by Lovey Harwood
Our NH Rockclimbing Meetup group was notified of the Xtreme Descent event at the last minute, but we were able to get a team together for this event. The event, a fundraiser for the Daniel Webster Council, Boy Scouts of America, took place at the Brady Sullivan Building in Manchester, NH. The 24-storey building is the tallest in the state of New Hampshire. Kellie Barr-Foster (organizer of our rock climbing meetup group) put out a notice to our group and those members interested signed up to join the team and help raise donations.
On the day of the rappel my team mates and I checked in and filled out paperwork at registration. Our personal belongings were put away and kept safe by Boy Scout volunteers. Over The Edge technicians fitted us with industrial, full-body harnesses, helmets and gloves.
Training followed next and was done from the second floor of the parking garage. Tim instructed us about the "Gold Thing" (ASAP Fall Arrest Device) and the "Blue Thing" (Stop Descender). An ID (Industrial Descender), which looks like a jumbo grigri, was used to provide rope slack if the ASAP locked up. We each had the opportunity to rappel to get used to the harness as well as the Descender. We were also told that if we descended too quickly, that the "Gold Thing" would lockup and we would have to use the two-arm wave to signal in order to get some rope slack and continue with our descent.
After training we took the elevator up to the 20th floor, then walked up several flights of stairs to the rooftop. Once there we checked in with the photographer and waited for our turn. The view from the rooftop was spectacular! Oleg brought his camera/vid with him and got several photos and vids of our group while waiting. Two setups with two sets of ropes were set up for the descents, how I wished I was allowed my camera to take photos of the entire setup. Training Tim came up to the rooftop and went down on one rope to "test" it....required, we were told, to be performed every two hours.
Out of our group, Carrie and I were the first to descend. I chose to descend first as I really needed the ladies room and didn't feel like getting out and back into my harness. Plus the wind felt like it was going to pick up. Once on the platform, I was instructed by (Over The Edge Tech) Jamie, to pass him one each of the radio, ASAP and Descender. These were connected with self-locking carabiners. Jamie connected the equipment to me and then connected me onto the belay and then the main rope. He had me sit up onto the ledge and then get onto my knees. While on my knees, I had to scoot back to the edge of the ledge. Then I had to slowly lower myself over the edge. I personally found this awkward and would have preferred to walk backwards over the edge. Finally over the edge and sitting correctly in my harness I was able to start my descent. The photographer, who was strapped in up top, took my photo and Jamie yelled down to me to have fun!
Was told that the side of the building was slippery. But I didn't find that to be true at all as I wore my climbing shoes and it provided me with good traction.
The rappel down was smooth and exhilarating! I did, however, find the stop handle on the Descender hard to press at times. I just wanted to get into a rhythm so that I could enjoy the descent. I could see the street below in the reflection of the windows. And I passed several windows with messy desks! lol!
About two-thirds down the wind picked up and I started swinging to the sides. I used my feet to get back to the center but each time the wind would swing me out to the sides. From then on it felt like a struggle to stay centered while descending. At one point I started twisting so I grabbed a crack in the building side to prevent myself from twisting even more as well as to center myself. I looked down below and saw Ellie with her camera. So I gave her a smile and a wave.
Once I was on the ground an Over The Edge tech disconnected me from the ropes. And once inside, another Over The Edge tech helped me get out of my harness, quickly as I instructed him, in order for me to make the ladies room. lol! After gathering up my belongings, I went outside and took photos of the rest of the team making their descents. At one point there was a 'wind delay' but just for several minutes.
There was plenty to eat and drink; a variety of Subway subs as well as cookies, water, soda and tea. And each team member received a 'goodie bag' with a hard-copy of their photo, long-sleeved tshirt, carabiner, Xtreme Descent patch and poster amongst other sponsor products.
The weather was gorgeous, it was great meeting up with other rock climbers, the Boy Scout volunteers were helpful, and the Over The Edge folks were professional and provided a memorable experience. It was a perfect day for rappelling!
** Heartfelt thanks to those that donated on my behalf! Your generous contributions are very much appreciated!
NH Rockclimbing Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/rockclimbing-134/Xtreme Descent: http://www.xtremedescent.org/
Over The Edge: http://www.overtheedgeusa.com/Daniel Webster Council, Boy Scout of America: http://www.nhscouting.org