BASE jumping at Yosemite – one more

I have no record of the 7 deaths at Yosemite from BASE jumping that Somke referred to….only these 4:

In 1982 Jimmy Tyler, tried a jump off the face of Half Dome. He did it on a cloudy day with a slight wind. The breeze put him into the wall.

In 1988 Mitch Reno did the same and delayed opening his chute and impacted the talus just as his chute was rolling out.

In 1993, when Susan Oatly, jumped off El Cap. She held her head skyward for too long, lost altitude awareness, and backed into the wall in her 15th second of freefall. This jump began the process of insisting people who begin BASE jumping have at least 150 previous parachutes jumps.

The jump that ended it all was in 1999 when 5 jumpers planned a protest jump off El Cap in front of Park Rangers and the media. Jan Davis was the third to go off while her husband down below filmed it. By prior arrangement, Park Service officials agreed not to prevent the jumps but insisted jumpers would be arrested upon landing and their gear would be confiscated. It’s not against the law to talk about jumping – only the actual jump is a violation. This caused some jumpers to switch to their “B” gear. Jan jumped a system with an older style leg mounted pilot chute pouch when she was used to jumping a pilot chute stowed in a chest pouch. After a normal delay she instinctively reached for the bottom of the container and after failing to find the pilot chute handle ran out of time before figuring things out.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: Well it’s too bad that our friends can’t be with us today. Well it’s too bad. The machine that we built would never save us! (That’s what they said.) That’s why they ain’t comin’ with us today. And they also said it’s impossible for a man to live and breathe underwater. Forever was a main complaint. Yeah and they also threw this in my face, they said: Anyway, you know good and well it would be beyond the will of god and the grace of the king. Grace of the king.” – continuing 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – Jimi Hendrix


*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch –

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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8 Responses to BASE jumping at Yosemite – one more

  1. Elle says:

    It’s unfortunate. I went to high school with Frank Gambalie. My boyfriend and I gave him a ride home from school once and he showed us his pet snake. I was so scared. I was saddened to hear of his death 10 years after we graduated. He was so young.

  2. Sönke says:

    I think that has been posted before but just in case:

  3. Sönke says:

    More 80s El Cap Youtube-fun for your entertainment:

  4. Sönke says:

    Some grainy El Cap footage from 1980:

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

      Looks like one camera was on the Ansel Adams Diving Board . . . a good way to drill a hole in the meadow. Funny – Football helmets on!

  5. Sönke says:

    Unfortunately the Outside feature doesn’t give any names or details about those 7.

    “Off The Wall: Death In Yosemite” has a total of six. In addition to the four names you’ve already mentioned their “list” includes:

    Jeff. D. Christman, 1996, slammed into the cliffs of El Capitan
    Frank Peter Gambalie, III, 1999, made a successfull jump of El Capitan but drowned in the Merced while fleeing rangers).

    While the authors mentioned his death under “Fatal Base Jumps in Yosemite), in terms of statistic they counted his death in drownings).

    From a brief graphic it is my understanding that Outside included base jump-related drownings in their list.

    Well, that still leaves us one short if Frank Peter Gambalie is included in the counting. Then again my book is from 2006 and I have found that the book is “missing” some casualties anyway. However I haven’t heard off any base jump related casualties in Yosemite in the last five years.

    Someone else got info?!

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

      The Gambalie death preceded the Davis one. It was his death they were protesting…that the park chased him and caused him to drown … when, afterall, BASE jumping is safe and should be allowed … I think this put the Kybosh on any futher attempts.

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