It is not a sport for the faint of heart, the untrained, or the conservative. The rewards of BASE jumping are many: an unreal rush of adrenaline, a sense of adventure unlike any on earth–all one needs to do is imagine climbing a peak, then jumping off it. But the risks are mostly too great for those in the general population. So many of the sport’s best athletes have succumbed to tragic accidents.
Such is the case with Alexander Polli, a pioneering BASE jumper who held dual Italian-Norwegian citizenship and who has helped kickstart the sport over the last decade. Polli reportedly impacted a tree while jumping in the Couloir Ensa near Chamonix, France on Monday. He was the second prominent BASE jumper to die in as many weeks. Italian Uli Emanuele perished last week in the Dolomites.
It is hard to imagine where this sport can go from here. The athlete’s imaginations are nearly endless when it comes to new locales and challenges–but the dangers are insurmountable. The margin for error is literally zero. One missed step means almost certain death. From Shane McConkey to Polli and Emanuele to former Nike executive Michael Leming, BASE jumping has taken the lives of some incredible humans. And those are only a few of the names who’ve perished.
Despite that fact, it’s hard to see the evolution of the sport slowing down anytime soon. The athletes have become too fine tuned, too skilled to simply stop. And the public’s appetite for images created by the sport’s best too veracious (one of Polli’s videos garnered more than 13 million views). As observers, we can only hope the sport’s evolution extends to equipment that may one day make the pursuit safer.