Posted by: Walker Mackey | 2018/09/03

#Switzerland

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So, what to say about Switzerland and the mission to spread Grambo’s ashes. The goal before I left for Switzerland was to work towards a carrier outside of rope access and move into the world of a sponsored athlete. Graham and I had often discussed taking this human flight art and turning it into something bigger. We were always searching for a way to connect with people on a larger scale. I wouldn’t say he was the outgoing personality that was pursuing a conversation. With anyone really, but on what I call our “mission moments” (The times shared together in the mountains, which often yield very powerful conversation) together we shared a desire to change the world. Thru the art of human flight, inspire people to be better. To develop something that was significant. Something greater than ourselves. To live a life unconditionally committed to loving with no exceptions. Upon returning from Switzerland, it’s become even more important to me to discover how to transition free flight into something more than just casting off a mountain with style.

 

The past few days I’ve been driving to work listening to the radio, as I usually do. The horror of the state of the world and US involvement in pretty much every dirty job there is out there has really shaken me deeply. This new policy of cutthroat capitalism that doesn’t take into consideration morality, humanity, or balance has left me feeling internally anxious and uncomfortable. The world is rapidly being divided by threatening redirect. It’s the opposite of what a humanity facing global warming temperatures and environmental destruction needs. We need love, understanding, compassion, and unity to solve the problems that face the future of humans. I hope that someday we will all come together uniting as one world equal and balanced as one spaceship earth.

 

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The beginning of the trip started with a mission to learn to cross country paraglide. Since the birth of my niece, my brother and his wife have toned down the BASE jumping and transitioned into Paragliding. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of traveling with a paraglider. Free flight is all about using the environment to your advantage and moving across the landscape using whatever tool you prefer. There isn’t like a set goal, except to be out there and stay in flight as long as possible. For the first time, I was able to fly for long periods of time and only landed because I needed to go to the bathroom, which will be something I will have to look more deeply into solving for the future. Pretty much every day Rio and I managed an hour-long flight and one day we sent a 76KM triangle around the Lauterbrunnen valley which yielded 3.5 hours of flight time. It was amazing! Of course, Rio got in trouble for abandoning the baby with mom for too long, but it was worth it. A solid bro-venture that I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars. My brother is an excellent human flight artist. We totally shred as a team. He is one of the strongest minds I know, and I trust him more than anyone.

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I started gearing up to do some BASE. My brother had to work every day from noon to four, so it was a good chance to get after some freefall. The big walls where closed to base jumping during the morning hours for paragliding, so doing some Paragliding on the warm side when the air was lifting in the morning and then switching to BASE in the afternoon as the valley wind picked up was a really nice routine. I was pretty tame regarding the BASE front this trip. I usually would be quite a bit more active, but I discovered that the paragliding was filling up quite a bit of the motivation and drive to fly allowing a deep sense of satisfaction. That said I did get after it a bit. It had been years since I saw my old BASE friends and the new Onesie I had acquired opened up some really cool opportunities to be a really crapy wing for a few seconds while I was plummeting toward planet earth. One day I had the privilege of sharing an exit with some heroes of mine Ian Mitchard and Steph Davis. I had read Steph’s book High Infatuations when I was in college and actively pursuing the vertical realm of climbing in The Black Canyon. To think back to those early days and see how far I had come to now be hanging with my heroes and proud to call them friends filled my heart with joy.

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Rio and I had dreamed of flying from the Jungfrau and been chatting about it for a few years now. It was a mega vertical mountain. Jungfrau is glaciated from the summit down and stands at 13,642 feet. We arrived at the launch to find that the wind was a bit strong. We spent several minutes assessing the conditions and wondering what the flight would be like. The models showed smooth air all the way up to 15,000 but standing on the summit yielded a different condition. After strong debate and some advice from Gary (our fearless leader and 17-year veteran to paragliding), Rio kited up his wing and said he was going for it. With a strong push, he cast off into the sky and started a 30-minute flight down to the valley floor. I was very impressed with Rio’s bravery to step out there first. I could see that the wind was stable and following Gary we all launched into the Swiss airspace. I was using an Ozone Ultralight 4 that I borrowed from Jen Rapp. The 19M hike and fly kit was the perfect tool for the job. Light and agile with a slight capacity to thermal.

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The most rewarding flight of the trip was a wingsuit flight I managed with my friend Ellen Brennan. I love to hike and fly/Paralpinism! I find it to be the purest form of free-flight. Gaining every inch of altitude with human power carrying your wing on your back is as equal a feeling as pushing out into zero gravity and allowing the physics of the world to take over your body. Accepting the inevitability of the fall, while timing the angle of attack with airspeed to create the expediential ejection from the wall and out into nature. Viewing the world from a birds perspective while feeling the speed of the world’s fastest nonpowered invention taking you on the rollercoaster of a lifetime. What makes paralpinism so special to me is that it’s all under your own power. Free flight in its purest. No machines. Just a man and the mountain and some organic tools to serve as transportation. #flightlife = #lovelife


Responses

  1. Nice to see you writing again.

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