A mud-splattered Jeep Cherokee pulls over on the shoulder of an empty road and stops. It is a gray, 40-degree January day, too cold for dallying. A man dressed in black with a sun-worn face and gray-nipped beard steps out, and pulls a camouflage backpack over his shoulders.

He eyes a distant truck heading toward him: "This guy looks official." But it passes by.

McNeely climbs a tower and 
jumps off.
Joseph Schell
McNeely climbs a tower and jumps off.
Jumping during the day increases the risk of getting spotted.
Joseph Schell
Jumping during the day increases the risk of getting spotted.
Joseph Schell
McNeely lands. The adrenaline kicks in.
Joseph Schell
McNeely lands. The adrenaline kicks in.
Mavericks don’t pay rent. 
McNeely lives out of his Jeep.
Joseph Schell
Mavericks don’t pay rent.  McNeely lives out of his Jeep.




Go On an Illegal Tower Jump with Ammon McNeely

BASE jumpers Ammon McNeely and Jade Tatom talk about the politics and emotions of BASE jumping. SF Weekly cameras follow McNeely on an illegal BASE jump off a tower 40 miles east of San Francisco.

Love and BASE Jumping: Q &A With Bob Ash, Fiance of Bay Area BASE Jumping Victim, Shannon Dean

The Taser Chronicles

Read the National Park Service's official reports of threatening visitors with Tasers.

U.S. District Court Criminal Complaint against Ammon McNeely

Read the official account of McNeely's Tasing.

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The man strides across the road, jumps over a barbed-wire fence with its "No Trespassing" sign, and heads toward the base of a 510-foot-tall utility tower 40 miles east of San Francisco. The Black Tower, he calls it. He hoists himself onto the first rung of a ladder hanging five feet off the ground and starts climbing the stairs, zigzagging a vertiginous 50 stories into the air. The narrow staircases sway from side to side under his weight, and as he ascends, his form fades into the chiaroscuro of black iron against the sky, invisible to anyone not specifically looking for him.

After 10 minutes of rapid climbing, he reaches the tower's top struts and tiptoes as if on a balancing beam out to the edge. He takes one last look at the landscape: kelly-green fields, the tiny cows. A factory whirs in the distance.

He is serene; this was exactly how he'd planned it. He arches up toward the sky, lets out a deep "Huh," and pushes off.

Of all the reasons Ammon McNeely shouldn't have just done that, the gravity now pulling him to earth is just the first. If he's caught doing this he could face significant earthly consequences. He is on federal probation for jumping off the side of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in August. Having pleaded guilty in federal court in December to illegal air delivery of a person by parachute, he's supposed to be following the law to the letter.

But McNeely needs his free-fall fix, even if it means breaking the law to get it. Among rock climbers, he is known as the "El Cap Pirate" for capturing speed records up the iconic cliff's sheer face while flying a Jolly Roger flag. In recent years he's brought his devil-may-care bravado to BASE jumping, so called for the buildings, antennas, spans, and earth that the sport's acolytes jump off and then pull their parachutes before hitting the ground. Think skydiving with a lot less room for error — no reserve chute, less airtime, usually illegal. McNeely has leaped off the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, antennas, cranes, and cliffs.

But last summer, he became the movement's newest martyr when he set yet another first in Yosemite: the first BASE jumper to get Tased by a park ranger.

The incident ripped open the wounds in a nasty decades-long battle between jumpers who want the freedom to "fly" and the rangers who try to stop them. It fired up the debate of whether, with 161 BASE jumping deaths worldwide — five of them in Yosemite — the government has the right to stop people from pursuing a possibly fatal sport on public land.

But that's a lofty discussion to ponder when McNeely is hurtling to the ground with only four and a half seconds to do something about it.

His limbs are sprawled, his belly toward the ground. His mind finds a surreal calm as the earth lurches up to meet him, almost like a dream. He is flying, the wind rushing by his face, and he holds on until he knows the moment must come to an end.

"Time stands still, kind of," he says. "I get this feeling that everything is all okay in this world, and if I do go in [skydiver lingo for dying], it's going to be okay." On count three, he throws out his small pilot chute. On count four, the small chute tugs out a larger rectangular one with a crisp snap.

His velocity brakes. McNeely floats to the ground, landing on both feet like a child hopping off a swing.

Smiling wildly, the adrenaline fully kicked in, he hastily pulls the parachute back into his pack and retreats to his jeep.

Most jumpers would now make a quick getaway: A day jump increases the risk that he's been spotted. McNeely will not, though his inability to hold back has often burned him in the past: It was the second jump off a crane in Salt Lake City when he was tackled by a security guard and nailed with a trespassing charge. It was the second jump off an antenna in Pennsylvania when the wind rammed him into the side of a building, leaving him with a concussion and 19 staples in his head. It was the second jump off El Cap when he got Tased and thrown in jail.

The Greek myth of Icarus comes up a lot in reference to BASE jumping: the human who attached wings to his arms with wax in order to fly. Seized by the glory of flight, he ignored warnings not to fly too close to the sun and plummeted to his death. McNeely doesn't plan on dying — "If I didn't want to live, I wouldn't pull my chute." Still, the myth's parallels are unsettling. He grabs another parachute pack out of his jeep and heads toward the tower.

"One more."

The whole idea of a reporter witnessing the jump had only come up the night before. McNeely left a voicemail garbled by spotty reception, the only discernible lines of which were "Fuck it!" and "I'm ready to talk to the media."

Once at the site, he seemed to have had — and then dismissed — second thoughts. "I'm probably going to piss people off doing this, but fuck it, I don't care. This is like the slut of jumps — everyone does it." In the end, he asked that the exact location not be revealed.

Some BASE jumpers post videos of their exploits on YouTube. Others try to abide by a strict code of never being seen by outsiders. An attempt last fall to contact jumpers on the sport's most popular website, BLiNC Magazine (run by Mick Knutson, a jumping devotee who lives in the Mission District) tanked. Some dude named Huck typed, "BASE jumpers don't go around sharing their jump info to people, especially reporters. ... BTW, I have 2 Bs [jargon for jumps], one of which I opened and a crane all in downtown, but I won't tell you squat about them ... even for a blowjob!!" nicknitro71 then chimed in: "Unlike Huck, for a blow job and some anal sex I'll tell you all you want to know, bitch!"

We aren't in Malaysia, where the government invites BASE jumpers to do exhibition jumps off skyscrapers. Nor are we in Switzerland, where locals build ramps for a safe takeoff in the Alps. In the United States — the land of liability — BASE jumpers are wise to guard their favorite launch sites.

The sport has been of questionable legality since the first rowdy skydivers decided to try jumping off objects in the 1960s. New York City banned the sport specifically after Californian Jeb Corliss made front-page news getting caught by security while attempting to jump off the Empire State Building in 2006. He jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, though BASE jumpers say security has gotten too tight there to try it now. Knutson claims he jumped off the San Francisco Hilton Hotel back in the '90s, and many jumpers leaped off cranes during the dot-com construction boom.

Legally, jumpers can hop off the Perrine Bridge in Idaho or in some areas managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, such as the Moab canyonlands in Utah. In much of the rest of the country, jumpers risk trespassing or public nuisance charges.

The National Park Service, with its conservation ethos, has applied a statute aimed at limiting people from parachuting into the backcountry to ban BASE jumpers. Jumpers claim they are being unfairly singled out among extreme athletes, and insist they don't degrade the landscape (they climb or hike regulated trails to get to El Cap's "diving board"). While hang-gliders sail off Yosemite's Glacier Point with permits, several federal courts have upheld the ban on jumpers.

The BASE jumpers' solution to the ban? Just don't get caught. McNeely says he's flown off El Cap "a handful of times. I don't want to incriminate myself." Other aficionados in the park estimate that 50 people regularly jump there. How can they resist? El Cap is a nearly ideal jump site: Its sheer granite face reduces any risk of hitting a cliff on the way down. Its 3,000-foot altitude gives you substantial air time, while a meadow sits below for an easy landing.

The jumpers also say the ban forces them to use dangerous tactics like launching in the dark and pulling their chutes when low to the ground to decrease theirchances of being seen. The real animus between the rangers and the BASE jumpers started in 1999, after Frank Gambalie fled from the rangers after a jump. He ran into the Merced River and drowned.

After Gambalie's death, a group set up a protest jump in prisoner costumes to demonstrate the supposed safety of the sport before spectators and the media. Instead, seasoned BASE jumper Jan Davis fell to her death. Her then-husband, Tom Sanders, says Davis had used someone else's parachute since she knew it was going to be confiscated. McNeely was there. "It definitely put some concerns into my ... yeah," he trails off, before blaming Davis' death on "pilot error."

McNeely trusts his instincts and equipment to save him— insisting on carefully packing all his parachutes himself. "When you're driving down the highway, you don't say, 'I'm gonna die,'" he says, bugging his eyes, cartoonlike. "You're careful because you know it's dangerous." So dangerous that he says he probably wouldn't want his girlfriend to try it. His 20-year-old son wants to — "I'm not thrilled about it" — but who's Dad to say no?

McNeely and other BASE jumpers say they just love it too much to be driven away by the possibility of death. BASE jumping "is something that's in your soul," says Knutson, who was caught in Yosemite in the '90s. "It's like a pilot that realizes, 'You know what? A human can fly.' How can I erase that from my mind, ever?"

Since Davis' death, jumpers and rangers reached a sort of bitter stalemate. The rangers have arrested only four jumpers in the last decade, though they've chased and been unable to locate several more, according to park dispatch reports.

But it was perhaps only a matter of time before two events raised the stakes of the game. In 2008, Yosemite law enforcement rangers got Tasers. And Ammon McNeely — just-go-for-it, antiauthoritarian Ammon McNeely — started to BASE jump.

McNeely's prior encounters with the rangers had not ended well. In 2006, he was cited for drinking beer in a van near the El Cap meadow. Two months later, they arrested him for speeding and driving erratically. He blew a 0.19 blood alcohol level, and pleaded guilty to a DUI.

The way he tells it, the whole electrocution debacle last August began with a prank. He'd jumped off El Cap and some friends waiting below yelled, "You're busted!" He took off running, thinking they were rangers.

On the next day, McNeely decided to go for it again. He says he downed two beers on the climb, while his girlfriend, Kait, an outdoorsy geology student at CSU Stanislaus, waited in the meadow below. At dusk, McNeely zipped on his nylon wing suit, which has material webbed between the arms and legs. The increasingly popular suit lets jumpers travel two or three feet forward for every one down, stretching a 10-second BASE jump off El Cap with a parachute into a 30-second flight.

McNeely leaped off the cliff and soared, but unfortunately for him, Kait wasn't the only witness. An off-duty ranger in the meadow had also seen him, and radioed his colleagues. While BASE jumpers often flee the meadow after jumping, McNeely hung out and sipped on a bottle of beer. About 20 minutes later, as he was walking back to his car through a wooded area, he saw two figures approaching him.

From here on out, McNeely's account and the official report diverge. The criminal complaint states that the two rangers spotted McNeely and yelled, "Stop! Police!" McNeely swears he never heard "police," but took off running in the woods by the Merced River. The report says Ranger Fletcher Ogg started to chase him and repeatedly yelled, "Stop or I'm going to Tase you"; McNeely insists he never heard that. After what McNeely estimates was a 50- or 100-foot pursuit, a hook on a wire from the Taser sliced into his neck. Two hooks from the gun must dig in to jolt the person and the other one missed. Still, McNeely says he realized his armed pursuers were rangers, fell onto his knees with his hands up and yelled, "You got me!"

The criminal complaint doesn't mention McNeely stopping, simply stating that Ogg caught up to him and grabbed the top of his backpack. After McNeely continued to "actively resist" in a "scuffle," the ranger held his Taser model X26 to McNeely's neck, and zaaaaaap. McNeely recalls falling to the ground and convulsing.

"He was giggling his ass off," McNeely says of Ogg. After the rangers handcuffed McNeely, "I said, 'I surrendered. Why did you Tase me?' He said, 'You were resisting. Shut up.'"

McNeely was arrested for the jump and resisting arrest. Rangers impounded his Cherokee and found a cooler with food inside — bam, a food storage violation. Twenty-six grams of marijuana in a baggie — bam, possession of a controlled substance. The rangers gave him a Breathalyzer and he blew a 0.13 — bam, drunkenness in the park. McNeely claims the blood alcohol level was "a bunch of crap" and demanded they test him again when they got to the jail, but the rangers refused.

McNeely also says they downloaded footage from his laptop of previous El Cap jumps and his log of all prior BASE jumps (a ranger friend let him see it). Worst of all, they confiscated his $2,700 BASE rig with parachute and his $1,200 wing suit.

For several weeks after the jolt, McNeely heard ringing in his ears, suffered from headaches, and had trouble remembering familiar words. "It seriously messed me up," he said over the phone in September, speaking slowly. "I can't think straight."

Chief ranger Charles Cuvelier insists the rangers zapped McNeely for resisting arrest, not for jumping. But the incident was perhaps the biggest shock to Yosemite's BASE jumping community since Davis' death. Sympathizers started a "Free Ammon McNeely" Facebook group. They signed an online petition demanding the National Park Service legalize the sport, which has 2,307 names and counting. Rock climber Steph Davis posted a video online, condemning the "ranger who tased a person who wasn't hurting anybody, who just wanted to fly," before she BASE jumped off a cliff in defiance.

Among the supporters piling onto a message board on the rock-climbing website SuperTopo, other BASE jumpers condemned him.

"to get the big zap he must of resisted arrest! What a dumb ass..."

"$10 says Ammon admits to f*#cking up in the park and resisting."

"the base jumper never should have been seen in the first place. Maybe he was all wired up on red bull or something."

"If you know Ammon, you know he doesn't respond well to authority...and IF he was PERHAPS bitten by a few KCobras [malt liquor] before the jump, then who knows what ... really happened?"

McNeely says he doesn't take the criticism personally: "I don't really give a shit. They don't even know me."

People who do know him say there's no use in telling him anything other than "be careful." "Everyone in the family knows Ammon will do what he wants to do," his older brother, Gabe, says. "He always has."

In mid-January, McNeely's Cherokee sat in the dirt lot of the Parachute Center in Acampo, north of Stockton. The green Jeep is to McNeely what a shell is to a tortoise — his itinerant home when not camping or crashing at Kait's or a buddy's. All his belongings — parachute rigs, rock climbing gear, three skateboards — are thrown in the back, and a photo of him and Kait adorns the dashboard. McNeely hasn't paid rent for 15 years.

At the drop zone for going on three weeks, McNeely has settled into a life seemingly designed by a 16-year-old boy. He and other skydiving junkies jump out of a plane all day. Then they hurry inside to watch the video they shot of each other, high-fiving and exclaiming "Siiiiiiick!" At day's end, they sit around a bonfire while reliving their skydives, downing beers, smoking weed, slapping the flanks of the drop zone's dogs, and listening to an old peyote farmer strum "Hotel California" on his guitar. They retire to beds in a metal shed, McNeely to his car.

At age 40, McNeely is something like the Lost Boys' rad uncle, man enough to use a hot-pink parachute. (One newbie said McNeely had invited him out at midnight earlier in the week to watch him jump the tower, fawning, "I love Ammon. He's cool.") McNeely is the one who leaps over the bonfire and posts the picture on Facebook. He explains the hazards of shotgunning a beer while swinging upside down on your rope from a cliff (Look on YouTube for "THE YOSEMITE PIRATE!!!"). In the video, he delivers a line that could act as his mantra: "I'd rather live 40 years of excitement and fun and exhilarating and just wooo, full volume than 80 years of la-di-dah-di-dah, you know, boring." These days, of course, McNeely is also the wildman who got Tased in Yosemite. "The rangers get a bonus for catching a BASE jumper," one skydiver conjectures. McNeely can't help but interject: "They get a bonus or a boner?"

McNeely grew up as the third of five children in a Mormon family in St. George, Utah, before deciding the religion's prohibitions didn't "make sense." He became the first to grow a mohawk at his high school, a punk rocker with an early taste for adventures. He often rode in planes while his dad skydived out. He climbed rocks, trees, and even a 300-foot antenna, just to sit at the top and think. "I would even imagine myself jumping off, and it wasn't a suicide thing," he recalls. "But I just wanted to know how it would feel to fall off."

McNeely skipped college to marry and have a son at age 20, holding down a 9-to-5 job as an IT guy in Irvine. But after he got divorced, he tired of the grind. "I have to go search for excitement because it doesn't fall in your lap a lot of times." He quit his job, "droppin' out of societeeeee," he says as if narrating an adventure movie trailer.

He surfed and skateboarded around San Clemente for a few years, before buying rock-climbing gear and heading out to Yosemite, the cliff capital of the western United States. He has now bagged 22 speed records up different routes on El Cap. One time he fell and hit his head, regaining consciousness to find his helmet cracked and a white puslike substance oozing from his skull. He heard rangers asking if he needed a rescue through a loudspeaker. In his haze, he signaled no, and continued on.

To fund his lifestyle, he puts in about four months a year harnessed to the ceiling of stadiums across the country installing Fiberglas panels (a day job for altitude junkies). "I can make six, seven, eight thousand dollars in a month, and then I go play."

"He's one of the true believers," says Nancy Prichard Bouchard, spokeswoman for Five Ten, the company that has outfitted McNeely with rock-climbing shoes for the past decade. "If he couldn't get a penny or a pair of shoes or harness from anyone, he'd still be climbing."

In 2006, he made his first BASE jump off the Perrine Bridge in Idaho after just 36 skydives (the rule is to log 200 before attempting a BASE). There was only one thing he didn't dig about his new-found sport: the threat of getting caught.

McNeely once booked a hotel room with a group of jumpers at the Palms hotel in Las Vegas, planning to jump off the balcony. The call went something like: "We're on our honeymoon, and we want one that's really high that overlooks the sunset pointing west," McNeely says in a mischievous voice. "Because that's where the landing area is." He laughs.

Some BASE jumpers say breaking the law adds to the rush. Jumper Iiro Seppänen jumped off the Stratosphere hotel and casino in Vegas by sneaking the parachute up to the top inside a stuffed animal. Jade Tatom, a 6-foot-5 wing-suiter who works in Lodi, says he once climbed a crane at a construction site in Norway by wearing a neon workman's jacket over his parachute. Jeb Corliss smuggled his parachute into the Empire State Building in a fat suit.

McNeely first got arrested in 2008, after a 4 a.m. jump from a 400-foot crane in Salt Lake City. A female security guard tackled him as he landed, and he was nailed with a misdemeanor trespassing conviction.

But the real wake-up call didn't come until last May. After a night shift at a stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa., McNeely drank a few beers, climbed an antenna at the top of Mount Washington, and zipped on his wing suit. The wind was blowing hard, and McNeely called his brother, who was waiting at the bottom, to say he was going to turn back.

"I think he'd had a few too many," Gabe says. "I'm not even worried about it if he drinks three drinks before jumping. It's when he gets hammered and BASE jumps."

But McNeely changed his mind. He waited for a lull in the wind, and leaped. A gust came up and pushed him into the side of a mountainside tram building.

An hour and a half after the phone call, Gabe spotted his brother walking down the street holding his chute with blood streaming from his head and knee. Gabe laid him in the back of their van, sped to the hotel, and called an ambulance. "He kept saying, 'That's overkill. I don't need to go,'" Gabe remembers. "It was like he'd been hit in the head with a baseball bat and was trying to talk." McNeely had fractured his skull, got a concussion, broken his elbow, and ripped apart his knee. Gabe fibbed to the cops that he'd fallen off an overpass. After three months of recovery from 46 stitches in his body and 19 staples in his head, McNeely went back to jumping.

In December, McNeely wanted all the Yosemite drama to be over. He accepted the government's offer: He pleaded guilty to the illegal air delivery and resisting arrest charges, and prosecutors dropped the others. He made one last appeal to the judge that he wasn't "delivering" anything to the park since he jumped from within it. All in all, it was a $4,000 fine and two years of unsupervised federal probation.

They also decided to give him back his confiscated parachute and purple-and-black wing suit.

McNeely picked it up, zipped it on, and snapped a photo in front of El Cap to post on Facebook, writing "She's a lil' dusty ... but will fly free." Climbing friends rooted him on: "Awesome, Ammon — don't let the Man grind you down!" Point McNeely.

Of course, there's one way he could truly prove the Man hasn't ground him down. When asked whether he'll ever jump again in Yosemite, McNeely shot a wary look at a reporter's notebook, remembering he's on the record, and answered, "No, I'm done with that." You tend to remember a zap.

He also remembers his close call last May. "I started to feel like nothing is going to go wrong, ever," he says. "No matter how much you wanna do it, you gotta dig deep inside yourself and think, is this the right time? Do I just want it too bad?" A couple times at the Black Tower, he's turned back when it's too windy. He also says he's cut down on drinking while jumping.

But on that cold January afternoon, the wind is low and McNeely doesn't wait to see if any cops will show up. He heads back up the quaking, rusty stairs. A pickup truck on the road below slows down. He freezes. After a couple of seconds, he surmises it's just a farmer inspecting his livestock in the adjacent field.

"I'm gonna go."

He reaches the first platform — a lower jump than the first – and walks up to the railing. Climbing on top of it, he slowly releases his hands and stands up straight, balancing maybe 45 stories above the ground. He arches his back and looks up at the sky. It is a moment, perhaps the moment, that separates the Ammon McNeelys of the world from the rest of us — the Icaruses who see a tower and want to fly off it from the mortals who would cling to the platform with eyes wide.

McNeely swings his hands behind him for momentum and leaps. He free-falls for one second. Two seconds. He throws out the pilot chute. It doesn't open.

For a split second, the earth lurches closer.

McNeely trusts his chute. There's nothing else to do.

The ground is closer ...

He packed the chute himself. Something happen, he thinks.

Closer ...

The pilot chute billows and tugs the bigger parachute out of his pack. McNeely's frame flops like a marionette and floats to the ground.

Ammon McNeely will not be dying today. He won't be getting arrested, either. He strides back to the jeep, throws his chute in the backseat, and opens a beer.

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i agree this article is useless.

as for Amon and the laws regarding Base Jumping: If Amon and the base community want Base jumping to be legal, organize yourselves and go about creating change in a professional and coordinated way. Im all for sticking it to the man, preserving access for great things like climbing and jumping. BUT Getting drunk, jumping, and then running from the Rangers isnt going to help your cause one bit.

There is no mention of the fact that Base jumping was once legal in the park with guidelines similar to hang-gliding, but unlike hang-gliders, base jumpers were unable to work with those guidelines, jumped whenever they wanted, and thus made it illegal.

And another reason it is illegal - not mentioned in the article - is the necessary SAR response after someone jumps at mid day. At any given time on a busy summer day there are tens or hundreds of people gazing at el-cap. if someone sees a body falling from a distance, and is unable to see a chute open, they're going to call 911 and report someone falling off of El cap. Every call like this demands a full emergency response from SAR and emergency crews in the valley, including the possible the launch of the park helicopter. This costs thousands of dollars and puts a lot of people at risk.

as soon as Amon and the base community decide to put their energy into a constructive, organized, and professional movement, change will come.

but it may mean laying off the cobras.


"Somtimes falling feels like flying. . . for a little while" Bad Blake


We all just need to be friends. Likes chinesse and terrorist.


This article was supposed to be about how the NPS badly mistreats base jumpers and how we can all go about legalizing base jumping in national parks. More specifically how the Yosemite rangers are hasseling, out-of-control egotistical assholes, who always are known to take things too far.

Lauren Smiley is an unprofessional newspaper reporter. I happened to be around Ammon when he was talking to her regarding a question she had about him being tased by the Yosemite rangers. He told her what happened and the whole time she was laughing and giggling about him being tased. This is how very unprofessional she is. Who laughs about someone getting tased for a nonviolent crime, a potential lethal force that could and has killed human beings?

There were numerous times when Smiley acted unprofessional. She misled Ammon and manipulated his article. He solely wanted this article to focus on the mistreating of jumpers from the NPS and getting base legalized. That is what she told him she would write about. Ammon is a very genuine and trusting individual. He possesses NO ego despite the fact that he is one of the most accomplished big wall climbers in the world. He did not know that he was going to get burned by this INCOMPETENT reporter. The last thing Ammon wanted was exactly what this article turned out to be. It focused NOTHING on the NPS or legalizing base.

Ammon asked Lauren Smiley not to write the article, when he realized that it seemed she was starting to take it in the wrong direction. Instead, she denied his request and published it anyways. Lauren, you have absolutely no respect for Ammon or the base jumping community. You hurt everyone with this article that your wrote.

For all of you who don't know Ammon personally, I do. He has the BIGGEST heart of anyone I have ever met. He is always positive, encouraging, and helpful. He possesses devotion and passion towards both base jumping and climbing. So much passion that he wanted to spread the word about legalizing base and how the NPS mistreats base jumpers. Lauren Smiley COULD have written a truthful article. One that expressed Ammon's passion in a positive light. One that focused on how base jumping is a legitimate sport with professional athletes. One that showed how out-of-control Yosemite rangers have become. One that discussed legalizing base and bringing awareness to the community. This is the article that SHOULD have been written. This is the article that still needs to be written by a trusting, professional reporter who can do good for the base jumping community.


Lauren as a good journalist was unbiased,

Ammon thinks he is 'king of the hill' that rules and laws are for mere mortals and do not pertain to him


"One that focused on how base jumping is a legitimate sport with professional athletes." You are joking right? The juvenile comments made in regards to this article, the personal attacks on the journalist both here and on "your so called professional athletes" forums is further proof that the journalist was on target.


This is a trash article and a shining example of why jumpers do not usually talk to media. Distort facts or make them up as you go seems to be the motto here. And since when did quoting an anonymous forum qualify as a legitimate source? Pathetic!


Terrible article. You are a mean woman.


This was a fair and interesting article, please keep your personal judgement of writer to yourself.

steph davis
steph davis

I know Ammon well, and have a hard time recognizing the alcoholic, juvenile, devil-may-care character that this writer has created out of a kind, sincere, well-loved member of the climbing and base jumping communities. It seems both unprofessional and poor style to violate a person's trust with a sensationalistic story that is damaging and hurtful to him.

I'm also very unimpressed by this writer's use of anonymous chatboard obscenities (which I was offended by having to read) to add to the cartoonish characterization she has made of the base jumping community, most of whom are serious athletes and professionals.

Poor use of an extremely interesting and multi-faceted topic, and as others have said, something like this will most likely prevent any other community members from sharing their intriguing sport and lifestyle with future writers.


Some "reporters" have integrity. Not the writer of this article. I agree with cuzucan. Fuck all the way off.


To the writer of this artice: Go F yourself!!!! From the BASE community and BASE 1459


All this horribly written article tells me is not to trust anything coming from this publication. Those that know Ammon can easily tell that he was taken advantage of by a worthless no-talent reporter.


This reporter chick is by far to stupid to do her job correctly. This is not how jumping objects goes down. And the NPS is the most unfair organization in this country. Lets start getting facts correct. I could care less about A.Mac, but don't try and make us all look bad, Ms Smiley. You fail at reporting.


I thought this was supposed to be an artical on how unfair the rangers and NPS are towards BASE jumping on NPS land? You lied. Why dont you tell everyone the truth for once?


I know Ammon personally and actually briefly met the writer of this article. Although Ammon has his faults as everyone does, he is a good guy with a genuine heart, maybe a little too trusting but is very passionate about his lifestyle. After talking with him and based on my initial impression of the writer I’ve came to a few conclusions:

Lauren Smiley manipulated and lied to Ammon saying that the article was about the power-hungry rangers. This type of scum is the catalyst of why I never talk to the media. They don’t care about the chaos that they leave in their wake or the harm they create, they have one objective and that is making a buck and a name for themselves. I’m also under the impression that she broke several laws “trying” to get her story.


Wow, this article dose a great job of sensationalizing base jumping and skydiving and making them all look like a bunch of pot smoking drunks. I skydive and base jump with doctors, lawyers, computer programers, ect, none of which resemble anything represented in this story. I guess theres a reason that no one talks to the media, good luck to anyone trying to write another article on base jumping after this gets around the community.


Please keep in mind that this article is partially fabricated in the shallow mind of the writer. Not all of it is fact and some facts are twisted. As usual, the media likes to sensationalize the story to aim for a potential Pulitzer Prize. It is interesting though in this context though. Now if the writer could just find the Zodiac killer we could have another nailbiter!


A very well written article that portrays the sport and the people well, both their idealism and their faults. I'm a skydiver and know quite a few BASE jumpers. They don't normally talk to media usually so good job on doing a story rarely told so thoroughly by mainstream news media outlets.


As someone who would never jump out of a perfectly good airplane, much less something a lot closer to the ground, I think this article is a great read. Glad I can get such thrills vicariously.

I couldn't stop thinking that McNeely is soon going to be the subject of another article if he stupidly keeps doing things like getting drunk before he jumps. Doing it illegally may be half the thrill, but he's not going to do himself, his friends, or the sport any favors by getting himself - or someone else - killed.


I have no problem with BASE jumpers taking off of El Capitan or other NPS landmarks. I do, however, object to using park service employees and funding for rescue and/or other responses to accidents or mishaps. There have been a hell of a lot more deaths and accidents on NPS lands from climbers, mountaineers, white water enthsiasts and backpackers for years. Perhaps a permit system for such endeavors is needed with proof of insurance or a bond to cover rescues or messy clean up operations. That way I don't have to pay for some fool's folly.

Mike Moon
Mike Moon

that was an exhilarating way to waste 15 minutes of my boring work day... seriously i loved it. I was in Yosemite last august for 2 weeks. i wouldnt be surprised if i bumped into ammon on accident. thanks for the read. i'll be googling books/videos/articles for the next 45 minutes lol. -mike (vacaville)


I'm an old geezer and I think all this criminalizing everything is anti-American. "illegal delivery of..." what fatuous dildo wrote that law? Laws are not given out in morning meetings, they need to be in the CA penal code for them to be real. They might fall under Park Ranger guidelines and thus be misdemeanors(sp), but this is still absurd.

It is all part of the "Us against them" attitude of elected officials and public employees have, especially those with "power" over others. It seems that once elected, America is theirs and the public is suspect. This isn't just true for adrenalin junkie activities, it's true for a whole range of boring things as well. People with power need to weild that power to feel that they are special, that they deserve that power,that those above and below them admire their use of power,or at least fear it. It's just like school bullies, but here the school administration is the biggest bully, and the ranks of bullies keeps growing. It is as addicting as the adrenalin rush from jumping. Besides,they get paid for it,which proves to them that it's right.

To me it's all part of a hidden truth and that is that we live in a police state as vile as any. Every city,county, state, and fed agency wants its citizens to act like sheep, do what they are told, pay taxes, and not make ANY fuss. WHAT THE EFF has happened to America; a bunch of old biddies complaining about everything has lawmakers criminalizing everything.

I can understand the tresspass part of the problem, but parks that allow "free" climbers can't claim base jumping is significantly more dangerous. Because something is dangerous bears no connection for it to be illegal. One only need look at bullriding and auto racing, surfing, walking down the street in Oakland. I think there is some inherent mental malady/delusion here with the "police" mentality of running the parks, andin fact governance in general. (This is a stretch to compare and I apologize for the connection) This is like the child porno watchers, they watch all the time, that's their job, really bad stuff all the time, yet they are "police" and immune. These are the really sick people. look at all the preachers and we find them to be frauds, like the politicians jumping up and down about gay stuff, turning out tobe closet gays.

God, please save me from the savers. The people running around "saving" the world from basejumping must be weird. It does sound like they got their kicks kicking hisass.

If I were young I'dbe a suit flyer if I could. Please don't let the biddies stop you.


I'd suggest hang-gliding off of Glacier Point instead -- it's regulated and legal, and lasts nearly 15 minutes with a trip across the valley to El Cap...scenic and fun.

Randy English
Randy English

NPS ban on BASE jumping is arbitrary and without merit. Higher risk activities such as free soloing are allowed. More environmentally destructive activities such as horseback riding are allowed. I would wager more people die annually going over Vernal or Nevada Falls than BASE jumping. Granted more people walk to the falls than BASE jump, but if safety is the reason for the ban on BASE jumping, the trail to Vernal/Nevada falls should be closed for safety as well.

In my discussion with NPS staff two reasons for the ban are cited. The first is safety. When I have countered with the above arguments about free soloing/tourists going over falls, they have stated their real concern is not the jumper, but motorists crashing because they are watching the jumper not the road. Then the real concern is cited, the fear of subsequent lawsuits from said motorists. The solution for their first concern is simple, scheduled road closures, perhaps for one hour every Wednesday afternoon (arbitrary time/day just for example). No traffic, no distracted motorists. Road would be open for emergency vehicles and since they are driven by professionals there should be no concern about the driver not watching the road. (Some may argue about closing the valley floor to automobile traffic altogether due to environmental degradation but that is another issue altogether)

Their second argument is BASE jumping is a nontraditional activity outside the scope of recreation in a national park. This argument is so spurious that it noes not merit a rebuttal. It makes as much sense as banning digital photography in the park because it was not in use during Ansel Adams lifetime.

NPS land is owned by the people not the agency that oversees the land. The NPS should not have the authority to ban any nondestructive use of the peoples land (Cue Woody Guthrie...)

I am not a BASE jumper. I am a climber/skier/backpacker. I am concerned that if the NPS can place an outright ban on an activity like BASE jumping, the activities I enjoy can be banned as well. Remember for a time in the 50's the NPS banned Warren Harding from his first ascent attempts on the Nose of El Cap due to traffic concerns.

As for BASE jumping off private property, well that is private property and the property owners have rights. Proceed at your own peril.


The distracted-drivers-crashing-into-each-other argument is suppsedly why hang-glider pilots have to launch by 9 and land by 10, instead of later when it is better. Maybe driving is the real hazard here.

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