Posted by: adventuressetravels | September 14, 2010

The Eagle’s Beak: Rappelling in Colombia

We scrambled up the steep incline. The muddy path offering poor traction for my running shoes.  For the hundredth time I rued the fact that I hadn’t invested in real hiking boots.  Thankfully in the lush forest obliging trees offered their branches to help me up trickier portions of the way.  At key points where the trail’s grade because all but vertical thick vines miraculously appeared for me to pull myself up with, but I always made it.  Just half an hour outside of Cali and the Colombian countryside was all but untouched.

We made our way up the wooded path, the only sound the crack of twigs and squish of mud for what seemed like an eternity.  Turning around a sudden bend in the path, the incline flattened and opened out into a lovely little meadow in the middle of the forest.  Pausing to wait for the group to catch up I inhaled deeply, eager to relax and enjoy the damp woodsy smell of nature I had not given myself time to relish on the way up.

The bovine scent that greeted me was not what I had been hoping for.  “Mooooo,” the cows standing just beyond the copse of trees on the far side of the clearing looked at us indignantly.  What were we doing on their turf, their accusing looks seemed to say.   When everyone had caught up we forged ahead.

Onward and upward, our respite had been short-lived. The huge rock outcropping that rose out of the loamy earth not five minutes beyond the make-shift pasture made me remember what I was climbing to.  The Eagle’s beak, Pico de Aquilla, the mountain we were going to rappel off of.  My stomach felt hollow.

Rappelling?  What had I been thinking?  I was afraid of heights!  Still, I wanted to try (almost) everything once, and I was pretty sure rappelling didn’t fit into the “almost” category.  With a deep breath I found my footing and started up the large mound of rock with a cross on the top.  A cross – didn’t that signify someone had died there?

But the pale rocks looking like the bleached bones of some prehistoric monster, did offer traction that the mud hadn’t.  Before I knew it I was on the bald head of the Eagle’s beak.  Looking across the mountaintops, just knowing how high up we were, I had to sit down on the outcropping.  We were standing on sheer rock at dizzying heights.  I looked around and my breath caught in my throat.  With the spectacular view of the rugged Colombian mountains my fear was replaced with awe and a sense of utter peace filled me.

But the climb up hadn’t been the hard part.  That was yet to come: rappelling down the cliff face. Andrea and Egor, the owners and guides of “90 Grad,” the company leading our impossible mission patiently explained how safe this climb was; perfect for beginners and went over instructions, pointers, and tips until they were sure we were ready.  It was time to go…

One member of our group after another pulled the back harness over their pants and pulled the straps tight.  The orange and red helmets came next, and finally it was time to go to the cliff face.  Egor snapped on the rappelling lines and helped each person to the cliff edge, and played cheerleader, reassuring and encouraging even the most timid of us.

After a while a false confidence settled over me.  It didn’t look that hard, just keep your legs wide, and basically walk down the cliff face with the help of the rope.  I could totally do this!  And then it was my turn…

My heart beat a little faster as I climbed into the black nylon harness and pulled it tight.  When I pulled on the orange helmet my palms started to sweat.  Jonathan, one of the more experienced rappelers helped me up onto the large rock on the cliff’s edge.  Legs wide, back straight, hand at my hip.  I tried not to think too hard about what I was doing.  Looking down was entirely out of the question.  But I could do this.  Like Andrea had said, the equipment was top quality, this wasn’t a difficult cliff, it would be fine.

With a deep breath I leaned back.  The harness held Letting the cord out and inching down the cliff.  Before I knew it confidence started to wash over me, I knew what I was doing.  Rappelling really was no big deal; I looked around at the scenery from my new vantage point and enjoyed the new sensation of walking at a 90 degree angle to the ground.

Suddenly there was no cliff to meet my next step.  The wall had fallen away leaving nothing but thin air.  Panic seized me.  Searching madly for a foothold my face drained of all color.  I had thought I’d gotten the hang of rappelling and now this!?  What did I do?

Dangling from the harness, I lowered myself down to the steep incline below.

Eagle’s beak, it made sense.  Of course the rock had disappeared; I’d made it past the beak.  This was nothing to worry about.  Opening and closing my right hand, I lowered myself down to the ground below and down the remainder of the incline. The warm glow of accomplishment that flowed over me as I finished the climb was exhilarating.

I felt invigorated, energized and like I could do anything.  The heartbreakingly green Colombian countryside was the ideal setting to get my start rappelling, and I couldn’t have asked for a better company than 90 Grad.  If you have the chance try rappelling in the mountains of Colombia.  It is a marvelous way to stretch your limits and at the same time discover another side of this amazing country.


  1. HOLa, donde es esto??? Nunca hemos estado, dices que es cerca a cali?? con quien fuiste????

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