For several years I’ve been most excited about the creativity of combining climbing with base jumping. It started for me in 2008 when I free soloed the North Face of Castleton and made a base jump descent. With my husband Mario, ...
For several years I’ve been most excited about the creativity of combining climbing with base jumping. It started for me in 2008 when I free soloed the North Face of Castleton and made a base jump descent. With my husband Mario, I started to look for other towers that could be interesting combinations of climbing and jumping, and in 2010 we made the Perfect Circle film with our good friends 3 Strings Productions. Last year, I mixed it up a little with a base jump descent into Mineral Canyon, to climb a beautiful Hong route there. Mario and I have done more, some even wilder, tower base climbs since then around Moab, and we just keep finding more, so the desert base climbs are really an endless adventure.
But I’ve been wanting to add wingsuit base into the mix, which presents a bit of a logistical challenge. The cliffs around Moab are on BLM land, which means that all users are treated equally, and recreation is valued and respected. These cliffs are low, generally about 400 feet tall. To base jump with a wingsuit, you need cliffs that are at least 2000 feet tall (to really be worth it). Annoyingly, in the States the most accessible, appropriate tall cliffs are locked inside National Park boundaries where base jumping, a non-impactful, non-motorized activity, is discriminated against. The NPS persecutes base jumpers by manipulating a law against aerial delivery into national parks–base jumpers are “aerially delivering themselves”(don’t play Scrabble with these guys, you will lose). Where it gets even more weird is the fact that hang gliding is allowed in Yosemite, and airplanes are allowed to land at Lake Powell… anyway, a lot of court time and money has been spent trying to keep people from parachuting off cliffs in National Parks, and I could think of a lot better ways to use those resources. The NPS has gone so far as to taser people for making a base jump, and actually incarcerated jumpers into the federal prison system as recently as last year.
People have made climbs in National Parks followed by base jumps, but it hasn’t been possible to share these adventures for fear of self-incrimination. Obviously it would be amazing to climb Moonlight Buttress and fly off of Angels Landing, or follow a free climb of the NW Route of Half Dome with a wingsuit jump. The materials left on the climbs (chalk, slings, bolts, pitons) stay there permanently, but that is accepted. The elements left in the air by a base jump (wind currents) are invisible and impermanent, but that is illegal. We can only hope that someday the NPS will pull its head out of its a$$ and join us in the 21st century. But as they say, there are no problems, only puzzles to be solved. I’d been on the lookout for a way to make a wingsuit base climb for some time when I went to Notch Peak, a remote giant dolomitic limestone massif in the Utah west desert, in 2009.
Notch Peak is the second tallest vertical drop in the States, just after El Cap, and no one knows about it. And it’s on BLM land, which means that you are allowed to climb, camp, base jump and walk around with your dog.
There are a few, very adventurous limestone routes up it, and it is a very three-dimensional, serious wingsuit jump site. This jump is not like Lauterbrunnen or El Cap. It’s a place you need to be on your game, very experienced, and ready for anything. The climbing is no walk in the park either, characterized by looseness, runouts and a LOT of hiking. Notch is in the middle of nowhere. Cell phones don’t work, there’s no water, and there aren’t even many flat places to camp. 4WD is mandatory. It’s a big, intimidating place, which switches from boiling hot to freezing cold sometimes in minutes. The first time I went there to check out the wingsuit jump, I looked at the mountain and the terrain and decided I would not go back until I was a much more experienced jumper and wingsui