IMGP0101 (1) (Large)I love waterfalls. My first big, gushing waterfall rappel was in 2010 in Cascade Canyon, Ouray, Colorado. After I felt it’s frenetic energy gushing all around me as I dangled on a rope, I couldn’t look at a waterfall the same way again.

IMG_0243ps (Large)Now each time I see a waterfall, I imagine how it would feel to rappel it. I’m ruined. I can’t simply appreciate the aesthetics of beautiful, falling water. I want to attach my rappel device to the rope at the brink of the falls, then feel the water surrounding my ankles as I step into the flow. Then, as I begin to walk down the waterfall my legs become invisible and I am blindly feeling my way with my feet on the rock wall behind the water. If it’s a big waterfall, eventually the water will splash out from the wall and fall all over my head, splashing off my helmet. The water droplets on my plastic helmet sound like loud rain on a tin roof.

Sometimes, in the middle of a long rappel in water, I can see that I’m about to drop into an especially chaotic stream of water right below me. The sight is intimidating. The water shoots in several directions at once. I take a deep breath and move into the chaos. Everything becomes white. I can’t control my movements and rather than fight against the force of the water, I let it push me down the rope. I’m disoriented as I get pummeled by many overlapping curtains of white, pushing me around and trying to get into my mouth.

IMG_3459-2-2 (Large)When I splash into the pool below the waterfall, I quickly let rope out through my rappel device to get away from the pounding flow. I swim backward as quickly as possible and catch my breath. At this point I’m still attached to the rope, floating, twisting the lock on my carabiner and trying to stay out of the flow as I get free of the rope.

To call an experience like this “intense” is an understatement. Rappelling a pounding waterfall takes me out of my body for a few moments, and I have no choice but to join the water and do as it does. Then, at the bottom of the waterfall, floating in the pool, I regain control of my body and wipe the water from my lips. I stand on my feet and look back at the waterfall I just rappelled, knowing much more about it than would ever be possible by viewing it. I know how cold it is, how it feels to be right in the middle of its flow, how it looks from the top and from the bottom. This is experiencing a waterfall completely.

Seeing a waterfall from an overlook is beautiful, but after rappelling a waterfall you know the overlook is only revealing about 25% of the waterfall’s magic. To experience the other 75%, you need a rope.

Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

One Response to Rappelling Big Waterfalls

  1. Johne54 says:

    Good blog! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day! akedekfbfeek

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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