Who says I'm afraid of heights? I DO!!
No doubt about it, I'm scared to death of high places. I don't even like getting up on top of a 6-foot ladder. Seriously. Anyone who knows me well knows just how much I hate heights. I even get a queasy feeling in my stomach when I see someone near a ledge. I don't even like leaning on a safe, secure railing from a high place. Sure, I've gone up some pretty high mountains with steep ledges, but that took a lot of working up to and it was at least a little more safe feeling - I could go backwards and be on a huge chunk of mountain away from a fall.
So imagine my feelings when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came along to climb a nearly 300-foot tall wind turbine. One the one hand, NO FREAKIN' WAY. On the other, not many people get to do this and I'll probably never have another chance. So I figured I'd take the opportunity.
After being trained on what to do and how to climb it, the last part of certification was the actual climb. The climb itself wasn't too bad...you climb up inside the tower. I was surprised at how hot it is in there. There are platforms you stop and regroup that cuts the entire climb into approximately thirds. Only one person is allowed on the ladder at a time, so each one goes to the next platform, gets off, then the next, and so on until we all regroup. There were 6 of us that day. You're attached to a cable the whole time and you climb the ladder so that your back is right up against the wall. These two things made it a lot easier to not get scared just so long as I didn't look down.
Once up on top, in the little box on the tower called the nacelle, the scary part was over for me. The nacelle is large (maybe 8-9 feet tall) and there's no real view out the sides. The tower sways from the wind and inside the nacelle, you feel like you're in the hull of a ship at sea. It wasn't bad.
I was also surprised that poking my head out of the top for the first time wasn't that bad either. It helped because you can only see out and up when poking your head out, not down.
When it was my turn to go out on top of the nacelle, I was nervous. But decided to not think about it and just do it. You are double-latched with saftey lanyards the whole time, so I tried to just think about it logically that even if I fell, I wasn't going anywhere. It also helped that the wind techs take safety very seriously and go through extra precautions...you have to be completely careless and not follow the protocol in order to screw something up bad enough to have an accident.
The view from the top was amazing.
I actually walked to the edge and peered over the side at the 300-foot-drop. This is what cars look like from up that high.
The climb down was the least fun part to me. Instead of doing it in sections, you just go down the ladder all the way to the bottom. To make sure you aren't sneaking up on the person below you, you do have to look down from time to time. This was unnerving for me as I was forced to see how high up I actually was.
It was a very cool experience and I'm really appreciative of having this opportunity. The facility staff and wind techs were great, especially easing my fears as they knew I was petrified of heights. It was definitely an experience I'll remember for the rest of my life!
Full photo set found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10947447@N08/sets/72157624536204783/with/4863388027/