ABF Soldier’s Challenge – The Abseil.
On Saturday 26th March I went to London to help with the abseil challenge at the Oval cricket ground. Arrival was at 9am and we quickly set to work with sorting out the gear – gloves, belay plates/fig 8, harnesses, helmets, ropes and more. Safety was paramount and we all had an hour’s run through on how to rig the releasable abseil, safety line and how to rescue someone. We all split into smaller groups with at least one fully qualified member to run through it with us again. It was a great opportunity to learn new skills and new rope rigging systems.
We were told approximately 1000 racers would come through the abseil challenge and we had to operate 10 lines at any one time. I was fortunate to be allowed to shoot while working which is very rare as some people only want you to concentrate on one element of the day! I had in mind a short photo documentary about what our role was like as a safety supervisor on the event. Below is my story. If you read further down there are some photos from the official RandR photographers of me working. Thanks go to Charlie Summers (photos of me monkeying around) the other RandR photographer (sorry can’t remember your name), Ian Wilson for allowing me to shoot from the best position – on abseil! Thanks to Gaz for teaching me new valuable skills and the rest of the team for a fab day!
Behind The Lens
So you’ve seen my results from my perspective but how did I get into position? Most of the shots are from the top next to the lower off points and this allowed me to get the social shots, but to get the action shots I had to do what the racers were doing – abseiling! This involved setting up a separate point for me to lower off as it could not interfere with the racer’s anchor points. Using a releasable abseil anchor (so I could be rescued in the unlikely event of an accident) with overhand knots and half hitches, backed on a bight and carabiner, I was able to lower myself on my own Gri-Gri.
The simple shots were from the side of the building, parallel with the racers, but I wanted to get a new perspective. Branching out from the main wall that everyone was abseiling down were the support beams for the exterior wall. These 15meter long beams provided the answer, but getting out to its furthest point proved tricky as the beams were round and walking on them would have been stupid, not to mention dangerous, because if I fell I would have swung back into the wall that my rope was fixed to. So I had to fix myself below the beams with larks-footed slings which tighten and grip around the beam when loaded, keeping me fixed in position. But this caused another problem! While the slings were weighted I couldn’t move and getting my weight off the slings was hard too as I was dangling in space. The only way to progress along the beam was to wrap my legs and arms around it and slide along upsidedown while pushing the slings along with me! It all sounds very complicated, but in the end it worked and I was always safe while moving. Very important!
Now I was in position I could commence shooting! It was great fun and the photos below (thanks to Charlie Summers) show me getting into position.