Jumping from the top of a 400ft rock in Castle Valley in Utah was a risk. With the Colorado river to the north and the Parriott Mesa behind me – a flat-topped rock formation made of sandstone – all I had to protect myself was a helmet, knee pads and parachute. I stood on the edge, leant as perpendicular to the ground as possible and walked out. I couldn’t afford to hesitate or make a bad decision; a lot of people have died doing BASE jumping. (The acronym stands for building, antenna, span and earth, four categories of fixed objects that you can leap off.)
Before every jump my mind is at war. One part is telling me not to do it and the other is spurring me on. I call them my old brain and my new brain. I have to listen to my new brain, the part that reassures me that I know what I’m doing, that I’ve checked the wind conditions, packed my parachute properly and will take off at the right angle.
Looking around Castle Valley, I felt like I was on Mars. Reddish-orange dark-brown rocks surrounded me and juniper trees and sagebrush peppered the dusty ground below. It takes an hour of hiking and another hour of climbing for 40 seconds of gliding. I had only three seconds of freefalling before my parachute opened. Then, time slows down, I feel weightless and my mind is empty. I’ll never jump with a GoPro or a camera. I leap for the pure experience.•
Michael Tomchek was talking to Caroline Christie