Ok, leaping from the edge of space is going to be hard to beat. But before he headed into the stratosphere, Felix Baumgartner cut his mustard throwing himself off cliffs and buildings. BASE jumping takes the thrill of skydiving to a whole other level. Instead of strapping on a chute and jumping from the relative safety of an airplane in the sky, BASE (Buildings, Antennas, Spans, Earth) jumpers instead plummet from fixed objects or natural landmarks, using modified parachutes which help them bring the jump under control within the shorter window of opportunity they have to safely negotiate their route back down to solid ground.
Living on the Edge
While BASE jumping is one of the ultimate ‘living on the edge’ pursuits, those brave enough to try it are often living on the edge of the law too, with the sport being either directly or indirectly outlawed in many of its most tempting hotspots. In the UK, for example, BASE jumping itself is not strictly illegal, but arrests can be made under related charges which can include trespassing or public order offences.
Flirting with a stint in the clink is probably the least of their worries though, with the treacherous terrain and hazardous environments which jumpers choose to tackle making this not exactly the safest of sports. BASE jumping has claimed plenty of lives over the years too, even from its most experienced daredevils. But then extreme sports are called extreme for a reason and its popularity shows no signs of waning. Here are five of the globe’s most popular haunts for high flying daredevils:
Lauterbrunnen valley, Switzerland
If dicing with death is half of the fun of this sport, then the stunning Lauterbrunnen valley in Switzerland must be the BASE jumping mecca. The cliffs have claimed the lives of more BASE jumpers than anywhere else on the planet, but there is plenty that keeps people coming back. BASE jumping schools are even set up here to cater for those looking for the ultimate thrill, with breathtaking views from the overhanging cliffs out across the woods and a chocolate box village nestled in the bottom of the valley.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
The mentality of BASE jumpers means they are always seeking the biggest, highest, tallest, longest… and Angel Falls in Venezuela certainly fits into one of those categories. The word’s tallest waterfall is hidden deep within the jungle, with helicopters transporting jumpers to the top of the 3,212ft falls.
Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur
Surely a tempter to any BASE jumper worth their salt as soon as these twin skyscrapers were built in the 1990s. Having spent six years as the world’s tallest buildings, it was also the scene of the previous BASE jumping world record help by, among others, a certain Felix Baumgartner.
El Capitan, California
Local thrillseekers Michael Pelkey and Brian Schubert made headlines when they made the first jump down the 3,000ft sheer drop off ‘El Cap’ in Yosemite National Park back in the 1960s. They both broke bones but that hasn’t put off crowds of jumpers from following in their daring footsteps. The authorities have tried to put a stop to it, with five deaths from the sport so far in the park, even tasering one would-be jumper last year. But jumping is carrying on in one of the world’s most desirable cliff climbing destinations.
New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia
As ‘safe’ as BASE jumping gets, this offers legal jumps and is safely maintained by experts. It also plays host to one of the biggest annual gatherings of BASE jumpers for Bridge Day every October, where brave souls flock to throw themselves from the 876ft tall bridge.
Written by Annabel, Blogger for Chillisauce, specialising in awesome stag weekends.