Whatever You Do, Do Not Stop Running – Or We’ll Die!
Those were the words coming out of the mouth of the man I was strapped to. That’s the moment I second guessed my decision. Perhaps I experienced a moment of altitude sickness and I just wasn’t quite thinking right? No, I knew exactly what I was doing… I chose this; even worse, I paid 100 Swiss Francs to do this!
There I was high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Swiss Alps. I had always wanted to paraglide; it is similar to hang-gliding except you run and jump off of a mountain with an open parachute. To me, this seemed safer than skydiving because the parachute was already open. I figured there was no better place to do it than the Swiss Alps, an amazing place that I absolutely love to visit.
Breathing in the fresh mountain air while enjoying the stunning view of the high rocky peaks, the only sound heard is the low howl of the wind in the distance. It’s such a peaceful place, so I guess that’s why I wanted to soar over this gorgeous valley with a parachute strapped to my back?!?
Anyway, my parents and I were staying in the high village of Murren and there are a number of companies and independent guides that you can sign up with to take you paragliding. Every day you see them jumping from different areas in the Swiss Alps and floating down into the lush valleys below.
My guide had been paragliding all over the world, and this was one of his favorite places to launch. The ironic thing about the journey is the piece of paper that you sign before you run off the mountain. If we were in the States it would have been some kind of waiver, basically signing your life away. However, in Switzerland paragliding is considered a form of transportation, seriously! Basically you sign a “contract” with your guide, and they are agreeing to take full responsibility for transporting you from point A to point B safely… regardless of the method of travel. In this case, the transportation is simply a parachute!
So, here I am being strapped to a man I just met. My dad is across from me getting all hooked up in his gear too. He’s just as excited as I am, unfortunately for my mother I get my sense of adventure from him. Mom decided to watch from safe distance on the ground. I felt fine about my decision until the moment before we took off, when my guide felt the need to emphasize the importance of ignoring my natural instincts to stop before we ran off the edge of the cliff! So I just put my trust in him and ran as fast as I could.
Once we were in the air, it was unbelievable! We soared past waterfalls, steep and rocky cliffs, over small villages that you could see were precariously perched on the edge, and over intensely green fields at the bottom of the valley. It was quite a rush, and the view of a lifetime.
Then, all too soon, the trip was over. The ground was approaching fast, and I was having a hard time focusing on the instructions from my guide, due to all the adrenaline pumping through my system. My last and final concern was that I not end this amazing experience by landing face first into a cow-pie! Luckily, mission accomplished.