Brain eating, adrenaline zombies – BASE jumping switzerland

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

From my extensive youtube experience I had formed the impression that all BASE* jumpers and wing suit flyers were completely crazy demi-gods without any regard for personal safety, I mean they don’t even carry a reserve chute, no time to deploy one anyway. Standing ten feet tall with icy blue eyes they are devoid of fear and spend their days thirsting for the next adrenaline hit like a zombie thirsts for brains. Well, I have now had the pleasure of chatting with three BASE jumpers, they definitely don’t all have icy blue eyes, they were friendly people who were BASE jumping Switzerland style.

My friend who I came to Switzerland to paraglide with sadly has to work the rest of the week due to a colleague hurting his back. The weather around St Gallen was not looking good for flying anyway so I have made my way to Interlaken, the spiritual home of BASE jumping and one of the closest towns to the famous Eiger north face. Fabio set me right with some local knowledge

“Don’t go to Interlaken, it is full of American and Korean tourists. Go to Lauterbrunnen instead, stay at the Hotel Horner. This is where all the BASE jumpers stay, cool guys, cheap rooms and they usually have space.”

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

So after a very relaxing four hours commuting on the ridiculously efficient Swiss railway system, watching cuckoo clock and chocolate factories slide by I lobbed into the Hotel Horner. Making my way to my room I had my first, and least successful, conversation with a real life BASE jumper. She was a tall, but not quite ten feet tall, French lady with blue eyes, not icy cold however, more like glacial runoff cold. She was packing a chute in the hallway. Thinking to myself;

“You are about to meet your first BASE jumper, try to seem a bit hardcore…” I tried an offhanded Hi.

She looked up and inspected my paraglider bag which, by the way, looks like an unwieldy snail’s carapace. I was somewhat intimidated under this silent gaze and started to babble.

“Have you just done a jump? About to go again then? Looks like fun hey…”

“Hello. Oooh a paraglider pilot, do you do tandems?”

“Hi, yeah, no, not yet. I am just learning and don’t have the experience to take passengers yet.”


This ended her interest in conversation!

Once is was clear that I would not be able to help her jump from a paraglider the French sounding lady summarily dismissed me by going back to packing her chute.

Okay, so now all the BASe jumpers I have personally met are single minded adrenaline junkies.
grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

I settled into my room before going for a walk.

Strolling down the valley towards Trachsellauenen, which is flanked by 500 meter high cliffs, I had the sun on my back, a smile on my face and my mind was wandering. I heard a weird sound and looked up.

A silhouetted super-bat thing came screaming over the cliff top. Before I could get my camera out, the chute opened and he floated down to a nearby paddock. It is hard to describe just how incredibly fast the man was going. It seemed like he materialised out of thin air, the suit made a buzzing sound like a kite being flown in a hurricane. I sat drinking tea for the next two hours with my eyes scanning the cliffs. Even from my safe perch on the bench I got a buzz of adrenaline whenever a whooshing silhouette would materialise. I can only imagine the kind of adrenaline thrill these guys on top getting.

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerlandOn the bus back I got chatting to Dillon and Andrew, two very mellow Aussie jumpers. Both seemed like ordinary chaps they were wearing the obligatory Aussie-abroad uniform of board shorts, peaked cap and blue singlet. Asking them about their experience Dillon explained how he got into the sport;

“It is a weird thing mate. I started skydiving, loved it. Went into BASE jumping with a few goals and the definite promise to get in/get out, you know. Once I had ticked off my list, however, my mates and I started trying wing suits and currently my get in/get out mission is out the door. I want to go closer to the wall…you know.”

Exchange ‘BASE jumping’, ‘wingsuiting’ and ‘closer to the wall’ with ‘Marijuana’, ‘amphetamine’ and ‘heroin’ and you have the image which was in my mind. Top guys though and not completely insane, just passionate about a sport which is getting increasingly safe as the technology improves.

Now with the sun setting and dinner done I have just finished a beer with Andrew. He told me that nowadays he sets a limit of 3 jumps a day, just like his big wave surfing that has become more controlled. Andrew went on to explain that the last time he was here on holidays he had a 3 week jumping bender, 6-8 jumps a day. The whole time his hands were shaking uncontrollably and he was getting all kinds of weird nerve tinglings across his face and twitches. Maybe an overload of Adrenaline and cortisol? Who knows. Having met few jumpers, seen many jumps and looking around the pub right now I have a new theory.

I think that the only mad BASE jumper is the one doing it for the first time. After that you know what to expect and can set more realistic goal for the sport. The people around me are normal people with a love for a different kind of sport not brain eating adrenaline Zombies…well mostly, I am still unsure about that French girl.

*BASE jumping is written in capitals as it is an acronym standing for Buildings, Aerial (as in radio aerials), Structure and Earth, the stuff they like to jump from. Hence a BASE from a paraglider is not actually a base jump but technically a skydive from an aircraft…yup, I am a nerd.

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

Three very cool statements

grey Three very cool statementsThis week I have heard three of the most cool statements I have ever heard:

Number 1: “Yes”

This is what Jette my brilliant girlfriend of two years said even before I finished a nervously delivered spiel which ended with “Will you marry me?” However, I will not expand on this snippet here. Despite being over the moon about the situation I believe that some moments are best left etched on the soul rather than recorded in a blog. In a word I am thrilled!




Number 2: “So, if the wind picks up and you get blown over the ridge just fly across the border to Austria and land by the river…do you have your passport with you?”

Fabio and I on top of Hoher Kasten preparing to launch in rather high wind. I asked what to do if I get too high and end up blown behind the ridge, this was his reply. It really tickled my fancy that I could quite possibly fly into a whole other country with my 12 kilogram paragliding kit.

We waited for about half an hour for the wind to drop but decided instead to go halfway down the 1794 meter high mountain for launch. This was a great choice as I felt far more comfortable launching lower in these gusty conditions. Conditions were at the upper level of comfortable given my experience. Lower down we enjoyed a half hour cruise in very buoyant air. Most of the way I had my big ears in but despite this it still took some time to descend. Big ears is when you tuck the outer wing tips in to reduce the lifty surface of the wing. This changes the flight characteristics of the wing and increases sink rate, it also looks cool! Sadly my Go-pro camera died before we launched so I have no videos of this amazing area, maybe tomorrow…

Number 3 : “Yeah I know the Eiger North face, I climbed it last year then BASE jumped off it…2 days up, 40 seconds down, it was nice”

Today the wind was far too strong to consider flying so we went out for lunch with one of Fabio’s friends. He dropped this bombshell when I told him my plans to visit the Eiger later in the week. I told him I wanted to go and simply gawk at this iconic climbing route and maybe drink a beer while imagining the climb and doing some projected, mental climbing.

The Eiger north face is a furious climb. Described time and again as a true rite of passage for ‘proper’ hard core climbers it rises 3000 meters above Grindelward, has claimed over sixty four lives and holds a fearsome reputation. The Germans call it Mordwand (Murder wall) which is a play on the German word for North Wall (Nordwand).

Here I was sitting across from a chap who has not only climbed it but BASE jumped from the top! My new idol then went on to casually describe the whole experience (without a hint of irony) as ‘Nice’.

Clearly I spent the rest of our lunch interrogating him about his experience climbing this face. He witnessed two roped up climbers tumble right past him to their deaths and slept on the knife edge top so that he could BASE jump early the following day in calm conditions. The ridge is the width of your average dinner table and has 2km sheer drop on one side and 3km on the other.

Truly you meet some cool people when traveling.

It was nice…Seriously.


grey Three very cool statements


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