Text and pictures © 2004-2017 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/06
"Minds are like parachutes — they only work well when opened."
November 2004 — We decided to spend my last weekend among the 'unfrozen' climbing in the Verdon. Even though it's in southern France late november is not the best time of the year to be there as it can get windy and miserable. We were lucky, we had two days of stupendous weather, climbed in T-shirt and all the super-classics were totally empty. We were basically the only climbers on the entire cliff. The parking lot at the Carelle would have been empty were it not for a group of jumping happy BASE jumpers. Before and after our climbs I took a few images of their jumps in the panorama of Canyon. In the evening, with a few locals we were the only ones at the bar. I processed the images quickly to produce those jump sequences before leaving...
It's not the first time I'm in contact with base jumpers, but the first time was much quicker. I was leading the last pitch of the Nose, 10 years ago in Yosemite, totally exhausted after 41 hours of continuous climbing. It was midnight and a bright full moon was out. Very quiet one km off the ground, getting very close to the final edge. Suddenly there was a loud noise, like a bag being dragged on the rock very close to me. Then another one and another one. I looked around but couldn't see anything. My partner called: "Did you see the BASE jumpers ?!?" I turned around in my harness only to see another one pass no more than 2 meters from my back in the moonlight, with a noise of fabric flapping in the wind. All in all 5 people jumped in close succession, and I counted 9 seconds of freefall before opening. It took them about 15 seconds to go down what had taken us 41 hours to go up...
Im 2005, I had barely reached my new home that I received a surprise gift book via 'penguin mail': Jevto Dedijer's BASE 66, A story of Fear, Fun and Freefall, which recounts many stories of early base jumping in Europe. There's a mouthful of adjectives that can be applied to BASE jumping: impressive, crazy, insane, beautiful, interesting... But I'd just reduce it to one: fascinating.
Left: Sequence of base jump off the Verdon, Lionel in action. The whole thing lasts for no more than 3 seconds.
Right: Sequence following 2 base jumpers together (Rémy and Mika).
Left: Two jumper ready to jump off the Escalès cliff.
Right: Arnaud in a sequence showing a reverse jump.
Left: Base jumper off the Verdon.
Right: The same 1/2 second later.
Above: ...The same 200ms later...
Left: Base jumper passing by.
Right: The same slightly lower.