update on yesterday’s high altitude jump: 99 seconds of freefall and getting past the fear to get to the beautiful…

So I did my first high altitude jump yesterday (from 23,000 feet!). I was nervous and excited. More nervous than usual – maybe because I hadn’t jumped in a couple of months, or maybe because it was a new, scary thing, or some combination of both. After our organizer, Marius, briefed us on the procedures, Peter, Mark and I decided to do a 3-way formation, or rather, we would try to do some semblance of a formation, and have fun in the process. 😉

It was cold, around 50 degrees on the ground (10 degrees celsius), which means it was a good 40 degrees colder or so at altitude. Getting bundled up, I rushed to the rig shop where my reserve was just finished being re-packed (a maintenance procedure that’s required every 180 days). There was a little drama because the rigger had misunderstood and didn’t realize I needed my rig ready that early, so I almost didn’t make the jump because it was still being re-packed (the spring was still out when I rushed in to get it with a 10-minute call time!).

The ride up to altitude was surprisingly quick, probably because it was a light load/not many people were on board. Around 15,000 feet, Marius told us to put our oxygen tubes on (the oxygen is needed because the air is thinner up there). This is me, smiling/biting my oxygen tubes on the ride up, which I then switched to my nose, where, logically, it worked better.

Around 22,360 feet, the green light went on and the door opened. Incredibly cold air rushed in, and Peter, Mark and I piled into the doorway. I find that once I get out of the plane, all the fear melts away, and as I stand at the door ready to jump, it’s like a small meditation – you can’t jump with your fears and stresses, so quite literally, you have to leave them at the door, and just jump!

Because the air is thinner at higher altitudes, your body (and the usual stable arched position) tends not to be as stable and so there was a bit of flailing around at first, but then we were able to stabilize and fly with each other. We were in a circle then did a 360 degree turn, then Peter and I linked up again while Mark flew toward us, coming into his slot in our formation. For some strange reason, with 10,000 feet still left in the jump and Mark coming into his slot, Peter broke off and flew away. I’d like to blame it on hypoxia and say that he didn’t get enough oxygen thru those tubes, but really I think it’s just his regular ADHD. 😉

In any case, there was still tons of air time left so I tracked away and played around a bit, enjoying the horizon and the freefall, making my way back to the dropzone and landing safely within it. We clocked 99 seconds of freefall time, which is an amazing amount of freefall! It makes me wonder how much freefall time I could get with my wingsuit! I bet I could double that.

All in all, a great first high altitude jump and am happy to have shared it with friends on one of my fave dropzones, Skydive City…and a good reminder that you sometimes have to get past the fear, to get to the beautiful stuff. Check out the 10 Commandments of Skydiving: starting with”Be brave” all the way down to “Be joyous” – IMO, it’s a lovely life philosophy, regardless of whether you’re a skydiver or not. Blue skies!

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