We have now done more than 100 BASE jumps. Doesn’t sound like much but when you compare that to the 59 jumps Lynda had done in the last 3.5 years before arriving in Europe you get the idea of how hard it is to do those numbers living in Joburg. She has also now done more wingsuit BASE jumps than she has done standard BASE jumps. One wingsuit jump in SA would have taken us an entire weekend to do trekking out to the Drakensburg. Here we do three or four in a day. When we bought Lynda’s canopy we did so with low jumps in mind mainly because those are the most accessible in Joburg and so her parachute is designed to open rather swiftly and when you jump that equipment off high jumps that have significant freefall time, the parachute opens so swiftly you have to make sure every time that you are still wearing your shoes. Lynda has now been to the Physio 8 or more times because of a rather battered body from hard openings. In fact, both of us are feeling a little tender. Our bodies no longer know whether they are coming or going. Each opening we brace for a violent jerk flinging our legs up in front of us and our backs bending in ways the chiro didn’t even know was possible. Today we have taken the day off to wallow in our pain and stiffness a little. Sometimes we don’t quite know if it’s the hard openings or the constant walking with heavy packs on that is making us feel a little fragile. I find it amazing how much one can dish out to the human body and it just seems to take it in its stride. But as you always hear the moms saying in the background, “one day is one day and your body will take it no more, treat it like gold or you will end up with brass”. Ye, brass, no worries there, at least I look like gold but I’m much softer and no one will ever want to steal me. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
A few days ago Lynda and I decided we had enough of the valley and planned a day away to jump another site an hour’s drive away. We managed to organise a car for the day and we wanted to get an early start in case the weather closed us in. When looking for perfect days on weather websites for Lauterbrunnen, it’s like listening to a politician’s speech before elections. All sounds wonderful but unless you see it, it isn’t happening. If you look up ‘Weather and Lauterbrunnen’ in Google you will get 100 sites each telling you the weather but they all say something almost completely different. A lucky guess. Best way to do things is take a chance that it will be good based on 50 of the 100 sites and wake up the next morning and look up to the sky. If it’s completely clear then you are almost guaranteed that it’s going to be a good day. Otherwise climb back into bed. Don’t get me wrong, the weather is just about good every single day for jumping in the valley par one or two. As soon as you want to do objects that are high up then there is a potential that they are covered in clouds. The Eiger is a good example. If in the early morning before the sun has risen, there are stars in the sky then it’s worth a go, otherwise don’t even try. Time is now running away from us as summer is drawing to a close slowly in Europe and the fine weather is no longer the norm. You can feel the chill in the air at night and the suns stay in the valley is shorter during the day. We were in luck and the sky, still dark with a hint of rising sun, was as clear as can be and one or two stars still shone despite the suns birth. Whenever I have a jump planned that requires a little travelling and scoping and if that morning I get up and look outside and see the conditions are perfect, I always get a little thud in my chest. The same feeling I had as a young boy getting up on a special day where I was going to the funfair or a big swimming pool or somewhere exciting. That thud tells me I’m still alive and living the moment. That life is still as exciting as it was 30 years ago. I get a boyish grin and inside I feel like screaming out and hopping around. Lynda does that part for me now. She is my outlet as I see her hopping around chanting “its playtime, its playtime, its playtime”. I think I just feel old in my bones but my mind is still stuck 30 years back. Just what I wanted 30 years ago, feel like a kid, wrapped in every experience, joyous in every occasion, but completely free to decide for myself what is good or not for me.
The usual happens, we scramble out of bed a little broken from all the physical play and we make ready for the big day. We need to make sure that we have everything we need such as Radios, Cell Phone, Water Bottles, Chocolates, Fruit, Camera’s and not least our parachutes and wingsuits. We have some breakfast in order to get the energy up and off we go to find our car up the road somewhere. I nominate Lynda to drive because I’m so chilled out that I’ll always end up on the wrong side of the road in no time with Lynda casually asking me if I think I’m doing ok. As we drive off Lynda is telling me to help her out with the driving and make sure she is doing ok but who are we kidding here. This is me she is speaking to… I occasionally observe her hitting the door with her left hand as she tries to change gears and looking out the window to her left for the rear view mirror but she manages ok and we wind on thru Switzerland looking like two lost tourists. Roundabouts are the killer as you need to make sure you don’t end up going the wrong way and you need to check the traffic to the left and not the right. Freaky stuff this driving in Europe. At the same time I’m reading directions from her cell phone which we got from Google Earth, boy let’s just add another challenge. Anyhow, we manage just fine and we find the little town we are looking for and make our way deep into the bottom of the valley the town is in. As with most places in Switzerland, this place has a cable car going up half way onto the mountain. I think the cable car companies all exist in Switzerland. Everywhere you look here there is a cable car. It’s a fantastic thing because it means less walking to most jumps. Not sure why there are no cable cars right to the exit points yet. I think we need more BASE jumpers for that to happen. But first we drove the little car up a windy road cut out of the mountain. The most obscure road you have ever seen in your life. You cringe when driving a car up here as it’s as narrow as can be and it’s just cut out the side of the rock and on occasion tunnels thru the rock. There is a sign at the bottom that explains that traffic going up can only go from quarter to, till five past the hour and then the rest of the hour is for traffic coming down. A good thing this as there is absolutely no way to pull off and most of the drive is around blind corners which will have you ramming into another car without warning. The reason we take the car up into the valley is because this is where we land after the jump and it’s nice just simply to put your gear down and chill at the car before taking off. The valley we came into is still very preserved and there only exists one very small hotel and the rest is farm land and just natural wilderness. The jumps consist of a two walls, one above the other with a large talus dividing the two. If you look at the photo gallery you will see the top wall right in the centre of the photo and the lower wall to the left. The very peak of the top wall which is all in golden yellow is the exit point. Where this photo is taken from is where you fly to under wingsuit and open. This all depends and what you do with your flight and whether or not you fly along the top wall to the left first and then peel down right to cross over the talus or whether you fly straight out and then right along the lower wall. There are many options. The pickings are yours. You then leave the car here and walk back down to the cable car which takes you up to the top of the mountain you see just sticking out to the right of the photo. The hike up then starts from there.
We walked down avoiding the occasional car coming down the path by standing on the side up against the wall. At the bottom we took the cable car up and began our hike. The first half hour of the hike is very chilled and mostly downhill and flat. In that part of the valley lives a farmer with many cows that roam the paths and grass pastures all around merrily grazing. These are the most adorable cows ever. We just had to stop and take a few pics with the cows. They take a liking to Lynda and she does all the funny photos with the cows while I giggle hysterically behind the camera. Hikers come past and look at us really funny as we are trying to strike a pose with a cow but hey, this is for our web site followers back home to have a screaming giggle with us so we must do what we must do. Tell us if you think the pics are good or do we need to pose a little more. It’s just so fascinating to see these farms in the middle of nowhere surrounded by tall mountains on all sides. You see the farm house is tiny compared to the large barn that houses all the cows during winter out of the snow and cold. We leave the cows and the farmer to go about his work and we continue on our way. Here the trail starts to wind itself into the mountain. Unlike the Eiger hike which is barren and lifeless, this hike is thru the beautiful bush and upper mountain grasslands. Only the very end of the hike comes to a rocky outcrop which brings you to the edge and exit point. It’s a windless day and the sun is shining brightly. In the distance we see an eagle sour past scanning the ground for prey and I can’t but help to smile to myself thinking about the same air space I’ll share in a few minutes, gliding not as the eagle does but as close as I can imitate it. The thought gives me that thud in the chest again and this time I get a little dry spell in my mouth. It’s time to get working to try and find the exit point. This means running around the edge which in this case is very flaky and sketchy looking, throwing rocks off and counting till you hear a crash giving you an indication of the vertical height you have below in order to see if this is a suitable exit point or not. Sounds primitive? Nop, this is the way we do it and it’s as good a science as any. Sometimes you have the fortune of being able to see the rock drop away and see it crash below but on this mountain it was almost impossible. We did get a chance for Lynda to stand on another outcrop which faced the exit point and from there she was able to see what the dropping rocks where doing and she confirmed the rock drop count with me. Scouting exit points like this is sometimes a little nerve wrecking because you see these rocks falling into space and then 7 or 8 seconds later they crash into the rocks below and you swallow deep because it all feels so real. It never ceases to get me a little gripped but it’s all part of the adventure.
After much deliberation we settle on an exit point but it has rock ledges sticking out below us that we have to clear which adds to the tension a little because you can’t see anything below except the ledges sticking out four meters down and you have to trust that below that it’s all clear because the rock drop said so. We chill out for a little while and just focus our minds with the flight ahead. There are many unknowns here, an exit which is more intimidating than needs be and a talus that one needs to outfly in order to make the next drop. A turn that needs to be made shortly after exiting otherwise you are not going to get flying down the talus gaining the much needed height to clear it before the next drop. A new site always gets the heart racing. We spend the quite moments soaking in the sun and preparing our thoughts. Making certain that we have no doubts and that our heads are clear. We run the flight in our minds just as athletes visualise their performance before an event. All this must be done while trying to keep the mind from running out of control and flying away with twisted thoughts which don’t belong right here right now. The thud in the chest now becomes almost constant and you become aware of the pulse throbbing in your body. The body feels like its rocking back and forth with every thud but I don’t think it is. It’s almost like a visual as you stare out into the distance, that very thud strikes out before you moving an invisible ripple across space. And then a peace sets in and you know it’s all good and it’s finally playtime. It’s time to throw on the kit and do some final checks. My cameras take the most time because I need to check and re-check if all the settings my good friend Pete Zam has given me are all in place. You can absolutely kick yourself if you do such a significant jump and the camera settings are all screwed up or you have forgotten to tape everything down that could possibly change a setting in the high velocity wind. I know one of the guys here that dragged his camera up the Eiger and forgot to tape down the focus ring on his stills. It moved with the wind and all the pics were out of focus. Don’t want that here.
Everything ready, I turn on the cameras and test the stills tongue switch. We waddle to the exit very carefully and mentally prepare for the exit. I’m standing slightly ahead of Lynda on the exit and because of all the rock sticking out below I’m not too keen on filming this exit. I’ll catch Lynda in the air and shoot away from there. Lynda gives the count, I join in and we thrust off hard. I only need two seconds to feel right and I look over left to find Lynda kicking hard and throwing her wings about, trying desperately to prevent herself from flipping over. Ho boy, this is not the sight I want to be seeing. We need to get flying fast here as the ledges far below are only 8 seconds away, I think to myself. Some panic sets in but I know that Lynda is very capable and she will have this one under control in no time. What feels like forever only takes her just over 3 seconds to correct and she begins flying out right away. She must have slipped on exit is the thought that goes through my mind. Unfortunately precious altitude has been lost and the chances of her outflying the talus to make it over the lower wall seem very dim now especially since she is flying such a small wingsuit. We fly a little while with me trying desperately to fall down hard to her so as to get some good pictures when I see that the talus is coming up fast and Lynda does the only thing she can and opens. I see her body getting violently ripped about as her canopy opens and I realise that she was maxing her flight as hard and fast as she could after the bad exit and then aborted the flight while still cranking hard therefore making the opening pretty violent. I twisted my head under me while still flying and saw that she was fine and I knew that she would have a long canopy ride but she would make it all the way back to where I would land. I looked forward and saw how close down I was on the talus but I knew that if I simply put my head down and powered hard I would make the talus edge and the next drop. I wasn’t going to open now. I wanted to get as much out of this one as I could. I got myself into the optimum flying position and burst forward. I saw the trees at the edge of the talus come up and I knew it was all good and I was going to clear with no problem. I continued my flight turning right to avoid a power line that feeds the top of the mountain on the other side and flew right over the hotel where we parked the car and open my parachute. I felt a little empty as Lynda didn’t manage the whole flight with me so I didn’t quite feel elated as I do after such a magic flight. I knew that inside she was probably beating herself a little but hey, these things happen. It just means that we have to try it another day and I know she will have a magical flight and be jumping around like a lunatic. The whole experience is still moving and we drive away feeling high on life having shared another wild adventure bringing us closer as always. We have lived another dream…… an EdLyn Dream.
Love and Peace from the bottom of our hearts to you all
Eddy & Lynda