Letters: Everyone Loves a Cliffhanger

I thought that [John Allen’s] article on Eric Gabriel [“Capitan Courageous,” Winter 2008 On Wisconsin] was superb — informative, well written, and fascinating! Thanks.

Bill Rock MS’89

Madison

Thank you for the exceptional cover story and amazing photos in “Capitan Courageous.” I have always enjoyed reading On Wisconsin from cover to cover; however, given that I am Eric Gabriel’s sister, this is by far my favorite issue! Many readers may not know that Eric’s top priority off the job is his family. He is a devoted husband and father of three children under the age of six. Their dad is a “super hero,” but to them he is Dad who takes them hiking and climbing. All three, like their father, love to climb every boulder they pass by.

Eric’s first major climbing feat was at age two. Our parents found him up on the fireplace mantel. They’d heard a crash and saw that the grandfather clock had fallen, but Eric was safe.

Jenifer Gabriel Novak ’88, MS’93

Streamwood, Illinois

In the sidebar “Climbing the Walls” [“Capitan Courageous”], there is a picture of a person rappelling down the southwest tower of the Red Gym. This appears to be an Army ROTC cadet performing an Australian rappelling technique. I practiced and performed this specialized technique, at this very location, as one of the university’s Army ROTC cadets between 1974 and 1978.

I highly doubt that the Hoofers would teach this, since the usual way to rappel is with one’s back toward the ground. Rappelling forward takes all of your self-control and focus as you lean forward over the edge of the tower wall until you are at about 90 degrees and then you run down the wall. This is helpful when you need to see where you are going with a potential enemy below and allows a free hand for your weapon.

About 1978, the bricks on the tower were becoming loose, and the use of the tower for rappelling was ended for safety reasons.

James Kedrow ’78

Zion, Illinois

Published in the Spring 2009 issue

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