POV

Global Odyssey: Jumping the Dream Cliff

Our friend Eric Hill has a mission: “To visit all 194 U.N. recognized countries in world record time and film and document the exciting journey to show that awesome exists in EVERY country, especially with the people.” Eric’s journey will be one of full cultural immersion, while simultaneously raising funds and awareness in partnership with a variety of charity organizations. CBK will be reporting on his progress as he moves along. Check in next time for another tale from a great adventure.

By Eric Hill - http://gowitheric.com

Source: Eric Hill www.gowitheric.com

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Kjerag, the cliff I only learned about a couple months before I left for Norway, yet the one I’d been dreaming about my whole life. I don’t know about you, but whenever I stand on the edge of something tall, I wish there was a way to jump off and survive. And the taller the object, the more I wish. So you can imagine that jumping off one of the tallest cliffs in the world and landing safely below was another dream come true, and I almost skipped it! With weather delays and other obstacles in the way of the jump, I almost left Norway before I jumped the biggest reason I lugged my parachute across Scandinavia, and probably the one thing I was most excited for in advance.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Though I planned on heading straight for the cliff, my plans changed for the better when I met an unexpected friend, Isabell, at the Bergen airport. She introduced me to some of her local friends and her boyfriend. After talking the whole way to the city on the airport bus, she understood why I was there and found the perfect addition to the trip, a glider lesson in Voss. The gliding ended up being an unexpected treat.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

We got pulled up to five thousand feet or so by another plane and then rode some thermals even higher. The glider I was in was the jetfighter of gliders and I had a world-class pilot showing me the ropes. We buzzed the mountainsides and swooped down over mountain lakes virtually skimming across the water. I couldn’t believe the agility of this thing. We as humans spend so much time on the ground that to be in a machine that can play with the sky like this was an incredible feeling of connection to an unfamiliar part of our three-dimentional world. We even pulled over five G’s at one point, more than I’ve ever experienced. It’s enough to make you feel like your face is about to slide off your skull and land in your lap. This was an awesome way to start my time in the country. And to top the day off, what started as a missed last train back to Bergen ended as a ride back with a cool Norwegian father and son that became my hosts for the next two nights before I headed down south to the Kjerag (pronounced kind of like “shirrag”, by the way). I should miss trains more often!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Isabell, her boyfriend, Jake and I rendezvoused at four am to make the six hour drive to Lysebotyn where I hoped to jump the cliff. Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in before we got there rendering the cliff un-jumpable for the rest of the day. Even with the decreased visibility, we decided to make the hike out. I’m not sure if you know this, but even without a parachute on my back, being there in that place is like heaven. There is translucent blue-green water that fills the canyon between unimaginably tall, sheer cliffs. At the top of these cliffs, where the hiking happens, there are lush, green valleys, broken only by moss-speckled, grey rock-hills pushing through the greenery. It’s like walking through a postcard. The beauty was unreal.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

It took three hours to get out to where the cliff was. I could actually see the big wall here and there through the mist. With my BASE rig on my back and the cliff in front of me, I admit there was some serious temptation to go jump it even though there was no way the conditions were safe enough. Since there was no chance of the clouds clearing, the three of us enjoyed Kjeragbolten, a six-foot tall three feet wide rock that you can walk out on, wedged in between two cliffs with a thousand foot fall on either side if you slip. It’s a picture I’d seen in travel photos before, but only found out the day before that it was on the way to my dream cliff. This helped save me from some of the disappointment that I couldn’t jump that day.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

The three of us ran around like kids all day in the natural playground on top of the cliffs and got back to the car by about eight pm. I planned to stay at Lysebotyn, the camp where fellow BASE jumpers stay, so I could wait out the weather. Unfortunately, we had a situation where I had to be the driver home for the car that we promised to return to Isabell’s family member the next morning. So it ended up being six hours down, six hours of hiking and six hours back home. Then the next evening after crashing on Jake’s couch for the night’s rest I’d missed. When I woke up, I had to make a quick decision. I was already way over budget, two days behind schedule and doubtful the weather would clear around Lysebotyn any time soon. Should I just skip the jump? You’re right. I should go back. I quickly found a ticket online to the airport closest to Lysebotyn and hopped on the plane a few hours later. Not the most ideal two-day’s travel itinerary, but I was determined to jump that cliff! Maybe it was an unhealthy determination, but I had a wakeup call when I got to the airport.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I got there too late to catch a ride to the camp, so I decided to catch a few hours sleep at the airport until the early bus left the next morning. I found a bench in a quiet corner of the airport and, as luck would have it, another jumper had picked the same corner of the airport. He had a cast on his arm and a scrape on his head. Turns out he was headed back to his home in Denmark after his parachute landing went sour two days earlier when I was there last! I think I was meant to meet him. It’s good to get those reminders about how real the dangers are.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I slept surprisingly well and woke up in time for the scheduled bus. Unfortunately, again, the early bus did not actually go that day of the week. So I had to catch a bus to the Lauvvik dock to catch a ferry to Lysebotyn, which was scheduled to leave at 6:20pm that evening. Like clock work, a boat pulled up at 6:13, loaded up, and was off at 6:20. But, somehow, it was the wrong ferry! I rode the same ferry back to Lauvvik after it’s stop and, of course, the right ferry had already come and gone. So once again, I slept in an unexpected place. This time it was on my sleeping pad in a warming hut at the dock I wasn’t even supposed to be at in the first place until the six am ferry left. I got on the right one this time.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I got to enjoy the epic scenery from the fjord itself and got to the camp in Lysebotyn… Finally. I got a little bad-news/good-news. Bad news was that there was a weather delay expected until eleven am. Good news was that in all the travel chaos that made me miss the last two days in Lysebotyn, I hadn’t missed a single jump. There had been weather delays since the hike the few days before. I felt a little better about the marathon of travel.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

What felt like an eternity later, eleven am came. A few other fellow BASE jumpers and I piled into a van and headed up to the trailhead. It was cloudy again! Well, we had three hours for it to clear before we got to the cliffs edge and the forecast was good. We all crossed our fingers and headed out. We made quick work through the fantasy-like landscape since we were so eager to get to the cliff-edge. At one point though, the clouds and mist got so thick, the group got separated and we all got lost! There were points that you could look in three hundred and sixty degrees and see nothing beyond twenty feet through the light grey fog. Then like magic, the cloud began to lift and there was even sun! Like we all had hoped, the clouds were high enough for us to jump! I could feel the energy of the group as we found each other again and headed in the right direction again.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

We got to the cliff’s edge and all excitedly geared up. We peered over the edge to the landing area next to the water below and prepared everything for a safe jump. From an outside perspective, we probably looked like fools as we waited for our turns to jump since we were all going over our body movements planned for the jump. My new friend Tom and I were going to do a two-way which means we would jump on the same turn. I would be doing a gainer and he would be going flat and stable with a camera mounted on his helmet to catch the flip. Turn by turn, my fellow jumpers hurled their bodies off the three thousand foot cliff toward the ground. Then it was our turn. Final gear check, final rehearsal of body movements, one final hand slap and fist bump with Tom. “See you on the ground, my friend. Three, two, one…” Four quick steps, nervousness gone, takeoff!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

In the last two steps, the magnitude of the jump came into view. Any doubts had already vanished. At that point, I was already committed and it was more like autopilot. I was just enjoying the ride. All senses were heightened, ready for anything that could go wrong. I was immediately aware of the weightlessness the moment my last foot left the cliff’s edge, one of my favorite moments of the jump. It’s like a freeze frame in my mind of the ground gone from beneath me and nothing but the view of the mountains on the horizon, and the fjord three thousand feet below.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

It was silent for the fist few moments before gravity’s effect pulled me faster and faster toward the ground and the winds started to roar past my ears. I rode out the backflip already set in motion by the way I took off. Then another one of my favorite parts… watching the cliff zoom by as I was falling upside-down facing the cliff during the slow rotation. I was so close to the cliff at that point I could almost reach out and touch it. Then the ground came back into view. My downward stretched arms and legs pushed against the air blasting around me to stop the rotation. I accelerated steadily until I was ripping through the air at a hundred and twenty miles-per-hour. At that speed, I was very aware of the thickness of the air. I pushed hard against the roaring wind with my stiff arms and legs making my body a wing to fly away from the cliff where I could safely pull my parachute. But first I still had at least six more seconds of my fifteen seconds of pure free-fall bliss. I could literally grab the air with my hands. I could feel the skin of my face rippling like a flag in the wind. As my wing-body slid through the air, I could see that I was not only flying towards the ground, but moving quickly forward toward the landing area.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

When I saw the rocks and trees below were close enough, I reached back, grabbed my pilot shoot stowed near my waist and chucked it into the wind. The parachute snapped open and I grabbed the toggles for a gentle flight down to the grassy patch below. The jumps are just like dreams. They’re only seconds long, but when they end there is a whole story of experience to be told. And like a dream, parts of them are hard to remember, but parts of them keep coming into consciousness. Unlike a dream, these jumps are real and I can have this same dream again and again, if I play my cards right. I can’t wait for the next big wall jump planned for Italy!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

 

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Source: Eric Hill www.gowitheric.com

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