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Abseiling

Channel your inner action hero as you learn to abseil safely. The sky’s the limit!
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What to expect 

We all know that ‘what goes up must come down’. Abseiling’s all about getting down a vertical surface, whether it’s manmade (like a building or abseiling tower) or natural (such as a cliff face) with a controlled descent. You’ll use ropes, a harness, and different climbing devices to get safely back to planet Earth.

What you’ll learn

As well as being loads of fun, abseiling’s a great chance to practise being courageous and build teamwork skills. You’ll need to take a deep breath (and a leap of faith) to leave the top, and the encouragement of friends can be vital. You’ll also need to trust other people to keep you safe on your descent.

Fun facts

Abseiling was first used in the 1870s by a French mountaineer to get back down a mountain in the French Alps, after he didn’t quite reach the top. He picked himself up and tried again, until he reached the top of the Petit Dru (and mastered the technique of abseiling) in 1879.

Handy hints

  • Try before you buy. Knot a race is a brilliant way to get everyone practicing their knot tying skills before you get stuck in. Why not plan it into your programme before you try abseiling? 
  • Dress for the occasion. Abseiling can get chilly if you’re high up in the wind, so pack plenty of layers. Don’t rely on a big, puffy coat as you may need to take it off to wear the harness.
  • Grab some extra hair bobbles. People with long hair will probably need to tie it back. Take a few extra hair ties, just in case anyone forgets.
  • Make sure your camera has a strap. Abseiling offers some great photo opportunities, but you need to keep your camera (and anyone below you!) safe. A camera strap’s the best way to do this.

We’re reworking our safety guidance for adventurous activities to make it easier to understand and follow.

In the meantime, before you try abseiling, review the safety information here.

Reflection

Abseiling’s a great way to be courageous and find out what you can achieve. It can feel scary, but when it’s done properly, abseiling’s very safe. Did anyone surprise themselves by managing more than they expected? Did anyone find it tricky to stay calm and follow instructions? What would’ve helped people who found abseiling tricky? Perhaps they’d have liked more support from their team members or a little time to calm themselves down.

People could apply this to lots of challenges in Scouts (and everyday life too). It’s great to learn how to calm down when things feel scary. If people can try something like abseiling, what else could they try!

Abseiling also needs people to work as a team. People usually need the support of friends who believe in them, encourage them to give it a go, and give some helpful tips too. Did everyone appreciate the same kind of support? Some people may have wanted to be cheered on and encouraged, while others may have wanted peace and quiet to focus. Did anyone try asking the people abseiling what would help them? When people learn what’s most helpful for their friends they can be the best team player.

Now everyone’s given abseiling a go, what adventure will they try next? They could put their new skills to the test with climbing (especially now they’re used to wearing a harness), try something they’re a bit worried about with their newfound courage, or put their teamwork to the rest with a water activity such as rafting.

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.