness rescue.
A Step-by-Step Intro to Canyoneering and Rapelling Equipment with Q & A:
Gear up like a pro: canyoneering backpack, helmet, harness, locking carabiners, safety lanyard (cowstail), rappelling device. Your harness fits waist sizes from 22 to 48 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 rubber boot protects your toes while the felt sole gets better traction than regular shoes on wet rocks.
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.
How Strong Are The Ropes I’m Sliding Down?
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.
What Is The Rope Tied To?
We use three anchors, not one, and the rope is attached to all three. It’s a redundant 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.
How Can I Keep Safe?
Trust your guides, listen to their instruction and follow their lead.
How Do I Slow Down Or Stop During Descent?
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.
What If I Slip Or Fall?
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.
Can You Get Me Down If I Freeze Up?
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.
What If I’m Not A Good Swimmer?
You wear a pfd —personal flotation device. It’s a life jacket vest that keeps you afloat.
What About High Water Or Flash Floods?
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 and the water, both on the internet beforehand and on site.