Abseil down Barns Ness Lighthouse by Ed

@ Barns Ness Lighthouse

On Friday I was sitting at my computer reading the BBC website looking for things to do & events for the weekend. All of a sudden, something caught my eye:

If you have a head for heights take part in the abseil down Barns Ness Lighthouse, Dunbar, on 2 October. Money raised goes to MacMillan Cancer Support.

My first thought was cool, I could take the kids down to see that. Rose works on a Saturday (for red & rosy) so I am always looking for things to do.

Then all of a sudden, I had some crazy idea that I should do it. Must be something to do with getting older but out of the blue I contacted the charity (Macmillan) and I signed up for it.

Even though it was less than 24 hours away and I needed to raise a minimum of £100, for some strange deluded reason, I did it. I think I am having a mid–life crisis. I am petrified of heights (not a phobia, just petrified), what was I doing?

Within 45 minutes my friends on Facebook and SMS had pledged over £100 worth of donations which meant I was free to do it. Nothing could stop me now, apart from me.

I tried not to think about the task in hand the rest of Friday AND Saturday morning, and even as we drove down the coast the task in hand was still a bit unreal. Rose, Jack, Toby, Noah, Mum & Dad had come to support me and it was only as they left me with the equipment guy did I start to feel nervous.

I put on a harness, pair of gloves and a helmet, shown the door to the lighthouse and off I went up the 169 steps to the top. The lighthouse was tall but it didn’t look that tall. Surely this would be easy?

As I slowly walked up the stairs I got a call on my mobile (I kid you not, it was from my Financial Advisor Paul, he was calling me to discuss a new life insurance policy I am setting up). I put the call onto answerphone and continued the long climb to the top.

Once reaching the top, there were two of the guys there waiting for the next idiot. A few minutes training and I was ready to go. First things first I took a wee picture of the view from the top (see below for my family as small dots).

View from the top of Barns Ness Lighthouse (looking down)
📷 Photograph: Ed Henderson
View from the top of Barns Ness Lighthouse (looking down)
📷 Photograph: Ed Henderson

Now came the hardest part. Getting from the safety of lighthouse, over the railings. I probably took longer than I should have to get the courage to climb over the railings. By now I was all roped up but I didn’t want to fall at this point, climbing over a 4 foot railing. I can just see it now, how did your Dad die?

I stood on the unsafe side of the railings for a good few minutes, plucking the courage to go down. Because of the design of the lighthouse, the first step involved taking a "leap of faith", out and under the lip, i.e. you couldn’t see where to step.

I tried a bit more banter with the expert to delay a bit more but in the end ran out of one liners. Standing on the edge was the scariest thing I have done in my life, my legs were shaking and I felt sick to my stomach. All I could think was "don’t die, don’t die". I then came to the conclusion that if I didn’t do it, the amount of abuse I would receive would be unbearable AND I didn’t want to disappoint my kids who were watching their Daddy!

As I let go the railings, I was now hanging on a rope only. I took one last look at the dude and said for the last person I may see alive, you ain’t much of a looker, he laughed, so I said I love you and let go.

Me at the top of Barns Ness Lighthouse abseiling down
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson
Me at the top of Barns Ness Lighthouse abseiling down
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson

I was now hanging at the height of 9 double decker buses swaying in the wind (wearing shorts might I add) slowly edging myself down the lighthouse. I got about 3 feet down when the rope would go no more. I shouted up to the dude that I was stuck and the technique he had shown me was not working. He disappeared for a second then stuck his head back over the edge, sorry mate, the rope was caught on the door, and loosened it.

Aaaarghhh! I dropped about 3 inches and almost soiled myself.

Me abseiling down Barns Ness Lighthouse
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson
Me abseiling down Barns Ness Lighthouse
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson

I spent what seemed like an eternity coming down (in the end it was about 2 minutes) and if I’m honest didn’t look down, round or up till I got about 40 feet from the bottom. At that point I afforded myself a look at the kids, the camera, a whoo–hoo and a bounce.

Me abseiling down Barns Ness Lighthouse (nearly at the bottom)
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson
Me abseiling down Barns Ness Lighthouse (nearly at the bottom)
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson

Few more seconds and I was on solid land again. I have never been so glad to be on the ground. The crew asked me if I wanted another shot, I am sure you can guess my answer.

Me finished abseiling down Barns Ness Lighthouse (on solid ground)
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson
Me finished abseiling down Barns Ness Lighthouse (on solid ground)
📷 Photograph: Rose Henderson

Abseil down lighthouse, check.