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Wingsuit Alpinism

Wingsuit Alpinism

Tim Howell
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Fast and light is the mantra of mountaineers. Up and down in a single push. Minimising kit carried, climbing faster, and so providing a bigger margin for any inclement weather on the horizon. 

Add wingsuiting ambitions, and this mantra becomes a mandate.

Wind conditions in the mountains are fickle, and for a successful wingsuit flight very specific conditions are needed. Alpine starts are often even earlier, the rush to the summit is often greater and a rack is slimmed down even further. But the upside, if all goes to plan, is that a knee-grinding 1,500-metre descent can be done in an exhilarating 60 seconds rather than hours of arduous down-climbing.

When I’m planning for an alpine wingsuit flight I have to focus on the fast and light aspect even more. I have the added weight of a parachute and wingsuit, so every other bit of kit needs to be minimal. Not only in weight but also space. Everything that comes up with me needs to be flown down. Although modern wingsuits have pockets in just about every space available, you still have to get creative when stowing 60 metres of rope and crampons. I look for specific gear that can be broken down, such as axe picks that can be kept in a pocket while the shaft can be strapped to a leg. Rope is coiled and then attached to the harness and drooped down each leg, keeping the weight in the tail of the wingsuit. After careful thought, each bit of hardware is allocated a specific place for storage, to limit damage to the suit and maximise aerodynamics and flight stability.  

Self-sufficiency is important to me in the mountains. Being able to get myself out of tricky situations and make calculated decisions gives me confidence to deal with ambitious and risky endeavours. So once landed, it feels like a huge accomplishment to have flown down with everything required to get up there in the first place.



Tim Howell is a member of the Jöttnar Pro Team. Read more about him here.

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