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Abseiling Off a Perfectly Good Euromast

I stared down at my shoes, bright red splotches of colour on an otherwise monochrome rainy day. Their grip on the sloping, slick metal held — just — as I tried to steady myself. Being steady was a difficult proposition since, no matter how much I tried to focus on my shoes, I could still see the 100m drop just below them.

Euromast Restaurant From the Outside

Just a small drop.

“Now what I want you to do is slowly lower yourself down so you’re almost in a sitting position!” the guide yelled down to me. Easy for him to say, since he was standing on firm ground while I was slowly lowering myself off the edge of the Euromast, Rotterdam’s answer to the Space Needle and the SkyTower.

The Euromast

The Euromast, home to Europe’s highest abseil off a building. At least the restaurant is only halfway up!

Yes, I knew I was firmly attached to a rope and heavy supervision meant I wouldn’t fall more than a few feet, but rational thoughts were about the furthest thing from my mind at that point. In fact, most people would believe that there hadn’t been a rational thought in my head when I agreed to go abseiling off the Euromast, as evidenced by these comments I received (after the fact) on Facebook:

“Are you mad??? What’s wrong with lifts?”

“OMG, very brave! Or is it stupid??? Well done.”

“I get acrophobia just looking at that pic!”

Jumping over the barrier and getting myself in the right position had been the easy part. Moving my feet once I’d gotten comfortable on the ledge — not so much. I somehow managed to lower myself into a sitting position — stopping to smile when Michael from Art of Backpacking, who kindly followed me and captured all of my scared expressions on camera, told me to — before yelling up to the guide that, you know, I think I’m comfortable just staying here for the rest of the day.

Smile for the Camera

I’m totally putting on this face for the camera.

“You’ll be there quite a while then! The only way out is down!” he yelled back. Comforting.

Slowly, with my feet feeling like lead, I took one step down off the ledge and onto the windows of the Euromast’s restaurant. A couple of women sat calmly eating their breakfast as I inched past. Perhaps I was just an oddly-dressed window-washer that had forgotten her tools. Or maybe they’d had meals up in the sky over Rotterdam so many times that scared abseilers dropping by just seemed like old hat.

Just a Normal Day

Just a normal day at the Euromast restaurant…

The next few steps didn’t seem so difficult. Memories of my only previous abseiling trip — down a cliff face in Australia’s Blue Mountains — came flooding back to me and I started to feel a bit more confident. So much so that I was happy to wave at the camera…with my right hand.

Waving with your right hand isn’t a good idea, since that hand is the one that is supposed to be holding on to the rope at all times to make sure you move towards the ground at your own pace instead of uncontrollably hurtling towards it. Multiple guides immediately screamed, “RIGHT HAND!” at me as I frantically reached for the rope, which had stayed firmly in place from the sheer weight of the 100m of rope hanging below me.

Making Faces

The faces I made when I wasn’t being told to smile.

Once I calmed my jangling nerves, the next instruction came down from above: “Now just bend your knees until your feet come off the window!”

My legs didn’t want to bend, but I forced them to anyway. No longer touching the windows, which sloped inwards and eventually disappeared into a narrow column of concrete, I found myself floating above the skyline of Rotterdam. Below me was a small field and a few tiny people staring up into the rain; behind me was the famous port and harbour.

Floating

Floating above Rotterdam with only a rope to hold me up. Apparently the only clear spot on the window was next to my foot…

All fear had drained away as soon as I’d left the windows of the restaurant behind; I was now confidently tugging at the remaining rope, feeling its tension fade as I pushed it through the figure-eight carabiner. I hardly even noticed the steady drizzle as I alternated between dropping as fast as I could (a speed that got quicker the closer I got to the end of the rope) and jerking myself to a stop so I could look at anything that caught my eye. It was exhilarating.

I couldn’t help but smile when my feet touched the ground. The happiness was infectious; all six of us were bouncing off the walls, so excited about what we’d just done despite (and because of) the fear we’d set out with. Knowing what a thrill it was probably wouldn’t keep me from feeling that same trepidation if I were to go again, but I’d probably be able to pick up my feet a bit quicker…and I’d definitely know that my right hand always stays on the rope!

Would you go abseiling off a 100m building, or would you like to try it off a slightly smaller drop (with less people watching) first?

Coming Down!

Jai from Savoir There and one of the guides on their way down.

Thanks to Travel Bloggers Unite and Rotterdam Tourism for attaching us to ropes and sending us over the edge, and thanks to Michael for taking photos of me!

Abseiling off the Euromast — the tallest abseil off a building in Europe — costs only €49.50 per descent and includes entry to the Euromast itself. All of us were astounded at the price, especially compared to similar trips in places more known for “adventure” activities. It’s available on weekends from May to September, and the guides said you often have to book in advance to ensure a spot. The only exceptions to these dates are every last Sunday of the month, when the abseil is replaced by the fastest zipline in Europe, where you travel at speeds up to 100km/h!

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9 Responses to Abseiling Off a Perfectly Good Euromast

  1. Rosemary June 12, 2013 at 1:25 am Reply

    The abseiling sounds like fun, but the fast zipline sounds better!

    • Kristin June 12, 2013 at 1:29 am Reply

      The zipline definitely would have been a thrill, Rosemary! It’s too bad I didn’t get to try it. One of a few reasons to go back to Rotterdam I think…

  2. Jennifer June 12, 2013 at 2:57 am Reply

    Good job! I am so disappointed I had to miss out on this. I’m sure I would have needed coaxing too.

    • Kristin August 7, 2013 at 3:03 am Reply

      I know this is a super-delayed reply — sorry! It’s sad that you missed out on this, but maybe next time we’re both in Rotterdam at the same time we can go together and I can help coax you over the edge! Haha.

  3. Megan June 12, 2013 at 7:19 am Reply

    I love the looks of concentration! I could never have done it – you’re a star!

    • Kristin June 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm Reply

      LOL Megan, Michael captured some pretty good looks, that’s for sure! And it did help that there was a lot of peer pressure involved. When you’re up there with a bunch of people you don’t know it’s a lot easier to say no!

  4. [email protected] June 12, 2013 at 7:25 am Reply

    I feel as though I was there with you Kristen …Thefe is no way that would have been me! This Aussie gal is a chicken!

    • Kristin June 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm Reply

      Haha Jenny! I don’t blame you. A lot of these things terrify me, but as long as I know they’ve taken reasonable precautions to ensure I don’t get hurt I’ll usually try it (meaning I’ll go abseiling but maybe not jumping off the bridge in Mostar or base jumping anywhere).

  5. Saskia September 12, 2013 at 4:20 pm Reply

    Yeah that’s just plain crazy 🙂 Shame we put on such crappy weather for you.

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