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  1. 1. SUMMIT#72 | WINTER 2013 | 3534 | SUMMIT#72 | WINTER 2013 For the new wave, it’s all about getting down. By Ashly Fusiarski. “Climbing didn't feel that adventurous. History just seemed to be repeating itself.” - Espen Fadnes Extreme Dreams R You’re at 4,000m above Chamonix. You’ve just jumped out of a helicopter with two friends. You’re all attempting to fly underneath the Midi bridge (yes, that tiny bridge in top-left centre). It’s never been done before. Will you make it? PHOTO:LUDOWOERTH,ELLIOTH&WINTHERFILM. BEYOND MOUNTAINEERING 72 SUMMIT_AUTUMN_V1.indd 34-35 18/11/2013 12:37
  2. 2. 1976After three weeks skydiving training, accomplished climber and stuntman Rick Sylvesters skies off Baffin Island's Mount Asgard with a Union Jack flag parachute (before the term BASE jumping is even coined) in the famous opening sequence of James Bond: The spy who loved me. BEYOND MOUNTAINEERING 1992Nic Feteris and Glenn Singleman Base jumped from the Trango Towers in Pakistan. At the time the highest recorded BASE jump. 36 | SUMMIT#72 | WINTER 2013 SUMMIT#72 | WINTER 2013 | 37 he first time I saw Espen Fadnes I knew I was seeing something new. He was flying straight towards me at 250 kilometers per hour dressed only in a wingsuit – a synthetic flying squirrel with arms and legs spread out, connected by taut fabric. Orange smoke streamed behind him. He’d just leapt out of helicopter at 4,000m and I couldn’t see how he wasn’t about to meet disaster. This spring I was on the viewing platform of the Aiguille du Midi admiring the breathtaking scene of sunny glaciers and endless mountains. The platform is essentially an eight-metre-wide bridge between two spires of golden Chamonix granite and I shared it with a dozen other people. The jagged mountain drops off all around and the sense of exposure adds grandeur to the scene. A helicopter flew overhead. I assumed it was on a rescue and I scanned the glacier to see if I could see the victims. No one. I carried on marvelling the mountains when a shout from the lift operator startled me. “BASE jumpers!” He pointed to the helicopter still circling above and I look just in time to three people falling from the open cockpit. The three humans flew straight towards me at an incredible speed, orange smoke streaming from their heels adding to the drama. They were flying. From their trajectory I realised they were aiming for the gap in the rocks beneath the platform, a seemingly impossible target at the speed they were travelling. The sight, as the rocketed under my feet, was incredible. The crowd collectively gasped in disbelief and my heart pounded from vicarious adrenalin. I turned round to see them disappear off over Les Boissons glacier. In that moment, I wondered if the remaining ground- breaking achievements were to be found not in the ascent of a mountain but in the descent. In the 18th and 19th centuries the high mountains were mysterious and misunderstood; to climb them was considered impossible and even suicidal. Yet there were some who dared to venture into the unknown, to defy social convention and believe the impossible to be possible. They also accepted the consequences of their actions and were prepared to be proven wrong – which would often result in the ultimate sacrifice. At the time it was groundbreaking and death defying, but these pioneers opened up the possibilities and returned with their stories. Audiences back home couldn't believe what they were being told and, if they could afford to, would go and visit the mountains for themselves. A new wave of pioneers were born climbing the mountains, but this time by impossible routes or at impossible altitudes until they too were proved possible. Eventually they would become much frequented routes until the next generation arrived to climb them in “impossible” times. Mountaineering is now mainstream – a sport comprised of personal challenges and goals. In the new world order of social media, it's easy for people to believe that what is new to them is new to the world, but the fact remains that mountaineering is no longer cutting-edge or esoteric. It’s no longer a demonstration of groundbreaking human endeavour that challenges the social consciousness of the possible, as it once did. The future of climbing lies in faster ascents, which in many ways diminishes the spirit of adventure, or hard, sustained ascents at the very peak of human performance. Neither captures the air of romantic adventure that mountaineering once did. T R Andreas Fransson making turns down the Whillan's Ramp on Aguja Poincenot, Patagonia. "The steepest and most exposed line I had the chance to ski, and I’m happy leaving it at that." PHOTO:BJARNESALEN. EXTREME DREAMSPlanning to free ride your speed suit? Sound cool with our guide: Freeride skiing: originally a breakaway from the highly-regulated competitive skiing community, freeriding is a matter of getting down a mountain by an imaginative line and using natural features to perform tricks normally reserved for the jumps park. Always off-piste and up to 45-degree slope angles, it’s arguably the most natural and expressive forms of skiing. Steep skiing: reserve of the bold elite. Steep ski lines often descend climbing routes graded D+. They often involve a series of abseils over rock sections. Any mistake is likely to be fatal. Steep ski lines are over 45 degrees and can be up to 60 degrees in sections. Kite skiing: using a kite to utilise the wind to tow a skier, usually across plateaus such as Greenland or Antarctic. Speed-winging: a combination between skiing and paragliding but not really either. A lot of fun but extremely dangerous: if it goes wrong, it goes seriously wrong. BASE jumping: originally a term for people jumping from Buildings, Antenna, Span (bridges) or Earth (cliffs) with a parachute. Considered to be a lot more dangerous than skydiving as BASE jumpers are generally too close to the ground to allow any time to rectify any problems. It’s also more dangerous due to the solid features BASE jumpers are close to during the descent. Ski BASE: skiing lines that end with a cliff. Ski off the cliff, kick off your skis and deploy parachute. Simple. Wingsuit flying: A specially designed suit reminiscent of a flying squirrel. Wingsuits blur the boundaries between flying and falling by allowing BASE jumpers to track forwards instead of falling vertically. In the right hands, a wingsuit allows humans to fly with extreme precision and ‘proximity fly’ within meters of terrain, at Formula 1 speeds. No margin for error. Adrenaline addicts have been throwing themselves off cliffs for over 30 years. Ashly Fusiarski picks his stand-out moments. “PEOPLE USED TO BE HAPPY IF THEY MANAGED TO GET WITHIN 20M OF A CLIFF FOR TWO SECONDS BUT NOW PEOPLE ARE FLYING TWO METERS ABOVE THE DECK FOR TWENTY SECONDS” R Espen Fadnes (R) hanging out above Brazil - where they flew under the arm of the Christ statue. PHOTO:LUDOWOERTH,ELLIOTH&WINTHERFILM. 72 SUMMIT_AUTUMN_V1.indd 36-37 18/11/2013 12:37
  3. 3. 2008Dean Potter solos Deep Blue Sea (7b +) on the Eiger North Face with only a BASE rig to protect a fall. After completing the route, he jumps as a method of descent. 2009Shane McConkey, Red Bull professional athlete, is killed on a ski-BASE attempt in Italy. He isn't able to release a ski and consequently isn't able to deploy his parachute. 2000Hannes Arch and Ueli Gegenschatz make the first BASE jump from the North Face of the Eiger. 38 | SUMMIT#72 | WINTER 2013 BEYOND MOUNTAINEERING For that, we must turn to the most dangerous part of a climbing excursion: the descent. Since the 1970s, pioneers have being skiing the very lines that mountaineers dream of climbing. Names such as Vallençant, Baud, Boivin, Benedetti and Lécluse pushed the envelope in a time when today's modern skis were a far-off concept. Even now, despite modern ski technology, the risks will always be the same: you fall, you die. Some of the lines are so steep that they rarely come into condition – perhaps only three or four times in a skier’s career – but the fact remains that they have already been done. I asked Jim Lee, a resident of Chamonix for twenty years and established freerider, if he thought there are many notable first ski descents to be had left in the area. The answer? A cautious “no”. Most of the steep lines being done are repeats: on the limit of what’s possible on skis but not breaking new ground. To pioneer today, you need to combine skill sets to produce a really interesting adventure. The combination of skydiving and alpine skills (dubbed para-alpinism in the past) is becoming more and more relevant. People are climbing up routes and then BASE jumping off of them. The boundaries are blurred: some people are climbing with a BASE jump as a method of descent; others are climbing with the jump as the objective. Climbers who jump, rather than jumpers that climb, have a window of opportunity to open up some very interesting routes. To climb without reservation and 100% commitment to the ascent while still having a method of escape could provide some interesting results for a bold enough team. The latest development in this process is wingsuit flying, using special webbed jumpsuits that essentially turn the jumper into a glider. “At the start of 2000, everything was new in wingsuit flying,” said Espen. “In the beginning, people were trying to get as far away from the cliff face as possible to minimise the risks. But as time went on there was a second revolution within the sport and in 2004 people started to get close to the cliffs and begin to fly over the terrain. The advancement was incredible. People used to be happy if they managed to get within 20m of a cliff for two seconds but now people are flying two meters above the deck for twenty seconds.” Espen agrees that the professional wingsuit flyers are operating at the very limit of what is possible, in what has become known as proximity flying. The sport seems to have temporarily stabilised at an unsustainable level of risk: “Too many people are dying” he said. At the time of writing five people had been killed. Three in one week, including Mark Sutton, who played James Bond in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. “Everyone wants to be cool. It sounds ugly and it's not nice, but once enough people have died, proximity flying won't be cool anymore and the sport will see another change.” he observed. It's a change already under way. I draw parallels to the early climbers, when dying in the mountains almost had an element of glory attached to it amongst peers, yet now it’s seen as unnecessary and, a large proportion of the time, avoidable. But with a sport that’s currently on the limit of what is possible, where can it go next? Espen suggests the way forward is in how the sport is presented. Through modern technology there is a lot of opportunity to be creative and imaginative in the way a jump is filmed, edited and shown. As well as acrobatics and a display of complete control in the air, people can show the possibilities of human flying but in a more artistic way and as a form of expression, rather than promoting the extreme nature of the sport. Imagination and skill have always being prerequisites for “MOUNTAINS ARE NOT JUST THE DOMAIN OF THE MOUNTAINEER OR SKIER ANY MORE.” R Wingsuit flying: no margin for error. Espen Fadnes flying in Brazil. PHOTO:LUDOWOERTH,ELLIOTH&WINTHERFILM. Black Diamond 72 SUMMIT_AUTUMN_V1.indd 38-39 18/11/2013 12:37
  4. 4. 2012Gary Connery exits a helicopter in a double layered wingsuit and intentionally lands without deploying a parachute into a landing zone made of cardboard boxes. 40 | SUMMIT#72 | WINTER 2013 BMC member Ashly Fusiarski spent this summer in Chamonix before heading back to Antarctica. He currently has no plans to start BASE jumping. mountaineers and it appears the same is true for BASE jumpers and wingsuit flyers. I asked if wingsuit flying would ever become mainstream? “No” he said after a pause. “It will grow of course but there are no green slopes.” He adds, referring to his freeride skiing background. He is right. There is a level of climbing that suits everybody willing to take part in it. But with BASE jumping, on the very first jump you are 'all in'. With skiing and climbing there is feedback from the environment, pain teaches you what not to do. With a BASE jump, “the day you crash is the day your life is over”. From the very start you have to be at the right level, totally alert and responsive to your surroundings and to never get complacent. It’s not for everyone in the same way climbing can be. Mountaineering will always have its place and will always be adventurous to those taking part. There are often surprising achievements in the mountains even now. But one thing is for sure; mountains are not just the domain of the mountaineer or skier any more. Will BASE jumping become the next evolution for climbers or will the two sports always maintain a degree of separation? They have more in common that you think – for Espen it is simply about “taking risks for fun, in nature”. BEYOND MOUNTAINEERING “MOUNTAINEERING IS NO LONGER CUTTING-EDGE OR ESOTERIC” Salewa 1/2 v + Nikwax 1/2 V We are Scotland's National Outdoor Training Centre located in the heart of Cairngorms National Park. Learn, develop or qualify in an adventure sport of your choice. Our goal is to inspire adventure by teaching beginners, coaching intermediate/advanced and delivering training and assessment courses for leaders and instructors. Glenmore Lodge & Ellis Brigham Equipping you for the mountain Our instructors are kept warm and dry thanks to The North Face Summit Series Range visit bespoke dates, tailored courses, off-site training, group bookings and non residential prices all available upon request Winter Courses Now Online Glenmore Lodge.indd 1 12/09/2013 09:14:57 2013Valery Rozov completes the highest ever BASE jump from an altitude of 7,220m on Everest. 2009Sam Beaugey and team complete the first BASE jump in Antarctica in one of the most interesting and adventurous expeditions in recent history. Expert planning and execution combined a series of skills to climb, BASE jump and ski in the Queen Maud Land range which was then followed by a self-sufficient pulking/kite skiing extraction to Novo airbase. 72 SUMMIT_AUTUMN_V1.indd 40-41 18/11/2013 12:37