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Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Helicopter….

Triston and Craig checkout Guardian Peak

What a long and crazy summer it has been.  I was gone for most of it either in Bristol Bay commercial fishing for six weeks or continuing/starting future projects when I returned to Southeast.  I will eventually catch up on the blog with a number of entries to follow on the Taku River/Tulsequah Mine, Trolling on the Outer Coast, late summer on the Mendenhall, and so much more.

Juneau just wrapped up an 11 day stretch of 60+ degree weather, with not a drop of rain and totally blue-bird skies.  We’ve been blessed with an awesome end to our summer, hopefully we’ll squeak out a few more good days here and there on our slide into Fall.  During that stretch of great weather I had the opportunity to shoot a friend Craig Brown, aka Shaggy, and his buddy Triston Buchanan jump out of a helicopter and base jump off a cliff on the backside of Stroller White.

The first attempt was made on Guardian Peak, approx. 16 miles back into the Juneau Icefield behind Lemon Creek.  We flew with NorthStar and were dropped off on a patch of snow on a bench on the eastern side of the mountain.  We made our way down to a good vantage point of the jump spot and Craig and Triston took measurements to assess the jump.  Using some simple geometry they sized up the jump and decided they’d hike up and toss some rocks off to test the distance.  While they climbed the remaining 300 hundred-or-so feet to the jump site, I hurriedly setup my gear for the shoot and took a moment or two to enjoy the amazing vistas of the Juneau Icefield.  While getting gear together I got the call that the jump was a no-go.  Craig and Triston had anticipated a longer jump and hadn’t packed the right pilot chutes.  I was a little bummed that I wasn’t going to get any shots of them hucking-it off into the void above the icefield, but mostly for them as they’d done all the preparation and had to turn back at the last minute.

Once we reunited at the LZ we were picked up by the helicopter and headed back over the Mendenhall Glacier.  I was taking advantage of the flight and grabbing as many shots as I could of the icefield on our flight back.  Just as I thought we were going to descend to the NorthStar basecamp site, the pilot came over the intercom and turned to Craig and said, “Well… you wanna get out here?” Craig’s eyes bugged out to the size of a couple mandarin oranges as he realized the pilot was serious and that we were at 4,500 feet.  Craig and Triston gave the thumbs up and the doors to the bird were opened up and they proceeded to climb onto the skids.  Once they got their bearings they each dropped away from the helicopter hurtling towards the glacier below. What an exhilarating experience to have a front-row seat to someone jumping out of a helicopter, definitely worth every penny.

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