Rappelling down Lexington’s tallest tower; living to write about it.


Staff Sgt. Michael Jones helps me negotiate the hardest part of rappelling 410 feet down the Lexington Financial Center: going over the edge. Photo by Pablo Alcala.

What’s the hardest thing about rappelling 410 feet down the side of Lexington’s tallest tower? Leaning back off the platform into thin air and hoping that all of the ropes, buckles and harnesses around you work.

Fortunately, they worked. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I was among the first of about 100 people taking part today and Thursday in the Brave the Blue II challenge, the second-annual fundraiser for the Bluegrass Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The event will raise more than $100,000 for scouting programs in 55 Central Kentucky counties.

The newspaper helped sponsor the event, so employee was supposed to participate. Because I am an Eagle Scout, they thought I would be a good choice. I don’t think the climbing merit badge existed when I was a Boy Scout four decades ago. If it did, I didn’t earn it. I had exactly zero experience with rappelling.

Still, I found myself this morning on the penthouse balcony of the Lexington Financial Center, outside the office of Woodford Webb, president of the Webb Companies, which owns the building.

Webb and his uncle, developer Dudley Webb, stepped out on the balcony to wish me a good trip down. Given some of the things I have written about their proposed CentrePointe project, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. (They have always tried to be cordial.)

Thanks to a good but brief orientation from Darien Dopp, a staff member with the company Over the Edge, I thought I knew how all of this stuff was supposed to work. But I also knew that if I had problems going down, everything Dopp had just told me would instantly evaporate.

Fortunately, everything went smoothly. By constantly adjusting the rope-control lever to stay in the “sweet spot,” I was able to literally walk down the side of the building. I even looked around occasionally at the view. And what a view it was.

Like a giant mirror, the tower’s glass walls reflected the downtown Lexington skyline.  Off to my left, St. Paul’s Cathedral, which towers over Short Street, lay below me. People and vehicles looked like ants below. It was surprisingly quiet.

Still, I was focused on business: keeping my descent steady and my feet from bouncing too far off the walls. Bouncing, I was told, was not a good idea.

Toward the bottom, I found a new reason not to like pedways. I had to walk a few steps across the glass to make sure I cleared the pedway that connects the tower to an adjacent building across Mill Street.

The whole experience was fun. The only problem: my arms still hurt from trying to keep just the right tension on the lever and rope. Given the other possibilities, I’m fine with that.

I’ll write a longer version of this report later today on Kentucky.com and in Thursday’s Herald-Leader. Plus, I’ll tell you about one of my fellow rappellers, a 79-year-old lady from Nicholasville who is much braver than I am.

Click here to see more photos.

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