I would have felt really, really stupid if I’d died bungee jumping.I can imagine meeting other deceased folks up there in heaven and swapping death stories.

“So Tristan, how’d you go?”

“I, um… jumped off of a bridge.”

“Why’d you do that??”

“Uh… I thought it would be fun…

As I was driving to the bungee site in southern Washington, I kept telling myself that everything was going to be just fine. Thousands of people bungee at this place every year. The company behind this operation owned bungee.com, for crying out loud. That had to count for something, right? (Oh, and at 200 feet, this is the tallest bungee jump in the United States.)

No matter how much I tried to reassure myself, I could help thinking that this was a dumb idea. There’s an inherent risk in rock climbing and mountaineering, activities that I do regularly. But I’m in control. I know what I’m doing when I tie my knots or step into my crampons. I know my equipment and I know my abilities.  I have many years’ experience in the mountains to rely on. When it comes down to it, I know I won’t die climbing because I’d have to let myself die climbing. And that just isn’t going to happen.

But with bungee jumping, I just had to surrender myself completely to a girl with a nose ring and finger-toe shoes and her dreadlocked cronies. She made sure I’d filled out the paperwork, they made sure I was properly rigged and ready to go. They counted down: “Three, two, one, jump!” And I jumped.

The jumping part was bad. It’s an extremely unnatural thing to do. As a climber, I’m usually desperately trying to hang on to things in the air, not willingly part with them. You tell yourself, “Don’t think about it, just do it!” But come on, is that really a good mantra for anything in life?

I think the thing that shocked me more than anything was just how fast I fell. I jumped and then… I was bouncing around. I don’t remember being scared while I was falling, but I was still feeling the lingering impressions of it as I was dangling on the end of the bungee cords. It’s like how you only realize after eating your entire sandwich that oh wait, there was mayonnaise on it.

They lowered a line to me and winched me back up. When I got to the top, the cronies asked if I wanted to do it again. I said yes, paid the extra $20, and jumped off backwards.

[Click any photo for a larger version]

The first jump:

The first jump

The first jump


The second jump:

The second jump

The second jump

Falling back

The second jump

End of jump 2