BASE jumping is one of the most dangerous extreme sports in the world. In fact, a Norwegian study on more than 20,000 jumpers concluded that BASE jumping is 5-8 times more dangerous than skydiving, but since it’s so unpredictable and accidents often go unrecorded, solid statistics are not easy to find.
BASE is an acronym that stands for building, antenna, span (or bridge), and earth—the four types of places from which a base jumper can jump. It’s not hard to understand why BASE jumping is dangerous. When jumping from such heights, any small mistake can be deadly.
When you take into consideration conditions like unexpected weather or missing the best landing area, base jumping can seem almost impossible to do right. Jumping from the wrong location can also add to the danger, which is why jumping from these five locations is not recommended for those who are inexperienced and/or not guided by an expert.
BASE jumping in any form can result in serious injury or death, but it can also bring one of the greatest thrills of life – flying. Here are some of the most incredible, yet scary places to BASE jump.
Disclaimer: BASE jumping at some of the locations below is illegal. Do not break laws to attempt jumps. BASE jumping is prohibited in all U.S. National Parks, and it’s illegal in Las Vegas and New York City. You can jump legally on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service territories, but always do your research before you go to make sure you’re following the rules.
1. Kerepakupai Meru (Angel Falls), Venezuela
Kerepakupai Meru in Venezuela is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, plunging an astounding 3,212 feet from the Auyán-Tepui plateau, and it’s nicknamed after the American aviator James Angel who crash landed his plane near the falls in 1937. Angel Falls is a nickname for the true indigenous name for the waterfall, Kerepakupai Meru. Those who fly over the falls these days are likely equipped with parachutes, not wings.
While access can be challenging (as with many popular BASE jump spots), Angel Falls offers a thrilling opportunity for unforgettable BASE jumping from its towering cliffs. Jumpers are seduced by the cascading waters, and this adrenaline-filled jump is considered one of the most intense jumps in the world. The drop is a shocking vertical 2,600 feet.
It’s no easy feat to schedule a jump here. You need a permit, a tour guide, and a helicopter to get to the top. As you jump, water gusts can cross your path and high winds can cause jumpers to get off course, which means this thrilling BASE jump is certainly not for most people.
2. Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Don’t be fooled, Burj Khalifa is not a mountain, cliff, or remote peak—it is the world’s tallest building. Not only is it illegal to BASE jump off of the Burj Khalifa, but it is also extremely dangerous to BASE jump in a city.
The Buji Khalifa is 2,722 feet tall. The incredible pinnacle of a building gets thinner as it rises to the top, making a perfect point for those daring (and delinquent) BASE jumpers who break the law to try their skills.
In 2008, BASE jumpers Hervé le Gallou and Dave McDonnell disguised themselves as engineers and jumped from the 155th floor. In 2010, with permission, Nasr Al Niyadi and Omar Al Hegelan broke the world record for the highest BASE jump from a building at 2,204 feet by using a platform on the 160th floor suspended from a crane. The jump lasted 90 seconds and they opened their parachutes after 10. Others have attempted to get permission to jump but have not been successful.
The jump was later recreated in an ad for the Olympics.
3. Trango Towers, Pakistan
The incredible and gargantuan granite spires of the Trango Towers are in Gilgit-Baltistan of the Karakoram mountain range in the north of Pakistan. With some of the world’s largest rock formations, there is big wall climbing here, and, in fact, to get to one of the highest vertical drops in the world, you must climb there.
If you can survive the expedition to get to the jump-off point, the jump itself is at nearly 4,400 feet. (And believe it or not, the summit of the towers is an astounding 20,623 feet.) You can watch a movie about a world-record attempt to jump from the Great Trango Tower back in 1993 called Baseclimb.
4. The Perrine Bridge, Idaho
A popular spot for BASE jumpers near Twin Falls, Idaho, this jump may be more accessible than others on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, jumping at a lower altitude can be even riskier. The Perrine Bridge in the Snake River Canyon is open to BASE jumpers year-round, and it is one of only two legal places to BASE jump in the U.S., the other being New River Gorge Bridge, which is only open to jumpers once a year.
There have been many stories of accidents and fatalities here, sadly. This bridge jump is relatively short, only 486 feet, so jumpers must make sure their parachute is out fast enough to prevent hitting the water too hard below. One newlywed couple tried the BASE jump together, but the new husband, experienced jumper Brandon Chance, didn’t make it, a tragic ending to a seemingly happy event.
5. Mount Thor, Baffin Island, Canada
The mystical and threatening Half Dome look-alike, Mount Thor, holds the record as the greatest vertical drop in the world at 4,101 feet. Named after the mystical Norse thunder god, Mount Thor calls to rock climbers and BASE jumpers alike.
The huge, exposed rock face is 15 degrees overhanging, meaning it’s perfect for rock climbers too. This jump is highly discouraged by local authorities (aka illegal), because it’s nearly impossible for rescuers to get people out, making it even more dangerous. Getting to Mont Thor is also a chore. Jumpers would have to brave the terrain of the Auyuittuq National Park, which could at times be as difficult as navigating the jump itself.
Troll Wall, Norway
According to Norwegian folklore, the Troll Wall was formed when a group of trolls didn’t make it home before sunrise and turned to stone. Part of the mountain massif Trolltinden in the Romsdalen Valley, the Troll Wall is a beautiful but intimidating feature.
The so-called father of BASE jumping, Carl Boenish, was killed on the Troll Wall in 1984 shortly after setting the first world record for the biggest BASE jump in history at 3,600 feet. His wife, Jean Boenish, jumped with him and held the record alone for many years. BASE jumping from the Troll Wall has been illegal since 1986.
Record-seekers have since jumped at much higher altitudes. The current record holder, Valery Rozov, jumped off Mount Cho Oyu on the Chinese/Nepalese border from 25,250 feet, but landed around 20,000 feet on a glacier, still making around a 5,000-foot jump. After 90 seconds of freefall, Rozov opened his parachute but had to fly for another two minutes before landing safely.
Did any of these tempt your sense of danger? Remember, BASE jumping can be extremely dangerous, and it should only be attempted by experienced individuals with proper training and equipment. Always adhere to local laws and safety guidelines, and, as with any extreme sport, consider the potential consequences before making an attempt.