Going Over The Edge: Rappelling 269 Feet Down a Skyscraper

A few weeks ago my boss called me into his office to ask whether I would be interested in representing our firm at a fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. I of course was happy to take part, especially once I learned that it happened to be their annual Over The Edge event in which the participants rappel off of the Omni in downtown Nashville.

I have discussed over and over and over and over that I am afraid of heights. However, I have also discussed my quest to overcome that fear by seeking out situations that make me second guess myself. So far, so good. If flying lessons turned my dread of air travel into love, then eventually, one day, I’ll be able to jump and fall off of things without hesitation (hopefully during some sort of planned excursion).

Before I went over the edge, we got a brief training session on how not to fall to our deaths or get stuck on the side of a building. I appreciated the tips.

I’m joking. I felt safe the entire time. There were lots of ropes and harnesses and gears and double and triple layer safety measures.

Before I could start my rappel, I had to crawl over some scaffolding to get to the edge of the building. This was surprisingly nerve-wracking considering what I was about to do.

However, the worst part was the first steps going down the building. It was a little hard to get started because, well, I weigh as much as a wet chihuahua. You control the rate of your descent with your weight and guiding rope through the belay. So, my size made it difficult to get horizontal with the wall.

When I started my descent, I was hanging from the side of the building, but still had my feet at the top of the ledge. This felt very unsettling. However, I felt completely secure once lowered myself down a bit and got my feet flat on the side of the building.

I fed the rope though the belay and I walked myself down the building, taking time to waive at my supporters below and the hotel guests who gathered at the windows to watch.

It only took a few minutes for me to completely lower myself down the 26 stories, but every second was thrilling.

The event was exactly what I hoped it would be. I had a wonderful time and we helped raise money for a wonderful organization in the process.

Over The Edge helps non-profit organizations throughout the world raise money for important causes like Big Brothers and Big Sisters. If you are interested in a chance to rappel down a building without getting arrested, keep an eye out for Over The Edge when it comes to your city.

Ziplining

Every year my alma mater, The University of Tennessee College of Law, holds the Allen Novak Auction to raise money for the Tennessee Association of Public Interest Law. As part of the Novak Auction, professors donate activities and excursions for the students to bid on. The activities range from dinners to hiking to attending sporting events. My friend Amy won Prof. Tobin’s auction item: a day of ziplining in Gatlinburg, TN.

National Park View
We went to CLIMB Works, which borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. CLIMB Works offers a canopy tour that has 9 ziplines, 3 skybridges, and a repel. Essentially, you spend 2.5 hours without touching the ground.

We were outfitted in a very complicated, and not super flattering, harness, zipline pulley, and two carabiners. Add the hat, and we looked like we were really big fans of 1/6 of The Village People. The purpose of all the gear was to keep us secured to a line at all times. I suppose looking slightly awkward is a fair tradeoff for not falling out of a tree.

Ziplining Group Shot

We started with a ride up the mountain in an ATV. Bear, a standard poodle and the most energetic dog I’ve ever met, led the way. He spun in circles, barked, and ran the entire way up the hill. Apparently he does this several times a day.

Drive up the Mountain
Our guides, Chubbs and Ciara, led us up a skybridge to our inaugural line. When it was time to zip, I was the first to go. I felt safe the entire time and I had no doubts that I was securely tethered to the line. So, I took a leap, screamed, and soared through the air. We only went 15-30 m.p.h., but with the wind rushing past me, it felt significantly faster. It felt amazing to fly 100 feet above the ground and over the canopy of trees. The view of the Smoky Mountains was spectacular.

When we reached the other side, one of the guides was waiting there to bring us in safely. There were two different methods of slowing us down. The first was a ZipKEA (Kinetic Energy Absorber) which was a device that caught our pulleys and slowed our arrival. (Just one of the many cool inventions they came up with at CLIMB Works). The other was sticking our arms and legs out like a starfish—which was significantly more entertaining to watch.

Taking Off

On each trip, our group reversed the order in which we zipped. On one of our trips, when I was the last last to go, someone in my group asked Chubbs what would happen if I just wasn’t retrieved. His response, “I can make that happen.” So, on one of the longest runs of the day I came in for a landing, slowed as I approached, and then just started zipping back out over the trees. It felt like I went at least half of the length of the line backwards before I came to a stop out in the middle of nowhere. Then I just sat and waited. The view was spectacular, and it was incredibly peaceful to be surrounded by nothing but silence and nature. However, I wasn’t there long before Chubbs came out to meet me and pulled me back in.

Coming In For A Landing

At the end of the day, one one of the more “boring” lines (though none were boring to me) we got to go upside down and backwards.  It was a fun twist and I wish we got to do all of them that way.

Upsidedown Zip

Finally, at the end we crossed their longest (and scariest) skybridge before we made our descent back to land.

Sky Bridge

At the end of our journey we were all absolutely exhausted. Perhaps it was spending the day above the treetops or all the adrenaline, but we all piled back into our cars like tired kids at the end of the day at the amusement park. On the journey back my main objective was just to stay awake.

Repelling

If you want a first hand view of what it is like to zipline, you can watch one of my journeys below:


I would love to go back again when the leaves start changing in the fall, to do a night tour, to try their mountain bike trail, or to stay in their soon-to-be-built tree houses. Soon, they will have a ziplining adventure in Downtown Nashville and I can’t wait to fly from rooftop to rooftop.

CLIMB Work’s motto is “Challenge. Learn. Inspire. Master. Believe.” I think we could all use a little more of that in our lives.

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