Rope jumping—a lesser known cousin to bungee jumping—is a more adventurous way to experience free fall in a natural setting. Just check out this absolutely insane rope swing video we covered last week.
Rope jumpers string lines over the mouths of canyons or enormous sandstone arches and wend their way through the terrain at near terminal velocity.
One major difference from bungee jumping is the gear: instead of using a springy bungee cord, rope jumpers use nylon ropes that stretch to absorb a fall.
So, instead of whipping back up in the air the way bungee jumpers do, rope jumpers are slowed as the rope catches their fall, sometimes over hundreds of feet.
Because rope jumpers deal with natural landscapes, rather than bridges, as bungee jumpers do, they must build each jump according to the availability of anchor points and natural hazards.
Setting up a single rope jump can require months of work, a team of helpers and boatloads of gear, including pulleys, bolts and hundreds of feet of rope.
At their most extreme—as seen in these videos—rope jumps can be as long as bungee jumps from bridges—in the neighborhood of 1,000 feet.
From the fjords to Norway to the sandstone of Moab and soaring cliffs of Yosemite, these are five of the most daring, and occasionally deadly, rope jumps.
World Record Rope Jump in Norway
In a technical sense, this world-record setting rope jump in Norway is, well, the greatest on record. In July, 2010, this Ukrainian team sent a handful of jumpers off an incredibly scenic precipice in Kjerag.
To test the anchor before jumping, the team drilled a bolt into a small boulder, attached it to the end of the jump line, and tossed into the oblivion.
This kind of test is standard practice for rope jumps; in lieu of a boulder, teams will often clip a heavily weighted backpack to the line and send it for a ride.
For all their work, the Ukrainian team nabbed a world record, as every jumper logged a 918-foot free fall with a total fall distance of 1,181 feet.
Corona Arch Swing – World’s Largest
Rope jumping can sometimes be called rope swinging, and this massive swing through Moab, Utah’s Corona Arch shows just why. This ridiculous video, from the creators of the insane rope swing and human slingshot, show’s the world’s largest rope swing.
A team of jumpers set up an anchor atop the soaring sandstone crescent. One by one, they threaded the needle through the arch, doing so by swinging at the end of the taught line, rather than by free-falling until being caught.
This jump shows the strategy needed to pull off rope jumps in complicated natural settings. Jumpers have got to be smart and methodical when anchors aren’t in ideal places, and these guys definitely made the most of their environment.
It would be easy enough to pay an adventure service for a run-of-the-mill bungee jump. But that wouldn’t suffice for rope jumpers who would prefer to go to extreme lengths to make the first descent of a jump.
To make this jump in the Utah desert, it took the team a year of planning, four near-fatal falls and $10,000 in equipment.
It goes to show that the location, the process of creating the jump, and being the first to make the plunge is what motivates rope jumpers—not just the mere thrill of the free fall.
Dan-o’s Greatest, and Last, Rope Jump
Legendary speed climber Dan Osman was famous for his daring rope jumps in Yosemite—and infamous for his final jump in 1998, one that killed him at the age of 35.
In this video, a broadcast news report details how Osman captured a world record for his 1,000-foot jump from the summit of Yosemite Valley’s Leaning Tower. After carefully constructing the anchors, Dan-o, as he was known, stepped from the summit and fell gracefully to a gentle stop above the trees.
Elated from his success, Dan-o returned to Leaning Tower three weeks later. Despite admonishments from his friends, who told him to count his blessings and take some time away from his daredevil stunts, Osman jumped again.
This time, he fell through the trees, all the way to his death on the valley floor. Investigators floated a couple of theories about why the anchor and rope system failed.
They suggested either that the equipment was worn out because Osman didn’t remove the anchors in the interim between jumps, or that he jumped from a different angle, causing two ropes to rub together and slice through his line. Either way, climbing lost a true talent with Osman’s death.