Tuesday, August 26, 2014

acrophobia and flying through the air

For all of my life—or at least for as long as I can remember—I have had acrophobia—an irrational fear of heights. I could barely stand looking down from a second story window without a panic attack. I remember going to New York with my parents, taking the elevator to the top of the Empire state Building and being afraid to go close even to the observation spots. I could just see the protective wall and screening falling away and me falling all the way to the ground. Splat!
As I got older I tried to conquer that fear. I tried deep breathing when I was at a high place. I tried imagining I was only two feet from the ground. Yeah, well, that didn’t work too well. I scared myself so much looking down from the fifteenth floor window of a hotel room that I refused to get a room higher than the second floor after that.
So I moved along through life, avoiding heights at all costs. Telling people I got nosebleed if I got higher the ten feet from the ground. All kinds of stories. Then some friends of mine, who are RVing around the country, sent pictures of themselves ziplining. And it just looked like so much fun.
What is zip lining, you ask? A zipline consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on an incline. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to, or attaching to, the freely moving pulley. 
Now of course you’d say, are you crazy? A woman with acrophobia wants to go ziplining? But the more I thought about  it the more I wanted to do it. So a few years ago when I took my family to Las Vegas over Christmas, my daughter made arrangements for us to go ziplining over Bootleg Canyon.
It was quite an adventure. First, a van takes you as closed to the top of the mountain as it can drive. Then the guides give you what felt like ten thousand pounds of gear to haul the rest of eh way to the top. When they asked if someone needed help with that I raised my hand. You bet. And huge thanks to my son and son-in-law who walked with me every step of the way on that twisty path to the summit.
I was so proud of myself that I didn’t get nervous our faint or throw up, even though we kept going higher and higher. At the top is a wide platform with four places for people to hook up. The guides help you into the safety harnesses and make sure every buckle is buckled and every strap in ;place. Then they position you on the platform and hook you to the pulley.

The zipline is in four separate sections, each section 2,000 feet long. There you are on the platform, and below you, more than a mile, is gorgeous Bootleg Canyon.
Again I was shocked that I didn’t have a full-blown panic attack. My kids kept checking with me to make sure I was all right and I assured them I was. The guide asked once more if I was ready. When I nodded he unlocked the pulley and gave me a push off.
And there I was, flying over the canyon at sixty miles an hour.
And I wasn’t afraid!

Damn straight!
It was actually exhilarating. And freeing. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before.
And I was so proud of myself when I worked my legs and body at the approach to the next problem, landing without kicking anyone or destroying myself. At each station there is a guide who unhooks you from that pulley and hooks you up to the next one. So there I was, off again flying over Bootleg Canyon.

And enjoying it!
Can I just say it was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done. And surprise! I was ready to do it again!
As you can see by the pictures, it really was a blast.
Since then I have actually stayed in hotel rooms as nigh as the twenty-third floor and not had the urge to throw up or fall down on the floor.
And I can’t wait to go ziplining again.


  1. Wow! That's courage. Good for you. Skydiving next?

  2. I'm still hoping to fly in a hot air balloon while I'm still limber enough to climb into one.

  3. Sounds like something I'd like to do! I did parasailing in Mexico, and the safety belts, buckles and harness pretty much took away the fear of the possibilities.

    I've seen opinions that the fear of heights translates to not trusting ourselves to *not* step off the edge. If you think about it, heights can be that intoxicating.

  4. I'm not nervous about heights for myself, but I do get close to freaking out when some else gets too near an edge.

  5. Daddy X, I think you said it best - not trusting ourselves. I found this so exhilarating. And Spencer? If my kids would let me skydiving is definitely on my list.

  6. They do say that the best way to conquer a fear is to face it head-on. That being said, though I'm not particularly afraid of heights, you won't find me zip-lining or sky-diving or even riding on a hot-air balloon (a friend of mine's wife gave him a ride on one for his birthday, it got tangled with electrical wires and was disastrous for all on the ride.)

    I guess I'm not much of a daredevil, though I used to be when younger. The older I get, the more safely I want to play things. I'm all too aware that the grim reaper is waiting around a corner somewhere, and I'll never know which corner until I see him. I'm not in any hurry to find out or invite him to speed things up. Just call me a wimp, I guess.

    1. Not a wimp, Fiona-just wary. The older we get, the easier things break, and harder to heal.

  7. Desiree, you are inspiring!

    On top of going to BDSM clubs...!

    Actually, I'd like to try zip-lining but my hubby is definitely not a fan of heights. And somehow I feel that it wouldn't be much fun to leave him behind.

    Thanks for a great story on the topic.

  8. In Alaska they offered zip-lining. I seriously considered it until I was standing on the topmost deck of the ship looking down into the ocean so freaking far below I felt sick - no hanging from a zipline for me! Call me anything you like - I don't care!

  9. Desiree, that is an exhilarating post. I'm glad you overcame your fear! Sacchi, I've gone up in a hot-air balloon, and as far as I know, it's probably as safe as driving or travelling by plane. The view is incredible: you're above the highest building, but closer to the ground than in an airplane. I would go again, even though the landings can be rough, which is why passengers are advised to wear pants & long sleeves (i.e. keep most of your skin covered with at least one layer of protective fabric).

  10. I went up in a glider with a friend in California's wine country. The cabin was so small that my friend and I know each other much better now. It was a lovely, quiet ride, the only noise the whistling of the wind. Once we were up there, the pilot told us what should have been obvious: When it comes to landings in a glider, you only get one chance at it.

  11. Desiree, this is so cool! Thanks for including the pictures! I have so much respect for people who face their fears as you did.