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Real Life UP: The Story of a Priest Who Flew Thousands of Feet in the Air Tied to 600 Balloons for Charity

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Did you know this fascinating backstory to the movie Up?

Who wouldn’t love the chance to fly?

The idea of strapping ourselves to hundreds of brightly-colored balloons has been engrained in our minds by films like Danny Deckchair and Up and by the likes of real people like “Lawnchair” Larry Walters, who rose to 15,000 feet outside of Los Angeles after strapping 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair back in 1982.

The concept later evolved into a sort of extreme sport, literally taking humans up into the heavens on the adventure of a lifetime. But naturally, not unlike the myth of Icarus, flying too high comes with the inherent risk of falling.

balloon 1

Source: Twitter @ppaulabarbosa_

This priest got more when he bargained for after taking off with hundreds of helium balloons.

Cluster ballooning is the extreme sport in which an individual or team are strapped to helium-filled balloons in order to take flight.

balloon featured

Source: Twitter @BarcroftUSA

Practiced by amateurs and experts alike, cluster ballooning is a thrilling but also extremely dangerous pastime that often leaves its practitioners at the mercy of the elements like wind and cold.

The Guinness Book of World Records currently recognizes the highest altitude reached in cluster ballooning as 18,300 feet, set by Mike Howard of the UK and Steve Davis of the USA in 2001. The record is, at the moment, contested by Joe Barbera of Washington state, who claims to have reached 21,194 feet in 2013.

Some of the more impressive feats of cluster ballooning include Jonathan Trappe’s crossing of the English Channel in 2010.

In April 2008, Roman Catholic priest and accomplished skydiver Adelir Antônio de Carli attempted to set a new cluster ballooning record in order to raise funds and awareness for his faith.

balloon priest

Source: YouTube @catholicnewsagency

Based in the port city of Paranaguá, Brazil, de Carli was an avid supporter of human rights. In order to raise funds for a spiritual retreat area for truck drivers, the priest set out to break a cluster ballooning world record.