The Petit Dru (3,733m) is a magnet for climbers, an extremely beautiful, slender and pointed mountain in the Mont Blanc range. The west face is breathtakingly high and steep, but not quite vertical at the top, considerably increasing the risk when base jumping with the wingsuit. Despite this, the Russian Valery Rozov (47) dared to take this record jump. "
During an interview he told us about the risks involved, what it feels like to fly, and whether he ever feels afraid.
Valery, when you landed after the Petit Dru jump you said you wouldn’t attempt this base jump again.
Did I really say that? There were bad weather conditions on that day; I had a strong side wind to deal with. On top of that, the first 70m below the exit point are not quite vertical, which makes the jump all the more difficult. I knew that the base jump is possible, but it was a difficult decision. Should I do it or not? I was hoping that the wind would die down a bit, but it got stronger and stronger.
So then I decided: it’s now or never.
Not a perfect exit, poor weather conditions. Your free fall lasted one minute and 30 seconds. What was going through your head?
I wasn’t able to really enjoy the flight. I was cold, nervous and tired. My plan was to fly right down into the valley. However, due to the strong wind I took the decision during the flight to change course and land on the glacier instead. Normally I can relax during the flight; think about home and my family.
How much risk do you have to take on board? Have you ever aborted a flight just before jumping?
Normally I decide before I’m standing at the exit point. I analyse the rock face, my capabilities and the weather. Those are the main criteria. And I have my rules: if one of the three criteria is not okay, that’s still okay for me. But if two are not okay, then I don’t jump.
You are not a typical base jumper, but a base climber: first you climb an imposing mountain and then you lookfor a suitable exit point. Nobody does that as successfully as you do.
Base jumping can be a very different experience, depending on who you are. I like mountains as far back as I can remember. I started with climbing the classic way, then combined with parachuting. Later I got into skydiving and skysurfing. I liked that so much that I began base jumping.
What is it like to be able to fly like a bird?
Actually, base jumping is more like flying like an aeroplane than a bird.
No emotions during the flight?
Yes, of course. I feel enormous joy. Sometimes disappointment, if the flight didn’t go as well as I hoped.
Are you ever frightened?
Of course I do. I have respect for every jump. Sometimes it is difficult to find the balance between desire and reality. But thanks to my experience I am able to assess my capabilities and my projects fairly accurately.
How do you train?
I climb, mountaineer, run, do skydives and smaller base jumps, I am often on the go all over the world to turn my base climbs into reality. I stick at it constantly and am actually always ready to take on large projects.
How important is mental fitness for base jumping?
Extremely important. More important than physical fitness. Mental strength grows with experience. You must always be aware of the risk. Fatality applies to me too, not just others. However, that doesn’t mean that I am going to stop doing unusual things. But I don’t want to stretch my luck too often.
You are married and the father of three children, your youngest son is two. Does this responsibility influence your projects?
When my eldest son was born 21 years ago, I was too young to think about family obligations. That changes with age. Today I train even more to make my jumps even safer.
Nobody does base climbing as intensively and as successfully as you do. You have given base jumping a new dimension. Is there still potential?
More and more people are getting into base jumping. Better wingsuits will be developed so that you can fly even further. What would be great is if more people were to do what I do: climb high mountains and then jump down from them. There is no better and quicker way to get back down into the valley. Sometimes the climb takes several days; the free fall takes less than two minutes.
Like on Petit Dru, Why did you really want to jump from this mountain, even though the conditions were not ideal?
It is a very well-known mountain, popular with climbers. I saw it for the first time as a child. Climbers are always looking for new routes – whereas I am looking for mountains that nobody has jumped off with a wingsuit before.
Facts and figures - Base Jump Petit Dru:
The Petite Aiguille du Dru, or Petit Dru in short, is a 3,733m-high summit in the Mont Blanc massif near Chamonix in France. In July 2011 Valery Rozov (47) leapt with his wingsuit from an altitude of 3,350m over the breathtaking drop of the west face. His free fall lasted one minute and 30 seconds. Elevation: 1,800m. He took 7.5 hours for the climb. He was accompanied by his climbing partner of many years Alexander Ruchkin, photographer Thomas Senf and cameraman Maxim Malanchuk. Due to poor weather conditions with strong winds, they bivouacked for one night just below the summit before Valery Rozov made his record jump.
Check out adidas.com/outdoor/magazine for more inspiring stories and pictures or watch the base jump video