Last Wednesday (15 October 2014) a group of us learnt how to fly off a slate quarry mountain. We took part in this adrenaline fundraiser for the Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust. We were secured into harnesses and let zip over a 432m drop for 57 seconds at 100mph.
The Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust provides ‘out of hours’ practical and emotional support for the isolated and elderly in Belle Isle, Beeston and Holbeck. It relies on the work of volunteers and Margaret Bingham organised this fundraiser to continue the awareness of the charity and bring the members from different parts of the community together.
There were 16 of us all travelling in convoy with the main bulk travelling in a minibus kindly lent to us by Hunslet Hawks. Meeting at BITMO GATE at 9:30am we excitably introduced ourselves. Sharing our fears and apprehension we formed friendships pretty quickly. What a great community team building exercise this is turning out to be, I thought. I also met four people from Asda who had joined us however, they were fundraising for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, but they provided the crisps and drinks. Margaret Bingham had a made a packed lunch the night before so we were well equipped. George who sits on the management committee was representing the older person by proving that at 70 years you’re never too old to do adrenaline sport challenges. (He’d also brought his homemade sloe gin for some dutch courage).
Harry the Hawk drove us to Wales, minus the head part of course. Until, he got out at the quarry and represented the Hawks outside the Zip wire offices in full regale.
The journey there was relatively quick, driving over the M62 then past the North Wales coast line. We eventually arrived outside the Penrhyn Quarry village of Bethesda near Bangor. We registered, signing our names (lives) in the book, and then given instructions to be kitted in the kitting shed. We were weighed, and donned our red boiler suits, plus harness goggles and helmets. There was a bar that kept swinging under our shins we all wondered what it was going to be use for?
Then, we all heard it. The sound of humming getting closer. We looked up towards the sky to see a pair of figures flying through the air straight past us. They looked like bright red bullets in front of the slate grey backdrop. We tried to see the direction from where they come from and craned necks and squinted our eyes to the small blip way up on the mountainside. Our attention is drawn to the written instructions, in particular number 7. What to do if you stop before the landing. You just have to still put for 10 minutes until someone gets you. That’s when George passed round his homemade sloe gin to calm the nerves.
We were then herded up through the nice woodland trial up to the first ‘Little Zipper’. This is the tester for the big one. However, this little zipper was still pretty big, skimming over the tops of the pines. It was to help us prepare what was needed for doing the Big Zipper. We were then given instructions on how to stand and then do push ups. It was at this point where you suddenly feel your body become weightless and magically you’re hovering over the drop. Then we were told to push the bar with our feet away from us and this sort of cocoons you into the harness parcelling you up. That’s what the bar is for.
Andrea Edwards, chairperson of the CBFT only came along for moral support, but then changed her mind when she learnt there was a spare place. This made the group into an even 16, and Andrea became my zip buddy! Whoosh, we did our first Little Zipper. We came in fast and jolted against the the stopper. We had been given clear instructions that if you’re coming in too fast you’ve got to hold your arms out to the side with your palms facing in front. This slows you down, but I didn’t have to do that.
Then the really exciting bit begins. When we’ve all landed off the little zipper we all pile into the red four by four off road truck. Our ‘trolleys’ that’s like our carriages get stored underneath us. And we trundle up the quarry. The chatter soon turned into gasps as the view opened up over the valley, in between the foreground of the slate mine.
We got to the top and saw our drop. There was only one way down. We are briefed again, and after a few photo opportunities for prosperity, Andrea and I are find ourselves laying horizontal over the biggest drop I’ve seen in my life. The crew then walkie talkie each other to check the landing is clear. Then the rain starts but the screens stop working, and my goggles steam up. There’s a pause before the technical hitch sorts itself out.
Then, in mid suspesnion I suddenly remember Richard Dreyfuss’s character in ‘Jaws’ when he goes into the underwater cage and he can’t spit into his mask. So I quickly spit into my goggles and the steams gone. Thankfully I can see and we’re off. We plumment through the air head first over the steepest bit of the quarry and within seconds it opens out into an sapphire lake with slate on either side. I feel relaxed and totally fine. But the rain starts and bites into my cheeks. You can’t move too much because we’re told a look to the side will sway the carriage. However a big gust of wind does that anyway but it doesn’t slow us down we still reach a speed of 100 mph. This is the closet I’ll feel to being a bird!
The whole day was up-lifting. I remained on a natural high all the way home, playing eye spy and guess the song with everyone. Margaret is known for her extravagant fundraising events, and even though this did not take huge physical stamina the cause for which we were flying for does. Next year, abseiling off Bridgewater Place? Online donations can still be made by visiting localgiving.com and typing in Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust. Thanks to Margaret and the team for making this happen.
Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust will also be opening their dementia cafe on December 13 2014 at BITMO in Belle Isle.