10 In Life/ Scotland

Abseiling down the Forth Rail Bridge

It has officially come and gone and I survived! Last Sunday I abseiled down the iconic red Forth Rail Bridge and, despite being totally scared, it was an amazing experience.

As an expat in Scotland, I always try to push myself to try new things. Last year I saw that abseiling down the Forth Rail Bridge was possible if you signed up to raise money for charity. I had always wanted to raise money for charity and I thought it would be an amazingly unique experience, so when I came back to Scotland in February I signed up for the May abseil, pledging to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support (which I picked for reasons I won’t share all over the internet).

I always thought I was afraid of heights as much as the next normal human being, but not more than that. It dawned on me that perhaps it was a bit more than that earlier this year when I headed down to the Borders to participate in the Go Ape course and it took me a good 5 minutes to jump of the ledge at the Tarzan swing. I don’t like the feeling of falling, or looking below to see nothingness for feet, if not meters. But it’s okay I told myself. I can visualise myself doing the abseil. It’ll be epic!

The closer it came the more I started to anticipate it. I started to watch YouTube GoPro videos of people who had previously done this particular abseil. Looking at it made me feel better – I now knew what to expect. But it also made me feel worst – I have to walk off the ledge of the bridge? That one thing our parents always repeat us not to do. I knew that the hardest part was going to be just that, stepping over the ledge and letting go.

But through it all I was never deterred. I pushed and with the incredible support of my friends in Scotland (and a few who have since moved to England) I raised the minimum fundraising number £145 (and much more).

I’m not gonna lie I had a mini anxiety attack the night before and barely slept, but came the morning, I was ready! I’m a kickass bold woman, I totally have this!

I go to check in and wave hi to my two amazing (and fellow expat) friends who came from Stirling to support me/take much needed proofs photos.

The Macmillan team gets harnessed at the same time (with both a hip and body harness) before being escorted up the hill. We hike up Jacob’s ladder and then on the bridge we go. We walk along the engineers platform of the bridge for a little while to reach the abseiling point. From there we are each taken in charge by one of the Glasgow Climbing Centre experts.

After being attached to the main cables, I’m told to immediately climb on the other side of the ledge. ‘Already? You don’t want to tell me how this works first?’ Are thoughts I keep in my mind as I swallow my fear and climb through the bars I’m pretty sure you’re never meant to climb through. I’m obviously holding on for dear life when my person (fear made me forget her name as soon as I heard it) tells me to step off the ledge onto the lower ledge. Something, in my mind, only heroes do in movies when they try to escape the bad guys. So there I go, slowly stepping onto the lower ledge, whilst also trying not to look at the sheer 50m drop below my feet.

‘There it is’, she says. ‘Just abseil down, slowly releasing the rope’. ‘Hm, excuse me, you don’t have more to tell me?’ That’s when fear really grips me. There is literally nothing between me and the beach below and I actually have to let go of the ledge. Something I do painstakingly slow. My friends looking at me from below even wonder, they tell me after, if there was a problem because it took me so long. LOL nope, problem was just my fear.

But I do it! I let go of the ledge one hand at a time and then one foot off at a time until I’m in the air and slowly abseiling down. At that moment, my fear vanishes. I love it and I’m safe. I can totally do this! A photographer above calls my name and I look up with an actual smile of enjoyment. Then I slowly go down. Honestly I went really slowly, but I enjoyed it. This is definitely not happening again so may as well enjoy the moment, the unique views…oh shit did my hair just get caught in the belay, even though I’m wearing the ugliest hair net in the world? Yep. I have to pull my head away sharply to untangle it. Okay down I go, I’m fine. (*hears vibration) Oh is that a train coming across the bridge? Great…

Slowly I make my way down, feeling better the closer I inch toward the beach. When I touch down a team works to get me unattached as quickly as possible, congratulating me. I want to cry of happiness and pride at that moment. I did it! It feels as though I have accomplished something major, even though it was all over in a matter of minutes.

I pushed past a fear and raised money for a charity, there is literally nothing to be more proud about.

Have you ever done something that terrified you but was totally worth it?xx

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