Opinion Opinion L.A.

Should BASE jumping be a crime?

Yosemite’s dramatic natural beauty comes with plenty of dangers for visitors. People have fallen off the alluring but treacherous cliffs, been crushed by rock falls from the mountain faces that give the valley its singular loveliness and mauled by the bears that prowl the campgrounds looking for Doritos or other tasty snacks.

There are myriad other dangers for park visitors as the national park’s website makes clear: currents in the Merced River, lightning strikes, hantavirus, distracted motorists. It’s enough to make a staycation seem appealing. There are also dangers for the people who come to the park to engage in extreme sports, such as rock climbing, hangliding and tightrope walking – all of which are allowed, within limits, in the park.

But one perilous sport is forbidden. The deaths of two BASE jumpers in Yosemite this month – Dean Potter and Graham Hunt -- turned attention to the mostly illegal sport of leaping off stationary things with a parachute or a wingsuit. BASE is an acronym for buildings, antennae, spans and earth.

Some have suggested that the activity is much more dangerous than it has to be because BASE jumpers generally jump during dawn or dusk to elude rangers – a time when visibility is not at its best. I don’t know about that, but it does seem curious that this particular activity is singled out when other extremely deadly sports are not just allowed, but celebrated. Remember those two free climbers in January who spent a harrowing 19 days ascending El Capitan? When they reached the top, they were hailed for their historic ascent. Even the president weighed in. Why is that crazy-dangerous sport ok, and jumping with a parachute is not?

Is it time to decriminalize BASE jumping in the park? Take our poll to participate in the discussion.

Follow me on Twitter at @marielgarzaLATCopyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
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