My vacation started off this year with a roadtrip from Moab to California. Late as usual, I charge through the night. I make it to Reno by the next morning and push onto NorCal by the evening. The next two weeks I'm going to be training skydiving on my tracking suit and wingsuit for Europe. So excited and nervous to take my sky flying to the cliffs of Italy and Switzerland.
I make one final BASE jump in the states before I head out. A 240ft bridge up in NorCal. Three of us run out onto the bridge for a full on day blaze. We get away unscathed and decided to push our luck with a load of unpacked jumps. As we're setting up on the side of the bridge, a California Highway Patrol officer rolls up. It goes a little something like this:
Officer: You guys aren't planning of BASE jumping off this bridge are you?
Us: Uh nope. No no no.
Officer: It looks like you are.
Us: Welllllll, it had crossed our minds. (Parachutes fully exposed on the ground.)
Officer: I tell you what. I'm going to get in my car and head north. And you...
Me: We're gonna leave.
Officer: Or whatever. If you know what I mean.
Me: Uh I think I know what you mean.
Officer: *Speeds past us in his car while flashing us the metal sign.*
Off to Switzerland! We arrive in the Valley and I am done. Jet lagged and sleep deprived, I take a nap. I'm half delirious and half scared, I let myself rest for 2 days before I make my first jump in the valley.
My lovely friend, Annette, guides Mat and I out to Yellow Ocean for my first jump. It isn't the highest exit in the Valley, but it's overhung and has a nice platform to launch off of. I'm terrified. Funny thing about comfort zones... mine is off low objects. I may have well over 500 jumps, but I am a beginner in the Swiss Valley. As I stare down off the 1140ft cliff, my heart is racing. Annette goes first and gets me to laugh with her, '3, 2, 1, Jillybean!' count. I make Mat go after me. This will be repeated on almost every jump for the rest of the trip. Jill safety blanket sandwich.
After several deep breaths and 28 pilot chute checks, I run full speed of the cliff. I get into my best terrified track position, fly fly fly and pull high. Yay! I broke the fear ice! Next jump is a little easier. The next day I head out for my third jump off Yellow Ocean. It takes me a few jumps, but I finally pull it all together. Punch out my legs to pointed toes. Head down. Palms up. Downward pressure on the thighs. I fly faster and further than I have yet. Past the trees. Now that's what tracking should be like!
I continue to chat it up with the other jumpers in the Valley. Getting more and more input on improving my track. Over the next week and a half, I hit up 5 other exit points, 18 jumps total. Starting to feel pretty confident on my tracking suit, I fall in love with High Nose. A 620ft rock drop with an overall flight of 1910ft. The visuals of the ledge at 7 seconds is exhilarating. Knowing I've learned how to fly to keep myself safe is priceless. I keep pushing it further and further (safely, mind you). Flying a few more feet on each jump I make.
After 12 days in the Valley, Mat, Andrew and I rally for Italy. It's time to fly my wingsuit. As soon as I begin to feel comfortable, I have to go and do it all over again. If there's one thing I realized is that I love to scare the shit out of myself. Go me.