Basejumping is popular in Lauterbrunnen. File photo: AFP
The 21-year-old from Florida was base jumping on Sunday near the Shilthorn cable car in Lauterbrunnen — a popular area for the sport due to its sheer cliffs — when a jump went wrong, reported the Berner Zeitung on Tuesday.
After jumping, he was pushed in the wrong direction by his parachute and slammed into the cliff, ending up hanging by his parachute 500 metres above the ground, said the paper.
At 9pm a Swiss Alpine Club rescue team and an Air Glacier helicopter was dispatched to the scene, but the difficulty of the terrain and the basejumper’s position on the rock made for a complicated rescue.
The only way to reach him was to climb down 200 metres from the top of the cliff, an operation that took two climbers seven hours.
Badly injured, the man was able to call police, saying he thought he had broken his legs.
“We could not wait until Monday morning, we had to act immediately,” one of the rescuers told the paper.
So despite the dark they worked through the night and finally reached the injured man at around 4am.
The rescuers then had to move the American to a more secure place from where he could be collected by helicopter when daylight arrived.
In his current position, there was a risk that the air produced by the helicopter's blades could have dislodged the parachute that was keeping him from falling to the ground, rescuers told the paper.
He was finally extracted from his predicament at 7am and flown to hospital.
Such a complicated and long rescue was unprecedented for the team, the director of Air Glaciers Lauterbrunnen, Christian Von Allmen, told the paper.
“A 13-hour operation to rescue a basejumper is a first,” he said.
An extreme sport, basejumping involves jumping from a cliff or fixed structure using a parachute that is deployed partway through the descent.
Several people have died in basejumping accidents in Lauterbrunnen since the area became a popular spot for the sport.
NB: This article was amended on August 10th to state that the victim was pushed in the wrong direction by his parachute, not the wind.