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.
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.
- 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.
You must always:
Be safe outdoors:
- Check the weather forecast
Climbing and abseiling:
- Everyone must wear a helmet whilst climbing or abseiling on natural rock or if a novice, further exemptions apply.
- Make sure that all equipment is fit for purpose and in good condition.
- When walking directly to or from a mutli pitch climb the party size may be less than 4, otherwise follow 9.32 party sizes.
Joint activities with other organisations:
This activity can be led by you or someone else in Scouts:
The activity leader must have an adventurous activities permit with the right level and permissions for your group.
Where the group is entirely members over the age of 18 the permit scheme does not apply, please follow the rule 9.8 adult groups.
You can go to a centre or use an activity leader who is not part of Scouting:You must find a suitable provider who meets the following requirements:
- The centre/instructor should hold one of these: (If the provider is AALA exempt)
- Mountain Training - Single Pitch Award (SPA) - for climbing and abseiling on natural rock
- Mountain Training - Climbing Wall Award (CWA) with abseil module - for indoor climbing and abseiling
The provider must have public liability insurance.
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.
- Abseiling’s a fantastic adventure – and it can be adapted too. Get in touch with your local provider to chat through the needs of people in your group. If you give them plenty of notice, it’s likely that you’ll be able come up with a plan that means most people can give it a go.
- Some providers offer wheelchair abseiling or tandem abseiling. You may also want to check out paraclimbing – and find out more about Abbie Robinson, a world champion GB Paraclimber.
All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.