0
Cerebrus

Wingsuit BASE - How dangerous is it?

Recommended Posts

I'm just wondering what the fatality rate is for these guys who skim mountains doing wingsuit BASE. I want to do it so badly, it looks incredible but I'm just wondering if I should get other parts of my life handled (i.e. have kids, etc.) first and stick to regular skydiving till then because I imagine the death rate is way way higher than skydiving's very low rate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd say very dangerous. I don't have a total number, but there have been four fatalities in the past 15 months. Plus at least two paraglider launched, base gear ws-jump deaths. Misjudged altitudes, flight paths, bad exits, bad flying, pulltime issues.

There are several ways to go about basejumping in a wingsuit, and some push it more than others. But no matter how you do it, the margins of error are from tiny to non-existent. Adding a wingsuit to a base jump in most cases adds to the total risk of the jump. In some cases it can make a jump safer. Some jumps are only possible with a ws. I could argue that ws-base is n-times more dangerous than skydiving or a tracking basejump, but that would be pointless. Add the pieces together and you have to see that it's a high-risk activity.

Perceived risk is a very personal thing, some think 50 skydives is enough to consider base, somethink 500 is not enough. Some don't think Bridge Day jumps or PCA's are base jumps at all because theyre so easy. Some jump and bring their kids to watch, some quit base when they have their first kids.

That said, I agree that it looks amazing and feels pretty amazing too (judging from the handful of friends I see doing it). For me wingsuits are skydive-only, at least for a while. Eventhough it's a very tempting idea. I only have maybe 120 ws skydives and even fewer base jumps, and don't consider myself anywhere near ready for ws-base. But that's just me, one thing about base is that no one is going to tell you when you are ready and able to do something, you need to know that yourself, and act accordingly. I know a jumper whose 3rd base jump was a ws cliff jump and have heard of firsts. I have also heard stories about wingsuit fatalities that have made me think maybe that dude should not have been making that kind of jumps.

One problem in my opinion is the amount of breath-taking video material available online of people flying down mountain sides literally only a few feet from the cliff face or trees on a steep hill side. These guys make it look soooo easy. "Hey I can fly a wingsuit and I have a handful of basejumps, I gotta try that shit!" It's made look very easy, almost effortless by these guys who are at the very top of their game. However these guys (guys like Loïc, Robi P, Dave B, Andy W, Obi (RIP), Jean-Noël, Espen and them Norgies) have massive base experience together with massive wingsuit experience. And they work towards a certain jump usually step by step, inching themselves closer to the limit and always having a way out. And because of their experience, they are sometimes willing to jump a "one try, do or die" type jump. Because they know they can pull it off.

Maybe a few ws-base fatalities could have been avoided with better preparation or judgement. I'm gutted to write this, but I'm certain that proximity flying and ws-base in general will continue to harvest the base community, because the risk-level and increasing popularity.

That's the way I see it, (my 2 eurocents)

Kerkko

edit for spelling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Right know you probably dont understand at all what it takes to fly a wingsuit safely in proximity of an object. You might never understand. How would you train yourself to so? Movies are not reality. A bird dont think, it is. Cliffs dont move, you have to. How?
Human flying is aerodynamics, the rules are set. Fly within the limitations. Whats your capability and capasity? Maybe you have a talent for air, maybe not.

I am able to fly in proximity to any object because I know my limitations. I know when to steer, when to dive, when to flatten out, when to pull, where I can and can not jump. I can visualize the line, I know where am headed, I know how steep I need to fly, how flat. I know how much power I have or need to do so. I can read the terrain.I know this by doing it over and over again. My body learnes it, it is second nature. I jump, I fly, I dont think, I respond.

I can not learn you how, you have to dedicate many years and hiking boots to know. You will lear the basics from the skydives you do, the rest you have to learn by doing what you want to do.

Somethings you can not learn quickly, you can not quickly learn how to free solo the El cap. You have to train hard and be dedicated, even then you might never succsed. You might maybe come half way up the wall, but the you fall. You might be so scared youll never do it again. You might get hurt, and paralized. But If you have what it takes in all it forms, you will be able to do it. Then you know what is feels like, then you want to do it again, the you start to enjoy it.

It is not a matter of life or death, if you survive it or not. If this is what you think about it, please dont try it. This is a bout controlling yor body in freefall close to objects. It is nothing in the physics saying it is impossible, or even hard, its easy. The hard part is to learn how to master the element. Like the surfer knows the wave, the skier knows the snow, and the rally driver knows the car, you have to know the air.
Its learning by doing, like everything else in life. You just have to carefull :)
Peace

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Flying past a cloud will give you the same visuals as flying past a shear rock face. But a cloud will gently part as you fly through it by mistake. *You* will flow not-so-gently around the rock if you try to fly through it.

Push the limits. Pay the price. It's a law of nature I'm afraid. A great jump is one that you can go do again.

IMHO

Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

Flying past a cloud will give you the same visuals as flying past a shear rock face.



Not really.


You got an incredibly elegant answer from one of the world's best mountain fliers, I would read and re-read it.
Wingsuits add a good margin of safety when used to get away from an object.
Mountain/terrain flying is another game entirely, which you will see if you choose to take that road.

Take it slow, make it safe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There was a steep and painful learning curve when B.A.S.E. jumpers first took to wingsuits in large numbers.

While we were very used to going low and fast, we weren't so used to going low and slow. And because of that - late deployments - was the reason for many early BASE wingsuit fatalities. We sort of worked that out and beginning wingsuit flyers now know to watch out for that when the earlier folks didn't even realize the phenomena existed.

I understand completely you desire to BASE in a wingsuit. Even though I started BASE long before YouTube existed my own desires were definitely fueled by the videos and films that were passed hand to hand inside the BASE community. And I too look at wingsuit BASE nowadays and especially proxy flight as the stuff closest to our original dream of human flight. And I know for a fact that wingsuit BASE has done the best job of broaching the divide between B.A.S.E. jumpers and what the rest of the world thinks of us.

But I'll never strap on a wingsuit . . . ever.

I'm a fairly experienced B.A.S.E. jumper so why is that? Why is you want to do it so badly when I don't want to do it all? I could oversimplify it by saying I'm an old school fly what God gave you type. Or, I could say I don't need a wingsuit because if I can't out track something below me naked I just won't make the jump. Or I could just shake my head and say, "Oh these kids today with their wingsuits and their music . . ."

But it's much more than that. In both skydiving and BASE I can attribute my longevity to a few simple rules. One is I'm a follower, not a leader. I write a lot about the "leaders" in BASE and I have the utmost respect for most of them. The exceptions there would be the boneheads who are just continually and incredibly lucky. And except for a few generic buildings I don't run around trying to open new sites. And even though I'm pretty knowledgeable about gear I won't use anything new for a good long time. (It took me forever to give up my trusty Velcro flap rig).

I also think a solo three second delay off a bridge over a good landing area with modern BASE equipment, experience, and knowledge is the safest type of parachute jump anyone can make, and that includes skydiving. So therein lays my main argument. Keep it simple stupid.

And while we celebrate our earthly departed and in some cases make legends of them, I think dying with a parachute on your back is the ultimate goofball move you can make. And that applies to all my heroes; it applies to Carl Boenish, Dwayne Weston, and all the rest. I will always cherish the contributions they made, yet at the end of that will always be that big "but" . . .

I'm being a bit presumptuous, as I don't know you at all, but here's my fatherly advice, or put another way, if our dead legends had a do-over, here's what I'm sure most would say to you. Go slow, don't chase the numbers, don't look to become someone in BASE, and know that you can spend a long life doing the less technical jumps, with only an occasional bad scare here and there. You'll still feel happy and fulfilled and get laid just as much.

For myself I'm in a very comfortable spot. I don’t do buildings or towers anymore as I pushed on that luck button enough in the past. I'm now happy with the occasional trip to the Potato and a Bridge Day once in awhile. Yet, I realize all young B.A.S.E. jumpers have to first make their bones, but the trick is not to do that literally . . .

NickD :)BASE 194

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

While we were very used to going low and fast, we weren't so used to going low and slow. And because of that - late deployments - was and is the reason for many a few early BASE wingsuit fatalities and injuries. We sort of still haven't worked that out and beginning wingsuit flyers now know to watch out for that when the earlier folks didn't even realize the phenomena existed are still adding to the steep and painful learning curve.


"That looks dangerous." Leopold Stotch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

I also think a solo three second delay off a bridge over a good landing area with modern BASE equipment, experience, and knowledge is the safest type of parachute jump anyone can make, and that includes skydiving.



If you wouldn't mind, please explain this statement. My BASE experience is infinitesimal compared to yours (as is my skydiving experience), but this just doesn't add up to me.

Take the potato bridge where a 3 second delay is doable. A PC in tow (or even serious hesitation) there = GUARANTEED DEATH (as has been tragically demonstrated more than once).

The same situation (e.g., an uncocked PC) in a skydive (even at a C-D license min recommended deployment of 2,000 ft) affords a very high probability for survival due to the extra time (roughly 11 seconds compared to less than 2 from pitching) to make decisions and the ability to use a reserve.

Am I in error in my logic? If so, please explain. Otherwise, how can you consider even a "simple" BASE jump to be safer than the average skydive?

While I appreciate the (necessary IMO) confidence many BASE jumpers have in their gear due to its simplicity, it seems that confidence can sometimes result in some fairly ridiculous claims of reliability and safety.

A similar statement that made me equally incredulous was Jeb recently telling Australian TV that he trusts his BASE gear more than most elevators. Hmmm.... last time I checked, if you step into an elevator with your left shoulder slightly lower than your right, you're not instantly sucked into a waterfall to be dashed and broken on the rocks below.

P.S. Please don't misread my incredulity as disrespect. I'm not questioning as a challenge, but truly from confusion over your claim.
Brian Drake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's more about what can't happen on a jump like I indicated. I won't be killed in the plane on the way up, I won't be freight trained by a bad flyer on their way to a formation. I won't hit a canopy or body that corked below me. I can't be a victim of a bad spot and forced to land in a bad area. I won't be surprised by dust devils or strong winds on landing. And once I land I won't get my clock cleaned by a incautious swooper.

On a B.A.S.E. jump like I indicated I'm in complete control of every part rather than getting on a plane and being swept along by events. On a B.A.S.E. jump like I indicated I can launch when I'm completely ready and not just when it's my turn.

On the gear side. I've jumped every kind of parachute system there's been since the mid 70s. And I never feel as confident as I do when I'm wearing a simple single container BASE rig. The skydiving rigs of today are so full of gimmicks and gizmos to prevent the inept from dying they are getting further and further away from when they worked okay in the first place.

I know it's hard to get away from the reserve mentality, but sometimes the reason you need a reserve is because you have a reserve. B.A.S.E. jumpers tend to be very careful with the one parachute they have while skydivers tend not to worry about that frayed line, or that slammed pack job, and only because they have reserve.

What I'm saying is on the B.A.S.E. jump like I indicated it's safer because the gear is simpler, and therefore works better, and you are free of the outside influences that can affect you on a skydive.

Now it's easy to increase the danger of a B.A.S.E. jump by making the more technical jumps but on that simple jump from a bridge, if you know what you're doing it's less dangerous, all things considered, than almost any skydive.

You mentioned the Potato bridge and how a pilot chute problem can be instant death. But notice I didn't mention the Potato in my example. I actually think that bridge is at a dangerous altitude especially for newbies. At around 600-feet you're suspended right between heaven and hell. A 300 or 400 foot bridge is actually safer for newer jumpers. Six hundred feet gives people time to do tricks and much of the time these are very people who shouldn't be doing tricks at all.

There's a lot more to this, but I'm tired right now and maybe not explaining myself properly. We'll take it up again later . . .

NickD :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Start wingsuit base jumping before you have a family. It is dangerous, plain and simple. Think of it as survival of the fittest. If you survive long enough to procreate, great. If you don't, you won't pass on your inferior wingsuiting skills to the next generation of cliff swoopers....:P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

you won't pass on your inferior wingsuiting skills to the next generation of cliff swoopers....:P



Plenty with inferior wingsuiting skills out there and the genes to go with 'em. But for the most part their social skills are so low the worst of em will never make their own babies.:D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

***
Take the potato bridge where a 3 second delay is doable. A PC in tow (or even serious hesitation) there = GUARANTEED DEATH (as has been tragically demonstrated more than once).



Most of the hesitation issues can be attributed to a rigging error. Some jumpers feel better when packing their pilot chutes by using a tool to restrain the packed pc as they place it in the boc. tolls include, but not limited to pull up cords, rubber bands, packing clamps. you leave on a tool, its a rigging error with grave circumstance as sadly proven. [:/]

NEVER USE A RESTRAINT ON YOUR PC's!!

-n

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I fully realize that (rigging error). I'm merely pointing out that such an error is fatal in BASE, but due to the extra time (to maybe pull your own pin) and ability to use a reserve, the same problem is highly survivable in Skydiving.

In a perfect world where no one makes mistakes, then there's really no point in discussing which is more dangerous.
Brian Drake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

0