Perth mates Locklan Gilbert (27) and BJ Johnson (30) have returned from some epic European trips fitting in as much craziness as possible, including a tonne of BASE and wingsuit jumps. We caught up with them now that they're back home recouping funds and planning their next adventures.
Righto, lads, tell us about your trips – from what we’ve seen they’ve been epic.
Locklan: I play professional American football in Europe, so the team flies me over and I play for four months, then save enough money to go travelling. This year I built a campervan (pictured below) and cruised around Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain BASE-jumping, climbing, hiking, downhill mountainbiking, scuba diving and trying to fit as much into each day as possible.
BJ: I did two two-month trips this year. The first was an urban BASE-jump mission in France, Spain and England, but we couldn’t put much of it on mainstream media because it was kinda illegal. The second trip was all big stuff – wing-suiting mainly – and jumping cliffs in Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany.
Had you done many trips like this before?
Locklan: This was the first time I’d done it in a car and it’s so much more freeing; you don’t need to worry about itineraries or anything. I normally go do a location like Mallorca (Spain) for a month, but this was the first year I decided to do heaps of travelling.
BJ: I’ve been all over the US, BASE-jumping in Idaho, California and Vegas, but I wanted to do the big walls. I tend to mostly jump buildings as they’re a lot more dangerous and you’ve got to plan getting in, out and getting away, the winds are trickier and there’s more security to try and avoid. Until you’ve crept around a bank, in a costume, trying to avoid security and cameras, just for a jump, you haven’t lived hahaha!
What was your favourite spot?
Locklan: Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. It has everything – mountaineering, 4000m peaks, skiing, BASE-jumping, mountainbiking, the lot. It’s just really expensive as you need a gondola pass to access most of it. I was there for two weeks and got about 17 BASE-jumps in, but I tried to get as much adventure into those two weeks as I could.
BJ: Probably the High Ultimate jump at Lauterbrunnen and Campione in Italy, which was a cliff over water and really picturesque. I can’t say where my favourite buildings are, but there were some good moments.
Was there a standout moment?
Locklan: For me it was the Luzzone Dam in Switzerland. It’s a 160m-high water dam with an artificial rock climb fixed to it. We climbed multi-pitch up it, then BASE-jumped off the top. It was one of the coolest things ever. My mate then climbed halfway back up with just his BASE rigs and no safety ropes and jumped off again, which was pretty amazing.
BJ: Mine was an elevator base jump at a hotel in Spain. We had to go it alone and the elevator was full of old men pretty much having a heart attack. Another elevator next to it had two old ladies in it just waiting, and a crowd gathered below thinking they were about to watch a suicide. That was a pretty cool moment.
Did you have any close calls?
Locklan: I was pretty safe, actually. The closest was at a 700m jump at Lauterbrunnen when a mate of mine slipped on the exit point but managed to just catch himself.
BJ: I had a really lucky escape off a rope swing in Grindewalde, (check out the 35 second mark in the video below) where I was unstable off the swing and didn’t have enough time to face away from the cliff when I opened my chute. For the first time in 300 jumps I had a “180 opening”, which is the #1 cause of death and spins jumpers into the wall, but in my case it saved my life as it swung me away from the cliff instead. I was angry at myself for screwing up the jump so bad and getting away with it; a lot of people I know haven’t been so lucky.
Craziness! So do you guys have plans for another trip?
Locklan: Definitely. I’m going to Mallorca in April to start an adventure company and teach rockclimbing, abseiling, scuba-diving and hiking. The main tourist season is from April to October so I’ll earn as much money as I can, then travel then come back to Australia during the European winter. It should work pretty well and enable me to continue these trips for years.
BJ: Locklan and I are also planning a trip to Hong Kong in January. There are hundreds of skyscrapers three times bigger than anything here in Australia, but they’ll be technical jumps with more traffic and wires you can potentially hit. Later on I’ll go back to France and Switzerland and fit in as much wing-suitiing as I can until the money runs out.