What is the fastest way to descend a 100-foot building or a cliff other than jumping? Abseiling, of course.
Abseiling, more commonly known as rappelling, refers to a technique of controlling the descent down a vertical feature via a rope. Mountaineers, canyoners, rock climbers, and other adventurers rappel down a cliff, slope, or some other feature that is too steep or dangerous to descend without using some sort of protection.
In rock climbing, climbers routinely rappel down to the ground after cleaning a route. However, there are people who don’t want to ascend a treacherous rock face just to experience the exhilaration (and picture perfect moments, of course) of abseiling. Good thing that Cantabaco crag, the Philippine’s premier rock climbing site, has an area specifically set up for recreational rappelling.
The crag’s recreational rappelling ledge is located 33 meters (around 108 feet) off the belay area of Area 5. That’s the height of an 11-story building. To get to the ledge, you need to scramble up a very steep trail sharp rocks, thorny plants, and annoying twigs.
You need to hike up to Area 5, which includes a short hike to the jungle and an exhausting steep ascent. Along the way you might find these fallen mansanitas. Careful, they could fall on you and cause a mess. You can eat some if you’re lucky to catch them.
Walk up to the very end of the cliff beyond the great overhang. You will find another rocky trail that goes deep inside the jungle and up to the top of the crag.
Tangles upon tangles of vines and shrubs hit you in the face at the start of the ascent to the ledge.
That’s Sir Enie, our guide and climbing coach. You can contact him if you want to experience rappelling down a 100-plus foot cliff.
Wiggle through the dense foliage. I needed to be careful here or else the branches will snag the rope on my back.
Going over or under fallen logs is one of our most hated and annoying actions in trekking and mountaineering. This photo was taken just before I slipped and tumbled down on my back.
As you go nearer to the ledge, you will come across this mossy, slippery, bouldery section of the trail. Yes, you need to scramble up. Yes, a bit of acrobatics and a dash of yoga is needed. Yes, without ropes. Yes, you could get injured in a fall. This is technically called scrambling.
Sweetie’s turn to scramble up the boulders.
My turn to climb up. Check out Sir Enie below me. That’s a long fall, I assure you. So be careful and watch your step.
After 45 minutes, you arrive at the rappelling ledge which is no more than a few square meters in area. Check your arms and legs; we bet you’ll have itches and scratches all over, battle scars on your fight to get up here.
Enjoy the magnificent view from here. That’s a mountain across the barrio. Sweetie and I will trek and set camp there soon.
Green fields below. It’s very peaceful here. Once in a while, you will hear the sound of the Holy Mass from a nearby church and the shouts of people in a cockfight.
We spent more than an hour enjoying the view and chatting about things. Then when we realized it was 1:00 p.m., we decided to go down . . . by rappelling, of course. Sir Enie prepared to set up the anchor .
That’s our anchor. There’s no need to be afraid of the anchor failing on you; that’s a bomb proof anchor designed to support the heaviest person in the world. One, there are three anchor points, any one of them can hold a 300-pound person on its own. Two, by tying all the anchor points in a knot, the weight of the person is evenly distributed on the three anchors (i.e., each anchor point holds 1/3 of the person’s weight). Three, the main line can hold 10 kilonewtons of force. Fourth, you are attached to a second backup line which is controlled by the guide above you. In case you lose control of your main line, the guide can still prevent your fall by pulling the backup line.
Sir Enie used my rope as our main line.
The rope needs to be thrown down or dropped carefully. Any tangles and snags on the rope along the way can make rappelling, well, less pleasant.
Everything set! We prepared ourselves by wearing harnesses and attaching our belay devices while Sir Enie attached the backup line.
After properly attaching the rope to my belay device (the red thing on my harness), I tied myself up on the backup line using a rewoven figure-8 knot.
Properly tied rewoven figure-8 knot? Check. Main line through the belay device and carabiner? Check! Carabiner locked? Checked. Harness double backed? Check! I’m all set!
Going down a smaller ledge below to get into position for rappelling back down.
To give you an idea of how high we are, check out this photo. Can you spot Jherity? She’s at the upper one-third of the photo. And at that point, she is still halfway down, which means that the photo does not included the upper half!
Jherity about to touch down.
Her sister Jheryl followed her shortly.
Then it was Sweetie’s turn. Can you spot her?
It was her first time rappelling on a 100-plus foot cliff outdoors. She was screaming in delight all the way. Yes, she rappelled down a building a few months ago, but outdoor rappelling is simply different.
Almost at the ground. However, no rappelling adventure is complete without the mandatory in-action photo . . . with a smile!
Sweetie was sweaty, hot, and tired but happy and quaking with adrenaline and excitement.
Last one to descend was Sir Enie after he disengaged the anchor.
Who knew that going down could be extremely fun! Visit Cantabaco now and get high in going down.
6:00 AM – assembly time at South Bus Terminal
6:30 AM – ETD Cebu, ride a Toledo-bound bus to Lutopan (Php 40)
8:00 AM – arrival at Lutopan Crossing (locally known as Landing), ride habal-habal to Silangan Chapel, Cantabaco (Php 10)
8:10 AM – ETA Silangan chapel, meet up with guide, briefing
8:45 AM – Trek to crag, buy packed lunch
9:00 AM – start scrambling toward the rappel ledge
10:00 AM – arrival at Rappel ledge, set up anchor
11:00 – start rappelling down
12:30 PM – lunch
1:30 PM – rock climbing
4:00 PM – wrap up, packing up
4:15 PM – head back to guide’s place
4:30 PM – ride habal-habal to Lutopan (Php 10)
4:45 PM – ETD Lutopan V-hire terminal for V-hire (Php 70) or Lutopan crossing for Cebu-bound bus (Php 40)
6:00 PM – ETA Cebu
* For guideship services, please contact Enie Yonson at 0943-0688985 or 0948-7124875. You can also search his name on Facebook or send a message to him through the BASO (Body And Soul Outdoor) Facebook page.
* Logistics for going to Cantabaco can be found in the previous post.
* Wear a pair of trekking shoes. Scrambling to the ledge involves climbing up sharp rocks. A good pair of trekking shoes helps a lot in protecting your feet.
* Wearing long-sleeved rash guard and long pants can help in protecting your arms from numerous twigs and branches which can really slice you up really well. A pair of arm guards can also suffice.
* Setting up the anchor and setting up first-time jumpers take a lot of time. Thus, it is best to start the activity early. We suggest starting the activity at 8 or 9 a.m.
* You can take your lunch with you up to the rappel ledge. You are granted a beautiful view while you take your meal.
* Bring a backpack with you so it would be easier for you to carry all your things while you rappel down.
Just because the photos look cool and fun does not mean that you can take rappelling lightly. Abseiling is inherently DANGEROUS! In fact, a large number of climbing accidents happen during rappelling. Your safety depends on you and SOLELY on you! Thus before you go out there, it is vitally important that you get some basic training on rappelling principles, techniques, and safety first. Although blogs (including ours), books, tutorial videos, and articles could be a good source of information, you should find a certified climbing instructor to properly coach you through the sport. Always listen to your guide. We learned our rapelling skills by certified instructors, and even then, we still rely on them to set up anchors and other technicalities. Keep in mind that we are NOT instructors.