Conquering my fear of heights – Stratosphere Tower jump

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Skyjump Stratosphere

It was 4th July 2015. I was in Las Vegas with my wife – Laura. One of the main things I wanted to do in Sin City was jump off the Stratosphere Tower. The thought was terrifying as I have a long standing fear of heights and struggle to even stand on the balcony of a hotel when more than a few floors up. The fear made this challenge a particularly significant one. At 8.45am I declared to Laura “from this moment on I am no longer afraid of heights and today I am jumping off the Stratosphere.”

We had breakfast and got the bus to the tower.

Stratosphere Tower and Casino Las Vegas - 855 foot

Stratosphere Tower and Casino Las Vegas – 855 foot

On arrival we decided to have a quick go on the slots and have a beer for some Dutch courage. I was nervous, excited and a little anxious. Hence, I visited the toilets twice before plucking up the courage to go to the booking area. I kept the voice in my head repeating “you are not afraid of heights anymore, you are going to jump, thousands of people have done it before and plenty more will do it again…”

We eventually made our way to the booking area. I paid, signed my life away and had about an hour to kill before the jump. I went to the toilet for the third time then made my way outside with Laura to view others jumping. I thought seeing someone else successfully landing would ease my nerves. We got outside into the blistering heat. I looked up and like a tonne of bricks it hit me, “Oh shit, I am going to have to do this now. That is bloody high.” It was real and it was scary. I watched a couple of jumpers and it made absolutely no difference to my nerves. But I had made the commitment and wasn’t planning on backing out.

At 12pm I made way back up to the meeting point, obviously stopping at the toilet for a fourth time. They dressed me in a terrible blue and yellow Skyjump suit that looked like a badly fitted 1990’s shellsuit crossed with a onesie. They strapped on my harnesses which did nothing to improve the outfit and created a frame around my meat and two veg.

The girl directing me put a camera on my wrist, pressed record and asked me a couple of questions including… “You are getting ready to jump 855 feet, any last words?” Pardon? What do you mean any last words? That sounds ominous.

I anxiously recorded my ‘last words’ then went and sat with Laura waiting for my turn. As I waited I sipped a bottle of water to help calm my nerves. My name was called. I got up and made my way to the supervisor. “STOP,” she demanded. “You can’t take that water with you!” Okay, I thought and went to take another sip. “NOOO. You can’t drink any liquid or eat anything after you’ve been weighed.”

This compounded my nerves as I now had the niggling feeling that the half bottle of water I had just drunk was going to result in me splatting on the floor! Irrespective I kept quiet and hoped it would take more than 250ml of water to affect their calculations.

I made some hilarious comment about it feeling like we were on death row being marched to the execution room. The ‘any last words’ comment, our outfits looking like prisoner boiler suits and our sullen walk to the lift. They all laughed heartily. Well I say laughed heartily, I mean they looked at me and smirked uncomfortably.

The lift ride up was quicker than expected and we arrived on the 108th floor in no time.

Two supervisors approached us. With stereotypical American fervour and energy they gee’d us up.

‘Are you ready to jump the stratosphere?’ Yeah!!!

‘Are you excited?’ Yeah!!!

‘Are you pumped up?’ Yeah!!!

‘Gaz you’re up first, are you ready?’ Ummmmm?!?

They took me to the jumping area. As I stood 855 feet above Las Vegas I looked across the skyline and began to feel hot and bothered. A quick safety talk and check before I was harnessed in and attached to a cable that is connected to the ‘descender machine.’ Before I knew it I was hooked up, stood on the edge of the launch pad and having my photo taken.

Skyjump Stratosphere rock hands

Skyjump Stratosphere rock

I kept telling myself ‘just listen to his instructions and jump. Just listen to his instructions and jump. Just listen to his instructions and…’

“Wait for the countdown. Here it comes 3-2-1 go.”

It all happened so fast. I took the leap of faith without even thinking.

“B-A-N-Z-A-IIIIIIIIIIIIIII……” was my war cry when clearly “GERONIMO-O-O-OOO” is what I meant.

Skyjump Stratosphere Banzai

Skyjump Stratosphere Banzai

What a rush. The first 10 second of freefalling was incredible. Zero control. Rapidly falling. 35/40mph. Adrenaline was pumping. I was staring at the floor hundreds of feet below and falling at break neck speed towards it.

The magic engineering kicked in and I decelerated for a controlled and safe landing.

Stratosphere Final fall

Stratosphere Final fall

When my feet touched the floor I was exhilarated. On another planet in fact. If I could I would have run back to the top and done it again. $150 might seem a lot for twenty seconds excitement, but it was incredible and worth every penny. I am afraid of heights. I struggle to look down when three floors up and I had just jumped off the edge of a platform 855 feet and 108 floors up. I cannot recommend this enough. Only next time I will do the rides as well.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”– Nelson Mandela

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