“It’s on my bucket list! I’m just dying to go! Just a little more preparation and I’ll be ready. Maybe this time next year. I have to be in better shape than I am now. No, I don’t have a trainer who has the experience, helping me. How high? It’s over 25,000 ft. Do I know I’ll need Oxygen at that altitude? Well, I never thought about it. My legs will feel like lead? Gee, guess I still have lots of training to do.”
It’s safe to say that the above may fit in that category of unrealistic expectations. Better yet that of dreams. Some plan all their life to do something, until it reaches the point they can’t. Any excuse will serve as a reason, rather than face the fact that fear was indeed a factor.
Some of my favorite places are the most difficult to get to. As a boy it was not uncommon to climb to the skinniest limbs in the highest tree that could be found. As a five year old, it was going down the 40 foot high, water slide at the community pool. When that became too boring it was diving off the 3 ½ meter high dive.
Getting my first airplane ride at the age of five may have had something to do with the love of height. Since then there have been more adventures jumping out of swings, or off the top of garden sheds with capes, only to discover they don’t fly very well.
From there to climbing the 897 steps of the Washington Monument which is 555 ft. tall at age 11. Then came scaling the heights of fire towers in the local state park that were 1058 feet high around age 14. Perhaps climbing the water tower in my hometown to paint our Senior Class numerals at age 18 was epic!
But it hasn’t stopped there. Having the chance to go up mountains in Ecuador have taken me to heights over 13,500 feet above sea level, where the Oxygen is thin, but the panorama is breathtaking! When the air is clear at that height distant snow caps of the Andean Chain can be seen, as well as the sprawling city of Quito.
It’s likely the ultimate experience of height was at age 60, skydiving from 13,000 feet! If there is anything that can be compared to human flight that would have to be it. Of course the flying suits that have been developed for cliff jumpers is even more extreme and as dangerous as it might sound.
Understanding what draws me to find yet higher places to go is what is interesting. It doesn’t seem to be about the accomplishment nearly as much as the journey. It took 40 years to finally have the opportunity to go skydiving. And it can be said there was never one second of nervousness during the entire event. That was a very interesting observation.
The mountains have welcomed me to their heights on many occasions. The absolute awe at the magnificence of everything that is captured with the naked eye is humbling. Yet to know it is there for my pleasure goes beyond that. To think that one can conquer a mountain seems so ludicrous. When a climber has reached the highest peaks of Everest, Ojos del Salado on the Chile/Argentine border, Mt. Chimborazo, or Kilimanjaro, the thought occurs that they have only been pardoned by the mountain for a brief moment in time.
Yet it seems men are destined to look for those high places, and to find a way to get there. In just over 100 years man has gone from flimsy one-man airplanes flying a distance of 26 miles, to a trip of 238,857 miles to the Moon! And there are space objects traveling beyond what might be considered up or down. But since the initial direction from launch is up, all direction outward may be looked at as that.
How much higher can we go? Better yet, how much further up is there? It’s one thing to climb when there is a limit to how far you can climb. Something else completely when you are willing to jump off a cliff or out of a plane, knowing there is only so far you down to fall. Ask yourself what you would do if those limits were removed? I’ve asked myself, and my initial reaction is…I’ll stick with the parachute! Come to think of it, Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 ft. with a parachute. Hmm…