Mar 26, 2014, 5:23 PM
Post #1 of 12
Wingsuiting Moab - Recommendations
A few of us are concerned with the recent introduction of wingsuit basejumping in Moab over the last year. We are genuinely nervous and scared for the carnage coming down the road from uninformed, excited and unqualified visiting wingsuiters. So before you grab your V4 and start throwing rocks off exit points (‘I got 7 seconds!’), we’d like to share a little of what we’re continuing to learn out here.
First off, nothing has miraculously changed in Moab. The cliffs haven’t grown taller, the boulders haven’t softened up, and the LZ’s still require currency and accuracy. 99% of the exits are slider-off. A handful CAN be jumped slider up. It’s still Moab.
Over the last year, a handful of locals and visitors have been wingsuiting very select SLIDER-OFF exits. Notice we don’t refer to them as Wingsuit Exits.
From the locals’ side of things, we approached wingsuiting Moab with utmost caution and preparation. Let’s face it, we’re from Moab… a couple of months a year wingsuiting at dropzones and Switzerland doesn’t train you for much out here. So we devised a more calculated method to offset our less-than-ideal wingsuit base experience.
Using various GPS devices available on the market, we built a database of actual wingsuit profiles personally flown in the base environment at other exits around the world. Plotted out on a chart, these curves provide empirical data showing how conditions (sun, shade, wind, thermals, katabatic flow) and exit performance (good push, weak push, too steep, too shallow) affected the critical START phase of a wingsuit profile, as well as overall flight duration, distance, and glide ratios. The summation of these profiles provided a low-end ‘worst-case’ curve which we used as our baseline jump profile for Moab considerations.
Next, we used a standard range-finder laser, an inclinometer and a sighting tube to profile and plot the desired flight line from a potential exit point… nothing fancy, just using junk we found in the shed out back, but it works!
The final step was to superimpose known flights over profiled terrain. This allowed us to ‘predict’ altitude margins and determine if we were comfortable with the ‘scoop-out’ height above terrain.
We did this for months before actually jumping here. We trained elsewhere. Meanwhile, we hiked up and down from potential exits simply to check actual winds vs forecast winds to build a local forecast ‘offset’. Each exit was unique to winds required. Yes, winds required. If you don’t know what wind direction and speed (or lack of) you personally like for sketchy low exits, don’t come here to find out.
Speaking of winds… wind indicators are hard to see in the landing area 2000’ away. A mini-scope of some kind (we chopped a set of small binoculars) works wonders. Multiple wind indicators (LZ and mid-talus) are also useful on certain kinds of exits.
FLIGHTS: Yup, the actual flights here are all low. Pretty much all exits are in the low-500’ rock drop range, followed by an approximately 1.5GR talus, and 1200’-1600’ overall.
Attached is a file showing Flights vs selected Terrain Profiles we’ve mapped. For comparison, the best flight (blue) had amazing lifting air activity, and the worst flight (red) was jumping with a 3mph quartering tailwind (not flown on the terrain profiles shown!) The dashed red line is a 45° reference line from the exit point that we use to compare one flight to another (the numerical equivalent of defining a start… stole that idea from Matt Gerdes.) DISCLAIMER: Most profiles on this chart have NOT been jumped (yet!)
NO PULL ZONES: Pretty much every jump has one here. Some are really small windows, others are huge by comparison. Some NPZ’s start as soon as your feet leave the exit. Others don’t show up for 3-4 seconds and may last up to 8 seconds. Don’t know what an NPZ is? Don’t know how to predict one prior to exit or recognize one in flight? Do your homework elsewhere at less committing exits… the knowledge is out there. Wrap your head around the mindset, commitment and mental discipline required to 1) knowingly jump/fly into a no-pull-zone at slow airspeed, 2) wait for the flight arc to kick in, and 3) capture max glide efficiently to out-fly the NPZ as soon as possible.
WINGSUITS: The majority of Moab wingsuit jumps to date have been flown by Auras. Followed by X2s, then X1s. There are a handful of other suits that have flown here once or twice. I don’t want to say you need a BIG suit (that can be misleading for various reasons), but whatever suit you bring needs to have a FAST START CURVE (minimal altitude loss) dialed in. I’ll leave the suit choice up to you.
CANOPIES: Plan on low openings (300’-ish), sub-30 sec canopy flights (some routinely 20 sec, some unexpectedly less) and minimal time to correct for any opening issues you don’t like. Throw in standard Moab LZ hazards of ankle-breaking rocks, boulders, cactus, creek washes, 3D terrain and the Colorado River and you can get busy really fast. So do you really want to jump your Trango, Seven or Feather?
PILOT CHUTE SIZE: Perfect conversation for your next round of beers. Do you go with a smaller PC and pitch in full flight? Or do you upsize your PC and plan on flaring out your flight prior to pitch? Which scenario reduces your chances of off-headings or line twists? Standard flight profiles here don’t really allow for anything other than max-glide angle of attack. So is a flare from max-glide really effective or even desirable at low altitude? All questions to be considered… there is no one complete right answer. At least one of us out here routinely jumps a Blackjack ZP with a 42” PC for all Moab wingsuit flights. Snappy openings, but hey, it’s still Moab on the ground. Think about ALL aspects of your gear choice, and tailor it to the profile being required.
So with all that being said, we have some recommendations and requests.
RECOMMENDATIONS: 1) Run wingsuit laps off of Courthouse down in AZ until you are bored. It’s low, but not Moab low. Get so comfortable and cocky that you start letting your wind requirements lapse and jump in less-than-ideal conditions. Wanna get scared? See what happens to your awesome dialed-in quick start when you decide to jump in just a bit of a slight tailwind (1-3mph off the back… shouldn’t be an issue, right?). Think again. 2) Jump a wingsuit exit that is in shade in the morning, then jump it again in the afternoon with sun on the line. Compare and contrast the feel and the numbers… it will surprise you. 3) Tailor your pre-pitch flight profile (“to flare or not to flare”), as well as canopy and PC choices, to max-glide flight at low altitude into risk-of-injury terrain.
REQUESTS: 1) Please do not show up to Moab with your brand new whatever suit and ask us to ‘Take us to your wingsuit exits!’ There are NO wingsuit exits. There are only slider-off exits that MAY be wingsuited with the proper conditions, time of day, currency and proficiency. 2) Do your homework. Know the numbers on what you can do on your suit. What is a good start for you? What is a bad start? WHY was it a bad start? If you know YOUR numbers, then we’ll be happy to show you the terrain profiles of exits we have mapped out here, and let you make an informed decision. 3) Don’t trust rock drops. Seems like most advanced wingsuit jumpers like to throw out a rock-drop-value that they’re comfortable with like, ‘My minimum is 6 seconds’. Ok, that’s all good but when exit height DOUBLES from 5-sec (~400’) to 7-sec (~800’), where exactly does your patented 6-sec mental count fall in that range? Also, somebody PLEASE show me a legitimate 7-sec rock drop in Moab! 4) Just because something has been jumped out here and publicized, doesn’t mean it should be repeated. At least one exit in Moab is on our personal black list. Yes, it was jumped by very talented, current and proficient friends. We profiled it some weeks later and determined that WE would scoop out at under 100 feet. Yes, it’s been jumped. Should it be repeated? Not necessarily.
Please take this onboard from a couple of guys who are overcoming only moderate wingsuit base experience with months of recon, scouting, profiling and commitment. More experienced wingsuiters may differ in their opinions or knowledge, and their conversation is welcome.
Bottom line: Have fun, be safe-ish, don’t die.
(This post was edited by flydive on Mar 27, 2014, 12:24 AM)
How big of a difference in performance have you guys seen from the effects of density altitude ? I would think the daily and seasonal fluctuations could be quite large in that area. Also, I saw a river in one of the videos and was wondering if the increase in humidity is noticeable ?
A simple rule of thumb for converting indicated to true is: Drop the zeros off your altitude, double the remaining digits ( or digit ) and use the result as the percentage of the increase from indicated to true. Example: 80 Kts Indicated at 30,000. 2x30=60, 60% of 80=48, 48 + 80= 128Kts True Airspeed. Example: 80 Kts Indicated at 10,000'. 2x10=20, 20% of 80=16, 16+80=96Kts True Airspeed. Example: Jumper in freefall(120 Indicated) at 30,000'. 2x30=60, 60%of 125=75, 75 plus 125=200 True Airspeed.
In the summertime density altitude goes up to 9000' and more around here. That's when it's hot. Real hot. My non wingsuiting self would assume there would be a massive effect on flight characteristics during those times. I would hope that people are doing activities around Moab other than wingsuiting low cliffs when it gets hot like that.
Hi, We work with this tools for 3-4 years here in the (french) alps. Brevent, Aiguille du Midi were opened on this basis for exemple. Most of what is written in this post matches what we found here at home. François
ps : red line (worst flight) seems to have GPS errors in it, no?
Hey Tracy. Thanks big time for hosting us in August. I'm not waiting that long again. On Wingsuits in Moab, I love all those cool numbers and facts in your ever mathematical mind post, but the only real fact is that the more we bounce, the worse the chances are to keep the BLM from making Moab illegal. Low profile is always good on federal lands and so far it's worked good especially in our current era of ultra conservatism in the US. I really like and totally support wing suiting and especially the WWL who seems to do it right and draw good publicity. But, out of last years 24 BASE fatalities, I think over 20 were wing suits. Not sure it makes sense to encourage wingsuits at Moab. I'm not a wing suit pilot, but it seems like a short flight for all the extra hassle and risk from a 600' cliff. Go to Brento.
I saw a river in one of the videos and was wondering if the increase in humidity is noticeable ?
[Most likely not applicable to Moab, since it's mostly dry place, and I doubt river can significantly raise the humidity level in the canyon.] But in general, humidity does affect wingsuit performance (the start, not the L/D of sustained flight). Whenever I jump in high humidity conditions (such as when there are some (sic! ) clouds under the exit), I do notice slower start and significantly deeper recovery arc. Maybe some day I'll demonstrate it with hard data, but for now take a look at this anecdotal video evidence: https://vimeo.com/109305282 (compare Lower Left and Lower Right). LR jump was from an exit that is ~100ft to the left of the LL exit (and nearly same altitude). Yet, my recovery arc was significantly deeper and I flew significantly lower than on LL, despite closer distance to reference points. (I don't remember any obvious difference in quality of flying.) LL flight was probably enhanced by thermals, but still. As explained in the video description, humid air is less dense than dry, because water molecules (molecular weight 18) are lighter than molecules constituting air (average molecular weight 29). While that doesn't affect L/D (although slightly increases sustained horizontal and vertical speeds in the same proportion), it does make start worse.
WOW lot's of good info here. in fact this is required reading for WS base in general IMO Thank you
What did I read that "worried me most"???
"1) Run wingsuit laps off of Courthouse down in AZ until you are bored. It’s low, but not Moab low. Get so comfortable and cocky that you start letting your wind requirements lapse and jump in less-than-ideal conditions. Wanna get scared? See what happens to your awesome dialed-in quick start when you decide to jump in just a bit of a slight tailwind (1-3mph off the back… shouldn’t be an issue, right?). Think again. "
I have about 80 jumps off CH over the past 15 years. I never even thought of WS there. Kudo's to those that do so in an informed manner.