Two Chutes to the Wind

Heart racing, I shuffled through the door, the snow capped peaks of the Rockies in the distance, the forceful gust of air trying to tear me from the plane, the tiny structures barely visible below …“3, 2, 1, GO!” and we’re plummeting toward the earth. It feels as though the skin on my face is being sucked backward as we seesaw about, arms and legs spread-eagled, trying to find equilibrium. Through the rush of air, James – my tandem jumper – shouts in my ear, “Time to pull the chute!” Seconds later we’re jolted upright.

As we drift toward the earth, I can hear a loud flapping noise, and James is fiddling with something. “Hold this.” he yells, handing me the left steering handle, while he continues to fiddle with the other one. At this point I venture a look upward, my heart skips multiple beats; half our parachute is tangled and bunched together.

“Hold on! We’re going for another ride!” he yells, and we drop like a stone. Out of the corner of my eye I see our chute fading into the blue horizon and seconds later another jolt as we shoot upward again.

The backup chute has deployed, but the adventure isn’t over yet. James hands me some cables, which I dutifully stuff down my jumpsuit, while he explains that, although all is good, our spare chute is smaller and we should expect a hard landing.

Our attention turns to surviving a potentially ass-numbing landing by targeting our decent toward landing a tiny black patch, some 1,000 feet below. Coming in fast, I raise my legs, thankful I’ll be landing on James if anything goes wrong. The black patch grows larger, and larger, and larger, and…we’re down, a perfect landing. Standing up, we high-five, as James shouts: “Shall we get a drink?”