Expeditioning: A Man, a Plan, a Whoppin' Long Rope

Outside magazine, June 1995

Expeditioning: A Man, a Plan, a Whoppin' Long Rope

Sliding--literally--into an odd place in history
By Brooke DeNisco

Ken Fuller is hoping to avoid sweaty palms this June 18. At about noon, a crowd that locals predict will be as large as 15,000 will begin to gather on the rim of Colorado's 1,053-foot-deep Royal Gorge. "At one o'clock, I'll rig in to my harness and try to stay relaxed," says the 38-year-old army recruiter from Greeley, Colorado. "Then I'll let the rope slide until my boots are in the Arkansas River." The coup de grâce: He'll ride a sightseeing train up the canyon and, he says, "wave triumphantly."

The point of all this, for those of us scratching our heads, is to set a new record for free rappelling off a bridge. (Free rappelling is descending a rope without touching a cliff or some other vertical plane.) But clearly there's more going on in Fuller's mind. "There just isn't any good documentation in this field," he complains, as if he were on a mission to set the record books straight. "Longer free rappels may have been done, but this is definitely the longest off a bridge."

Of course, Fuller's big day won't be without hazards. "Meltdown," states Fuller. "If I move too fast, my rappelling rings could singe the rope. But I can't talk about that. It's bad karma to discuss equipment failure."

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