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Base Jumping

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Story by Trevor Will September 10th, 2015

It sounded like a jet...

…but only for a brief moment. I was walking back to camp from Trümmelbach falls in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, when I heard a sound above me, almost like a jet flying overhead. I looked up and saw a parachute being deployed, and a man in a black suit floating over the valley. I watched him slowly get bigger as he flew near me, landing 20m away in front of a farmhouse.

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His name was Matthias, an Irish computer programmer living in Germany.

He and many others had come to Lauterbrunnen to Base Jump, the sport of parachuting or wingsuit flying from a fixed structure or cliff. The term “Base Jumping” refers to an acronym, B.A.S.E, which represents four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans, and Earth (cliffs).

Lauterbrunnen is a Base Jumper’s paradise, as there are numerous exits throughout the valley that are very close to one and other, and the valley contains some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen.

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"Watch your step"

I asked if he would take me up to an exit point so that I could photograph the jump. “Definitely,” he said, and told me there would likely be other jumpers at the exits as well who love having their photos taken. “The hike can be a little sketch” he warned, “you have a pretty narrow path to walk with a 1000m drop on the other side. Watch your step.”

I did not have a harness, nor did I know how to properly use one even if I had. Sounds fun.

The day after next, Matt introduced me to his friend and fellow jumper Darren. We set out for Mürren, a small town looking over the valley, and access to a plethora of exit points.


Darren Bryant takes a lift up to the base jump exits in Mürren, Switzerland.
Matthias and Darren exit the Mürren rail station in Switzerland.
Matthias von Bargen packs his parachute back into his bag in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

I brought along a Snickers bar to prepare not only for the hike down, but the hike back up (I couldn’t just jump down like my friends).

About half of the trail down to the first exit was marked. Darren advised that I look back every now and again to make sure I didn’t get lost. I was too distracted by the beauty of my surroundings to really notice where I was. Focusing on not slipping was also a priority, as the ground was wet and slippery from the rain.

Matthias and Darren hike down to "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
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Matthias and Darren hike down to "Dumpster," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
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"It would suck a lot to fall that way"

I can safely say (ironically so) that walking to the first exit was the closest I have ever been to death. There was a 1m margin between the footpath and a sheer 1000m drop to my left. “It would suck a lot to fall that way” I thought to myself with each step.

We arrived at the first exit“High Nose,” and the preparations began. Matt and Darren began to suit up and strap in.

Check, doublecheck, check, doublecheck.

Darren Bryant checks his gear before jumping from "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
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Matthias von Bargen suits up for base jumping in Mürren, Switzerland.
Darren Bryant suits up to base jump from "High Nose" in Mürren, Switzerland.
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Matthias von Bargen and Darren Bryant look over the edge of "Dumpster," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.

"you know its there."

I asked if they were afraid, or if they felt they were close to death. “You know its there. But you trust in your gear, and you don’t really feel afraid.”

I wasn’t even jumping, and I could feel the anticipation.

With Base Jumping, there are no second chances. No backup parachute. Less than a minute to react to problems.

But they were both beaming, nonetheless.


Darren Bryant secures his helmet before jumping.
Darren Bryant and Matthias von Bargen head towards "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Darren Bryant smiles while standing on the edge of "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.

3..2..1..

I think I was more scared then the jumpers were. But it was thrilling.

A base jumper prepares to jump from "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Darren Bryant and Matthias von Bargen prepare to jump from "Dumpster," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Matthias von Bargen prepares to jump from "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
A wingsuit pilot prepares to jump off of "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.

"See ya"

Matthias von Bargen jumps off of "Dumpster," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Darren Bryant jumps off of "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Darren Bryant jumps off of "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
A wingsuit pilot jumps off of "High Peak," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Base jumpers leap off of "Dumpster," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Matthias von Bargen jumps off "High Nose," a base jump exit in Mürren, Switzerland.
Anton Andersson jumps off "High Ultimate," the highest base jump exit point in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.