St John's Head BASE Jumpby Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Apr/2012
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"The island of Hoy had captivated me since childhood, when I watched a TV program of Joe Brown and his daughter climbing The Old Man of Hoy. Being a BASE jumper and climber, I thought there was a possible jump off the other famous Hoy landmark, St John's Head."
BASE jumping is an acronym for the 4 different types of parachute jump from fixed objects - Building, Antenna, Span (bridge) and Earth (cliff), whereas skydiving is from an airplane.
"Previously I had thought that jumping from St John's Head was only possible into the sea, with a boat to pick me up. It was not until climber and BASE jumper, Tim Emmett, told me that there was a small landing area - I estimate roughly 4x12m - that I began to plan a jump. I began to collect photos showing the landing area, the profile of the cliff from different angles and gather information on the steep route back up to the top.
That was in early 2011 but no suitable low-wind weather window materialised. When, finally the forecasts predicted a stable high-pressure weather system over Hoy, I phoned good friend and cameraman, Adam Bibby to see if he was free. The answer was yes and just a few hours later we set off from Yorkshire, driving through the night to make the 2 ferries to Hoy. On board the Stromness ferry, we passed in front of the giant cliff, which some argue is the tallest sea cliff in the British Isles. I could see several possible exit points from which to jump but the scary part would be the climb back up the side via a steep treacherous vegetated and rocky bank. That evening, after 500 miles of driving, we were cooking dinner in the Hoy Trust bothy at Rackwick bay. The adventure would begin the next day.
Despite all the planning I didn't know exactly where the exit point for the jump would be, so I took a rack of climbing gear, 2 hefty stakes for driving into the ground, a sledge hammer and, of course, the parachute. The walk to St John's Head was beautiful and took me past The Old Man, set in sunshine, with no wind and a calm sea behind it. Even if you are not planning your own jump I thoroughly recommend you take the walk.
One day I hope to return to the island of Hoy as there are, without a doubt, other exciting new jumps to be made."
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