FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Today I walked down the side of a 20 story building on nothing but a rope. Actually, two ropes.
I am no thrill seeker. It is part of fund-raiser put on by the Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. This is the second year of “Over the Edge”. If you can raise a thousand dollars you can get hooked onto a rope and allowed to step over the edge of the Chesapeake Building. They allowed members of the media to give it a go to create some publicity for tomorrow’s event.
The organization that handles the climbers does these events all over the country. They provide the expertise and the gear. They are seasoned pros, you feel completely safe. Until of course you are on the edge looking down.
My adventure started in the plush lobby of the Chesapeake Plaza. There you get strapped into your harness and fitted with a helmet and gloves. There are two ropes on you for the descent; you only control the main one through your drop.
After you are checked out and sign a waiver that a surviving spouse can’t sue, up you head to a small 20-foot wall for a training session.
A super nice guy named Matt explained to me the double rope system. The safety system on the second rope can lock up rather easy on your way down, it triggers if you start going too fast. You want to avoid that, you have to let go of the rope in order for them to slacken it so you can disengage the break. Letting go of the rope was not an option, I certainly didn’t think going to fast would be a problem anyway.
As soon as you are off the rope in your practice run they walk you over to the other side of the building. You have to walk through a window to get to a six foot wide ledge. There is a four foot wall so that is not the scary part.
The scary part is when you have to climb out over that wall and put your toes on the ledge backwards. In order for the rope system to work you have to lean back. With your feet on the wall you sit down in free space, hanging 200 feet in the air.
You control the descent with a level that pinches down on the rope if you let go. So you have to squeeze lightly to drop. That’s when you notice the instinct to grab things when you are nervous. Squeeze the lever and down you start dropping faster; a panic loop starts can gain momentum quickly.
I found the simple little secret to the whole thing. Never look down. I wore a Go-Pro strapped onto my helmet and the only view it saw was my feet.
You hold the main rope in your right hand down below your hips. You actually have to feed the carbine to make your way down. I took a few panic breaths but the rhythm of stepping down the wall and controlling the rope kept me calm. Soon I was in a steady pace, smiling at the workers waving at me in the windows.
It took about 3-4 minutes. I only took one glance down when I was about four stories off the ground. I have to admit to having a deep sense of relief when my feet hit the ground.
You can show up September 15 at Chesapeake Plaza in Fort Worth to watch the people who signed up for this madness fight back fear and walk over the edge. It is an activity not for the faint hearted. I hope they ask me to do again next year. Next time I promise to stop and enjoy the view.
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