It’s a quick way of descending from mountains but it carries its own dangers. Having made some money from it, I can’t say I don’t like it in its own right, but always one is acutely aware that the system might fail. That applies to ‘proper’ abseiling, of course; there is no safety top rope involved, nor can there be if descending from a mountain.
In the course of abseiling – and prusiking practice – my two sons and I invented an entirely new sport – abre-seiling (you work it out) – in which we get as high as we can up a tree by a mixture of prusiking or Kleimhesting (we have a handy beech wood to play in) and then shimmy on down. Each tree is a new problem to solve, how to climb it to the very top; the abseil down is a short sharp reward.
Gear does fail, safety is paramount and that step backwards into space is gut-wrenching. I once abseiled off a 200 foot vertical cliff as smooth as a baby’s bottom in North Devon just for the hell of it. The ‘step-off’ was into space with the sea behind. Awesome and, to be honest, bloody silly.