BASE jumper and wingsuit pilot Patrick Kerber has been free-falling for over a decade. Kerber gave us some behind-the-scenes quotes on his favorite fall yet:
This exit point was always there, and every single BASE jumper who has traveled to Lauterbrunnen – one of the most popular places for wingsuit BASE jumping in the world – has looked at this peak.
It is probably the biggest BASE jump in the world. That means the most flyable altitude as defined by the difference from exit point to landing – 3,240m. So far I do not know or have heard about anyone who has done a bigger one. The previous record was set this year by a group of French jumpers that opened up a beautiful exit point after a long and hard approach in the Mont Blanc Massif in France. I have a lot of respect for their work. Simply incredible.
When I started with wingsuit BASE jumping my buddy and I jumped a lot with GPS systems. We quickly learned how to measure everything important in the topographic maps. At this point only a few jumpers were able to do this. So we started to calculate pretty much every possible or impossible spot in the Swiss mountains. But we were held back by the rules of gravity. Those early wingsuits didn’t fly very quickly upon take off. You were truly falling at first, then going into a transition to fly forward.
The improvement of the newer suits was incredible. By studying the data over and over again, I realized that there was a significant change in the take-off stage of the suit. The suits started to fly earlier. This was done by filling the suit with more air and by adding more and more surface to the wingsuit itself. The technology of the suits is now at such a high standard that jumps that were once impossible are becoming possible. But opening up a new exit point always remains dangerous.
I had my doubts about the possibilities of this flight. The head wall is not really vertical. It’s a more positive wall that comes out in an angle. The actual rockdrop (the spot where a rock that gets dropped off the edge will hit the wall the first time) is about 138m. I measured this with a laser rangefinder, so I knew the exact height of the wall. I compared this number with all the GPS test flights that I had made from really advanced new jumps during this season. This showed me that the jump would be possible in theory, really advanced but possible. The only thing I was not a 100% sure about was how the inflation on the suit would work at the higher altitude with the thinner air.
There was high wind at the take off. After a five-hour climb up through ice and snow to the peak of the Jungfrau, I realized that there were some high steady winds blowing and it took another two hours of waiting up before I could jump off. (This was after rappelling down for another 30m on a rope that was only secured in the snow.) But I realized the wind was only on the upper wall. I decided that I would make the jump. The moment finally came and I proved to myself that my calculation, training and dreaming for so long was worth it.
I felt the wind right away. This is why you can see this little side-push on my suit from my back cam when I jump off. But it instantly carried me away from the wall. This is exactly the reason why I trained this year specifically to jump in higher winds. Once I was flying, I realized right away what I had just done, so the rest of the flight was pure enjoyment. As soon as I had stepped off I knew it would all turn out fine.
My biggest challenge during the flight was free-falling for so long. I needed to fly for two minutes in free-fall to make it all the way. So I flew as fast as possible by diving for most of the flight. I was able to land under my canopy in the beautiful valley of Lauterbrunnen, where the dream had begun.