Making cliff access safer for base jumpers

Base jumping, which consists in free-falling from a fixed structure or a cliff before opening a parachute, is gaining in popularity. Base jumpers favor high mountains and cliffs. The French BASE Association encourages responsible behaviors and aims to improve the safety of access to jump platforms. Access to a cliff edge is critical and base jumpers need to use specific rope access gear. The Petzl Foundation is supporting them in their efforts to reequip cliff access in France.


L’accès au zone de saut, au bord des falaises, demeure une étape critique qui nécessite un équipement spécifique © French BASE Association

A jump inevitably starts as close to the edge as possible and base jumpers need to have safer access. This is the reason why on-site equipment has to be reliable and in good condition. The French BASE Association closely inspects this equipment, which is exposed to the elements all year round. They are in the process of reequipping access to the edges of popular base jump platforms in France.

With the support of the Petzl Foundation, the French BASE Association provides base jumpers with ropes, anchors and hand drills, to make the cliffs in their regions safer. This preventive action aims to reduce the risk of accidents and improves the existing equipment.

The French BASE Association

Founded in 1993, The French BASE Association aims to promote base jumping in France by giving this sport a positive image. Among other base jumping events and training, they organize wingsuit base jumping in the Chamonix valley. Their website is also a forum which enables over 1,400 base jumpers to exchange technical information about their sport. Since 2012, the French BASE Association has been registered with the French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs.

Présentation d'une wingsuit
A wingsuit

Roch Malnuit, French BASE Association Director says:

Portrait de Roch Malnuit ©Wakeford"All base jumpers are not mountaineers. But they need to use the technical equipment on-site when they jump. It is really important that the equipment is properly maintained and that jumpers know how to use it. Base jumping is a high-risk sport. It’s a passion and a commitment. It’s not something you just do for a laugh. It takes hard work and a great deal of preparation."

Where does the name BASE come from?

Divers départs de saut en base jumpAccès à la plateforme de décollage en base jump ©French BASE Associatio

The acronym BASE consists of the first 4 letters of the fixed points most commonly used for skydiving:

  • Building: towers, dams.
  • Antenna: cranes, wind turbines.
  • Span: bridges, cable cars.
  • Earth: cliffs.

Parachute jumping is the mandatory starting point for base jumping. The minimum number of parachute jumps varies from person to person, but in general, it is between 150 and 300 jumps. Learning how to base jump requires certain physical and mental aptitudes, as well as strong motivation and tenacity.

In the high mountains, base jumping has grown significantly since the invention of wingsuits. In recent years, mythical summits such as the Grandes Jorasses, the Drus or the Meije have been jumped. Today, those who aim to base jump from high mountains, need the combined skills and techniques of mountaineering, climbing, skiing, paragliding and skydiving.

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Uploaded in January 2016


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