Base jumping is dangerous. I accept the fact that accidents can happen but for the most part accidents are preventable through risk management, making smart decisions and controlling self ego.
The actual pioneering days of the sport are well and truly over but each jumper is still their personal pioneer which I respect. But as the rest of the world seems to get dumber and dumber each day I feel that base jumpers are also getting dumber and lazier with the disciplined side of the sport which is crucial. Many jumpers are taking everything for granted and not making the effort to learn the fundamentals of this amazing sport, which is ultimately leading to more fatalities.
Base jumping is by far the easiest of all extreme sports. To skate the mega ramp you need to be an amazing skateboarder. To surf pipeline you need to be an amazing surfer. But literally any person these days can go and jump off a cliff with a parachute and live if everything goes right.
The skills only come into base jumping when things go wrong… and I see more and more people coming into base jumping with no idea of what they are doing, with a huge lack of education, for when things go wrong or even just general awareness for making smart decisions based on skills, gear and weather, even on simple jumps.
I have written this article because yet another ego-driven skydiver came to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland where I live with no idea what he was doing. He was told he had the wrong attire and too low jump numbers (10 jumps) to be jumping here safely. His death camping mentor was also told this by my own recent students. There advice went awry and the very next day he jumped off the easiest jump in the valley with no idea what he was doing. Exiting head low, off axis and opened after only 3-4 seconds of free fall, with zero track and a 180° off heading and with no idea how to deal with it he hit the wall. He got hung up on the very overhanging wall almost immediately.
He was lucky even then that he didn’t bounce all down the wall and die. His death camp mentor who is equally to blame had no idea what to do next. My ex students went to his aid and the heli rescue was initiated. Where the jumper was hanging was impossible to reach by a long line, so a rope rescue team was formed to get him.
In the mean time the canopy gave way and he bounced down the entire wall and impacted on the talus. My ex students ran up to deal with him and by some miracle he was alive and had no broken bones just some cuts and bruises on his head and body.
He was lucky, and I was furious.
Behind the scenes we work very hard to keep the Lauterbrunnen valley open for jumping and this accident was 100% preventable if that person had come to the valley prepared with the right experience and mentor.
The jumper in question later had the cheek to write to me to tell me he was mad at me with the things I said about him and his jumping, hence this article.
The days of big balls are over in base jumping and it is the age of information. Arm yourself with knowledge, make smart decisions and you will live through this sport! Choose a reputable base course to learn the fundamentals of base jumping or find an experienced mentor to teach you properly. Simple!
Do not come to the Lauterbrunnen valley or any other popular base jumping destinations unless you have acquired the knowledge and the skill set to do so. Think not of yourself but the impact you have on the area, community, local jumpers, family, loved ones and the future of the sport if you have to be rescued from an accident or worse!
Next week I will bring you an article on BASE Malfunctions for all base jumpers to help keep them and their students alive and to help preserve our beautiful but fragile base jumping sites.