Article from Time and Leisure magazine published on 20/05/2019 https://www.timeandleisure.co.uk
Thank you for such a lovely article!
Armed with all the knowledge of a serial Netflixer who had recently binged climbing docos Free Solo and The Dawn Wall, I set out on my abseil day with a false sense of confidence about what to expect from my free fall abseil from the top of east London’s Orbit. This is the UK’s highest free fall abseil from the UK’s tallest sculpture and a great way to see the city, at least that’s the verdict I heard from Nathan from Wire and Sky, who had been quashing my concerns over email during the week, comforting me by telling me that the conditions were set to be breathtakingly clear and gloriously sunny. Come Saturday morning it seemed as though Nathan’s predictions had come true and it was one of the days where bright beams of sun rays shone brilliantly into every nook and cranny. Arriving at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, you could see for as far as the eye could see right into the capital. From the base, it didn’t look particularly perilously high, but a sign informed me that I should rest assured the structure was, in fact, as high as the Statue of Liberty – a stat that gave me a pang of vertigo-related fear.
I was early for my abseil, but finally started to notice other reluctant looking people begin to turn up and together we met the helpful team at the entrance. Wire and Sky provide trained professionals to give a safety briefing and all the expert equipment. My team were the first of the day, another realisation that sent a shiver of fear down my spine, but the professional instructors assured us by telling us casually just how often they shimmy down on a weekly basis. We were helped into our awkward abseiling harnesses and zipped and strapped in. At this point the panic was really starting to settle in, but the team’s lighthearted talk kept us calm as the dreaded moment of ascent begin to loom.
THE MAIN EVENT
Into the lift and we shot up to the top. The Orbit is an outlandish piece of architecture which snakes and wraps around a slide, so abseiling down is an unconventional style where there is no wall for you to kick back from. This means the crucial moment of stepping off the top is all the harder as you essentially dangle. We reached the top of the lift and were put into our pairs. My partner and I were the third and forth to go, meaning a painful 10 minute wait at the top, but the view was nontheless incredible, spanning epic 20-mile vistas in all directions. Being east, the horizon stretches off into central London, and on such a spectacular day, we had views of the City, the Shard a giant glass landmark in the middle, and Canary Wharf all mapped out infront of us.
Our turn finally came. We stepped out of our pen and were attached to all the necessary ropes to stop us going flying. At this point the adrenaline was kicking in but the abseiling professionals at the top did plenty to keep us calm and clearly explained the instructions. My partner and I shuffled awkwardly out along a platform and were clearly directed as to where to put our feet. With our backs to the view, both hands on the rope and feet half over the edge, we were told to slowly start allowing for the rope to slack – an action which lowered us backwards. Loosening the rope more and more, we stepped down off the ledge. Slowly we lowered ourselves by simply loosening the rope, meaning we were in full control of our own speed, so if you wanted to take your time and enjoy the views, or shimmy down quickly, you could.
After a 10 minute descent, I was happy to have my feet firmly on the ground, but my morning was made with a fantastic team, excellent equipment, and stunning views of London awash with springtime golden sunlight.