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.
Well you certainly had a big smile on your face! But I will admit, the first mountain view even made this lover of heights a little dizzy! I’m so impressed you conquered your fears and must have had good guides for you to build up a sense of trust. /the speed was incredible. Loved hearing you on the video-it was so real!
Thanks so much, Alison. My enthusiasm and energy as the day progressed was mostly adrenaline and happiness that I did it.
My palms are sweaty and my heart is racing just from reading this. I don’t usually have a debilitating fear of heights although I admit to some queasiness walking across swaying suspension bridges in Fiordland National Park. I’m not sure I could have found the courage you displayed. I don’t have vertigo. I’d have to blame it on my dodgy rotator cuffs. OTOH, I love beautiful scenery. Such a quandary.
I think you’d do fine on this zip tour, Suzanne. The muscles that got the biggest workout were core and quad. It’s an incredible sport given the right outfit and place.
My first ever zip line experience over treetops was also in Hawaii, although it was not in Maui but the Big Island. I do not have vertigo but I do understand the fear of heights and the feeling of being able to conquer your fear by repeatedly doing something. I loved the zip line experience and I did not have any fear at all but I felt this kind of fear when I was doing my bungee in New Zealand. I don’t know how I did it, but I felt this exhilaration after being able to do it, more than the experience itself, it was the fact that I could look past my fear and do it! Kudos on your achievement!
Thanks, Medha. I’m not one for Bungee Jumping. I think it’s also being visually oriented that makes Ziplining so compelling.
Congratukations! You’ve conquered one of your fears. I’m also afraid of heights but I happen to love ziplines. 🙂
Here’s to more adventures!
Yay us! I do look forward to more adventures in the treetops.
Love all the quotes here about conquering your fears! Ziplining is something I still have yet to do. Wasn’t sure if it was worth it but if the setting is right I’d love to try.
You’ve got that right – all the factors have to conspire.
Good for you for conquering your fear and “doing it anyway”! While it sounds scary, it must have been exhilarating. The thrill of being suspended up high, knowing there was a guide to keep you safe. Your closing quote summed it up perfectly – Action Cures Fear. So proud of you!!
Thanks, Rosemary. I learned a lot about myself that day.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to zip line with my husband and daughter in Costa Rica. Instead, I chose to sit at the base area, cheering them on as they flew high above me. Though I’m not sure I regret it, I certainly wonder if my fear held me back from an experience that seemed to be so freeing and joyous. Maybe, if I get the chance again, I’ll make a different choice.
You have to do what is right for you in the moment. I do hope you get the chance again. Great bonding experience too.
I too had never tried zip lining. Despite having done over 150 skydives! We finally tried it for the first time this year in St Kitts. I can imagine that having vertigo would make ziplining a challenge for you. I am so glad that you finally got to try it. I did not know the longest line in the western hemisphere was in New York!
Wow, you’ve skydived that many times! That really scares me. I’ll watch, thanks.
I think this would be an achievement if you ever saw me on a zipline. I dont think I could handle it but willing to give it a go to find out. 🙂
Bring your GoPro and you’d focus on capturing the experience, perhaps?
I‘m afraid of heights and always try to walk on bridges or hike along cliffs to conquer my fear. Maybe I should try ziplining one day, although I hope I won‘t get a heart attack from that!
I respect my phobias but like you test myself occasionally. If it were a beautiful day, extraordinary place and you had great company, I bet you’d soar easily.
I have only done a small zipline where we jumped off a tower during a campout with my daughter’s Girl scout troop. You tackled an altitude of 3,200 feet long and 600 feet above the valley!! Kudos! Sounds thrilling!
Thanks, in retrospect it’s much more of an accomplishment than it was. I’m glad I didn’t know all the particulars and just jumped.
We were so excited when we heard about this zipline. It looks like so much fun. It was great seeing your photos and hearing your story. If you’re looking for zipline tours near SD, check out Catalina Island and the La Jolla Reservation up near the Orange County line.
Very cool. I’ve seen the Catalina Zip from afar but don’t feel inclined. The mountaintop is going to be hard to surpass.
Great stories about overcoming fear and discomfort. You really think you’ll do it again?
I would given the right place and group to zip with.
I totally agree with Napoleon Hill’s quote “Fears are nothing more than a state of mind”. I’ve found that it’s much easier to stride forward fearlessly and not overthink things until you’re paralysed with fear. Glad to hear you conquered your vertigo. It sounds like you’re ready to go on the zip-line tour again!!
There are so many things to do in the world, so I’m not sure about again. I’d go if I were there with family or friends, I imagine.
Congratulations on overcoming your fear and did something so fun and liberating! I did the same thing but personally I love yhe zip trekking. I hope it wouldn’t be the last time for you to do so. @ knycx.journeying
Thanks! I don’t imagine it’s my last time but there’s so much to do in the world.
Your story is inspiring! I’m afraid of heights, just don’t like them, but now I know I’ve just got to keep trying! 50MPH is really fast and being so high up I’m sure is an exhilarating experience. It’s all so green, something pretty to look at while you’re flying down a mountain! Thanks for sharing!
Glad you enjoyed this, Stevo. It was definitely a morning full of eye candy and adventure.
Zip Lining is a world of fun and this looks great. Amazing location and the Burma bridge looks fantastic in itself. I have been on a few short zip lines but nothing like this one. Our kids would be all over this
You and the family would love this experience.