Published in the Los Angeles Times
When audiences for the new animated Pixar movie "Up" watch a 78-year-old man tie helium balloons to his house to fly away to South America, many might assume the tale is a whimsical bit of fantasy, like a rat who cooks gourmet meals or a trash compactor who falls in love. What moviegoers might not know is that some people have actually tried such a stunt. Sort of.
Cluster ballooning, as it's called, is one of the world's loneliest adventure sports, and isn't for the faint of heart. These brave souls take flight by inflating a large number of helium balloons and tying them not to a house, of course, but to a chair (or sometimes to just a harness).
"People don't believe you when they say you're going to fly your chair," says Jonathan Trappe, 36, a cluster balloonist in Raleigh, N.C. "They don't understand what you're saying."