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Rappelling already too boring? Try deepelling

Go deepelling off a 30-metre-high cliff in New Brunswick.


'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.)

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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.

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