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
Anthony “Donk” DiCola
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.