BASE jumpers killed in accident

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Too soon?


No, this is perfect. You should take it to the next level with a video montage of BASE jumping mishaps set to this song.


Third comment down calls it in 2008.

Wingsuit videos frequently include fliers commenting “that felt totally safe” to each other on landing. Which tells you a bit about their approach to risk management.


Live by the squirrel, die by the squirrel.



New York Times article on his death

They include an old video of him “baselining”

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BASE jumping is illegal in Yosemite National Park.

Their deaths are tragic I don’t think they deserved what they got or anything, but I think this is one of those rules that makes a lot of sense. Rangers put their own lives at risk to search for and ultimately retrieve the bodies of the jumpers.

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To be fair, there are many other activities which occur in the park that cause Rangers (YOSAR, actually) to risk their lives to retrieve the bodies of the jumpers. The actual risks of such an operation are fairly minor. They retrieved the bodies with a helicopter very quickly.
Many people die in Yosemite every year, and many more are rescued from precarious situations as a result of climbing or hiking, both of which are allowed and encouraged activities. In 2011 alone there were 17 deaths in the park. To my knowledge there had not been a BASE jumping fatality in the park since 1999.
Dean and Graham were jumping at sunset to avoid being captured by rangers, who have a long history of hunting BASE jumpers like trophy game. The best conditions for this jump would be mid day when there are some adiabatic winds, but they were willing to trade the risk of worse conditions at sunset for the decreased risk of being thrown in jail or tazed by the NPS.
If the US treated BASE jumpers the way that they treat climbers (unregulated access), jumping here could be done much more safely. Current NPS policies incentivize jumping in less than ideal conditions.

OK, but also keep in mind that 2011 death count

A) Was unusually high compared to most years, and

B) Includes all manner of deaths: heart attacks, car accidents, and at least three hikers who died after climbing over a guard rail (more people who ignored safety rules).

The ratio of non-BASE-jumping-visitors to BASE-jumping-visitors in Yosemite is also many hundreds of thousands to one. I’d say this still classifies BASE jumping as one of the most dangerous ways to enjoy Yosemite.


The policy question of unrestricted jumping is less about whether we want a handful of professionally sponsored adventurers jumping a few times a year, and more about whether wingsuit tour groups are a good idea. There are other mountains, some nearby, with this unrestricted access. They’re just not in the land set aside for preservation.

Which is their choice, and not even really necessary. Why risk lives to fetch a body naturally decomposing in a forest, only to bury it elsewhere?

Ignoring of the general inhumanity of this idea, Yosemite Valley has at peak, 20,000 visitors per day. It’s an incredibly tightly managed piece of ‘wilderness’.


No, there aren’t. Yosemite is home to some of the safest and most world-class BASE exits in the world. If you venture outside the park there are very few wingsuit-able exits in the BLM land throughout the Sierra. Those that do exist are marginal.
Also, your impression that there are a couple of sponsored athletes jumping a few times a year is a gross underestimate.
Are climbing tour groups a good idea? What is the difference?

I see you joined simply to comment on this one post. I hope you continue to participate in our overall community.


I lead those some of those tours, last in 2005, and I have mixed feelings about it. The guided groups generally have lower impact than self-organized groups, because of the tight oversight on permitting. They open the backcountry of the park to people who would otherwise see it on TV. But it’s also pumping people through a space that feels more like a big back yard than a wilderness. So, mixed feels.

What’s the difference with wingsuits, though? The safety margins, mostly. If I was asked to lead people into something with a similar risk profile, I’d walk off the job.

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But what about the dog?

That’s kind of a silly thing to say. The rangers began the search before they even knew the jumpers’ fate because they wanted to make every effort to save their lives just as they would have for any other missing visitors. The main difference was that the terrain made the search more difficult and dangerous than what’s involved in a typical search for lost hikers.

Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) initiated a hasty search, but the rangers were unable to locate the pair overnight. Potter and Hunt had been attempting to fly along terrain that required them to clear a notch in a rocky ridgeline. “It’s kind of a trickier flight to go through this notch,” Gauthier says. On Sunday morning, a state police helicopter was able to spot both bodies from the air. No parachutes had been deployed. Two rangers were then airlifted to the site to perform the recovery.

“Oh well, I guess they’re out there somewhere but they’ll decompose eventually” was never a realistic option.


My comment is entirely anecdotal and I have no link to support it, but I will say: I have a friend who works Search and Rescue in Yosemite and he tells me that a reason base jumping is not permitted is because of gawking tourists. There was a problem with drivers getting distracted by jumpers, which then caused traffic accidents. (Climbers are not such a distraction because (a) they’re really far away and (b) they don’t move quickly, catching drivers by surprise. Wildlife, of course, does cause the same types of traffic problems, but I think we all agree we’re going to let the bears stay.)