Imagine walking up to the edge of a cliff, and looking down. Currently imagine just taking a leap off that cliff, with nothing but the earth thousands of feet below you. It’s that thrill that attracted BASE jumpers to Unaweep Canyon. But one jump went wrong, leaving a man injured and needing to be rescued from the canyon bottom.
“They said he had done 400 jumps and this was the one that went wrong,” explained Doug Sieckert, who was responding to the scene with Mesa County Search and Rescue.
It’s something every athlete fears, the worst case scenario. Sieckert says they were dispatched to the scene, thinking they were aiding a possible fallen hiker. Rather than a hiker, they found a BASE jumper, who had fallen to the canyon floor.
“His parachute deployed, but it did a 180 and sent him into the cliff,” Sieckert said. “So he fell about 100 feet.”
That’s the biggest danger of BASE jumping, according to Dylan Hazelhurst who knows the thrill of free falling.
“In skydiving we are jumping from 10 thousand feet on up, and that’s above the ground,” Hazelhurst explained, who works for Jump Junction. “So we have 60 seconds of free fall time. In BASE jumping you have seconds. If a malfunction happens while BASE jumping, as soon as that happens you’re basically already hitting the ground.”
BASE jumpers have only a parachute to depend on, making it critical to know your gear.
“You want to have your canopy skills honed in, you want your gear set up properly, and that’s the most important thing,” Hazelhurst said.
It’s an extreme sport that is coming to gain popularity, but experts say those wishing to partake in it, need extensive training. “It doesn’t matter what you see on TV, you still need to take the steps to use it and do it the right way,” Hazelhurst said.