‘You want to fly like a bird, don’t you?” says Raymond Pacquet as he clips the carabiner and rope to my safety harness. I nod, trying to hide my shaking hands behind my back. “Watch Patrick do it.”
Clipped to a rope, Patrick, an Open Sky Adventures guide, runs straight off a 30-metre-high cliff and plunges headfirst into the gorge below. Halfway down he pulls on the rope with his arm to brake, does a somersault, and spins 360 degrees mid-air before landing feet first on the ground. I look down as he flashes a thumbs-up sign and grins. I attempt to smile, but my entire body suddenly feels frozen, and my face seems to be caught in an expression I can only describe as Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
I have come to Grand Falls, N.B., to try a sport the French call décalade. It has no English translation, so Pacquet, owner of Open Sky, has invented his own word: deepelling. (Elsewhere in the world it is often referred to as abseiling.) It is best described as face-first rappelling. (Rappelling is a controlled descent down a rope when a cliff or slope is too steep and dangerous for a climber to descend without protection.)
Unlike bungee jumping, which is an uncontrolled descent, in deepelling you choose the speed. Invented by the Australian Army so they could see where they were headed down a cliff, deepelling is now an adventure sport and offered only in two places : New Brunswick, where you jump off a cliff, and at Décalade in Quebec, where you jump off a city tower.
“Ready?” Pacquet asks.
I look down and see the water at the bottom of the gorge. I nod.
“Put your foot here,” he says. I have to force my foot to budge. Finally, I have it positioned half on the rock and half in the air. “Now your other one,” he says. Again, I will my foot to move.
“Okay, lean forward,” Pacquet says. Suddenly, I am suspended in the air, plunging headfirst toward the ground. I slam a hand into my stomach to brake. It works. I stop and dangle, then push my feet against the cliff, release the brake, and jump straight out, flying into the air. I brake again, then jump out again, as if on a vertical trampoline. I am Superman.
“Yeeehhawwww,” I scream.
I land on the ground and Patrick unclips me. I am still screaming as I race up the seemingly endless wooden stairs to the top of the cliff to do it again.
For more information call 506-473-4803 or visit openskyadventures.com.