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BASE jumper caught on camera after launching off Mt. Siyeh

| July 28, 2022 1:00 AM

By JEREMY WEBER

Daily Inter Lake

When hikers Jody Hildreth and his daughter, Aubrey, heard yelling and cheering near Cracker Lake in the Many Glacier area on Sunday morning, they could not figure out what the commotion was about.

When they turned their eyes to the sky near the 10,014-foot peak, they found their answer.

“We got to the lake and we heard all this screaming and cheering, like someone watching fireworks,” Jody Hildreth said. “We couldn’t figure out what the campers were so excited about, and then we looked up and saw a parachute coming down in front of us.”

Dangling from a blue-and-white parachute, a man in a wingsuit and helmet equipped with a GoPro camera slowly descended to the trail, not far from where the Hildreths were hiking. In less than a minute, the pair passed the flyer as they continued up the trail.

“My first thought was that this seemed like something that would be illegal in the park, so I didn’t want to confront him too much. I told him good morning and asked him where he had jumped from and he answered by pointing up to Mt. Siyeh, but he didn’t say much.”

After finishing their dayhike around the lake, Jody Hildreth checked with park rangers in Many Glacier about the legality of the flight. Unsure of the answer at first, the rangers later informed Hildreth the flight was, indeed, illegal.

“I gave them what little description of the man that I could and showed them my photos. He never took his helmet off and I had very little interaction with him,” Jody Hildreth said. “There’s not much more I could do.”

Predating the sport of BASE jumping by decades, a 1965 law forbids “aerial delivery” of people or goods into national parks, but attempts inside Glacier are not unheard of.

A jumper in 1997 only made it 300 feet down Siyeh’s 4,000-foot vertical north face before his parachute got hung up on rocks.

While that climber was rescued, 22-year-old Beau Weiher fell about 1,500 to 2,000 feet to his death in the park while attempting the same jump in September 2014.

Other national parks struggle with the same issue. Zion National Park in Utah had two BASE jumpers die in 2014 and Yosemite National Park in California has been the scene of many incidents, including the deaths of BASE jumping expert Dean Potter and friend Graham Hunt in 2015.

Ray O’Neal, a longtime ranger at Zion, told the New York Times after the deaths in 2015 that the problem with BASE jumping in national parks is not necessarily one of safety or rescue costs, as many jumpers presume.

“The reason we would like to discourage it is not so much because of the danger of it, but the spectacle of it,” O’Neal said “We like to think that people come here to enjoy the scenery, and not the spectacle of people jumping.”

The penalty for being caught BASE jumping in a national park carries a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

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