BASE JUMPING ::: APEX BASE
EVERYTHING BASE!

Jul
21

On January 27th, 2008, Apex BASE in conjunction with Venezuelan dropzone owner Ygor Almeida and logistics expert Pedro Moretti took a group of 13 jumpers into the heart of the Venezuelan rainforest to jump the world’s tallest waterfall, Angel Falls. Going to Angel Falls in the heart of the Venezuelan rainforest is always an adventure.

In the BASE Jumping industry, Apex BASE is the epitome of quality, class, dedication and professionalism in every aspect of the business. Standing strong on a foundation as the first BASE Equipment manufacturer, APEX brings more cumulative years of experience in BASE Jumping and manufacturing than any other company in the world.


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Jul
18

Here is the article written by Tom Dancs for Skydiving Magazine

“Big Wall B.A.S.E. Jumping Comes of Age in the U.S.”

Apex Base, together with the support of Go Fast Sports and Beverage Company, organized and hosted the first ever legal big wall BASE jumping event in the US from May 9th to the 11th. The helicopter assisted boogie took place on the Navajo Indian Nation, where the Little Colorado River Canyon is 1850ft deep. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of Jimmy Pouchert and Marta Empinotti, of Apex BASE, and to Eddie Barton’s tireless efforts, the Navajo Indian Nation granted permission for this event to occur in truly awe inspiring location.

Eddie Barton has spent the last 8 years scoping and taking GPS waypoints in the canyon to find the best exit points. He finally settled on the part of the canyon where the event took place, realizing that this where the canyon is the widest, and the walls are the biggest and cleanest for BASE jumping. Eddie quickly realized that if the dream of legal big wall jumping in the US was to become a reality, some serious logistics were going to be needed to make this a “safe as can be” event. Apex BASE has many years of experience across several continents with the planning and execution of BASE jumping events. In addition to designing and manufacturing state of the art BASE jumping equipment, Apex specializes in the management of logistics and safety coordination for such events.

Dave Gibbs, the helicopter pilot, arranged for the appropriate FAA permission to fly and land in the canyon for the duration of the event. This provided the team with a quick and very scenic ride out of the canyon with the Bell 206-L2 chopper. His brother Tim coordinated the loading of jumpers in the landing area. Together Dave and Tim provided the professional and confidence inspiring service that made multiple jumps into this canyon not just a possibility but a reality.

Hank Caylor, Lee Hardesty, Dean Potter, and Steph Davis were stationed near exit point, to affect high angle rescue if it were to be needed. Much to everyone’s pleasure, and due to the skill and professionalism of all the jumpers involved in this event, the rescue crew did a whole lot of sitting around. They were however able to make some jumps themselves, which helped to spice up their many hours of standing vigil.

Casey Shifflet and Eric Miller took up positions in the bottom of the canyon to provide paramedic support. They spent the majority of their time drinking Go Fast, and heckling the landed jumpers as appropriate throughout the event. Chris Hunter and Chris Bazil joined the team, to photograph the event and the amazing desert scenery.

The team made a total of 226 jumps over a three day period. On day one, most everyone made one jump. With the exception of one close call, all jumps went off uneventfully. After the first load, the winds picked up significantly all jumping were halted for the day, and the helicopter was sent home.
After the first load, the excitement in the air was apparent, and the anticipation for more jumps was high. Fingers were crossed that the next day would be calm as per the forecast.

Fortunately, and as predicted, the morning dawned with clear skies, and calm conditions the team was eager to get going. The first jumpers started lining up early in the morning to make the first jumps of the day. By the end of the second day most jumpers had made all of their budgeted 6 jumps. There were numerous wing suit and tracking suit jumps made, in addition to a hand full of aerials and two and three way jumps.

With the exception of a few unstable exits and a few low pulls, all jumps on the second day were executed well and without incident. Rumor has it that one of the paramedics provided one of the low pullers with nice strong kick in the bum, after he provided the folks on the ground with a bit of a scare. The majority of the non wing suit jumpers were taking conservative 8-12 second delays, depending on the distance achieved by tracking. As the event progressed, it became clear that most jumpers were getting better and better distance on their track. Certainly an asset when it comes to big wall jumps. On the last day of the event, and after a fuel supply assessment was made by the helicopter crew, and an additional jump was granted to those who chose to accept it.

Every conversation that was to be heard revolved around how spectacular this jump site is and for good reason. The visuals of jumping into this canyon were breathtaking to say the least. The initial few seconds had one falling past a narrow arête of sandstone. As the track began to kick-in the visual of the huge rock bowl which forms the base of the cliff, provided a sensation that engulfed every inch of ones peripheral vision as the walls appeared to close in around the jumper. Very cool!

In addition to the BASE jumps, there were a few skydives made from the helicopter into the canyon. Jerry Swovelin, one of the skydivers, and incidentally one of earliest American BASE jumpers says that “…this Apex BASE expedition was truly a dream come true.” That dream, according to Jerry, was thirty years in the making.

Marta Empinotti comments that “…in order to do a legal 10 second delay, I’ve always had to go abroad. Not anymore! This is surreal I’m still awed by it. We are hoping this is the beginning of a new era in the US.” Jimmy Pouchert adds “…Having an injury free event for our first time down in the Navajo Nation is so crucial to being able to return, and return we will…“.

The question of how this history-making event will impact the efforts to legalize many of the other big wall sites in the US still remains. One thing is for sure however, that thanks to the efforts of people like Eddie Barton, everyone at Apex BASE and Go Fast, the professionalism of the jumpers involved, and thanx to countless others who are working to make BASE Jumping a legitimate and legal recreational activity, the 2008 Little Colorado BASE Boogie was certainly a step in the right direction.

Jul
18

On January 27th, 2008, Apex BASE in conjunction with Venezuelan dropzone owner Ygor Almeida and logistics expert Pedro Moretti took a group of 13 jumpers into the heart of the Venezuelan rainforest to jump the world’s tallest waterfall, Angel Falls. Going to Angel Falls in the heart of the Venezuelan rainforest is always an adventure. Bringing a group of jumpers from around the world into Caracas and then moving them into the interior of the Country and up the river to the base of the falls is always interesting to say the least. Basically, it goes like this, we set everything up prior to the beginning of the trip. Once we arrive, we find out that half of the plans have changed and we need to adapt and overcome. This year was certainly no different. Two years ago, we were escorted by the National Guard and once we had arrived in Caracas, were traveling in conjunction with them all the way to the falls and back. This allowed us to use their transportation and considerable pull within country to iron out the rough spots. Not many civilians have any interest in confronting men with guns. This year was supposed to be the same, but about a week prior to arrival, the National Guard that was supposed to be with us was called to the Columbian border in response to a dispute. This left us without our escort and without the use of the Skytrucks that were to fly us into the interior.

Ygor Almeida and Pedro Moretti are the Venezuelans that make the trip happen for us. Without them, the trip would not happen. Once again, they pulled through in fine style. They made all of the new arrangements in record time and to make a long story short, continued to pull rabbits from their hats from start to finish.

We require that all participants have at least 50 BASE jumps and that everyone has strong canopy skills in order to qualify for the trip. The other thing that we ask is that everyone is the type of person who can handle changes in schedules and plans along the way. We were very lucky this year in that as the plans would consistently change, the clients would just smile and laugh it off. We were also lucky that we continued to move forward and didn’t have any setbacks that really affected us. Not to say that it wasn’t touch and go at times.

When we lost the National Guard escort, we lost our permit to jump. Angel Falls is in a National Park, which makes it illegal to jump without a permit. With some amazing dedication and waiting around in government offices for hours at a time, Ygor and Pedro were able to secure the first civilian permit issued by the National Parks to specifically BASE jump Angel Falls, ever. It’s not that all previous jumps and trips were illegal, it’s just that the permits didn’t specifically permit BASE jumping. Unfortunately, the permit specifically stated that no publicity would be allowed. This turned out to mean that the head of the National Park that we were in, who accompanied us, would not allow any filming of logoed canopies or rigs, and even went so far as to make us put gaffer’s tape over our Apex logo on the windblades in the landing area so that they were unreadable. Fortunately, only two of the canopies on the trip had logos on them, but I was required to tape over the footage of these canopies in flight.

Another situation was helicopter fuel. In order to access the top of the falls to jump and to be picked up out of the landing area below the falls, it requires a helicopter. It is also necessary to have enough fuel to rescue any stranded or injured jumpers as well as to make it back out of the jungle. When we lost the National Guard, we also lost the fuel that they are able to supply. The town that we were supposed to get the extra fuel from ran out of fuel just before we arrived and this fuel never showed up. We had just enough fuel for everyone to do one jump, plus the necessary surplus.

Angel Falls is created by water from rain falling on top of a 3,000 foot tall mesa that thrusts up out of the rainforest. These mesas are a unique feature to this part of Venezuela and they are spectacular. The mesas are called Tepuis. The more rain that falls, the larger and more powerful the falls become. There is a landing area at the base of the falls that is about the size of two tour busses parked side by side. The rest of the area around the base of the falls is covered by rocks and low trees. Beyond this area, the rainforest becomes solid 100 foot trees with absolutely no alternate landing areas apart from one extremely small open area which is so small the helicopter can’t even land there. During the rainy season, the falls are so heavy that they create too much turbulence to safely land anywhere near the base of the falls. In early February, it is considered the dry season and we were lucky to have excellent conditions. The other phenomenom with the tepuis, are there ability to make clouds. The warm extremely moist air will flow up the sides of the tepuis and will completely cloak Angel Falls in a cloud that just sits there, preventing jumping due to a lack of visibility for the jumper.

On our final aviation leg to the base of the river in a place called Punta Ordaz, we were told that only ourselves and just what we needed to jump along with one overnight could fit in the chartered airplanes, a Gulfstream and a Cessna 206. Also that the plane was leaving in 15 minutes. It was like a scene out of a comedy. At first everyone was staring at each other with open mouths, then the organizers said, “or we could just stay here overnight, if we miss the planes.” Instantly people began ripping into their bags and sorting out rigs, cameras and toothbrushes. We understood that the rest of our luggage would be coming the following morning, so no one grabbed extra underwear, t-shirts, pants, etc… As it turned out, we didn’t see the rest of our luggage until we came back down river 3 days later. The beauty of this is that we learned that everyone overpacked and apart from a few odds and ends, no one missed a single thing and we learned how easy it is to live simply, at least for a few days anyway.

This year, we arrived at base camp at around 11 a.m. and the falls were covered by a cloud, while the rest of the sky was clear and blue. This is usually a pretty good sign. We all moved into our hammocks and got our gear ready to board the helicopter at a moment’s notice. At around 3 p.m. the falls cleared and we sent the ground crew up to the landing area to set up the wind blades. The first load of four jumpers were on their way up to the exit point when the cloud magically formed over the falls. As fuel was limited, and things were not looking good, we aborted for the day and brought everyone back down to camp.

This left us with two days to get a break from the weather gods. Our permit to jump was from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. At sunrise on the second day, the falls were completely clear. By 10 a.m. the dreaded cloud had formed over the falls and there was a lot of nervous tension in the air around base camp. It is always a possibility that the weather will completely shut us down after spending so much money and effort just to get there. At around noon, the falls started peeking out and we sent the crew up to the landing area to wait for a clear window. After about an hour, the weather cleared and we started to shuttle the jumpers up to the exit point. What separates this jump from all others is the unique characteristics and the visuals that the jumper experiences. The chopper drops you off right on the exit rock to the right of the waterfall. Over eons the water has carved out a giant bowl in the side of the tepui. As you exit, the water to your left is suddenly revealed and it is falling away from you. As you gain speed, you overtake the water’s terminal velocity and for one moment, you are falling at the exact speed as the water. You then begin to outpace the water and it once again becomes an indistinct blur. You are now inside the giant bowl and begin to reach tracking speed. Below and in front of you on each side are two 1,500 foot pillars with a gap between them of about 1,000 feet. You track right in between these pillars and the visual is unforgettable. After passing the tops of the pillars, most jumpers begin to feel like getting a parachute out sooner rather than later. Once you are open, the real challenge of Angel Falls begins. With a medium flow of water, the water hitting the bottom of the wall and pushing outward creates about a 10 knot headwind with some turbulence. The landing area looks very small from above and you know that it is either make the landing area or land in a tree or a pile of rocks. Most of the jumpers made the landing area or very close to it with no injuries. To look around the landing area at the faces of the jumpers who have just jumped Angel Falls is amazing. The smiles and laughter fueled by doses of adrenaline and some of the most amazing visuals most will ever experience is unforgettable. Angel Falls is without a doubt one of the jewels in the crown of BASE jumping. To travel so far and to commit so much time, effort and money with no guarantee of success makes Angel Falls a life changing experience. To travel by plane, taxi, shuttle, tram, boat, foot and helicopter to a place that most people will never even see first hand is an experience in and of itself. To throw a BASE jump in is icing on the cake, for most jumpers.

Jul
18

Apex BASE does aerial consulting and offers the following services:

Aerial Technical Advising
Custom Aerial Stunt Rigging
Aerial Stunt Coordinating
BASE Jumping
Skydiving

If you have a job and don’t know where to start, we do. Call or email us with your question, we’ve probably got the answer.

The following is a list of Apex BASE Media Credits (Most were done under the business name of Basic Research):
Special Events:
Organized and did the BASE jumps for the pre-game show of Superbowl XXXVIII in conjunction with Aerosmith singing “Dream On” at Reliant stadium in Houston.

Royal Gorge “Go Fast Games”: BASE jumping safety and coordination.

Angel Falls, Venezuela: Organized the jumpers to travel into the jungle and jump the world’s tallest waterfall.

Television Commercials:
Energizer, “E²,” BASE jump, Angel Falls, Venezuela
FMC “Ford Truck Drop,” Arizona
PEPSICO, Pepsi, “Goose”, Sky surfing, Arizona
PEPSICO, Mountain Dew, “Duo” BASE & Skydiving, Switzerland
PEPSICO, Mountain Dew, Antenna Jumps, Florida
PEPSICO, Mountain Dew, “Low Altitude Skydiving,” Hawaii
PEPSICO, Mountain Dew, “007,” Canada
PEPSICO, Mountain Dew, “The Lost Commercial,” Cliff jump, Arizona
PEPSICO, Mountain Dew, “Crooner,” Cliff jumps, Angle Falls, Venezuela
Motion Pictures:
Sony Pictures, “Charlie’s Angels”, parachuting water safety and parachute rigging
Golden Parashoots, “Cutaway”, building and antenna jumps
Paramount Pictures “Congo”, aircraft crew
Austin Power’s Goldmember,
all parachute rigging

Television:
National Geographic- The Adventurist- airing in March 2008
Stunt Junkies- Truck Jump- Marta Empinotti
Stunt Junkies- Reverse bungee- Jimmy Pouchert
Stunt Junkies- Bob skateboard BASE jump
Television movie “Heist” building jump
4-D movie in the Tower of the America’s theatre
Suzuki commercial
MTV’s True Life with Gunnar Jeanette
MTV Senseless Acts of Video, Building jumps through glass, Los Angeles, California
MTV Senseless Acts of Video, Para Ski, Tahoe, California
MTV Senseless Acts of Video, Hang Glider, California
MTV Senseless Acts of Video, Bridge Jumps, Auburn, California
MTV Senseless Acts of Video, Cliff Jump, Wing Suit Flight, Navajo Reservation, Arizona
MTV Senseless Acts of Video, Spring Break, Helicopter jumps and Tandem skydive Cancun, Mexico
MTV Sports, Cliff jumps, Angle Falls, Venezuela
MTV Sports, “Skydiver in a Week”, instructing skydiving from first jump to license in one week.
“Rolling Thunder” truck drop with parachute, Kingman, Arizona
Videos and Shorts:
USC Film, “Stealing Altitude,” Building jumps, California
Standard Films, “Totally Board,” snow boarding cliff jumps, Norway
Jennings Productions, “Fog Dog”, Intentional parachute malfunction
BR Productions, “Around the World on a Square,” BASE jumps, Norway, Australia, France
“Around the World II,”
Super Bowl jump, Norway, XXX behind the scenes.
Triax video “Continuum 2,”
rigging tips and interviews, jumping footage

Commercial Custom Parachutes and Logos:
“MTV” logo on the top surface of a square parachute.
“Burton Snow Board” logo on the bottom surface of parachute.
“Red Bull” logo on bottom surface of square parachute.
“Ensure” logo on bottom surface of square parachute.
Automatic opening parachute for a shopping cart, MTV Sports.
Nine hundred square foot “Nestlé Ice Cream” flag.

Jul
18

First of all, you must be a skydiver to take our FBJC, please email us for requirements: moab@apexbase.com

After the merger of Vertigo Base Outfitters and Basic Research into Apex BASE, we combined two first jump courses that evolved completely separately for over 15 years. With this strengthening of resources, you can now take advantage of over 30 years of knowledge, combined.

We begin by sending you the course outline and packing video tape. This will allow you to study and practice packing before actually beginning the course. By having a basic knowledge of the BASE pack job prior to arriving at the course, there won’t be quite so much to absorb during the already very full 3 day course. We take 2 students max per instructor at any course, assuring you the utmost in attention to your individual needs. We move along at your pace, concentrating on the areas that you are most concerned with.

We pick you up at Salt Lake City International airport on Friday morning. We arrive in Twin Falls, Idaho in the early afternoon and then the fun begins! Throughout the weekend we will slowly cover pack jobs, the other objects, pilot chute sizes and delays, conditions, and a host of other subjects that you will need to know to become a safe BASE jumper. The BASE Course includes at least 4 BASE jumps, weather permitting, although very few of our students have left with fewer than 6 jumps. On Sunday afternoon, we will drive you back to Salt Lake City Intl. Airport.

Once you take our course, you will be family for life. As a policy, we invite all of our past students to come join us at any future course that we hold at the Perrine. If it’s only been a month or two and you simply want someone to look over your pack jobs and someone to jump with, there is no charge. If it’s been longer than that and you really would like full time guidance, a nominal fee will apply. This is when we start working on 2-ways, going stowed, floater exits, etc… Once you have at least 50 jumps (provided you are solid at that point) you are then invited to come join us in Moab, Utah. We do require you go through our ABAT Course for additional training in how to assess and safely jump the cliffs that surround this area.

You can call us at 435-259-1085 or e-mail us for more specific information on the course and to get a list of things that you can do while skydiving to prepare yourself for the exciting world of BASE that awaits you!

Jul
18

About cliff jumping in Moab: Apex BASE will show you jumps in the Moab area, hook you up with other jumpers, and provide help and advice for your first cliff jumps. However, prior to jumping the cliffs of Moab with Apex BASE you must have completed the following prerequisites:

– Completed the Apex BASE first jump course.
– Accumulated at least 40 BASE jumps.
– You are current.
– Completed the Apex BASE Advanced Training (ABAT) course

The ABAT course is fee based and includes rigging and rope management for climbing rescues and first aid basics. We’ll look at how to approach a launch point that requires technical climbing and also take a deeper look at environmental issues as they pertain to BASE jumping. The course also includes how to supply yourself for the backcountry. If you have a climbing background and are already trained in first aid, portions of the ABAT course may be waived.

Jul
18

By Nick Di Giovanni, BASE 194
Delving fully into the history of BASE jumping is outside the scope of this web site. However, in brief, here’s how the sport evolved.

A note to Para-historians, I learned early two people can see the same thing yet disagree on what they saw, so be careful.

A Word About Carl Boenish
Carl Boenish is known as the “Father of Modern BASE jumping.” This is because he is the first to apply modern gear (ram air parachutes) and modern freefall techniques (tracking) to fixed object jumps. He is also the first to show the world through his films that fixed object jumps are not one-off stunts but jumps that are actually repeatable. Known to his family as Ronnie, Carl is 21 years of age in 1960 when he begins jumping at the DZ in Lake Elsinore, California. He becomes an Electrical Engineer working for the Hughes Corporation and in 1966 he’s heavily involved in photographing the early days of RW on the West Coast.

One day in the summer of 1966 Carl hears a weird story. A story that would change the course of his life. Two skydivers from Barstow, California, Michael Pelky, an accountant, age 25 and Brian Schubert, a truck driver, age 26, decided to parachute off Yosemite’s El Capitan. They jumped side by side on a Sunday afternoon at around 5:00 PM and both did decent delays but did not track away from the wall. Their round Paracommander canopies opened fine but the updrafts and swirling winds pushed them back into the face and both repeatedly banged into the wall on the way down. By the time they landed in the rocky talus below both are pretty beaten up. Pelky has numerous abrasions and a broken ankle. Schubert also had many abrasions plus a broken leg and broken foot. Both were ambulanced to a local hospital.

Carl who is already known to be drawn to wacky ideas involving parachutes is intrigued by the story and files it away in his mind.

The first mention of parachutes in written texts comes from the 12th century. Chinese acrobats of the time used small parachute like devices to retard short falls during gymnastic exhibitions. Later in Europe, between the 14th and 16th century, two groups of jumpers appeared, collectively called “The Tower Jumpers.” One group experimented with crude parachutes in order to escape fires that sometimes engulfed the 300 to 700 foot high medieval towers of the day. The other group simply wanted to fly like birds and used a winged approach. Both groups generally wound up in the same heap at the base of such towers. Most experts agree there is no proof jumps like these were ever really made. However, tower jumpers are mentioned too many times in too many texts to be completely discounted.
During the early 19th century many stunt jumps are recorded, like Frederick Rodman Law’s static line jump from the torch of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor in 1912. Law also jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Bankers Trust Building on Wall Street. In 1942 a Milwaukee aircraft mechanic made a static line jump from the inside of a blimp hangar. These jumps continued with a dentist (Photo Right) who did a rather respectable cliff jump in the Italian Dolomites in the mid 1950s.

After the two Californian jumpers did El Capitan in 1966, Rick Sylvester skis off it for a movie stunt and parachutes into the valley below in 1973. In 1975 Owen Quinn leaps from the World Trade Center Building in New York City and Ron Boyles jumps from the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado.

That same year, 1975, Carl Boenish goes to Yosemite National Park to film some hang gliding footage. It is a pivotal event in the history of BASE jumping.
The hang gliding session concludes with Rich Picarilli and Brian Johnson being piloted by Jim Handbury. All three men on a single wing fly down the middle of the valley where Rich and Brian release themselves into freefall and parachute into the valley. The jumps caused a major fuss with the Park Rangers. (The rule banning parachutes in National Parks is originally written to exclude hunters in the back country from re-supplying themselves by parachute). This is the first angry confrontation between sport jumpers and Park Rangers. It is also during this trip that Carl Boenish begins to really see the sheerness of the granite surrounding him. He thinks of those two policeman back in 1966 and more importantly, it’s a time when he truly begins to believe.
This is the beginning of the “modern era” in fixed object jumping. Modern being marked by the difference between lone stunt leaps made over the last hundred years and a point in time when a new sport is actually born. Carl didn’t set out to invent anything and it’s said of him at the ceremony where he posthumously received the USPA Achievement Award, “Carl would turn any absurdly silly idea, into a scientific quest for truth.” He sees the possibilities however, and more importantly he lives in a time when the gear and the jumpers are actually capable of doing it.

Carl makes the first serious suggestion to Rich Picarilli in early 1978 saying, “Let’s go jump El Capitan.”

Carl makes his first recon mission to the top of El Capitan in the winter of ‘78. “I got halfway up the trail,” Carl said later, “but there’s so much snow I wound up spending the night [on the trail] and coming back down the next morning.” The next trip he makes it to the top and when lowered over the rounded brow of El Capitan on a rope he yells back up, “Eureka, we can jump here!”
Now he needs to assemble a team. Rich Picarilli likes the idea but already has too many prior commitments. Carl next approaches Jim Handbury, captain of a local skydiving team at Lake Elsinore that includes Kent Lane, Mike Sherrin and Tom Start. He agrees, and this team would become the core group, the first to truly fly from a fixed object. The group’s first hike up the Tamarack trail is just for a look see.
“You never want to go anywhere with Carl Boenish,” says Tom Start, “he makes you walk up and down the same sections of the trail over and over as he films from this angle, that angle, then another angle.”

They all take a turn peering over the edge. Jim Handbury says he needed more time to consider it. Later turns it down. He and his wife Dana have just started a new business and he doesn’t want any more trouble with Park Rangers. (Jim goes on to build the first Velcro closed BASE rigs after Carl suggests the design. And is later killed while testing a parachute designed to lower small aircraft to the ground). Mike Sherrin also asks for more time to think about it. Kent Lane and Tom Start don’t think much about it at all, the only problem is holding them back.

The next trip is the “hot load” on Tuesday, August 8, 1978 and this is the day modern BASE jumping is born. Carl has several camera locations going and does not jump on this trip.

The first person off is Kent Lane. After Kent trots over the edge those remaining on top just looked at each other for a few seconds they all knew something significant had just occurred. Kent says later the jump dosed him with such a feeling of speed and incredible visuals that it made the leap the most memorable in his entire jumping career.

Kent is followed five minutes later, in order, by Tom Start, Mike Sherrin and Ken Gosselin. It all goes perfectly.

Carl films the whole thing and they all leave. “We are pretty anxious that no one saw us, we didn’t want to cause any problems.“ Carl said later.

In 1984 Carl Boenish is killed jumping a cliff in Norway. As the jump is not seen by anyone the consensus is Carl hit a small rock outcropping in freefall. However, Carl did live long enough to see the sport of fixed object jumping take root. In 1981 he began to see a pattern in the types of jumps people were making and with dictionary in hand set out to find a name for what everyone was begining to realize is an entirely new sport.

“I liked BEST jumping,” says Carl’s wife Jean Boenish. “it stood for Building, Earth, Span and Tower,” but Carl keeps searching the dictionary until he comes upon the word BASE. At first nobody liked the fact that when using the word BASE a tower would need to be called an antenna, nor does Jean like the second definition of BASE which is, “Evil and vile.” However the first definition is, “A platform on which something stands,” but it really becomes a done deal the first time Carl looked up at the group and uttered the phase, “BASE jumping,” for the very first time. Later, one of the jumpers present said, “It was a moment that sent chills down everyone’s spine.”

In 1981 Carl begins issuing sequential BASE numbers for anyone who makes at least one jump in each of the four object categories. The first number issued went to Texas jumper Phil Smith who will forever be BASE Number 1. Carl himself later receives BASE #4 and his wife Jean Boenish BASE #3. BASE numbers nowadays are approaching 800. Carl is also the first to publish a magazine, call BASE Magazine, to spread the word on safety.

And so it began . . .

Jul
18

The Turkey Boogie in 2005 ended up being the classic case of too many people jumping in a dangerous place. The herd mentality won out and we ended up with 2 jumpers hung up on the wall one right after the other was rescued. The rescues were both done extremely quickly and efficiently, however alot was learned by these accidents and subsequent rescues. Lee Hardesty wrote me this email and I wanted to share it with everyone. He brings up some great points, some which I hadn’t thought about. Check it out…

I hope you had fun down south. I’ve been in Dallas for about a week. Over the last few weeks since Maggot and the other guy hung themselves on the wall I’ve had some time to think about everything that went on. A lot of things happened that day both good and bad. First off let me say that this is only my point of view. Its just what I saw. Because its from my viewpoint some of the harshest criticism is of me and errors I made during the course of the day. To some degree this is all old news. We’d all like to just sweep it under the rug and forget it. I’m afraid that might not be a good idea. My fear is that this sort of thing will happen again. I don’t think we are done pulling people off walls. The sport is growing. There’s no way around it. Whether it’s next week or next year this is going to happen again.
So here are just some thoughts. I think we can all agree that we lucked out this year. We had some good people and fate smiled on us and forgave our foolishness. A lot of what we did seemed to be improvised to one degree or another and I’d like to see it evolve in to a clearer doctrine on how to deal with this. I like the idea of a high angle rescue course this Spring. I think that what happened this Fall was a good learning experience and the lessons from it should be passed on in the course.
It’s been a few weeks and it’s nice in some ways to have that perspective. Before all the details are lost I think it would be a good idea for everyone involved to sit down and write down there own evaluation of what happened. Best that they all do it on their own and in there own words before reading this or any thing else. Then I think copies should be circulated so we can each see the actions but more importantly the thought process that went into each of the decisions that were made.
What follows is the story from my point of view. Mostly I’m going to concentrate on what I saw and the thought process that went into my actions at the time. I’ll be trying to point out errors and mistakes I made or observed during the course of the day. I hope people will not be overly offended. In the end all was well. I’m doing this mainly for my self and decided to share it with you in hopes of contributing to the course your teaching this spring.
I’d been going pretty hard for several days hanging rope on the King Fisher. I’d found my self to be very out of shape and I was looking forward to a nice relaxed day of riding the Unimog and not having to jug anything. I stopped in town that morning at Pagan and bought a 9.5mm 60m static rope. All my line was hanging on the tower. I wanted to drop over the edge and shoot some stills of the exiting. Maybe some video if some one would loan me a camera. I was just tired of the same old angles. In particular I wanted to film a “roll overâ€� from directly below if I could find some one stupid enough to do one off a cliff. I had in mind the knob that sticks out the wall on the opposite side of the finger from Mari’s Gash. A little over hang and I could be back against the wall out of the way. Little did I know the show we were going to have that day. I was just a little too late to film it.
Pagan was a little late opening. So I wasn’t setting any speed records getting out there. I packed up a rig and wondered out to the main exit point. Once I got out to the cliff band I dropped all my stuff and went looking for a place to set up. I was just walking along the edge when I met some one headed in the other direction. There were a couple of them I don’t remember what they said but it sounded like trouble. I ask them if any thing was wrong and they said some one was on the wall. This was in fact some thing I’d been dreading for a while. Ok, here’s my first error.
1. I should have identified my self as a climber and sent them back with directions to my car to get more gear. And given him directions on whom else to look for that might be able to help with a high angle rescue. I was too passive and failed to step forward hoping that some one else would take the responsibility.
2. I should have backtracked right now and retrieved the gear I had dropped. I had every thing I needed to secure him right there.
I ran along the ledge and found the vultures already lined up on the ledge. There were only two or three there so far. I was on the Camera Ledge.� At this point I could see where he was hanging. I saw that he was underneath the over hang and quickly realized the problems we were in for. The people there were calling down to him I did not hear him answer. At this time I did not see him move. Ok, here are a whole string of errors.
3. I did not take the time to properly evaluate the situation. I did not ask the other people there his condition. I went on what I saw from only a few moments observation. I assumed he was more badly injured and would not be able to assist in his rescue.
4. I did not take the time to evaluate the anchor at the top of the cliff. I should have walked over and examined it. I did not know the bolts were there and assumed I would need to work a natural anchor. Even then I should have done more of an evaluation.
5. At this time I should have gone back along the edge and gotten my stuff and begun the rescue. I could have sent one of the others back to get gear from my car and look for other climbers. I have problems trusting other people with tasks and failed to delegate the work.
I went back to my car my self and started gathering up gear. Along the way I looked for the other climbers I knew. Most of them where out at other sites. I didn’t recognize any one and was hesitant to involve random people. I started asking around for you and Marta. I started pulling gear out of the car and spotted Brian. I reported what I saw most of which was inaccurate and we headed back out. I gave him my pack and he ran ahead. I was already winded and lagged behind. Out of shape. By now a number of people were headed out there with rope and some gear. We still did not have a real plan of action.
When I finally caught up there was already a small crowd. They had found the rope I’d left but not my stuff. The creative rigging had already begun. They had tied the rope through two of the bolts and clipped it with a carabiner. The only one they had? John Long must have been rolling over in his grave. They were trying to throw the rope to him to secure him. Not a bad idea.
6. I’d assumed that he was secure from falling. After all the flake he was hanging on had taken the dynamic load of him falling on it. It didn’t occur to me that he might still fall. I was more concerned with his condition. I was very troubled to later learn that lines had been breaking while we were off farting around.
I’m not joking when I say things were creative at the anchor. It was frustrating. I didn’t want to mess with what was already in use. More rope arrived and I got beaners in the bolts and started to try and equalize things. I was surprised how flustered I felt. This was my first rescue. Normally I don’t have to work fast. It’s a slow methodical process with me. All the helping hands were more a problem then help some times. It turns out there was another climber there. I remember his comment latter. That he’d wanted to help but had stood back out of the way because there was only room for one mind in some thing like this. There were a lot of things we did that would not normally be considered correct.
7. The biggest mistake was made by me in the anchor. The nice static rope was already tied in and I didn’t want to mess with it. I used some guy’s old lead line to tie every thing off. It was skinny. We’re talking half rope. The way I had it tied every thing we did was all hanging on one line. I just wasn’t thinking. I climb with heavier ropes. Later when I looked at it did look like dental floss maybe even a twin. Some one brought another line of it back and tied it off as a back up. That was typical of how we worked the whole thing. There was very little redundancy in the system.
8. I had sent some one back along the ledge with a description of my bag to get the rest of my stuff. He never found it. I should have picked it up my self on the way back out. I don’t remember seeing it. I must have taken a slightly different route. I might have walked right past it. All my best beeners and ascenders were in there. So we wound up using unlocked beeners for a lot of things.
By now Brian had already rapped down and thrown him the end of the rope. I was trying to figure out a hauling system. We had agreed that we should bring him up if we could. I didn’t have quite enough gear to do a z-pulley. When Brian jugged back up only moments later. He was very fast. At least he was panting thank god. The only thing I could come up with was to just space haul him by that one mini traxiom. Not the best system but he wasn’t heavy.
9. We should have done something to secure the canopy at this time. We had the white rope there. We could have sent the end down with Brian to be hooked on to the riser. We just were not thinking ahead. I thought the canopy would just lift up with him. I suppose he might have pulled himself over and tried to free it but that’s asking a lot of him at that point.
10. Again there was no redundancy in the system we set up. I didn’t have another ascender as a back up. Not even a prussic. It would have been better if we’d taken a little more time to work this a little better. We had started in a hurry and never slowed down even when it became clear that time was not a big factor. That’s how mistakes are made and many were. Now we got away with a lot of sloppiness but that does not mean that what we did is a good example of how to go about this.
11. We had talked about how to attach the rope to him. Some one said the chest strap, which would probably have worked. I told Brian to try and get the three rings. I wasn’t comfterbal trusting the 70101. It’s not really meant to be structural. When we hauled him up I realized we had been lifting him from only one three ring. With one beaner. In retrospect it would have been better to have split the two with a runner or tied a double bowline to suspend him from both. He was probable in a hurry. He may have been a little short of rope down there at the bottom. We’re lucky there was no spinal injury. It would have been nice to keep him more symmetric if only for comfort.
12. I didn’t take the time to really rig or anchor my self properly I just stepped down on two slings to give me a little length. I was short on gear and had not taken the time to make the best use of what I had. This limited my movement and kept me from being as effective in the hauling. Most of the work was left to Brian.
13. Once we had him up close I called up asking if they could secure the end of the brown rope a little better and pass a loop down. This was probably not very clear and a bad idea to have them messing with what was already there. They clipped the end of the thin white rope and I tried to get a little wall hauler pulley on him to haul him over the edge. I should have had that ready before I even stepped down. In the end I don’t know how much good it did any ways. They seemed to just mussel him up at that point. Good thing he didn’t weigh much.
Once he was up they seemed to have things well in hand. The guys there seemed to know what they were doing. Even now I don’t know who they are. Were they EMT or First Responders? I don’t know. I wish I had a better idea of people’s skill level. After checking him out they carried him off and my part in that affair was done. We decided to go ahead and get the canopy. Brian stepped back up to the plate again that day and rapped down to it. He took along some gear top try and get in above it. I remember the look on his face when he was looking up at me from the bottom edge of the cap rock just before he made the big swing. To this day I don’t know how he got in there.
14. When he was getting ready Brian noticed that there was no knot in the end of the rope. He stopped to pull it up and tie a nice big one before he made his big whizzing decent. A very good idea. The scary thing is we almost missed that.
He got a peace in above the canopy. I don’t know what or how he did it. If we had a line to that canopy we could have skipped that drama. This was all pretty casual. He even took a camera down with him and was stopping to take pictures of people jumping.
Now, strike two. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I wonted to laugh. I wanted to cry. It soon became a lot more serious as we realized he was probably hurt pretty bad. We sent the end of the brown line down to him on a biner and tossed the rest after. He tied them off and passed the knot to rapelled on down to where he hit.
15. Some where in this he pulled the piece that he had above the canopy. I don’t know why he did this. It made getting back to the canopy rather difficult.
16. I was getting ready to rap down to join him but the people coming up from the bottom were already there. I wasn’t needed and would have just been in the way. Some one had given me a cervical collar(neck brace) I’d planned to take it down with me but Brian wound up having to do without it. We should have clipped it to the rope when we sent it down to him.
From here on I was mostly a spectator. We had a couple of radios there at the exit point. I had a chance to lessen to a lot of the traffic. I have to tell you that there was a lot of confusion. Many of the messages were unclear. I don’t think there was good contact between the parking lot and the bottom. I tried to relay a few of the messages but in the end I gave up not wanting to add to the confusion.
17. There are some very standard and well-established protocols for radio communications. Part of the trick is knowing what they are going to say before hand. If you know the script or at least an out line it’s much easier to follow. First, announce whom you are addressing. Second, state who you are and where you are. Third, give the message. Forth, restate whom it is for. When you receive a message, acknowledge it and read it back to make sure it is clear. It hasn’t gone through until you have a confirmation on the read back. As an example Tri County traffic, Cessna 61326, approaching from the North-east for landing, Tri County�
This is a point where things seemed to break down a bit. It may have been clear to the other people involved but I found it confusing. There were messages for the unimog driver but which one? Where did they need him to be? Who was it that had the good radio/ cell phone that would reach the town for the ambulance? Did he have to turn around to go back up to make the call? There were calls relaying his condition as they carried him down.
Finally there was a decision made to fly him out from the bottom. I’ve herd a lot of criticism of that especially with the time involved in getting the chopper there. I was not down there so I can’t say. I can see them being unwilling to risk a bumpy ride with a fractured pelvis. It doesn’t take much movement to damage blood vessels. On the other hand he was just carried down a mountain. I think he would have done better waiting in the hospital. But that’s just me. I wasn’t there and it wasn’t my call. It seemed on the radio that he was getting a lot of flack down at the bottom on this. When he came on he was demanding a chopper. I’m not inclined to question decisions made under fire. You have to pick a plan and follow it. It may not be the best choice but that’s not the time to debate it.
I got bored and decided to take a look at the canopy. At this point it would be very nice to have a line to it or at least have the ropes running through that piece. First I just rapped down. I was looking down and I thought I’d be able to reach out and touch this corner. No way I wound up trapped in space with it 18in out of reach. Shit. One long jug later I was ready to try again. I got as big of a push as I could. I should have taken even longer slides. I was too timid and could not maintain the energy of the swing. One problem was I was using an ATC. I had it backed up with a sort of prussic on the break line to free my hands. This didn’t let me really free fall it. And frankly I was being a pussy. I wound up in the same place not able to get bouncing. After that second free hanging jug I’d had it. I was ready to give it up for the night. Enough flailing in front of the cameras for one day. Later I heard the chopper finally arrive and that put an end to all the excitement.
On the whole I think both rescues went well. At least they were successful with no one else getting hurt. Always a good thing. For a bunch of people who didn’t know each other just throwing this together on the spot it ran amazingly smooth. I’d just like to see all of us learn from this. If youre going to teach a course this spring what happened was a fine case study for them to examine. I dont know if this will be helpful to you at all. I did it mainly to sort things out in my own head. Perhaps it will bring something to light or dispel some of the mystery of what went on.
Ive been thinking a little on what you might teach in the curriculum. Ill do a little more research and try and get back to you on that. Until then have fun and take care of your self.

Jul
18

The Following article appeared in Skydiving Magazine. It was written by long time jumper Donk about Moab and it was so awesome we asked if we could reprint it here. If you are planning on coming to jump in Moab, have a look, there is some very valuable information here.

Respecting Moab (and back country parachuting) – it may not be for everyone

By

Anthony “Donk” DiCola

Contributions by

Jason Bell
Tom Aiello
Jimmy Pouchert
Marta Empinotti
Clint MacBeth

December 3, 2005

After attending the most recent “Turkey Day Boogie” in Moab and given the large number of injuries and reckless attitudes displayed by some of the jumpers, perhaps it is time to draft a short informative paper to better educate first time visitors and provide an outline on how to safely BASE jump in Moab. Much of this information is very basic BASE knowledge, but over the years there have been an increasing and alarming number of preventable incidents and the unfortunate injuries and deaths of some of our BASE jumping brethren. Our relationship with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could turn fragile and the generous gift they have given us, allowing us to use their beautiful parks to fulfill our recreational passion, could be lost if we don’t better respect and self police our activity in their parks. Maybe this guideline and a reminder of how much we should respect the Moab region will help individuals better prepare for their next BASE jumping adventure in Moab.

Moab – what you might not know or probably missed during your adrenaline induced surge to an exit point

Around 200 million years ago, before the Atlantic Ocean came to be, dinosaurs trekked from oasis to oasis across near-infinities of windblown dunes in the great western sand sea of the super-continent, Pangea… just kidding, but Moab is the remains of geological era long past and as many of us can attest, there is feeling of being on another planet when walking across some of the long sandstone rock fins high atop the desert floor surrounded by intricate sandstone patterns and arches, Indian petroglyphs, uniquely placed water holes filled with new life, oddly placed luminescent green pastures, and those very delicate miniature crypto-forests that are the base for all life in this high desert environment. In short Moab is absolutely spectacular and you really should look around and absorb all Mother Nature has created for us…then flick it!

BASE jumping is not the only danger to you in Moab

Enough background on Moab and let’s talk about why we really go there…to BASE jump. The very first thing you will notice when you arrive in Moab is that the entire area looks like a playground to the BASE enthusiast A sandstone sea of 300 to 600 foot shear walls with long sloping taluses that will have your heart pounding with excitement the minute you pull into the valley off Highway 191 or if you came to town from the east and were blown away by the scenery off Highway 128 that rolls along the Colorado River passing by historic land marks like Fisher Towers and Castleton Tower.

But this playground is also deceivingly dangerous to the BASE enthusiast because most of these walls are only 300 to 400 feet high – making object separation very difficult. Huge slopping taluses are filled with dangerous bone breaking boulders ranging from that perfect softball sized ankle breaker to the size of a box car and between which lay jagged sharp flakes from years of tumbledown and natural erosion.

Many of the best jump sites are some distance from basic medical services provided in Moab due to the long hikes over undulating terrain, in long winding canyons, and in very remote areas like Canyonlands National Park. Typically trails or semi improved roads that are accessible by vehicle are nearby but you should still shiver at the thought of carrying one of your broken comrades across this most demanding terrain for even the healthiest biped in good hiking shoes.

Then there is the climate, which is one of the high desert where the temperature can fluctuate from a comfortable 65 degrees mid day to sub freezing in minutes during the fall and late winter or in the summer from an early morning 75 to a deadly mid afternoon 115 degrees. If the novice to Moab is not prepared or times their trip to an exit point poorly they could find themselves in an extremely hostile and unforgiving climate.

These climate fluctuations also create some very turbulent air. The result of desert winds sweeping across the sandstone valley thermals swell up the walls from the heat of the summer rocks, and canyon formations create dangerous rotors in even minimal winds.

And less we not forget about the critters that lie in the huecos or in between the rocks that we are lunging from or holding on to as we make our way to an exit point. Critters are fascinating, but these desert critters can be dangerous. Moab is home to rattlesnakes, a few scorpions, and even black widows. And you might be surprised when reaching for a hand hold or resting on a rock because there could be a midget rattlesnake there which are actually much more poisonous than the huge diamondbacks found in the Eastern United States.

But thousands of people visit Moab annually and “survive” all the natural fun created by the terrain, including climbers, bikers, hikers, motor sports, and nature enthusiast alike but there are certainly some basic safety precautions everyone can take to prepare for a trip to Moab and minimize the risks imposed by both the environment and the sport we love.

Experienced required for Moab – Apex BASE, located in Moab, recommends that jumpers have a minimum of 50 BASE jumps before jumping the cliffs here. But more important than simple numbers is the practice and experience acquired during those jumps. I.e. Not all jumpers with 50 jumps are adequately prepared for jumping in Moab and some with less might be.

To be properly prepared a jumper must have practiced slider down object avoidance, by making slider down bridge jumps and practicing canopy control immediately after opening. Launching in a full floater (facing the bridge) position, a jumper can easily simulate a 180 degree off heading opening, and practice turning the canopy. Whatever your chosen method of turn, you should be able to consistently turn the canopy away before flying under the bridge to be confident that you will be able avoid striking a wall.

• Medical Coverage and life insurance. This is as much for you as it is for your loved ones or the local agency that will eat the cost of a rescue if you do not have any insurance.
• Take basic first aid course – they are cheap, even free and I can’t tell how many times I have found my self in a situation where even the most basic first aid skills helped a potential serious injury.
• Having a first aid kit is a great idea even if it is as small as some sterile gauze an Ace bandage, pain killers, and some antiseptic. Enough to clean a serious wound, improvise a small splint for that compound fracture your friend just got when he slammed into the talus, and could even be used as a make shift tunicate to stop any arterial bleeding induced when that femur ripped through the quadriceps. You can always improvise with a shirt or jacket but if you are looking at hours or even days without help, some antiseptic and your favorite pain killer will go a long way.
• Get some body armor. At a minimum have a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads. Recently a lot of the most experienced jumpers are actually wearing full motocross style body armor Dainese body armor for example. If jumpers with 500-1000 jumps are wearing this, it is probably for a good reason.
• Always bring radios. Having a decent set two-way radios, available at any Wal-Mart, will at least keep communication open between your jumping party. Also there is usually a common EMS or BLM frequency you may get lucky with in the event of an emergency but more often than not it is just a great tool to get the “I am OK but don’t land here!” or “the winds were really squirrelly, maybe wait it out some”, from the bozo who just jumped in a 10 mph wind over a landing area you did not walk first. (Yes I have been that bozo too)
• Check cell phone coverage and have a contingency plan if no phone coverage is available or you don’t own one. It may not work but when it does, you will be kissing that cell phone service provider you cuss on a daily basis. There are many sites in Moab where you will have cell phone coverage on top of an exit point but none in the canyon below. Having one person on top with a radio and cell phone relaying emergency information to the local EMS from a radio on the bottom can save life and resources.
• That phone or 10 mile range $300.00 Garmin radio/phone you brought is not going to be worth much if you don’t know who to call (911 is obvious) but knowing the local BLM and EMS numbers and frequencies can greatly improve the type of response. Also having emergency contact numbers for your friends or family will help others help you.
• Bring and/or have access to basic climbing tools. Having a small section of rope, some webbing, or a few slings will really help out on some of those sketchy exposed climbs to an exit point and more importantly help you safely climb back down if you can’t jump.

Personally I carry fairly elaborate climbing bag in my Jeep with 2 60 meter ropes, slings, aiders, jumars, carabineers, cams, ATCs, etc…Basically anything a climber might use to go up a sheer face but is really handy when you have to go down (or up for that matter) to rescue your girlfriend who just had a 180 degree off heading opening, smacked the wall and is dangling by a 6” piece of reinforcement tape 250 feet above the talus.

• And it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few days at a local climbing gym or find a local climbing club tell them what you do and I am sure they will eagerly teach you how to tie proper knots, basic rappelling, climbing and ascending skills.
• Create a utility kit with a few tools, Leatherman, lighter, spare shoelaces, spare batteries, but most importantly have a headlamp or some type of light on your person, especially for those afternoon hikes into some of the deeper canyons. The sun sets quickly and you don’t want to be hiking out in the dark or even worse trying to rescue somebody without any lights.
• This is a BIGGIE- know your own physical limits if you have never hiked, climbed or done much more than sit on your couch waiting for your buddy to get the local elevator working or only do the annual trip to the potato bridge and spend $200.00 with Don the boat guy maybe you shouldn’t be making that 3 mile hike to some remote exit point, and certainly shouldn’t be “thinking” you will be able to climb some “class 5” section or jug a 100’ line if you have never done it before. A great rule of thumb used by hikers and climbers alike is if you are not 100% sure you can climb down, don’t climb up.

To test of your physical fitness when you first arrive in Moab, if you are really itchy for a jump, try that large rock formation reminiscent of something you might find in a graveyard . This is basically a hike to the exit point but if you are sucking wind here you may want to limit your “expeditions” to new exit points this trip.

• Ask a lot of questions before you go, while you are there, and listen to experienced jumpers and if you are not 100% ask again. The more experienced BASE jumpers will actually be more impressed with your concerns, attention to detail, and willingness to learn then they will by watching you flip some catawampus aerial, slam off the wall, then have to be airlifted out ruining everyone’s jumping day and giving the BLM another “bad taste” about BASE jumping.
• Again, if your not current or only have 20 jumps off the potato bridge, Moab is not for you.

Gear Preparation (Most of this is BASE 101 stuff)

• Before you even be make a BASE jump be sure you completely understand the flight characteristic of you canopy particularly your canopies stall point if you have not yet, jump your base canopy from that “safe object” or better yet from an airplane and find out where that stall point is. Know it, be comfortable with it, and even practice riding this point. Some very experienced jumpers have even gone as far as adjusting the “break setting” or “Cats eye loop” placement so that it is at the appropriate point when deploying. To deep and you are in a stall to shallow and you are flying to fast.
• Accuracy approaches and flat turns will get you into the smallest of landing areas Moab has to offer so practice them every time you get under your BASE canopy. I learned a “hard” lesson my first trip to the Cave of the Swallows and Moab is no less forgiving in many of its landing areas.
• Know how to fly and land your canopy using risers only for both heading correction and in the event that you have blown a toggle/s on opening. Riser control is very different and takes practice to get use to.
• Yes, it is a pain in the ass but if you know you are spending a week in Moab take the extra 5 minutes to remove your slider to get better span-wise pressurization and make sure you do a complete line continuity check after removing the slider…actually, do it twice.
• Adjust your toggles for no slider flight meaning once you remove your slider (or reef it down) and the control lines are outside the slider grommet and keeper ring your control plane just changed dramatically and if you do not move your toggles “up” the control line, to compensate for the line “slack” now added, your input and canopy response is going to be considerably slower than before and may impact your ability to react accordingly.
• Stow your toggles properly LRT or whatever nice little acronym you use or your manufacturer advises on how to securely stow your toggles for no slider jumps so that you don’t blow your toggles on opening. Again this is BASE 101 but without the slider if a toggle comes off during deployment you just lost that toggle/s and are probably turning towards the wall.
• Pack with the nose fully exposed and wrapped around the pack tray. I actually pull my nose almost half way over the first fold and completely clear the center cell “inside” so that I can clearly see the lines and risers. This would require a pretty detailed explanation so of you don’t get it please email or ask your BASE manufacture.
• Roll your stabilizers related to above because the only “fabric” you really want catching air initially is that center cell and you especially do not want ether side of the canopy to start inflating or grabbing air causing a rotation.
• Proper PC selection for the delay. If everything in Moab is 300 – 500 feet there really is not much choice here but consult your manufacturer for the proper PC selection for a 1 – 3 second delay. Personally use a 42” PC for everything in Moab and find it to be spot on in that 2-3 second range but all manufactures provide excellent delay/PC/slider recommendation chart.
• When packing, double-check your bridle attachments and be sure the bridal is routed properly once the PC is stowed. Sounds simple but we learn difficult lessons from the experience of others.

On a recent trip to “Eco” oddly enough, I left my 20’ section of rope in the car and we decided to remove and tie our bridles together to get up a sketchy 5.8ish section of the climb (we went the wrong way). Everyone checked, double, and tripled checked the bridal attachments once we got to the exit point.

• Calculating the appropriate delay will really help keep you alive. Try to plan on opening in the “sweet spot” of each object that you jump. The sweet spot is the most ideal, most overhung and/or furthest way from the wall your delay will allow with a good launch BUT still deploying high enough to correct a 180 degree off heading with risers and not landing on the talus.
• Hand held or stowed. PC size and object height are the basic factors but jumper comfort should also help you decide what is best for you remembering that with a stowed deployment there is always the potential for a missed PC, PC hesitation, and even the dreaded bridal knot.
• There are several recommend methods for stowed PCs but the basic premise is to get the PC catching air as quickly as possible and minimize bridal entanglement. Johnny Utah’s “Super Mushroom” is an excellent example but there are other simpler variations.

Now that you have prepared your gear, 100% confident in how it will perform, and fully assessed the jumps before you, it is time to get to the exit point.

• Before you even start off to and exit point, be sure to walk the lading area and look for any and all outs in the event of an off heading opening, wall strike, or brain lock.
• Check the winds. I have seen some people using those handheld Brunton wind meters Not a bad idea but if you are using this to check the winds, it is probably to windy to jump in Moab.
• Make your decisions to jump before you even go to the exit point. If the winds are too high on the ground or even suspect, don’t start up. More often than not, and I am as guilty of it as any, once you are up at the exit point you are more likely than not to jump. It’s much easier to say NO on the ground or in your hotel room than standing on the exit point with a 5-10 mph wind blowing in your face. The old “wait for the lull” mentality will get you hurt or killed. It takes strong character to walk off an exit point especially when faced with the peer pressure of other jumpers “risking it all for nothing” in marginal wind conditions. But when it doubt, don’t jump…the cliffs of Moab are not going anywhere.
• Water and food. Everyone should bring at least one bottle of water and maybe a cliff bar or two for those “known” long hikes to an exit point and especially for those unknown hikes to an exit point where you may be wandering around for hours and get caught in some of those environmental conditions discussed. And you never know when the normal 10 minute roundtrip flick of Mary’s Gash will turn into a six hour rescue off a wall. If you don’t need that food and water, I can assure you the injured jumper (depending on the severity) will.
• Now that you have decided to go make that BASE jump, please follow basic Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hiking rules at all times they are pretty simple. Stay off the cryptobiotic crust. The what? The cryptobiotic crust is the black and brownish crust you see in many low lying areas throughout Moab and is a critical component to the very fragile life of this high desert habitat. So stay off it and try to walk in a single file line (if in a group) and use each others footsteps to minimize our impact on some of the very remote areas we hike and climb.
• Did you remember to bring your first aid kit, radios, lights, ropes, food and water? If not re-read the section on preparation. Having it in the car is not going to do you much good two miles deep in Day Canyon but the car is better than the hotel room or not having one at all.
• Don’t forget your body armor.
• Don’t get lost. GPSs are great if you can afford one but you don’t need it and much of the time when you are down in a canyon you may not be able to receive of enough satellites to triangulate an accurate position if any at all. So bring a map (and maybe compass), understand the terrain, and be able to translate what you see around you to contour lines on a map. This is basic Boy Scout orienteering skills that can be picked up pretty quickly with a little education and practice.
• Related to above, know where you are and how to direct EMS to your location if needed. GPS coordinates are the best, road names and local campsite/canyon names are the second best way. Exit point names are worthless to the rescuers, unless it is Tombstone, which they all know. A helicopter will need latitude/longitude coordinates for immediate reaction/rescue.
• Know your physical limits – SEE ABOVE – don’t climb up what you can’t climb down.
• Again be conscious of the time and the impact on the climate and day light. It gets dark very fast in those canyons and gets dangerously hot by mid day during the summer so plan your hike accordingly. Water, food, lights, etc.

I have had to participate in one rescue where it got so dark by the time the last jumper made it to the exit point that he could not see the LZ and refused to jump. A good call but guess what that meant? The temperature was dropping exponentially and we now had to get lights, climb back up a nasty crevasse then jug a 100’ line to help this jumper get back down because he did not know how to rappel. [Beginning to see how this all comes together]. Fortunately we had access to one incredible climber, ropes, lights, first aid kits, and we were able to get back up to the top and help the jumper back down. And it was a really good thing he did not jump because the next morning when he jumped that same pack job, he blew both toggles (improperly stowed) and had to use a secondary lading area. The site we were jumping the night before did not have a secondary landing area and had he decided jump our little night-light rope adventure probably would have turned into a life or death rescue.

Hopefully you had an uneventful hike or climb to the exit point and took the time to look around and appreciate how amazing the surrounding views are but more importantly were reminded how unforgiving every jump site in Moab is. But you did not come all the way just for the scenery, it is time to jump!

• Check the winds again. See above. When in doubt, don’t whip it out. Keep it in the stash bag and wait for the winds to come down and if they don’t, start your hike back before the environmental conditions catch up to you.
• This may sound ridiculous but please look over the edge before you jump. I have seen dozens of jumpers get up to the exit point, gear up then walk up to the edge and jump. Be sure to check for cars where applicable, hikers, or especially climbers on the wall. Even the smallest rock or loose piece of gear falling 400’ is very dangerous.
• Get a gear check, double check your PC, and if going hand held prepare it properly.
• Take deep breath and prepare to launch. Try to have a strong appropriate attitude launch to get as much separation from the wall as possible.
• Think about maintaining a symmetrical stable body position in freefall with a relaxed smooth movement to deploy your PC.
• For a stowed PC deployment, give the PC a good toss into clean air out and maybe even slightly forward. [Aerials are something completely different and if you have not done one (or like 50) this is not the time to be learning the subtle differences.] When going handheld “place” the PC into clean air with an up and forward motion.
• Be aware of what is happening during canopy deployment. Some people think that watching the canopy it is the best approach. Personally I believe that your body will tell you what you canopy is going to do long before your eyes figure it out. You will feel an asymmetrical deployment, light in the harness, unbalanced forces on your harness. I.e. more pressure on one shoulder than the other, awkward body positions, head high or low, etc and when you feel this you should already be preparing to take evasive action long before the canopy is fully inflated.
• Immediately be reaching for you risers or toggles during line stretch and be ready to deal with the canopy orientation you just gave yourself or Mother Nature dealt you.
• Know what you are going to do about a 180. Riser corrections are a pretty basic emergency procedure taught in most any BASE FJC but some FJC are starting to teach toggle corrections. There has been much debate about toggles or risers and is valid amongst experienced BASE jumpers but all beginners should be intimately familiar with riser corrections.
• Know what you are going to do about a line twist especially when faced with line twists and imminent object strike. You will want to try and reach above the twist and pull on a riser, control lines, or anything to get the canopy turning TO SAVE YOUR LIFE! After you turn the canopy away from the wall, then deal with the twist/s.

I have the video of a jumper in our crew with like 4 full twists climbing up his lines to reach above the twist to get the canopy turning away from the object. This was a slider up jump off a very tall antenna but an excellent example of what needs to be done in this situation.

• Jump within your limits. Moab is not the place to try your first gainer or just because you have done something 10 times at the potato bridge or Bridge Day does not mean it is appropriate here.

Regardless of how much experience, preparation, and skill you have, sh!t can still happen and you will need to execute your BASE emergency procedures immediately. A friend of mine once spoke this to me during my “suspect judgment” days. “You always have options until impact…so use them.” This has saved me from broken bones more than once.

• Let’s not talk about total malfunctions here because if you have one, you are dead! Prepare your gear properly.
• PC hesitations are surprisingly common in BASE but usually clear them selves. The same basic premise applies here as in skydiving do what you can to clear the air after PC deployment and noticeable PC hesitation like dropping a shoulder. Keeping in mind you only have around 4 seconds until impact from most any exit point in Moab. Again, prepare your gear and exit properly.
• Bridal entanglements are also fairly common and the only thing you can do is shake it loose. For the most part it will come clear and maybe take a little flesh with it.

Not really applicable in Moab but a legend in the sport had a reported bridal knot that prevented the PC from fully inflating and was last seen reaching around trying to pull the canopy out of the container. Unfortunately this did not save his life but he was using all options to impact. It is your life, do all you can to save it.

• The most immediate and likely threat in Moab is a cliff strike from an off heading opening. First determine if you have line twists or not and immediately begin executing your “off heading” opening procedures to avoid hitting the wall. (See above)
• If it is inevitable that you are going to hit the wall, brace for impact but try not to be too rigid. Think about absorbing the shock with your legs and pushing back off the wall. Fortunately I have had nothing more than a “brush” with an object but I have seen many jumpers strike the wall and it was their ability to absorb the impact and continue to try and get off the wall that saved them from certain injury or death.
• Always fight to get off the wall it is never too late to be cranking down on both rear risers to stop the forward drive of your canopy.
• Once you have turned the canopy (or not) you are going to hit the ground and most likely in Moab it is going to be on a nasty 45 degree boulder filled talus. Try to fly to a clear spot (if you are actually flying the canopy at all) and the old PLF mantra may come in quite handy. Relax and try to absorb the impact. Look for small outs right up to ground strike. I have and have seen people land in unbelievably small clearings in a sea of boulders that could have been a trip to the ER but walked away.

Even if you did everything possible to get off the wall and get your canopy turned around but find your self dangling precariously by a few lines or some reinforcement tape, or all busted up on a very steep talus, what should you do? First off remain calm and hope that you and your crew have prepared properly. Try to relax and assess your situation and injuries.

• Communicate. If you have your radio (I hope so) radio or shout out your situation. Be concise and clear.
• Minimize your movement and relax as much as possible because your situation is now most likely in the hands of the people you chose to jump with.
• If hanging from the wall self rescue skills will be helpful in Moab. If you are supremely confident and jumped with your section of rope, some webbing, or a sling and maybe smart enough to have a climbing cam or nut, you might be able to at secure yourself in a nearby crack or flake and may even be on a small ledge. Be careful if it is not there or very easy reach (don’t start swinging to reach a ledge) you do not want to work the canopy loose and start falling again. Secure yourself if possible and try to get comfortable in your harness if still hanging in it, and continue to communicate with your jumping party.
• Hopefully you are not alone but if for what ever ludicrous reason you were and if you have prepared properly try using your radio and/or cell phone to contact help. If all else fails, shouting can always get the attention of a nearby hiker or climber.
• Apply basic first aid if you can and are secure. If you have a serious fracture and bleeding profusely use whatever material you have to try and stop the bleeding. If you elect to use a makeshift tunicate be sure to loosen it periodically to avoid losing that limb. If the injury is serious enough you are probably in shock and may not be thinking clearly. When all else fails go back to the “relax and assessment” mode of your situation.
• All you can really do now is to wait for rescue, and “Mari” knows how long that can be.
• Perhaps the most important basic survival is skill is your “will to survive”. You want to live and will need to fight for that right if your injuries are serious enough.

A very experienced BASE jumper once a decided to make a solo jump in another wilderness park (never a good idea especially if you have not told anyone what you are planning and when to expect your return) got caught by some squirrelly winds that induced a 180 degree off heading opening and resulting cliff strike. This jumper ended up with several critical injuries and because he did not tell anyone he was going to jump, spent three days near death in the wilderness alone with a broken back, arms and legs. It was pure will to survive that kept him alive until rescue searchers found him.

Hopefully you are not alone any your jumping party is already working the radios, cell phones, or sent someone for help, and if your party has had planned properly, has the necessary climbing gear nearby and could begin to fix lines and try to rescue or at least secure the situation.

• Much of this work takes serious climbing or rescue skills but with basic climbing training and long enough length of rope/s a line can be lowered to the jumper to at least secure them from a further fall if still hanging from the wall.

There are several ascending / rescue configurations that could be applied in this situation but would require the work of an extremely skilled climber or certified rescue worker. The simplest thing that can be done is to affix one end of the rope to something on top maybe a climbing anchor, a large boulder, a tree, anything that is secure (preferably use two or three anchors and equalize the line that is being lowered using slings or webbing). Then lower the other end to the suspended jumper.

If the group is really prepared and has a carabineer all that needs to be done is clip it into one end of the rope with a basic figure eight knot and if the jumper is conscious enough have them clip that onto the harness or main-lift-web ring.

• If the jumper is not conscious and someone in your party is experienced in rappelling and ascending skills, this same rope (ideally you have two ropes) can be descended down and used secure the jumper, help with first aid if possible, then jug or jumar back up Two ropes are ideal in this situation but it can be done with one.

• Again there are dozens of ways to do the rescue and totally dependent on the situation. Much skill and training is required but even a beginner with some basic training and commonsense can easily “secure” the situation and may even be able to rescue the jumper.
• BUT do not try anything if you are not 100% confident in what you are about to do. Do not turn this situation into a two person rescue. Just GO GET or call for HELP.

Recently there was an incident at a very popular jump site in Moab, two BASE jumpers did an incredible job working a 350’ wall using two ropes, aiders, jumars and other climbing equipment to rescue two jumpers who exercised questionable judgment and were stranded on the wall at different times a mere 20 minutes apart. The first cliff strike was the not so surprising result of a “tard-over” and required an upward extraction using ascenders and ropes to bring the jumper back to the top. The second rescue was from a 90 degree off heading opening with what might have been a half line twist that very slowly turned the jumper into the wall. This jumper bounced off the wall 3 -4 times and came to rest on a ledge about fifty feet from the top of the talus. The jumper was far enough down the wall that he was lowered to a rescue party waiting at the top of the talus who assessed the injuries and then carried this injured jumper all the way down to await life flight.

Both rescues are examples of 100% BASE jumper operations and with first responders (BASE jumper) on sight immediately had it not been for the overzealous actions of a self proclaimed lead paramedic (non BASE jumper) who demanded air support against all other recommendations, no BLM or other rescue agency would have had to be involved.

Hopefully your BASE jumping trip in Moab will not require the use of any of the emergency techniques, survival equipment or emergency procedures and is filled with incredible adventures to memorable exit points with BASE jumps that you will be telling your friends and family about for years to come. BUT it is better to over prepare that not to have prepared at all.

Lastly, always remind yourself that we are visitors to Moab and to respect the area, minimize our impact on the environment, and be sociable and polite with retailers and people from the local community. For the most part all the locals have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for BASE jumpers but bad attitudes, arrogance, and disrespect could quickly change this.

• Since the BLM is kind enough to allow us to legally BASE jump in their parks, take the time to pick up a few flyers and abide by their rules.
• Always watch for and respect other outdoor enthusiast in Moab, especially the climbers. You never know when you are going to need a climber, hiker or that couple out on a mountain bikes to help you out of a bad situation.
• Respect the local officials and business.
• Keep BASE positive and try to minimize the “No sh!t, there I was about to die!” when talking to the local BLM official or some stranger in the local pub. Fortunately Moab is filled with other extreme sports enthusiasts who can appreciate these tails but you never know who you are talking to.
• Rescues cost a lot of money and can be a drain on local and state agencies as well as hurt the reputation and add to the perceived risk of the sport. Too many BASE jumping related injuries and/or rescues will surely end up on some BLM or local official’s desk with a request to assess the safety of our sport.
• And not to mention one of our industries BASE manufactures, APEX BASE, Skydive Moab, and several BASE jumpers call Moab home and everything we do reflects directly on them. They are there representing us year round so when we are there we should be doing everything possible to make them look great.

Proper preparation, training, and the right mentality will make your experience even more enjoyable and safe. Remember you are on your own and need to be extremely self sufficient and be able to rely on yourself and your friends to help out in a potentially life threatening situation. You won’t always have Jimmy, Marta or the “Dude” and “Lee” watching out for you. Most likely you will be in small group and will need to do whatever possible, within your ability, to self rescue, administer first aid, and diffuse a potentially dangerous situation that could jeopardize your health and our future relationship with the BLM.

Climbers are an excellent example of a group who is extremely self-sufficient and very rarely do you here stories of climbers laying around helpless waiting for somebody to come help them. We are all sharing the same playground and if we want to be treated as equals by them as well as the parks services we need to be as self sufficient and respectful of these parks as they are.

Most of all have fun and enjoy Moab because it is truly one of the most breathtaking places on earth but equally important is respecting this environment. Moab can be extremely dangerous but with proper training, exercising good judgment, and self reliance even the most dangerous and horrific accidents can be handled professionally with minimal impact on the environment and the local community. Remember that the National Parks Service use to be tolerant of BASE jumping and we need to use BLM as a shining of example of what the relationship between BASE jumpers and park services can be.

Jul
18

Reprinted by permission from the February 2007 issue of Skydiving Magazine. All rights reserved. http://www.skydivingmagazine.com

Tips for Jumping the Perrine Bridge

by Jamie Boutwell

Some say that Twin Falls, Idaho, is a Mecca for BASE jumping and I agree!

The Perrine Bridge is a great place for all levels of BASE jumpers. From students to the most experienced BASE jumpers, this bridge offers something for everyone.

With its “tolerated” status people can come here and jump the bridge without fear of being arrested. And with the winding Snake River and relatively forgiving landing area, many jumpers view this bridge as a prime object to push their comfort levels as they continue to grow in the sport of BASE jumping.

However, as in any BASE jump, a certain amount of respect must be afforded to the object. Being a sub 500-foot bridge, the Perrine will quickly engulf anyone who is unfortunate enough to have a case of temporary bad luck or poor judgment.

After experiencing a very somber BASE jumping season last year in Twin Falls two deaths and numerous injuries this article is meant to improve safety for visiting jumpers and help maintain the supportive and understanding relationship the BASE community has with the city of Twin Falls.

BASE Etiquette

Jumping at the Perrine Bridge can be a fun and enjoyable experience. This is due in part to a few standing rules which have been implemented to help ensure the safety of the jumpers and surrounding community.

Probably the most visible and important set of rules has to do with the bridge itself. The Idaho Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) primary concern is to keep the Perrine Bridge free of obstructions and make sure that vehicular and foot traffic flow smoothly. This beautiful 1500-foot span runs north and southbound on Route 93 and is the main connector between Twin Falls County and Jerome County.

IDOT asks that planks or any other jump aids be removed from the bridge when not in use. This ensures that walkers, bicyclists and others can move freely along the walkways.
IDOT also requests that no one stand on the railing, in order to limit the distraction to oncoming motorists. Jumpers are asked not to climb on the understructure of the bridge (the steel girders) or tie anything off to the bridge. IDOT employees actually follow this same protocol. When they perform their annual inspection of the bridge, they use a large extended boom to reach underneath the structure.

Lastly, before your day of jumping begins, make sure to call dispatch at (208) 735-1911, and inform them that you will be BASE jumping from the bridge. Many times passing motorists will mistake a jumper for someone attempting suicide and call 911. If dispatch knows that BASE jumpers are at the bridge it can inform the local law enforcement ahead of time and save everyone some grief.

Along with the IDOT’s rules are some basic precautions that the local jumpers follow. These have been adhered to either because people in the community have voiced a concern or just because it’s common courtesy to other jumpers and the Twin Falls residents.

If making water jumps or any other jump that will result in a low opening, make sure you have an “ok” from someone at river level to ensure that all boat traffic is clear. (You can’t see boat traffic coming out of the west when standing on the bridge.) The last thing you want to see is a boat materializing from underneath the bridge when you’re three seconds off the deck and haven’t even pulled yet! This would not be good for you or the boater.
I set up a check system before I jump with whoever will be in the boat. I climb over the railing and wave my arm to signal if I’m clear to jump. If there is no traffic coming from underneath the bridge the boat person will wave back to indicate that I’m clear to jump or signal that it’s not clear. This is just one option. Choose what works best for you in your given situation.

Also, always be very cautious about jumping with equipment other than your rig, i.e., a skyboard or skis. These objects have come off during the deployment sequence and have hit the water. We need to remember that other people go out to enjoy the river (boating and kayaking) just like we go out to enjoy the bridge. It is our responsibility to ensure that this is a safe endeavor for everyone.

Getting Ready for the Jump

Packing or flaking for unpacked jumps can be done up top on one of the many grassy areas by the bridge or at the visitor center, as well as down in Centennial Park.
If you pack down in the park by the pavilion, make sure that it is not occupied. People pay good money to rent the pavilion for get-togethers, weddings, etc., along with the grassy area around it.

Whether you pack in the park or up top by the bridge, also keep in mind there are people out and about enjoying the beautiful scenery that the canyon provides. These people may be taking a leisurely walk, watching a beautiful sunset or sunrise, or reading about Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon jump of the 70s. Whatever their activity, it’s important to keep conversations appropriate (no vulgar language) and to maintain any music at a volume that will not interfere with other people’s enjoyment of the park. Furthermore, this pro-social behavior should be displayed whenever you’re visiting any one of the many restaurants or establishments within the Twin Falls area.

Lastly, it’s not uncommon for visitors to ask you questions while you are packing. If this is the case take a minute and speak with them. This is truly a rare opportunity for tourists and locals alike to witness what we enjoy doing. Plus, it’s a great chance to explain BASE jumping and why we love it.

Basic Equipment

One of the fundamental aspects of BASE jumping is understanding what type of gear should be used on any BASE jump, along with the configuration of that gear.
Here at the Perrine Bridge a variety of equipment and configurations can be used. When it comes to the make of the container single pin, dual pin, Velcro, and water rigs are all acceptable to use off of this particular object.

All these containers should be matched with a compatible BASE canopy supplied by one of the several reputable BASE manufacturers. It is strongly recommended that a 9-foot bridle and no smaller than a 42-inch pilot chute be used during these jumps.
Packing instructions will not be covered in this article. All packing instruction should be learned in a “hands-on” manner with a qualified BASE instructor. However, I will address some basic do’s and don’ts of packing.

At the end of every pack job it’s vital that you count all of your tools and make sure everything is accounted for, such as packing clamps, stakes, and pull-up cords.

Some BASE jumpers, myself included, use a clamp when packing their pilot chutes. This gives neatness to the pack job and helps develop a prominent “pud” at the end of the PC. (However, if you use this method be sure to remove the clamp from your PC prior to jumping.) Other jumpers prefer using no packing aids at all. Both methods are acceptable and can be left up to the individual’s preference.

Using pull-up cords, rubber bands, or any other similar packing aid is strongly discouraged. These items can easily be forgotten and left on the pilot chute. Jumping a BASE rig in this configuration will almost certainly be lethal.

It’s also important that when packing your pilot chute to make sure the centerline is extended and stays extended all the way to the point of putting the pilot chute in your BOC pouch. Packing your pilot chute in this manner will help it inflate more effectively once it is removed from the pouch and makes contact with the relative wind. Not doing so is asking for trouble.

We’ll talk about considerations for packing the main canopy in a moment.

Other Jumpers

While jumping at the Perrine Bridge it is not uncommon for “loads” to develop. These loads often consist of your buddies and new jumpers from across the globe. While it’s understandable that we all want to make the next load and enjoy our experience with others, at no time should we sacrifice safety to achieve this goal.

While this may sound like common sense, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make a simple yet tragic mistake. It’s important to slow down the pace to your comfort level and make sure your gear is appropriately configured. If you’re not comfortable with your pack job or the number of people on the bridge, don’t jump.

If you’re jumping by yourself it’s always a good idea to let someone else know that you’re at the bridge. Take your cell phone with you when you jump just in case of an emergency. Most times you can still get reception at the bottom of the canyon if need be.

Jumping the Bridge

When walking out to the exit point, which is approximately just past the fourth street light, make a mental gear check and make sure you’re ready to rock-n-roll.

It should be noted that exiting right past the fourth street light will put you just over the water and next to the shore. You have the water as an option if things should go bad. Use it!

I have seen at least three jumpers hit the water at an extremely high rate of speed just within 15 feet of the shore. If these jumpers would have hit land they probably would have been killed.

Once at the exit point, there may be other jumpers on the bridge. Find out what types of jumps they are making, and decide who is jumping first, second and so on. This sounds simple but I’ve been on the other side of the railing ready to go only to watch someone else jump before me. Usually this happens when a jumper is so focused on his jump that he gets tunnel vision and doesn’t realize what’s going on around him.

Wind Conditions

Now that we’re squared away we are ready to jump, or are we? Not yet! We still have to dial in the most important aspect of this jump, the wind conditions. The winds should determine what type of jump you are going to make, if you will go slider-up or slider-down, what direction your landing is going to be, whether you should land on the upper or lower elevation landing areas, and if you should jump at all.

Let’s break down the different jumping styles into unpacked jumps, slider-up or slider-down (removed) pack jobs, and aerials to see how the wind affects them differently. We’ll also discuss multi-way jumps, night jumps, and jumps from the west side of the bridge.

Before we do this, let’s orient ourselves to the jumping direction here at the Perrine Bridge. The bridge itself runs north and south and the jumps discussed here will take place from the east side of the bridge. This means you’ll be facing east, so a tail wind would be coming out of the west and a head wind would be coming out of the east. The landing area is on the south side of the canyon.

We’ll discuss unpacked jumps first. Although, if you are new to BASE jumping, you probably shouldn’t start with this type of setup. Again, if you are new to the sport, get the proper instruction.

Unpacked Jumps, The Lazy Man’s Pack Job!

Even though at times we like to poke fun at making unpacked jumps, they do serve a purpose. They substantially give the jumper more canopy time that allows him to dial in all aspects of his canopy, i.e., front and rear riser practice, sinking in the canopy, and swooping. They can be extremely fun and break up the routine of making packed jumps. And unpacked jumps give the jumper the option of making back-to-back jumps in a quicker timeframe than making packed jumps.

There are three types of unpacked jumps: TARD (Totally Awesome Rapid Deployment), TARD-over, and rollover.

I follow a general rule of thumb when attempting these jumps:

* Tail wind = TARD.
* Head wind = TARD-over.
* No wind = rollover.
* Crosswind = you’re screwed.

Now, you can get away with some variation to this equation but this is probably the safest route to go.

Also, there are two ways to configure the TARD jumps. There are smart TARDs and dirty TARDs. To learn more about all these types of unpacked jumps please seek hands-on instruction from a BASE instructor.

I’ve seen a lot of jumpers doing TARD-overs with a significant tail wind and what usually materializes is something I like to call the TARD-over burrito. The jumper will jump over the dangling canopy only to get engulfed by it once the canopy hits the westerly wind. Usually the same scenario plays out the jumper falls into the canopy, everyone on the bridge gasps in horror, and then the jumper falls out of the canopy into line twists. This is always a scary thing for both the jumper and spectator. The way to avoid this scenario all together is to do a TARD-over with a reasonable head wind or in a no-wind situation.

TARDS are good to do when experiencing a reasonable tail wind or no wind situation. However, it’s strongly discouraged doing this type of jump while experiencing a head wind. Jumpers in the past have almost jumped into their canopy because of this head wind. Imagine trying to get all that fabric out in front of you with a 10-15 mph head wind. Yeah, it’s a bit of a trick.

Rollovers are good to do in a no-wind situation. If there is too much of a head wind the canopy can get caught on the bridge it’s happened and if there is a tail wind the jumper may actually jump into his or her own canopy. For a rollover you want the canopy to hang straight down. This will help keep needed tension on the lines when diving over the canopy.

Slider-Up or Slider-Down Packs

Many of us do slider-up jumps from the Perrine Bridge. However, if you’re going to use this configuration when jumping the bridge, the winds will play an even more significant role in your jump. For a lot of jumpers this will mean they will have to nix the larger landing area and land in the smaller area called “the beach.”

Lower opening altitudes and stronger winds can make for a tricky landing situation in an area that is filled with natural wind manipulators, i.e., trees, water, rocks, stumps, and sometimes boats.

A stronger southerly wind can cause “elevator drops” once you get behind the stand of trees about 5 to 10 feet off the ground. If not prepared, this drop will definitely sprain or break an ankle.

Stronger westerly winds can create eddies due to the natural shape of the canyon. Usually these are not too severe and can be successfully maneuvered. However, anyone jumping in these conditions should be aware that significant lift could be gained while under canopy. Give yourself adequate room when coming in for final so as not to overshoot the landing area.

A stronger easterly wind can also bump you around due to some of these same natural wind barriers. However, these are usually manageable. In addition, always remember to give yourself adequate time and altitude to set up for your landings. Turning in at the last minute in stronger wind conditions can wreck havoc on your canopy. I’ve seen on occasion where the canopy didn’t have enough time to plane out and subsequently the wind slammed the jumper into a tree.

Furthermore, always remember the old adage, “You dry faster then you heal.” If you ever have any concerns about the way your canopy is flying or the way you’re flying your canopy, land in the water. You just may save yourself a lot of grief.

When jumping slider-down from the bridge, you will experience the same wind conditions and potential issues as discussed in the slider-up section. However, you will usually have more time to deal with any wind concerns that may develop while under canopy and have the added option of landing in the upper (larger) landing area.

Now, let’s back up for a minute and discuss how the wind will affect your pilot chute before you even get a canopy out. A lot of jumpers only consider the wind conditions in relation to how it is going to affect their canopy flight. Not understanding how the wind can affect your pilot chute on a sub 500-foot bridge is asking for trouble.

Jumping with a strong tail wind (at your back) can potentially lead to a very gnarly bridle wrap underneath your arm. Usually a bridle wrap in calmer winds can be relatively easy to clear. All you have to do is swim over the PC and bridle with the arm in question. However, in strong winds you now have a 42-inch wind anchor that has wrapped itself underneath your arm, because that’s the way the wind is blowing, and it doesn’t want to move.

In addition, you’re now picking up more vertical speed that is only exacerbating the problem. Now you’ve just created an ugly two-for-one combo situation!

A pilot chute towing in this manner can be difficult to shake. If you cannot swim over the bridle wrap with the arm in question, then you’ll probably have to tilt your body to the side, away from the wrap. This will at least give you a fighting chance to clear the wrap.

This same type of situation can arise when jumping in a strong head wind. Except now you’ve replaced the arms with the legs. This type of wrap usually can be cleared in calmer winds by just bending the leg in question and shaking it off. However, if the winds are strong you might now have a situation that calls for more drastic measures: like turning over on your back so you can peel the bridle off your leg. Whatever the situation, the opening (especially slider-down) will most likely be affected by your now unstable and asymmetrical body position. Get ready for line twists!

When dealing with line twists always remember that heading control comes before getting out of the line twists. Clearing line twists will do you little good if you’re bouncing down a cliff face because you didn’t correct your heading first. Be aggressive in this type of self-induced malfunction. Most likely you’ll have to climb above the line twist to steer your canopy. Once you get the canopy flying in the desired direction, you can then worry about getting out of the line twists.

Understanding how the wind is going to affect your pilot chute and canopy should be determining factors when deciding what type of jump to make. An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Aerials

Let it be noted that I do not encourage nor discourage any jumper from attempting aerials off this bridge. The following information is just my opinion on how to best survive and have a good time doing aerials at the Perrine Bridge.

There are several reasons why BASE jumpers enjoy performing aerials. Some enjoy doing aerials because of the awesome visuals. Others view aerials as a creative way to push their own mental and physical comfort levels.

Some BASE jumpers are just starting to experiment with aerials while others are looking to further hone their skills. The Perrine Bridge’s “legal” status affords the jumper time and daylight to attempt numerous types of aerials. What the Perrine Bridge doesn’t offer is a lot of altitude. Because of this, a decision has to be made on whether to use a slider-up or slider-down configuration when attempting these aerials.

I used a slider-removed configuration during my first couple of years of doing aerials. I chose this configuration because the faster openings would give me more time to open up and land. Your aerials, however, will have to be much more dialed in to prevent line twists or riser slaps.

When jumping a slider-down (removed) configuration you experience much more opening shock than you would jumping a slider-up pack job. If you’re not in the ideal body position during this opening sequence, the fast opening can result in a pendulum effect that will put you into line twists or give you a hard riser slap. Both of these are real threats when jumping this bridge.

You can hit the canyon wall or various large boulders while experiencing line twists from this bridge. I’ve had about a handful of jumps where I received line twists or a nasty riser slap to the face due to not having a perfect body position during deployment. Trust me, a good riser slap to the face will leave a very distinct mark and make you question attempting that move again anytime soon.

So what’s the happy medium? Nowadays I suggest to any jumper that is going to attempt a new aerial to use a slider-up configuration, especially for a one-rotation aerial. This will provide much more room for error if you end up asymmetrical and still give you enough time to get your canopy to dry land. If you still end up in the water you might want to reflect on exactly how you executed that particular aerial and look at changing things for your next approach.

Also, if you are attempting your first gainer, use a plank as an extra safety precaution. Jumping from a plank will allow you to use your arms for momentum and maintain a much more natural standing position as opposed to being pitched forward if you were exiting from the bridge itself.

The plank should help alleviate stalling on your back while attempting your first few gainers (there have been a lot of close calls due to jumpers stalling their gainers from this bridge).

However, I strongly suggest that after completing a few successful gainers that you remove the plank and begin making them from the bridge itself. It’s never a good idea to become dependent on any type of “addition” to an object because this will most certainly not be a true representation of other objects you’ll be jumping.

You should be able to find one of these planks lying somewhere by the bridge. If not, ask one of the locals and I’m sure they’ll be able to help you locate one.

Things get trickier the more rotations you add to the mix. You’re now taking longer delays that can potentially break you or your canopy in the slider-down mode, but at the same time you may be too low for the slider-up configuration. So when doing aerials like laid-out doubles, tucked triples or quads, or anything else more advanced, make sure you have seriously done your math on this bridge.

A critical part of doing this math is developing a “mental clock” from this particular height. This means you should have made several jumps from this particular object or something closely related. Obviously it’s important to know where you are in relation to the impact zone throughout your entire jump. If you’re doing multiple rotations, the only way you’ll know this is by relying on the mental clock you’ve developed by jumping the object several times before. Do not rush this process the results could be fatal.

I think we all can agree that we would not want to come out of an aerial only to realize we have the Grim Reaper waiting for us. It is up to you to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using either the slider-up or down configuration when attempting multiple-rotation or multi-axis aerials.

If you are going to try something new it’s always a good idea to have Don from Snake River Canyon Boat Tours in the water as an added safety precaution.

When experiencing noticeable winds it’s vital that you understand how the wind is going to affect your pilot chute during these aerials. I usually adapt my aerial to what the wind is doing that particular day. This is true especially when doing aerials of multiple rotations.

If, for example, you are at the exit point and experiencing a noticeable tail wind it’s probably not the best idea to start throwing front flips. Doing front flips during these conditions will almost certainly lead to a bridle wrap underneath you’re pitching arm.

If you’re planning on doing a gainer and you’re experiencing a noticeable head wind your legs are definitely a potential target for your pilot chute. Lately I’ve met a lot of newer jumpers attempting gainers for the first time who have been told to “pitch when you see water.” Well with more “contortionists” out there taking up BASE jumping they usually see the water before their legs are truly at 180 degrees. It’s important to stay mellow and let the gainer come around until your legs are at least at 225 degrees. Pitching around this time will most likely ensure that your legs will be out of the path of the inflating pilot chute.

Aerials can be a lot of fun but they also can be dangerous. Successfully completing any aerial 19 out of 20 times is not a good ratio in BASE jumping. Be sure that you prepare adequately for whatever aerial you want to attempt and remember to never panic if things initially don’t go as planned. If you have enough time to panic then you have enough time to do something constructive.

Multi-Way Jumps

It’s always fun to watch jumpers plan and execute multi-way jumps from a 486-foot bridge. Obviously, the more jumpers you add to the mix the more fun and technical the jump becomes. Along with the number of people for the jump you also have a number of exiting positions (flat and stable, side floats, front floats, unpacked jumps, and aerials, etc.) to choose from.

The following jump is presented in a fictional format that will best illustrate how I set up and execute multi-ways from the Perrine Bridge.

There are five jumpers on this particular load: Jimmy Jumpalot, Billy Smokeitlow, Joe Hitatree, Johnnie Brokenbody and Ryan Clueless.

Our first order of business is deciding what type of jump everyone will be doing. Like skydiving, you plug yourselves into slots where your capabilities and comfort level are best suited. You also want to ensure that everyone will have enough vertical separation during the jump.

After everyone has decided what type of jump he is performing it’s time to head out to the bridge. Then you have to decide the jumping order, from closest to the landing area to furthest away. Usually the slider-up low guy will occupy one of the first two positions closest to land. This is so he can open up and hit land without getting wet.

Brokenbody has decided he’ll take the first position closest to land. He’ll be doing a two-second, slider-down, flat-and-stable jump. Smokeitlow will take the second position in and will be executing a laid-out, double-gainer and pitching at three seconds, slider-up. Jumpalot will take the third position and do a barrel roll and pitch at two and a half to three seconds, slider-down. Clueless will be doing a pilot-chute-assist, slider-removed exit in the fourth position. This leaves Hitatree doing a slider-up, dirty TARD-over for the fifth and final position.

Because the jumpers on this load are experienced, except for Clueless, they’ve decided to keep things pretty tight so their horizontal distance will be approximately two canopy lengths apart. Hopefully now that they’ve dialed in their horizontal separation, opening altitudes, configuration of pack jobs, and experience levels they’ll have a fun and safe jump.

The only thing left to do is decide which landing area and which direction everyone will be landing. Since the crew is currently experiencing a noticeable easterly wind everyone has agreed that their flight plans will be “straight in.” Everyone has also agreed to land in the bigger landing area, except for Smokeitlow he’ll be opening so low that the beach will be his only option.

They also reiterate to each other the fact that while under canopy the lower jumper always has the right away, and that if anyone is to have a 90-degree or greater off-heading opening to make sure they get on it “Superman style” and get the heading corrected immediately.

Now that they’ve discussed all aspects of their jump it’s time for them to dirt dive it on the bridge.

When dirt diving the exit you should always execute it exactly the way the jump is planned. This means getting the appropriate horizontal distance, doing the exit count, and performing the jump in your head and pitching (hypothetically) at the previously agreed delay count.

Usually the jumper in the middle will do the exit count. This is so everybody has a fair chance to hear the count. Also, the bigger the load the higher you’ll want to start your count. Meaning, if you have two jumpers your exit count can be 3, 2, 1, c-ya! If it’s a bigger load (five or more jumpers) you’ll probably want to give a 10- or 15-second count. This will enable everyone to have enough time to get in synch with the exit count before exiting. This is important because of the traffic noise on the bridge.

To help alleviate the “bridge noise” everyone will say the count together after the middle jumper initiates the count. For this particular jump the jumpers have decided on a 10-second count and that they will leave after “c-ya!” Since everyone is saying the count together it’s important to exit after you finish saying the planned count. Do not rely on watching the other jumpers to see if they leave. Doing so will destroy the exit.

By watching the jumper to your left or right you will naturally leave a split second later than the person you’re watching. This phenomenon will continue down the whole row of exiting jumpers and give the exit a wave appearance.

Okay, the group has just “dirt dived” the exit a few times to ensure everyone is on the same page. Now with everyone feeling confident in the jump they decide it’s time to climb over the railing and have some fun. Everyone gets in position but Jumpalot decides to wait an extra 20 seconds before he starts the exit count. This allows the motorists on the bridge to pass by, creating an opening in the traffic.

With some needed silence from the road Jumpalot begins the exit count. After “c-ya” they all bail from the bridge at roughly the same time. During freefall most of the jumpers are watching one another in an attempt to share a few precious seconds of freefall with each other. Upon landing and stashing their gear they all convene at the bottom of the climb-out section and proceed to give each other high-fives for another great jump amongst friends at the Perrine Bridge.

In addition, it’s important to note that special considerations need to be made when trying to obtain adequate vertical separation during the first two seconds of freefall from this bridge. Remember that the canopy is an extension of you. This extension reaches approximately 15 feet above your head. Having two jumpers, side by side, jumping slider-down rigs with 42-inch pilot chutes will lead to trouble quickly due to the lack of vertical separation that will occur. To avoid this problem make sure you give yourself more horizontal room on the bridge or have one jumper jump a slider-down rig while the other jumps a slider-up rig.

Night Jumps

Obviously all the rules and conditions you follow when jumping during the day apply to nighttime jumps as well. However, when jumping at night it’s especially important that you call dispatch to notify them that you will be jumping.

A passing motorist will not be able to see your rig or anything else BASE related as you’re bailing from the bridge. Most likely, the motorist will call 911 and report a suicide. This is an unnecessary hassle for law enforcement that can be easily avoided by informing dispatch that you will be jumping.

The lights from the bridge usually suffice in lighting up part of the landing area. However, on no-moon nights it can get a little dark down in the canyon, especially where the bridge blocks the light.

Part of the area that will always be eclipsed is the ditch in the big landing area. Make sure you know where the ditch is before jumping and dial in your flight plan accordingly.

You can either climb or hike out of the canyon after these jumps. If you are going to climb out make sure you’re already comfortable with all the hand and foot holds on this route. It’s also a good idea to take a headlamp with you just in case.

The Dark Side

Jumping from the west side of the bridge is what we commonly refer to as “jumping from the dark side.” If you are going to jump from this side make sure that the wind conditions are ideal. You will have to land in the same landing area as you do when jumping from the east side of the bridge, unless you want to land in the boulder field directly below.

Usually jumpers choose to jump this side in no wind or in slight easterly wind conditions. This enables you to make the lower landing area without having to turn your canopy. A fun jump to do from this side of the bridge is a front float (called a front float because you are now facing the forward or front part of the bridge).

There are mainly two different ways of climbing over the railing. Some jumpers like to climb over this four-foot railing in a hugging position where their stomachs slide across the railing while others have longer legs and can just butt slide over the top. (The railing is the same on the other side of the bridge.)

Once you’re over the railing, turn so you’re now facing the bridge. From this position, make a relaxed exit and watch the bridge go by. Once you’re under canopy look above you so you can see the “underbelly” of the bridge. These jumps always seem to provide a good visual for the jumper.

Exiting the Canyon

Yahoo! You’ve just jumped and that 15-second therapy session is just what you needed. The only problem you are now facing is getting out of the canyon so that you can do this again.

There are three common routes for exiting the canyon. You have the climbing option in which you ascend straight up the canyon wall, the hiking option in which you follow the river to a turnaround point in the road, or the boating option which will drop you off at the park.

Let’s start with the climbing option. This path can easily be seen from the roadway when walking to exit the bridge. Simply look over the side and you’ll see a clearly defined path that leads from the bottom of the canyon to underneath the bridge. Once on the ground and looking up to the south side of the bridge you should still be able to see the path just left of the bridge.

Follow this path until you get to the “climbing section.” This section is not terribly hard but can be a little intimidating for someone who doesn’t climb much. At this point if you don’t have someone with you to navigate this 50-foot piece of rock you should use your best judgment in finding your way to the top. Be careful because there are spots on this rock where falling could certainly mean serious injury or death.

Also, it’s a good idea to cinch down on your shoulder straps of your stash bag in order to get a snug fit. This will help alleviate some side-to-side movement of your stash bag while climbing up the rock and in turn give you much more stability while climbing.

You’ll know you’re on the right path if you see a rope that is placed in a “V” section in the rock. Grab this rope and continue up the face of the rock.

At the top of the rock you’ll see where the path picks back up taking you up underneath the bridge. Once at the “wall” it’s up to you to ascend whatever section of the wall you feel most comfortable with. The wall is only about 15 feet high and once over this part you are back up on top. A lot jumpers use the tree that is at the bottom of the wall. There’s a rope connected to the tree to help aid you up the side.

The hiking option is a great alternative for jumpers getting out of the canyon during the winter months. Climbing up the side of the canyon can be downright treacherous during these icy and snowy months. Most jumpers take the hiking route during the winter because it’s flatter and there are no “Oh shit, I’m going to die!” sections.

However, in order to do the hiking route you will need at least two jumpers and two vehicles to carpool from the turnaround point. This means one jumper will leave a car at the turnaround point while the other jumper gives him a ride back up to the bridge.

The turnaround point is located at the “break-off” section in the road leading to Centennial Park. One road goes to the park while the other road goes to the golf course.

The hiking path begins west of the upper elevation landing area (big landing area) just after crossing the ditch. The path, especially during the winter months, should be relatively noticeable. You can follow this path downriver, taking either the upper (over the rocks) or lower route. While walking on this path you will notice several culverts that have been put in place by park personnel over the past couple of years. These culverts have made a significant improvement in keeping the path dry and clear for all hikers.

Around 15-20 minutes into your hike you should see a set of stairs that run up the side of the hill to your left. Take these stairs up the hill and continue on the beaten path to the turnaround point where your car is located.

The boating option is available during the late spring, summer, and fall months. Don, owner and operator of Snake River Canyon Boat Tours, has offered this service to jumpers for over the past eight years. This pontoon boat will pick jumpers up at the bottom of the bridge and take them to Centennial Park where they can repack and hang out. I believe he is currently charging $6 for this service.

The boat option is a great alternative for all jumpers, even the ones who like to climb out on a regular basis. Continually climbing out of the canyon in 100-plus degree heat during the summer months can get old real quick!

The boat is also great for jumpers making water jumps. The boat’s open bow makes it easy to get wet jumpers and their gear into the boat. In addition, the boat serves as an added safety precaution for all jumpers.

I highly recommend having the boat in the water for anyone attempting a more advanced jump from this bridge. Don and his boat have saved numerous jumpers from worsening injuries or death just by being in the water at the time of their impact. You do not want to be a broken mess lying in the Snake River waiting 15-20 minutes for the sheriff’s boat to drag you out.

Conclusion

Having access to the Perrine Bridge is truly a unique opportunity for us BASE jumpers. Over the past decade thousands of jumpers have come to Twin Falls to enjoy jumping from the bridge. Having a “tolerated” BASE site enables this sport to develop within a pressure-free environment. However, to some jumpers, the Perrine Bridge can look deceptively forgiving as a BASE site.

At 486 feet the bridge offers very little time and forgiveness for things like pilot chute hesitations, bridle wraps, and human error. So when jumping the Perrine Bridge make sure you give it the respect it deserves.

And when interacting with the Twin Falls community make sure to extend them the same common courtesy that they have given us unconditionally over the last 10 years.
Hopefully, by following these simple steps, we’ll have a great BASE site here in Twin Falls for many years to come.

To find information on Twin Falls’ restaurants, bars, lodging, and airports go to snakeriverbase.com.

(Jamie Boutwell started BASE jumping in 2000. He moved to Twin Falls in 2003 to “seek a more active BASE-jumping lifestyle.” He’s made over 500 jumps from the Perrine Bridge. He is the program director for Twin Falls County’s Juvenile Intensive Outpatient Program.)

Reprinted by permission from the February 2007 issue of Skydiving Magazine. All rights reserved. http://www.skydivingmagazine.com