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The Ultimate Guide to Abseiling – Everything You Didn’t Know

Learn the ropes, meet the best of the best, and follow the guides so you can do it too.

What is Abseiling?

Climb a tall building or mountain and “abseil” off it, as the German word refers. From Emily Woodhouse’s article, Great Britain and other countries all refer abseiling is what Americans call, “rappelling or scaling” and we love it! It’s not just for spelunkers (cave divers) and mountaineers (mountain climbers) anymore.

This is not freefalling or base-jumping.

Abseiling is an art; the art of a controlled descent off that outrageously tall structure like a mountain, a high rise, a cliff, or even an indoor rock wall, using a rope, protective gear, and vertical drop. 5 feet or 6000 feet. You choose your feat.

Abseiler – a person who descends down a nearly vertical face by using a doubled rope that is wrapped around the body and attached to some high point

pinnacle of abseiling

Want to try? Most would say no but what if there were an intense satiation of achievement, a feeling of confidence, and power to own the experience? Own the fear of heights? Not to mention the captivating views are out-of-this-world?

Meet the best of the best!

Doris Long

Doris Long, a 101-year-old great-great grandmother was a Waterlooville, U.K. abseiling fundraiser guru for Rowan’s Hospice. Jenny Zhang’s article also shared her 328 feet (100 meter) Spinnaker Tower descent that raised over £15,000.

Doris set the Guiness Book of World Records for the “Oldest person to abseil” at age 100 and beat her record at 101. Her passion for abseiling started when she was 85 years old and she abseiled each year at different Portsmouth locales.

These special events received encouraging notoriety and were shared across the world as her hobby. The News reported she died at age 104 from natural causes at her home in Portsmouth.

According her interview with Independent, “I don’t feel afraid and I never have, I just have a placid nature.”

101 Doris Long breaks her own abseiling world record! – Daily Mail

Steve Truglia

Steve Truglia, a British high profile Hollywood stuntman for the infamous James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies and Mission Impossible’s Rogue Nation had an extensive filmography IMDb showcased. Truglia was definitely who you called to do the impossible and coordinated and performed stunts you could only dream about.

After 20 years of military training and specialized skills, his elite British military experiences in the SAS and SBS (U.K. Special Forces) led to this intense action career.

According The Guardian, Steve shared, “I’ve been doing this since 1996 and for me it’s the best job in the world. My whole life I’ve actually been training to be a stunt man without realising it. I’ve always loved extreme sports and I now I get paid for it.”

Many attributes to his powerful and optimistic view were shared.

The Sun reported Steve Truglia died at age 54 in China when he raced a fellow stuntman off the same helicopter with unsafe equipment (wet ropes) in bad weather, despite similar past challenges. He fell 300 feet.

As a TED speaker, he emphasized safety. 

Enjoy TED daredevil feats and future endeavors with Steve Truglia.

Steve Truglia: A leap from the edge of space

Carrie-Ann Lightley

Wheelchair abseilers experience the descent in the comfort of their manual or electric wheelchairs.

Carrie-Ann Lightley shares about the view of Bassingthwaite Lake from her ropes and the Lake District Trust that enables these experiences to individuals with disabilities in the U.K.

Accessible Derbyshire is one option with the Duke’s Barn Organization locale that operates to serve accessible needs. The Journal out of Dublin, Ireland reports how people with all ranges of impairments, physical, or intellectual disabilities can feel the same equality and freedom of the sport.

Rope Access Technicians

Rope Access Technicians dangle to construct, inspect, maintain, repair, and clean the tallest buildings and structures, and they enjoy it.

The job qualifications are rock climbing, abseiling, and a military background. The fitness levels of endurance, agility, and ability (manage height fears), are a must.

Martin Castle Limited has these requirements and a leveled system to be trained and qualified as other U.K. and Australia companies will: AvalonPro Abseiling, Alltech Abseilers, Abseilers United, and then Rigzone is a job search site.

Wind turbine painting via PSW:

In 2015, The Globe and Mail reported a three-tier training level system others call SPRAT, and pay per hour, ascending with the skill level. A level three abseiler technician can make $35-60 per hour plus additional skills and more complex jobs have even higher pay on top of overtime.

Fox news shared Abseilon’s Rope Access Technician and CEO:

Pipe repair via Dror Stolarsky:

United Kingdom British Special Forces

The United Kingdom British Special Forces (UKSF) includes five areas of specialized training: Tier 1- The Special Air Service (SAS), The Special Boat Service (SBS), Tier 2 – The Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), and the UKSP Signals Regiment.

Extremely specialized UKSF are the Elite UK Forces: The Parachute Regiment, Pathfinder Platoon, Royal Marines Commandos, RAF/AAC/ Fleet Air Arm Special Forces Flights, Elite Artillery, and the RAF Regiment.

Abseiling is part of the strategic training for the UKSF SAS and SBS.

This means as an Elite UKSF operative, you will be trained with these techniques as the Royal Marines will show in the video the marines switch from abseiling to fast-roping then back to abseiling when he realizes the rope is too short.

A famous action scene technique in action movies of James Bond and Mission Impossible.

103 Military Dog Squadron

The 103 Military Dog Squadron and handler, Lance Cpl. Welstand are abseilers for the special forces counter-terrorist operations. The squadron of highly intelligent and trainable breeds are, Belgian Malinois or Mali, for short.

The dogs have military armor and abseil or parachute over 10,000 feet with the handlers, to attack ground forces. A squad of 12 dogs is the advancing SAS tactic for special circumstances.

U.S. Armed Forces

The U.S. Armed Forces have four branches: The Army, Marines, Navy, and the Coast Guard.

All four branches have rappelling/abseiling training based on the boot camp and specialized area the military cadet or civilian will enter the branch of service with.

Special Forces’ rappelling tactics are similar to the SAS and SBS abseiling techniques. Rappelling tactics will often be seen in training videos, using the rappel or the fast-roping technique that does not always involve vertical structures (cliff, building, etc.) to base or jump off of.

There is often a vertical drop from a moving target (helicopter) with attached ropes that are thrown out the side in order for the trained individuals to descend with. The U.S. refers to fast-roping as a form of safer and faster rappelling method in military training if the descent is vertical and there is enough rope.

From SeuthSayers, “Viewed from a distance, Rappelling and Fast-Roping from helicopters can look very similar. In both cases, people slide down ropes that hang out of helicopters. But the person rappelling is usually attached to the rope by a D-ring or snap-link, while a fast-roper is only attached by hands and feet.”

Other hobbies often explored by abseilers

Other incredibly interesting hobbies you will need to check out: bungee jumping, zip lining, snowboarding, paragliding, and parachuting, and zorbing. Abseiling/rappelling is a hidden secret hobby.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional abseiler and only here to provide unbiased information about the sport/hobby. Be responsible and safe in any risk-taking activity you pursue. In no way should you compromise your safety and rush or challenge as a race, the act of abseiling is a safety-first consideration, especially at the heights it requires.

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