Ask Jane Dougall what it’s like to jump out of an airplane at 29,500 feet with Mount Everest and the vast spread of the Himalayas below you, and she’ll tell you it was incredible, spectacular, thrilling, the experience of a lifetime.
Now ask her if she’d do it again.
“Absolutely not,” the reporter for a Scottish television station told TODAY’s Ann Curry Wednesday from Nepal, one day after she became the first woman from her country to skydive from above the world’s highest mountain. “It was the most phenomenal chance of a lifetime; I really did appreciate doing it at the time. But I’m gonna admit, hands up, I’m a coward, I’m scared, and no, I don’t think I’d like to do it again.”
Curry asked the obvious question: If it was so scary, why did she do it?
“I think it was just something to annoy the boss,” Dougall joked.
Jumping at the chance
The real story was that there was a group of 32 skydivers, including some Scots, who had been planning for two years to make the jump that very few people in the world have ever experienced. Dougall’s television station suggested that she do a story on them. And, oh, by the way, to get really up close and personal, she should do the jump with them.
“It was an amazing opportunity, something that I definitely couldn’t pass up,” said the 30-year-old journalist. “The people who were organizing this … just wanted to go somewhere they’d never skydived before, and above the highest mountain in the world seemed like the perfect place. So when the chance was given to me to do it as well, even though I’d never skydived before, I said yes.”
The group flew to Nepal, where they spent a week hiking up to the world’s highest drop zone, more than 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas. The day after they arrived, they suited up in special thermal clothing, helmets, goggles and oxygen masks, and boarded the single-engine propeller airplanes from which they would launch themselves towards the roof of the world.
Along for the ride
The practice jump didn’t really make it any less terrifying, Dougall told Curry.
Dougall then described the jump itself: “As we got up to 29,500 feet, they opened the door, and all I could see was just the Himalayas, just the most beautiful, spectacular range of mountains; the snow-topped peaks. It was just unbelievable. I have to admit, though, I wasn’t really appreciating it at the time. I was thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness. That looks very far down.’ ”
Dougall didn’t actually jump out of the plane. Harnessed to a professional skydiver, Ralph Mitchell, she simply went along for the ride when he stepped out of the plane. “So I didn’t get a chance to back out at all,” Dougall said. “He jumped out, and I went with him.”
They were in freefall for a minute, breathing through their oxygen masks because there is so little oxygen at that altitude. “As we were coming down, the clouds and the mountains just seemed to be coming up slowly towards me, because we were going at 120 miles an hour. It really was incredible,” Dougall told Curry.
Once the parachute opened and they were lower, Dougall said she was able to take her mask off and enjoy the rest of the ride to the drop zone. Tape of the jump shows Dougall and Mitchell coming in for a perfect landing at the end of the greatest adventure of her life.
An adventure she never intends to have again.