Orbiting the village suburb of Warrandyte is Whipstick Gully in Warrandyte State Park. What was once a thriving gold mining hub in the 1850s is now a nature park hideaway for hikers, bike riders and first-time abseilers – like me!
Native shrub land camouflages a towering cliff that was part of a quarry for avid gold-diggers. The cliff-face is tanned by its mineral richness and sheered for a perfect abseiling experience. Inclement weather early in the morning did dampen my confidence about today’s trip going ahead, but we’re lucky to see a glimpse of blue sky once we arrive at Whipstick Gully.
Our instructor Matt is ever-keen to get us strapped into our safety belts. After a few slight adjustments, he fits us out with helmets and gloves. He motions us to a small slope nearby which acts as our practice run and he takes us through a series of abseiling basics. Matt threads practice ropes through our carabiners and he explains the technique of leaning back into the rope and trusting it. Our gloved hand holds onto our climbing rope and acts as our “brake”. Matt stresses: “Don’t let go of the rope. This is your brake!”
Before long, we’re scaling up the nine-metre cliff to send ourselves over the edge. Matt, who conquers 20-plus metres’ worth of cliff in his spare time, is cool, calm and encouraging as he leads even the most nervous or scared first-timers in the group down the cliff with relative ease. I must admit, my excitement builds as my turn nears. I spent a lot of my time as a kid climbing trees and monkey bars, so my inner child is eager to descend the ropes.
Matt attaches me to his safety rope and guides me to my point of no return. He loosens the slack and I’m on my way down the cliff-face. I’m leaning into my rope and clumsily guiding my brake hand to control the rope as I gradually stagger my way backwards. Matt is above encouraging me to widen my stance and I’m feeling light and free in this suspended state. The fresh air is filling my lungs and I lower myself metre by metre. “You’re killing it!” Matt shouts from above, sky-rocketing my confidence before my feet touch the ground. I did it! The adrenalin is pumping through my body and I’m left with no other option but to race up the cliff and do it all over again!