This Is What a 4,000-Foot BASE Jump Looks Like

BASE-jump in Monte Brento, Italy
BASE-jump in Monte Brento, Italy Sebastian Wahlhuetter

Monte Brento, in northern Italy, looms 5,000 feet above the Sarca Valley, and it was here, last September, that photographer Sebastian Wahlhuetter, skydiver Fred Haidegger, and their team had convened. The goal: a 4,000-foot, 10-second BASE jump. The trouble: Cruddy conditions had forced them to retreat down the mountain on their first attempted ascent. Even had they made it up, “you couldn’t see down, because of the fog,” Wahlhuetter recalls. “So you can’t jump.”

 

 

But Haidegger, the primary jumper, was undeterred. Brento is one of Europe’s premier BASE-jumping spots. From March to November, about 150 people leap off each day, according to an area outfitter, and it’s said that every BASE jumper comes here eventually.

Still, the dangers are real: Jumpers reach speeds of 150 miles per hour and are 50 times as likely to sustain injury than skydivers. So the team exercised caution. The next morning, they woke at 5, caught a two-hour ride up the mountain, and waited for the weather to clear. Hours passed. Other jumpers began to head back down. But Haidegger held out.

At 9, the clouds parted, giving him a narrow window. And he took it, launching off the rocks, at last able to take a different route down the mountain. —J.R. Sullivan