BASE Jump Chute Failure, Miracle Save! from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.
Over the years I've come across a lot of 'interesting' people to say the least in my travels and climbing:
- lots of ordinary, quiet, unassuming people doing extraordinary things: we may hear what all the celebrity climbers are doing, but there's just as many people underground that are doing as much. Here's a task that would be worth completing: name all the other sports where people spend 20, 30+ hours per week doing, and training, for their sport.
- The Aussie guy who introduced the Australian grading system to South Africa (and amusingly, got it one grade out :). He's an ex-prolific trad climbing new-router, now a prolific sport climbing new-router in Canada, in his 60's and still climbing mid to high grade 7 (that's E7-ish in trad money) sport routes.
- the couple of guys developing Hampi's bouldering area. Living out in the boulders for weeks on end, on their own, just doing new problems. Hi Squib*
- Various people who have had big high-paying careers in various disciplines (engineering, IT, accountancy, etc) and given it all up to either go pursue adventures of all sorts around the the world, and working as guides. Not to escape the 'real world' but because they just had an absolute passion for the outdoors and the world around then they hadn't realized they had.
- Various people who were on the wrong side of the law who found a love for traveling/biking/climbing and put them on a track to a more happy life for them and friends around them.
- Various people who were just gifted at something, showing 'normal' people like myself just what was possible......
One those people was Lucky Chance. I knew him as Toby of course back then (he changed his name). Myself and Dave spent a summer hanging out with him in 2003-ish, he shared a seat in my car as we wandered across Europe. To say he put himself out there would be an understatement - skipping bolts wildly at Ceuse (where the run-outs are already respectable enough!), performing outrageous gymnastic maneuvers (including being the first, and only, person I've ever seen to try and land a back-flip on a slackline - he was close, remember this was 2003, well before many others were trying it). My abiding memory is of him walking along the guard pole at the top of the Verdon Gorge in his trainers with a 300 meter drop on one side and no safety line. It's funny to think that by then, I didn't even think that was unusual and barely blinked when he did it.
Of course, after that, he went off, and ahead of the time in many ways, cruised up much of the gritstone in the UK (usually without pads or spotters) using only a natural talent and awareness of balance that I've rarely seen. You'll find him on the DVD HXS, showing off that awesome talent he had.
And then he I heard nothing more - just another one of the 'interesting' people I'd met in my life.
I heard little stories over the years about him. He'd joined the circus, learned how to be a fully trained gymnast from it. Took up base jumping.....
Until a couple of weeks ago when Dave dropped a link on Facebook. And then it showed up on UKclimbing yesterday that a BASE jump finally went wrong (it's ridiculously high risk). You can read the full story there, and also here for more info.
The unbelievable video above is of his previous near miss in the Blue Mountains while BASE jumping. The funny part is, there was definitely luck involved in him getting away with the incident, but I also know that he had the skills and resources to land in a manner that would have reduced the risk of an injury. That was, and is, Lucky's way - he was one of those people who had the ability to land like a cat.
It seems he's recovering now after his incident, and in his own way. He's very smashed up but has already managed to escape from hospital once in a wheelchair :) I'm not going to go in to the rights and wrongs of putting yourself into such extreme situations time and time again but I will comment that I remember that when I knew him, he was always aware of what he was doing (in the couple of months we hung out with him, there was only one incident where he probably overstepped the mark in Ceuse). I'm sure lots of people will disagree with the of doing things so dangerous but his sister nicely sums it up from the Sydney Morning Herald article above:
''It was always his choice,'' she said. ''No matter what happens from here, at least he was living life exactly the way he wanted, doing the one thing that gave him most pleasure.''
I've no idea if anyone else came across the guy who reads this blog, but if you want to donate to support his recuperation, head over to MyCause here. Keep it real Lucky!!!
* Squib, who many in Ireland, will have come across inspiring people at Ceuse during the summer: