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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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