BASE?

BASE

A colleague at work mentioned this today:

… you ever considered (or done any) BASE jumping? Caught a program the other week about Dan Witchalls and for some reason I thought of you! Is BASE just a bit too reckless?

An interesting question, and one I thought my answer to was worth publishing…

Hmm, BASE… When I learnt to skydive some years ago this was the plan, to go on to BASE, but it never really happened – cost, lack of time, etc. Yes, scary stuff, I think I watched the same TV program, the one where his mate crashed jumping a building in China and then again at the end of the program on a cliff in Norway? Not sure it’s reckless though, it’s one those sports where a meticulous attention detail is required, and needs to be maintained. Just one slip in this attention, a parachute cord just a millimetre out of place etc., and it’s game-over! It’s very hard to keep the attention going when you get very familiar with something, i.e. you become complacent. So in may ways the right skill set isn’t being brave, reckless, or some kind of crazy dude (although these all help), it’s having an incredibly fastidious attention to detail and being quite a little dull and a pernickety kind of person…

Any thoughts on my dismissal of BASE jumping bravery?

Blue Mountains

Two more days of climbing in the Blue Mountains before we head off on the first leg of our Australian rock climbing road trip.

Awesome top pitch of Eyrie at Mount Boyce
Awesome top pitch of Eyrie at Mount Boyce

The first was at Mount Boyce, a great single and two pitch venue. Lots of bolted routes. I say bolted, but these are Aussie bolts; Carrot bolts. Big machine bolts driven into the rock with no hangers. You carry the hangers in your chalk bag and have to slot them on as you ascend. Clipping the hanger secures it, filling the wider part of the slot that fits over the machine bolt head with the back of the karabiner. So far we don’t like them much. We all agreed, either bolt the route properly or leave it for natural protection.

Anyway, saying that, we did have lots of fun, until the scorching sun forced us off the rock.

A beer after the climbing at the Victoria Hotel
A beer after the climbing at the Victoria Hotel

We had fun that night with a traditional Australian BBQ with massive slabs of steak.

Nice pinny Ian!
Nice pinny Ian!

Our final day at the Blueys was saved for a full day multi pitch extravaganza. We went off to find Bunny Bucket Buttress (is that the right name?) a nine pitch route with an amazing and committing approach, while the others joined Andrew for Tom Thumb on Fortress Ridge Mount Hay.

Approach to Bunny Buckets (?)
Approach to Bunny Buckets (?)
Laetitia half way up the awesome nine pitch route
Laetitia half way up the awesome nine pitch route
80m of a vertical jug fest!  The best pitch(es) ever!!!
80m of a vertical jug fest! The best pitch(es) ever!!!
Amazing Blue Mountain views!<br />Check out the overhanging BASE jumping platform...
Amazing Blue Mountain views!
Check out the overhanging BASE jumping platform...

Amazing scenery, amazing climbing. A perfect day for all.

Humphrey Head

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We’d gone down to the Cark Drop Zone to see if we could do some sky diving there; it was shut!

So we settled for an inspiring walk out onto the beach (Morecambe Bay sands) at Humphrey Head. I recognised the name but wasn’t sure why until we saw the chalk left on the rock by boulderers. Back at home we checked out the routes – mostly short and hard – but I think it’ll be a great place to go back to for some low level traversing and other fun bouldering. But beware…

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Pete (finally, and only just) Passes his AFF

I’ve decided that I’m not very good at skydiving! Watching the DVD of my AFF jumps again after getting back from my second session trying to pass the AFF course (check here for the first), it is clear that when my instructor (Andy) passed me and wrote the following in my log book…
“I passed you because of your good altitude awareness and excellent canopy control.”

He meant something more like…
“Your jumping is awful, but I’m sure you will pull the parachute in good time to stop you killing yourself! Oh, and you are excellent at canopy control.”

Ah well, it is fun what ever! Even the awful smell of aviation fuel and the curdling ride to 13500 feet started to become more of a prompt to build excited anticipation for the adrenaline pumping free-fall. By the end of these two days in Ocaña I’d passed my AFF (just) and completed three more solo jumps, bringing my jump total to 16. Now that really shows my complete lack of aptitude for skydiving. The AFF course should be just seven jumps – it took me 13!

Great fun – go for it – “Arch and Relax”!

Next? Well, the plan has always been to learn to skydive so that I could move on to BASE… I hate all that walking down hill after a long climb. At least Paula’s words as we left the DZ made me feel a little more confident that I’ll get to become a BASE jumper; “at least you don’t have to get stable before pulling the parachute on a BASE jump”.

Accelerated Free Fall!

The weather looked wet for our planned trip to Scotland to bag the three famous sea stacks. So, plan ‘B’ was invoked! Learning to skydive has been on the agenda for ages and ages, except other stuff (like good weather and climbing) has always got in the way… So, late Friday evening we booked a flight to Madrid, insurance, a hire car, and (most importantly) an Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) sky diving course with the Freefall University at Ocaña. All of this wasn’t cheap, but learning to jump out of an aeroplane at 13000 ft, plummet towards earth at 130 mph, and then land safely using your parachute (a bloody big sports kite) isn’t going to be easy (and therefore cheap) to learn is it!

Skydiving is everything you’d expect – difficult to learn, scary (jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane), an amazing adrenaline rush, and one of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever had!

Special thanks have to go to our instructor Andy – it was brilliant, you’ll see us again soon – “Arch & Relax”!

Check out Laetitia’s level 6 here…