Reporter Craig Hill isn't a huge fan of heights. Keep that in mind while watching him rappel down a 245-foot-high hotel in downtown Tacoma, Washington:
Despite his feelings about heights, Hill, who covers the outdoors for The (Olympia, Washington) Olympian and The (Tacoma, Washington) News Tribune, is lucky to have a job where he gets to go on cool assignments, he said in an email.
"And many of them are nerve-wracking. I've had assignments that required me to climb Mount Rainier, zipline across the Seahawks' stadium, fly in a glider and haul down mountain roads at 40-plus mph on a bike with tires about as wide as my thumb."
Thursday's assignment came as part of a preview day for a charity event happening today. When Hill pitched it to his editors, they laughed. But they're also used to this kind of thing. Hill said he's not the only reporter who comes up with perilous pitches. One colleague swam in the shark tank at the local aquarium. Another flew a stunt plane.
"They know a good story when they see one," he said, "and they're willing to bravely risk their reporters' lives to get them."
Hill has rappelled before, but never quite like this. In the outdoors, it would be a multi-pitch descent, he said "meaning it would require multiple lengths of rope. So this is a pretty unique setup." After he started his descent on Thursday, Hill hung mid-air for about five minutes.
People at the top thought he was scared and cheered him on. But Hill was actually waiting for photographer Drew Perine, who had been harnessed at the top taking photos. Perine was the only photographer on the assignment, so he had to get down to ground level to film Hill's descent. As he waited, that harness got a bit uncomfortable, Hill said.
"Meanwhile, only the crew at the top knew what was going on, so the people at the bottom assumed I had freaked out and was stuck. I could hear some of them shouting up to me, 'Come on Craig, you can do it.' You know, in that 'oh that poor guy' tone of voice. It was all quite amusing," he said. "Next time we will take two photographers. Or a more comfortable harness."