Cliff Hucking: Wherein skiers/climbers/whoever fall thousands of feet and (usually) don't die

Cliff hucking at Whistler.
Cliff hucking at Whistler.

In their song "Fear of Falling," the Badlees sing "I have no fear of falling, but I hate hitting the ground." Those sentiments have been semi-embraced by an increasingly crazed set of daredevils who huck off cliffs.


The current world record for a cliff huck is held by Fred Syversen. Syversen set the record accidentally, when he was filming a ski video and ended up going down the wrong way, going over a cliff and landing 352 feet (107 meters) down in a big pile of snow. Syversen walked away from the incident

Syversen's fall (jump), was captured on video. It's pretty hair-raising.

Syversen's jump eclipsed the previous world record of 245 feet, held by Jamie Pierre, who set that record in 2006 in Wyoming. Pierre actually landed on his head, not his skis, but walked away unharmed, as seen here.

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While skiers may be pursuing greater and greater falls, they are unlikely to break the world record, held by Vesna Vulovic, a stewardess on a Yugoslavian DC-9 that blew up, most likely as a result of bomb. Vulovic fell 33,000 feet in the destroyed fuselage, which landed in snow. Vulovic survived; initially, she was paralyzed from the waist down, but eventually was able to walk again.

Aside from the insane stories of people surviving falls of up to 29,000 feet in planes or balloons, climbers are the ones who historically have survived long falls. Some sought them out. For instance, the late Dan Osman holds the record for longest roped fall, a jump of 925 feet in Yosemite off the Leaning Tower. Osman died a day later while trying to break that record when the rope he was attached to snapped.

Closer to home, the late Charlie Fowler may have inadvertently given inspiration to the current trend of skiers cliff hucking. Fowler, who once decided to get over his fear of falling by tying a 150-foot rope to a tree at the top of a climb called "Diving Board" in Eldorado Canyon and jumping off on the other end of the rope, went up to try a winter ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak in 1984 with the late Alex Lowe. The two were free soloing the approach chimney in extremely snowy conditions, and Lowe was above Fowler when he knocked a cornice loose as he emerged on Broadway Ledge. The snow hit Fowler below and knocked him off the cliff, and Fowler fell 450 feet to the bottom, landing in a deep pit of snow and walking away unharmed, save for a dented crampon.

No word yet on who will try to break Syversen's record.


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