From terror to exhilaration: Metro reporter rappels down Fenwick Tower
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The full implications of rappelling down Fenwick Tower didn’t really hit me until I looked out from the rooftop and mistook a cruise ship for a yacht.
That was when I realized just how far off the ground I was – and that I was about to step into thin air.
This misguided foray into thrill-seeking began when the Make-A-Wish Foundation invited me to join the media event on Thursday for the Rope For Hope fundraiser.
I didn’t expect to freeze. I did some skydiving in my early 20s, and this seemed easier.
“It's a different experience. You feel very secure because you're actually tethered,” said Paul Griffith, owner of Over the Edge, the company that organizes charity rappelling events across Canada.
That sense of security settled snugly around me with my harness, and stayed throughout the practice with training manager Art Maciel.
“Rappelling is a lot like driving,” he said, explaining the mechanics of squeezing the release handle – or “gas pedal” - with the left hand while feeding the slack with the right.
It was up higher on the scaffolding, where I took in the stunning view of what looked like a little Lego town that my airy confidence suddenly melted away, to be replaced by sheer terror.
“I thought I saw it. I saw the demeanour change,” said site safety supervisor Aaron Lennox, guiding me step by step onto the edge of the roof, where I almost – almost – backed out.
But thanks to Lennox’s encouragement and my own stubborn pride, I leaned back, felt the ropes take my weight and then – like backing away from a really silly idea – started to shuffle down that long gray wall.
The next 12 minutes were hard. The nerves were replaced by aches in my shoulder and left forearm as I struggled to keep a consistent pressure on the release handle. The fatigue made my grip waver, resulting in a few heart-stopping plunges, but oddly, the ground never seemed to get any closer. The sun was hot and I got cranky and even a little bored.
Eventually, I heard cheers of encouragement and a voice guiding me down to terra firma. Complete strangers high-fived my swollen left hand in congratulations.
“You were so heroic!” exclaims one astonished woman who paused to watch.
Calling it an act of heroism may be overstating it, but as I puffed and wobbled out of my harness, I felt exhilaration and a warm glow of accomplishment.
Silly idea or not, I’d do it again.
Rope for Hope fundraises for local Wish families
About 60 people are signed up to take part in Friday’s Rope for Hope Fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation – the first time the event has been held in Atlantic Canada.
CEO Daphne Carter said the organization wanted to break away from fundraising runs and golf tournaments – and said rappelling down the tallest building east of Montreal is a good metaphor for what the Make A Wish Foundation does.
“The kids go through so much every single day, the least we could do is take 15 minutes of something really scary and challenging to try to make life a little bit brighter for a kid and their family,” she said.
Carter said Make A Wish donors make a tangible difference to local families.
“When they make a donation…it has a life-transforming difference on a child and family,” she said.
Anyone who wants to donate can do so by choosing the Halifax page of ropeforhope.ca