20 Questions with Tim Emmett
BASE jumping, wing suit piloting, bigwall, mixed, speed, sport, and DWS climbing — UK extremist Tim Emmett is anything but idle. Last year Tim made the first ascent of the Southeast face of the Kedar Dome, a 6840m formation in the Garhwal Himal area of northern India, and over the last five years he’s had four podiums at the World Ice Climbing Championships.
Climbing.com caught up with Tim between his adventures.
Tell us a little bit about yourself …
I guess my life is a bit like DIY Fairground ride – Lots of ups and downs, always fast moving , no rules, and aiming to inspire people and inject them with energy
Have you heard this expression? “The best climber at the cliff is the one having the most fun.” Does this sound like you?
TOTALLY THE WAY FORWARD. I CAN'T AGREE MORE. I took a mate climbing yesterday on his second ever route, he totally $%it himself, pushed himself to the limit and hung on like his life depended on it. When he got to the top his energy and elation was like a blind man regaining his sight. Bring it on !
How long have you been climbing? How did you start?
I only found this out a couple of weeks ago but according to my mum, the local window cleaner rescued me off the roof of my parents house when I was 3! I guess I ve always been up for an adventure.
Tell us a bit about BASE jumping, and wing suit piloting. I guess someone would start by skydiving? Is that how you got into it?
Absolutely, Shaun Ellison (my BASE mentor) really looked after me. I did as much sky diving as possible. Honestly, you just can’t have enough experience. Perhaps its more akin to learning to become a rally driver, than just passing your driving test. You need a lot of skills and need to know when to use them, instinctively, without thinking about it. When it goes wrong, it happens very fast. You won’t have time to think. Bare in mind that 1 in 10 people that start BASE jumping end up losing their life to it.
Doing lots of skydives (over 150+ jumps) helps to embed the ingrams into your system — so that for the one time that you have to react — you can. After watching one of my mentors (Dwain Thomas) go in on my 5th jump, I decided never to push it. I'm always prepared to walk down if I'm unsure of the outcome or if something seems too dangerous. This has saved my life at least twice and I highly recommend being cautious over any skill set you can build.
Macho BASE jumpers don’t last very long. There are a number of BASE courses available for those interested and absolutely essential if you want to increase your chances of survival (Either that or find a mentor who’s willing or silly enough to teach you)
James Boole wrote some guidelines for those considering getting into to wingsuit BASE (available HERE or Here).
BASE: It’s dangerous, complex, and puts a smile on your face!
Photo by Katie Schaitel
Would it be possible to free solo something huge with a BASE jumping rig, or is that ridiculous?
Possibly it depends how much you value your friends and family, or more to the point — yourself!
What’s the appeal of a wing suit?
It’s the closest thing to human flight, ever.
Do most people BASE jump with a wing suit?
Not at the moment. Wingsuit BASE is more complex than BASE, and you can only do it off bigger cliffs. For example there isn’t anything in the UK high enough to jump a wingsuit (yet!)
Can you [or could someone] land a wing suit [like a hang glider]?
There are a couple of guys that are very close to attempting this, and although it's much talked about, no one has done it yet.
In the last 27 years, many jumpers in the BASE community, have lost their lives to experimentation. The chances of landing a wingsuit and surviving, is probably less than playing Russian roulette with a six shooter half full of bullets !
What scares you? Any close calls?
Loosing close friends and family.
I have had a few close calls. It certainly makes saying "no" a lot easier when confronted by marginal jumping conditions.
I still get scared climbing too though, usually in the mountains. While climbing Kedar Dome with Ian Parnell, on the first night we ended up in quite a serious situation, climbing a crumbling groove of rubble with no protection. Once committed, to be honest, I had no control of whether I fell off or not, everything was moving, digging handholds with one hand and scratching around with an axe in the other. It was well sketchy and felt way more dangerous than any BASE jump! I was grateful to be accompanied by the Parnell, a “Herculean Choss Warrior”, and his nonchalant attitude to these perilous situations.
This is a pretty amusing race against Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson in France’s Verdon Gorge: youtube.com/watch?v=JMdmXpxAlig
Do you own an Audi RS4?
Yeah, I've got 5. Just kidding! I think I would have to start a driving license printing company if I did! Leo and I are planning a trip to Norway next summer for a climbing and wingsuit BASE film with Josh Lowell, Audi suggested we take an RS6 for that!
Photos by Marton Solowiej courtesy of www.timemmett.com
You seem to get around a lot; where do you want to go next?
Norway (when its not raining)! There are loads of big walls, unclimbed lines and the Norwegians are super friendly too.
Are there any climbers [or other people] that inspire you?
People with positive energy and put a lot of effort into what they are passionate about. Sam Beauget, Jerome Blanc Gras and the para-alpinist pioneers. Dean Potter and Shane McConkey are really inspirational too.
What do you think the future holds for the sport of climbing? What achievements will we see in the next couple years, 10 years … ?
I think the standard is going to go through the roof, literally. Some climbers are starting at a much younger age now and turning into mutants by the time they are 15. Tyler Landman’s a prime example and if you ask him, the future holds some seriously BIG numbers.
As someone who plays around with so many activities, is there something else you want to do?
Will you always climb?
Could you do all this without your sponsors?
NO! Mountain Hardwear mountainhardwear.com has been instrumental in developing my climbing career over the last 8 years and recently Jazz Apples jazzapples.co.uk has employed me as a stuntman enabling my accelerated learning curve for wingsuit BASE.
It’s a pleasure
Photo by Ian Parnell