Well, at least it’s the gnarliest line ever skied using a parachute.
JT Holmes—a longtime professional skier from Squaw Valley, Calif.—hooked up with 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper to take the CBS correspondent on a tour to the edge. Holmes, who ‘s also been a pioneer in the BASE jumping world, conceived a ridiculous line off the north face of the 13,000-foot Eiger in Switzerland, which has killed nearly 70 climbers since 1935.
Taking on the Eiger chronicles Holmes as he paraglides—using what’s called a speed wing—off the peak wearing skis, lands on an impossibly steep face above a cliff, mid-mountain, releases the kite at approximately 40 mph, then launches off a ledge some 2,000 feet above the valley below.
“He completes a double backflip to stabilize himself,” narrates Cooper as Holmes launches off the cliff before deploying his BASE shoot. Stabilize himself with a double gainer? That’s a tough one for us mere mortals to get our heads around.
But Holmes absolutely nails his line and the film crew is ecstatic. And relieved. Then Holmes does something unthinkable: he decides to go again. This is the same JT Holmes who was present when legendary skier Shane McConkey died ski BASE jumping in the Italian Dolomites in 2009 when he couldn’t release his skis before deploying his shoot, the most dicey aspect of any ski BASE stunt.
So Holmes gets a ride in the helicopter back to the top. But this time, after successfully skiing the mid-mountain line, he launches off the cliff above the valley, and just like McConkey, he can’t release his second ski for a painful 3-5 second period as the crew watches in absolute terror. Thankfully, the ski releases just in time and Holmes deploys his chute.
That’s when the customary mainstream news questions come in to play during post-stunt interviews: Why do you do it, asks Cooper? And, after Holmes decided to try the gnarliest line ever skied not once, but twice, it’s hard not to wonder the same thing. But Holmes never really gives a satisfactory answer to the question other than to describe it as it is: “It’s a twisted style of having fun,” he says. “But it was really fun.”
Check out 60 Minutes Overtime for perspectives from the film crew.
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