Exped 5050 Pt 1
In collaboration with Bravery, I have been given the privilege to write a blog about my current challenge and more specifically, about tackling fears.
EXPED 5050 is an eight year global challenge where I will complete 50 unique ‘missions’ before I turn 50. The missions will vary from retracing my grandfather’s WWII POW route from capture at Dunkirk to his final POW camp in Poland, to summiting 50 high points in every imaginable environment (some challenges consist of 50 sub tasks).
The one mission that echos the whole ethos of Bravery is the #50Falls. I came up with this mission to tackle my own personal demons. I don’t have a fear of heights, but I have definite fear of falling! By taking on skydives, bungy jumps and platform falls, I hope to slowly teach myself to overcome this fear. I guess I want to have the bottle to be able to do something that will take me out of my comfort zone, without hesitation.
My earliest memory of this fear was standing on the ‘high board’ at a military pool with my back to the water. The ‘bottle tester’ was for you fall backwards, hands by your sides and (if you were lucky) do a reverse head dive into the water below. Pain and embarrassment quickly followed as I was no Tom Daley and surfaced to a torrent of positive criticism from the Royal Marine instructor. For whilst I was falling, I found my fear and did a convincing impression of a tortured Chewbacca!
Fast forward 25 years, and I find myself 233m up the highest building in Macau, China for part of my yearly Signature challenge of Exped 5050. I’ve come to the Macau Tower for two #50Falls tasks. Not only does the building have the World’s Highest Bungy Jump, but it is also host to the World’s Highest Urban Tower Climb.
When I first found these two ideas, I thought the bungy would be the toughest test so far – 233m above the ground, and you’re falling for most of it! However, I completely underestimated the Tower Climb.
The climb task takes you from the 233m high observation platform up a series of internal and external ladders, to the very pinnacle of the tower at 338m above the ground; and I mean the very top, you are literally hugging the aircraft warning lights. Wearing my body harness (and Bravery tee for extra motivation!) I tackled the internal ladders with relative ease. They were straightforward enough and it allowed me to become confident with clipping in and out after each set. After about four sets, we came to an ‘escape hatch’ which led us outside…
I clipped on to the first of two separate external ladders. As I started getting into the rhythm of the climb, I felt an increasing unease in myself. The exposure of the vast open space was overwhelming. The spire I was climbing up was only slightly wider than a telegraph pole and had tiny 6 inch handles for you to grip. I felt insignificant and with the increased exposure, my mind started playing tricks. I felt that I didn’t have sufficient grip and I was losing sensation in my hands – not something I can recommend 300m above the ground clinging to what feels like the end of a branch! I tried to focus on my climbing technique, not looking up or down – both directions were terrifying. I eventually made it to the top. With a foot width of platform space in-between the warning lights, there was no room to relax, unless you leant back! I eventually summoned up enough courage to trust myself and my kit and (with my heart in my mouth) went hands-free!
The views were simply breathtaking – mainland China across to the west and the casino rich sights of Macau to the North. I almost felt relaxed until the platform started to wobble. In terms of fear, I thought this was manageable. However, my female guide, half my age and who had all the confidence in the world, had other ideas. She proceeded to show me how much more the spire could rock, as she vigorously pulled and pushed on the safety hand rail which left me leaning dangerously backwards over the edge! A few choice words and a series of retaken photographs later (once I’d found my sense of humour), I had the equally stressful task of going back down the ladders.
Back down at the observation deck, I had the unenviable experience of watching others fall to their simulated deaths (bungy) for an hour whilst I waited for my slot and next dose of fear.