Rappelling the BIG One at Harper’s Ferry
Sept. 30, 2012
by Jasmin Ullah
Waking up at ungodly hours is the worst part of caving. In this case, I rolled out of bed at 6 AM in order to get to Harper’s Ferry with the grotto at 9. Luckily, this drop made it worth it. A 250-foot free hang, this was the tallest rappel anyone in our group (excluding our advisors) had ever done. It was a fantastic day, and after trekking up the mountain for a good while with all of our gear, the view was quite literally breathtaking. Train tracks, bridges, and the quaint town of Harper’s Ferry was laid out beneath us like a perfect miniature model set, the sun reflecting off the river and mountains in beautiful patterns.Â
After rigging an edge line and the main line, Chris went down to bottom belay and Nikki stayed on the lip to help us go over. Needless to say, we were all freaked out of our minds. However, though we all went down at different paces, we all did it and loved it! There’s nothing quite like rappelling 250 feet, the smell of burning rope tickling your nose and the heat of it through your hands. While ascending, we waved to the awestruck (and tiny!) passerby below. Curious about how we looked to them, we took turns waking to their vantage point and watching our fellow cavers on rope. And let me tell ya, we look freaking nuts. Minuscule against the rock face and seeming to hang from a thread, it’s no wonder people stop and stare.Â
After lunch and more rappelling, we began to de-rig just as it started to rain. On our way to the car, a biker stopped me and John. “What possesses you all to do that kind of thing?” he asked, incredulity rich in his voice. John and I laughed. “We’re just adrenaline junkies, I guess.” It would have taken too long to say what I really meant: that rappelling and caving makes us feel vulnerable, invincible, and awed all at once. And there’s just no other feeling quite like it.