BASE Jumper describes experiences on Sunday | RecordCourier.com

BASE Jumper describes experiences on Sunday

by Claire Cudahy
ccudahy@tahoedailytribune.com

Two business owners are making waves on Ski Run Boulevard, and their latest contribution, a speaker series, is bringing world-class athletes, photographers, authors and more to South Lake Tahoe.

"Ski Run Presents" is the brainchild of photographer and director Corey Rich and OutdoorGearLab and TechGearLab founder Chris McNamara. It's another way the duo is striving to create a community around the street that they see as having potential to be a walkable, bikeable downtown area for the South Shore.

"For me, one of the age old traditions of mankind is siting around a campfire and telling stories. It's how we pass on traditions and get inspired, and we wanted a version of that in South Lake," said Rich.

"For Chris and I, one of the great fortunes of our careers is that we bump into really interesting people who love what they do and we convince them to come to our neck of the woods."

So far the series has welcomed former Sports Illustrated director of photography Brad Smith, big-wall climber and Patagonia ambassador Tommy Caldwell, and National Geographic photographer Joe McNally. This Sunday, McNamara will be presenting about his experience with big wall climbing and BASE jumping — the act of parachuting or wingsuit flying off a building, antenna, span or Earth (cliff).

McNamara started indoor climbing when he was 14 years old. As a sophomore in high school, he invested all of his money from being a little league umpire into a teacher's climbing gym. To say thanks, his teacher took him on his first outdoor climbing trip to El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

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Since then, McNamara has climbed the 3,000-foot granite face 85 times and written a number of climbing guide books for Yosemite and beyond.

It was on El Capitan that McNamara first encountered BASE jumping. While sitting on a portaledge eating dinner mid-climb, a BASE jumper rocketed by him. He was intrigued — and when he realized he had an opportunity to be a part of the "Golden Age" of a growing sport, he knew what he wanted to do.

"I spent three years traveling around the world trying to find places that people hadn't jumped off of before," said McNamara.

He jumped his way across Europe and even out in the Canadian Arctic on Baffin Island, gliding at over 100 mph along cliffs and over new landscapes before pulling a parachute and floating to the ground.

But eight years ago, McNamara hung up his wingsuit for good after 230 flights.

"Of the roughly 150 BASE jumpers that I've met, more than 10 are dead now. There is no escaping the brutal fact that if you meet a lot of BASE jumpers, in a few years a shocking number will no longer be around," he wrote in an essay for "The Great Book of BASE."

It's how he came to know these truths about the sport.

"BASE jumping is probably the deadliest sport in the world. It is also probably the coolest," wrote McNamara. "The best jumps are usually when you are just a little out of your comfort zone and pushing your own limits, [but] the only way to be truly safe while BASE jumping is to not BASE jump."

McNamara will be talking about his big-wall climbing and BASE jumping adventures on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Blue Angel Café from 6:30 – 9 p.m. Tickets for the event are $25, and all proceeds from the night will go to Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association to fund 3 miles of trail at Fallen Leaf Lake and Angora Ridge.

OutdoorGearLab is donating skis, snowboards, electric skateboards, jackets and more for a silent auction, as well as an online auction that ends the night of the event. There will also be raffle prizes.

Find Ski Run Presents on Facebook for more information on the series and to purchase tickets for the upcoming event.