Today is the one-year anniversary of Moab Base Adventures, the business that Mario and I started for all things desert base and climbing here in Moab.
MBA is a multi-tasking affair, specializing in tandem base jumping from cliffs (we are the only ones in the world who are doing this), but also offering First Jump Courses (something we did not originally plan to do, but Mario was asked so many times that we have started to do it), First Cliff Courses, tower climb/jump combinations, base guiding, stunt work and desert climbing–Indian Creek clinics and occasional private climbing guiding.
It’s also a family affair, primarily run by Mario and myself with help from good friends Chris Hunter and Mick Knurbin and desert rockstars Lisa Hathaway and Chris Kalous who help me with teaching and rope gunning at the Indian Creek clinics. Our logo was designed by climbing artist Jer Collins, and our site was built by climbing web genius Jeremy Fields.
Since Mario and I both like being busy, and we both like doing a lot of different things, we figured why not do a little of everything! So far it has been a super busy and super fulfilling year.
Things were not totally simple in the beginning. We had to set up the business, to do something which did not yet exist, and Mario needed to put together and test the equipment for use here in Moab. Back in 1984, Ted Strong and Robin Heid (both experienced jumpers) made the first ever tandem base jump off the New River Bridge in West Virginia. Another legendary jumper, Thor Alex Kappfjell took the concept to the cliffs, making several tandem jumps from Karlsgratind in Norway in 1998. Mario got interested in the idea when he was asked to take customers off the New River Bridge as a part of the annual Bridge Day event 3 years ago, and of course, he began envisioning bringing tandem base to the Moab cliffs. Base jumping is very gear specific, and the most important thing is to have perfect systems that are perfectly engineered for the places they are being used.
I was Mario’s first passenger, both at the bridge (which actually resulted in our engagement, but he has promised to quit doing that) and then here in Moab, and he spent several months refining and perfecting the systems for cliff specific use, which is a whole other ball of wax than bridge jumping. Since Mario has been jumping, building base gear and rigging for 20 years, he is perhaps the most qualified person in the world to take this step. The second crux was obtaining a permit from the BLM and insurance, which is one of our biggest expenses. We are now the first base jumping operation to have a permit for a commercial base business on federal lands–something we are very proud of!
In the past year, we have had countless adventures and have been privileged to meet some spectacularly adventurous and unique people through MBA. We’ve gotten to fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter to scout and rig up incredibly complicated helmet camera systems for stunt jobs. We’ve jumped out of a helicopter over downtown Salt Lake to land on the roof of the Backcountry.com warehouse. We’ve met doctors, software engineers, IT specialists, statisticians, students, aid workers and free spirits. We’ve had tandem jumpers from California, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Oklahoma, Italy, Australia, Russia, Quebec, Ireland and more. And we’ve gotten to vicariously experience first jumps and first climbs again and again….
As we enter our second year, we are also very proud to now be the operators who will be offering the tandem base jumps at this year’s Bridge Day event, and looking forward to even more adventures here in the desert.
And as of today, we’ve just secured permits from the BLM to do tandem skydives into both of our tandem base locations, so tandem jumpers can get a double dose of adventure with a skydive/base jumping double header. The adventure continues…