I was on my knees hugging the wall inside the slim tower. Gravity tugged at my torso, threatening to pitch me down the stairs, push me out the window, or over the railing. It was a monster and I was cowed, swaying, scraping my ankle as slowly, panting I retreated to the ground. It was my first time encountering vertigo. How could I know that decades later hurling myself off a mountain on one of the longest zipline tours in the world would cure the fear? The guides and system at Zipline New York made it easy. (This post was inspired during a press trip with NY Tourism.)
“Great fear is concealed under daring.” —Lucan
I’ve done other daring things – scuba diving with sharks without a cage, riding white-knuckled on rollercoasters with my young son, and enduring recurring dreams of falling. Vertigo stumped me. It would flare at odd times, then remain dormant at others. But the idea of flying over treetops, of feeling like a soaring bird lured me towards my first zipline tours.
There’s an adventure park on Isla Mujeres near Cancun that has a short series of ziplines over the soft blue sea. It wasn’t terribly high. I strapped in and flew away, concentrating on looking like I was having fun for my hosts. My hands were sweaty as I stepped into the raised palapa and slid through to the beach beyond. Mission accomplished but it wasn’t fun.
“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” —Bear Grylls
The next attempt took me to the highlands of Maui and I was initially excited. The guide chilled my enthusiasm as he instructed us on how to land and what to do if we got stuck in the middle of the line across the valley. I made it across clinched up and then wrenched my hip on that first stop. Later in the series of zips I just powered through but never enjoyed the experience.
Why would I sign up for zip line tours ever again?
“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” —Dale Carnegie
At the time I didn’t know that repeating my experience was one of the best ways to get over my vertigo. It’s called Exposure – facing the fear over and over to conquer it. When I was invited on a press trip to the Catskills and Hudson Valley I was elated. It’s a beautiful region that I’d never explored but in the middle of the itinerary was one of those zipline tours. I started thinking about it and could’ve excused myself but again that lure of flying, the beauty of those mountains, and a chance to get close to the effortless green hills after living in endless drought drew me forward. It turns out that anticipation of the thing you fear and preparing to face it is also a way through to triumph.
Here’s a video about the zipline tours experience
I thought about how to prepare and did yoga to relax my hips on the morning of the trip. On the way up the mountain, I quietly practiced some breathing techniques to slow my heart and ease anxiety. Determination pulled me onward but the best part was meeting our guides at New York Zipline. They were a professional but fun trio of roustabouts and I let banter keep me from thinking about tragic scenarios. They quelled my fears by gently showing us what to do, how they would set up our equipment, and take care of us. I trusted them.
“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” —Napoleon Hill
Once on the mountain, there was no going back. The lines were tandem and I watched the first couple buckle up, run off the platform and leap. There were no screams, they just smoothly faded to dots and disappeared. My turn came and I told my tandem buddy that as soon as the guide yelled, ‘Go,’ I was jumping. Knowing I was fully clicked in, I ran and leaped into space.
This line was the longest in the Western Hemisphere! I was about 3,200 feet above sea level. A deep, lush valley stretched out below and I was flying over it all. Something kicked in and I had to release the excitement. I started singing at the top of my lungs! Before I knew it the platform was before me but I slipped to a stop about 100 feet in front of it. Dangling, I watched the guide, Dabo, jump to the line and cross hand over hand towards me in a few seconds. He swiftly clipped onto my line and reversed direction, dragging me with him. In a few seconds, I was standing on the platform my knees shaking but so darn happy!
“Action cures fear, inaction creates terror.” —Douglas Horton
For the next two hours, we zipped and climbed, crossed Burma Bridge – a high, swinging suspension bridge crossed on foot while attached to a raised line, and once we even swung backward to a stop. It was crazy fun and after my first leap, my vertigo was forgotten. I only felt a bit queasy on the bridge, still couldn’t look around with abandon, and kept my hands on the stabilizer instead of spinning like several of my fellow fliers did. I may never be as brave as they were but I’ll be looking for more zipline tours in the future. It’s not going to be easy to top those flights around Hunter Mountain in the Catskills.
More about zipline tours with Zipline New York:
- There are 5 dual racing ziplines spanning 4.6 miles
- Altitude is up to 3,200 feet long & 600 feet above the valley
- You reach speeds of up to 50 mph
- There’s a 500 foot self-powered “zap-line” challenge or you can choose to traverse the Burma bridge
- You must be 110-260 lbs & no taller than 6’5”
I was a guest of New York Tourism for the tour but all impressions and opinions are my own.