Abseiling in Cape Town

Abseiling in Cape Town

Have you ever been so scared, so freaked out, that your mouth completely dried out from breathing so fast and you started to choke?  That’s what happened to me when I went abseiling down Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

When I flew down to Cape Town, there were a few things on my “To Do” list.  After swimming with great white sharks (more on that another time), abseiling was probably the second scariest thing on that list.  Because I didn’t want to just do the normal touristy stuff.  Although I did some of that too, this trip to Cape Town was supposed to be more.  It was supposed to be one of the best adventures of my life!  And it was.

Table Mountain is one of the most well-known landmarks of Cape Town.  It is a World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of Nature.  It’s flat at the top like, you guessed it, a table.  The top of the mountain is 1,086 meters (3563 feet) above sea level and approximately 3 kilometers (2 miles) from side to side.  There are a lot of trails you can take to the top if you want to go on a nice hike.  I chose to take the cableway up.  It’s an impressive cableway!  There are two cable cars; one goes up as the other goes down.  Each holds up to 65 people and they revolve 365 degrees, which allows for some awesome panoramic views of the city below.

On my way to the top

On my way to the top

 

Once you’re at the top you can walk around and take in the view, eat some snacks at the Table Mountain Café, and do some souvenir shopping at the Shop at the Top.  And if you want a little more of an adrenaline rush, you can step off the top and abseil down 112 meters (367 feet) and do the world’s highest commercial abseil.  You don’t need to have any climbing or abseiling experience; they show you exactly what you need to do.  I had abseiled once before, but it was in basic training and I went down the side of a wooden tower that was 35 feet tall.  This was totally different!

Look! No hands!

Look! No hands!

 

 

My heart was pounding!  As I was nearing the edge I heard a man with a German accent say, “Crazy Americans.”  Was I crazy??  I was starting to think so.  I refused to look down.  I slowly stepped off and let the harness catch my body weight while my feet stayed in contact with the cliff face.  Picture me making an “L” with my body.  I let go of some rope and started to go down when my foot slipped and I slammed into the cliff.  No bueno.  It took me a couple of tries but I managed to get in the right position again and I slowly kept making my way down.  Longest minutes of my life!!  I swear my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest.  I was sweating bullets.  I didn’t realize how fast I was breathing until I started to choke and cough because my mouth had completely dried out.  I kept telling myself I had to be near the bottom soon.  Then I had an interesting, albeit brief, conversation with the guy that had gone down ahead of me.  He was shouting at me from the bottom…

 Guy: Look down!

Me: No!

Guy: Look down!

Me: Fuck you!

Guy: You really need to look down!

Ugh.  Fine.  So I looked down, and a few feet below me I realized that the cliff face ended and curved inward to form somewhat of an overhang.  I stopped letting out any rope.  My mind started racing.  What do I do now??  Am I stuck??  Holy shit!  Fuck!  Why wasn’t I told about this??  I didn’t occur to me that I could keep going with my legs dangling in the air.  Not until the guy at the bottom shouted up for me to keep going.

As I did I started to turn.  I was no longer looking at a cliff, but at the beautiful landscape below me.  I could see Signal Hill and other mountains, Cape Town, and the ocean.  I continued to slowly make my way down and when my feet finally touched the ground I felt such relief!  My legs felt like Jell-O and I actually had to sit down for a few minutes before a guide led us on a hike back up to the top.  Keep in mind, we weren’t all the way at the bottom of the mountain; the abseil is only 112 meters.  But I was so exhausted and the adrenaline was starting to wear off.  I finally made it to the top though and after sitting and taking in the views again I said goodbye to Table Mountain and took a cable car down to the bottom of the mountain.

The view from the top of Table Mountain

The view from the top of Table Mountain

 

That was definitely one of the scariest moments of my life.  I’m so glad I did it though!!  And not to sound too cheesy, but I felt like if I could do that, I could do anything!!  I felt so proud of myself, I went into town and bought myself a necklace with the symbol for bravery.

So… what adventure are you most proud of?

 

33 Comments
  • Aileen says:

    This is awesome! I would love to try abseiling as well, and wellI would understand the anxiety—I would have been too! Heights really scare me!

    I have had a similar experience to this but it was parasailing. We were also at a cliff and I was so freakin’ scared! Haha! (You can see my adventure too here: http://iamaileen.com/fly-high-5000-feet-paragliding-annecy-france/ )

  • Love the first image in your post! What a great panoramic portrait. I am definitely not an extreme adventure junkie. Ziplining is about as adventurous as I get. Not sure if I have the courage to rappel or abseil. I think those may be adventures I will have to decide when they confront me. More power to ya!

  • Ana O'Reilly says:

    “I was sweating bullets” That’s how I felt just reading this! I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to do this. I prefer to read about other people’s adventures hehe!

  • Carol says:

    Now I k ow what abseiling is all about. And I can say for sure I will not do it! Congratulations.

  • Sky says:

    Go you! I would’ve been TERRIFIED as well. I’m in Costa Rica right now and I’m trying to gather the courage to go do some of the adventure activities around here….they seem like such amazing experiences, no matter how terrifying the appear.

  • Congrats Vicky!!!

    That’s sound like an amazing adventure!!!
    I have never had such an intense experience, but last year i started trekking and hiking, a big step for a urban girl like me, so I totally understand when you say you felt brave and proud of accomplishing the abseiling. You for sure deserved that necklace.

    All the best,
    Nat

  • Jen Silver says:

    Wow! Go Crazy Americans! That will definitely be a memory to make you smile when you’re old and grey. Great description of turning around so you were no longer facing the cliff. That must have been an incredible experience to dangle above such a view. I can totally see how not being able to touch with your feet would freak you out too. And I just love that photo of the rainbow on the cliffs. Great capture! Looking forward to following more of your adventures!

  • Jennifer says:

    I would have been absolutely terrified! That said – well done! Cape Town is an amazing place to visit – can’t wait to get back there!

  • Mags says:

    I think my blood pressure went up just reading this. Certainly seems like a nerve wracking experience. I may have to live vicariously through you on this one!

  • Oh jeez, I get a shudder running down my spine just imagining what you´ve done there. Well done!

  • Hell, no way! That’s all I’ve got to say! Hahaha! Abseiling was how I found out for the first time many years ago that I might be afraid of heights. I didn’t feel the fear until I was ready to go down, my arms just started to shake beyond control. Although I did manage to complete the abseiling then, I have never tried it again. I have however tried other activities since then, like paragliding, and have slowly learned that I just need to overcome the initial fear. So I don’t know, maybe when I’m in Cape Town, I’d be tempted to try this out. Perhaps possibly maybe… haha!

  • Wow! I’m not sure I would be brave enough to try that! I think my scariest adventure was riding the bobsled at Utah Olympic Park! I’m not a huge roller coaster fan, but have ridden many with my kids. When I visited Park City for an educational conference in 2009, my 3 colleagues and I went to the Olympic Park and enjoyed the museum. Then 2 of us decided to try the bobsled. They give you a really big helmet, and then detailed instructions about where to hold, what to do with your legs, and then since I was seated right behind our driver, I was told, don’t let your helmet bump mine ’cause it could affect my steering! I froze in place, and it was the most thrilling ride I’ve ever taken, though once was enough! I screamed so loud, I’m glad my friend and the driver had helmets on!

    • Buddy says:

      Hi Michele! That sounds like a really cool experience too! I think it’s amazing how much we’re capable of, even if we don’t really think we are. Like you, my abseiling adventure was a one time thing, but I’m glad I did it.

  • Laura Lynch says:

    Table Mountain and Cape Town were some of my favorite places. It’s so gorgeous up there, it’s almost hard to believe. If you’re going to go abseiling, I’m sure you picked the right place to do it.

  • Good on you for giving it a try. I’ve only done two abseils before, the first one was into a cave with wasn’t too scary. The last one was down a waterfall which I was scared of at first. There was lots of moss and the rocks were slippery, you never know where you’re putting your feet so it was a real challenge at first. This one in Cape Town sounds like a lot of fun. I never knew you could do it off Table Mountain. I’ll have to check it out someday.

  • This looks AMAZING!!! Scary, but amazing. We have been on the fence about something like this, you have convinced us. It’s on!

  • This looks scary awesome! I had no idea you could go abseiling off Table Mountain, let alone that it’s the highest commercial one in the world. Good on you! I think the most adventurous thing I’ve done is go paragliding off a mountain in Chamonix. My family was traveling in France, and my parents let me (16 at the time), my sister (13), and brother (11) do it. I’ll never forget the rush of running off a cliff and trusting the parachute to catch the wind and carry us down to safety!

  • Heather Cole says:

    You should definitely be proud of doing this, dangling off a cliff like that takes guts! We considered it when we were in Cape Town but it was so misty up there (the old ‘table cloth’ of Table Mountain doing it’s thing!) we didn’t think it would be worth it. Looks amazing though, maybe next time.

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Hi! I'm Vicky, a South Florida-based blogger traveling around the world with my stuffed monkey Buddy. We show you how to make travel a priority while working a full time job. Click on the photo to learn more!
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