CANMORE – A BASE jumper was rescued and airlifted to hospital with traumatic injuries after a parachute failure caused him to smash into the rock face of East End of Rundle (EEOR) on Sunday (Oct. 31).
A man in his 40s BASE jumped off the popular mountain near Canmore, but when deploying his parachute it twisted and forced him into the unforgiving rock, said Jeremy Mackenzie of Kananaskis Country Public Safety (KCPS).
"He appeared to have multiple leg fractures and an arm fracture," said Mackenzie.
"[He was] unbelievably lucky and yet this isn't the first time we've had a similar event, which is kind of shocking. We've actually had other people who were snagged by the canopy and prevented them from falling to their deaths, but in this case, he jumped off the ridge and it sounded like his 'chute deployed a bit suboptimally and sort of shot him in the rock face and he then tumbled down and it was described as cartwheeling down the rock face."
As the man plummeted, his parachute canopy caught a rock edge that stopped him about halfway down the mountain, where he dangled from his parachute.
"By sheer luck, a very small piece of canopy happened to snag on a fairly small piece of rock horn and that stopped his trajectory downwards, so in all accounts, that's pretty darn lucky," Mackenzie said.
A friend of the BASE jumper called authorities for help and KCPS and Alpine Helicopters responded, attempting a daring heli-sling rescue of the injured man off the side of EEOR.
However, a new plan was swiftly thought up after fear rose that the might of the rotor wash blowing would unhinge and send the BASE jumper down the mountain face.
A high rope rescue from the top of the cliff involving Parks Canada and KCPS was implemented and the man was secured, moved to a ledge and then heli-slung to safety where he was transferred to local EMS and then STARS air ambulance flew him to a Calgary hospital.
His current condition is unknown.
BASE jumping is an activity that requires jumps from four categories of fixed objects – building, antenna, span, Earth – with a parachute.
Mackenzie said it was KCPS' first rescue of the year for a BASE jumper and that local rescuers have had two calls for paragliders in 2021.
The rescue was delayed as the injured man dangled unsecured on the side of the mountain after a paraglider floated within the vicinity of the rescue air space.
Mackenzie said it was an unfortunate move on the paraglider's part.
"We can't have other aircraft in the area in order to perform properly because we're focused on so many critical aspects of the work, you know, flying rescuers under a helicopter has a lot of inherent risks and we just want to remove all other distractions and all other potential hazards and limit what we need to manage," said Mackenzie
"So it was unfortunate that paraglider decided to enter our working air space and it actually did cause a real delay in our rescue at that point. The patient was still not secured in any way, he was still hanging on by a thread of his parachute and then we were delayed by operations because this paraglider was in our way."
In all, KCPS, Alpine, EMS, Parks Canada, STARS and Canmore Fire-Rescue responded to the incident.