Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blind daredevil first person to abseil down UK's highest waterfall

From Sky TV in the UK:

A blind Perthshire daredevil has become the first person to abseil down the UK's highest waterfall.

Dean Dunbar (pictured) tackled the 658ft Eas A Chual Aluinn, near Kylesku in Sutherland - becoming the first person, as well as the first blind person, to successfully complete the feat.

Mr Dunbar, from Blairgowrie, Perthshire, suffers from a rare eye condition and was registered blind in 1996.

But the 40-year-old, who suffers from Rod-Cone Dystrophy, became hooked on extreme sports two years later when he attempted his first tandem skydive.

Since then he has blazed a trail in the field, becoming the first blind person in the world to bungee jump from a helicopter, participate in the five-day Hebridean Challenge adventure race and be thrown by the Dangerous Sports Club's human catapult.

The thrill-seeker, who documents his stunts on his popular website, extremedreams.co.uk, had been planning his latest adventure for two years.

He said: "For me being registered blind, as I've always loved waterfalls, whenever I go anywhere and hear one I have to go and investigate. I was on holiday in that area a couple of years ago and my wife mentioned that the UK's highest waterfall was nearby.

"Knowing my love of waterfalls, she suggested we take a look. We paddled in from Kylesku and as soon as I saw it my first thought was, 'that would be amazing to abseil'."

Mr Dunbar, who descended the sheer fall under the supervision of Ben Starkie from the Vertical Descents outdoors centre at Fort William, and Graeme Reid, formerly of the centre,said the most challenging aspect was dealing with the treacherous weather conditions.

He added: "Due to recent flooding, the waterfall was on a massive flow. It was touch and go whether we'd actually get it done. While we were on the rocks, the wind would blow waves across the loch which fed the falls. This would then throw a massive tidal wave effect down over us.

"One minute you'd be three feet into the edge of the fall, and the next minute we'd be right in the middle, as the fall became much wider. This also happened when the very strong winds blew the waterfall our way. There was no way of overcoming this. You just had to have faith in your abilities, and the rest of the team.

"To think we were the first people to stand on some of those ledges was a real privilege."