The Mindset of Extreme – Julian Carr’s thought process behind jumping an insane cliff
We watch in awe as remarkable athletes complete things we only dream about. Have you ever sat back and thought what goes into the process behind the unbelievable achievements? Extreme skiing is not for the faint of heart. While some may think extreme sports is a group of crazy people that just “going for it”, we know they are dead wrong.
Let’ go behind the scenes and listen to our own Julian Carr speak to his thought process as he approaches jumping an unbelievable 210-foot cliff. (from www.newschoolers.com Matt Kretzschmar, Oct 2017)
“My first time to Europe, what a place. We spent three weeks in Austria, then hopped a train to Switzerland. When we rolled into town, conditions were awesome. We took Gondola up, hopped on Jochpass chairlift. On the way up, there was a super obvious, massive, cliff just staring us in the face. First thing that struck me was it was probably very difficult to locate the top of the cliff. It was a fleeting thought. It was literally my first time up the mountain. We had one more chairlift to take; we hadn’t taken the tram yet. [There were] Hundreds of perfect cliffs everywhere, but man, this one was the most perfect massive cliff I had ever seen, [and I was] instantly gravitating towards it.
We immediately hit a few cliffs in the 30-70 foot range. Landings were preserved, snow was dense and light at the same time — perfect for cliffs. I was able to inspect the big cliff. The landing was not quite there for a big cliff like this. I need the landing to be ultra perfect. From cruising around the mountain, I could see an entry into the cliff, it looked tricky but doable. The landing wasn’t quite there. We had plans to travel around Switzerland, maybe check out Italy, but we had storms rolling in to Engelberg. We made some incredible friends in Engelberg, so we posted up for 3, almost 4 weeks.
We would get some 10″ storms that would roll in and rebuff everything. We were skiing lines, hitting the same cliffs over and over, truly a blast. I kept visiting my big cliff, trying to will the landing to be good enough, [but] it just wasn’t quite there. Close, but no cigar.
Our trip was coming to an end; we’d be leaving in a few days, [then] the unbelievable happened, a huge storm hit. It snowed for a full day, shut down the mountain, then it went blue for our last full day in town. We woke up early, headed for the early gondola. Accumulation rumors were 30″+ storm total, zero wind, just an ultra perfect day ahead. My mind went straight to the big cliff, I wanted to head straight for inspection. As we loaded the gondolas, I got separated from my crew, I went solo on the gondola. Inside the window, there was an old sticker of a big eagle, I took that as a good omen, but didn’t want to get ahead of myself. One step at a time.
We headed up Jochpass chairlift. The cliff couldn’t have looked any better, just beautiful, fresh snowfield above & below the cliff. I skied straight to the landing. I knew I had to be quick in my protocol process, because people would be skiing through my landing within the hour. I hiked up, [and] started my depth testing in the landing area I had been studying for weeks. Landing was ultra perfect, I could stick my entire pole into the snow without any effort, continue with my entire arm, then lean my shoulder, half my body into the snow. [The] Landing was 5’+ feet of the finest Switzerland powder you could ever dream of, on top of their 100″ base. Ultra perfect. Go time.
Next up was the take-off logistics. This cliff would require skiing into the cliff, I wouldn’t be able to ski down to the take-off, spend time manicuring it, this one was going to be natural take-off situation. Since I knew I would have the most blind take-off, for the countless hours I had spent studying the landing zone, I had made horizon point visual landmarks, I knew when I was up on the cliff, I needed to be precise. What I did to make sure I knew where to aim [is] when I’d be probing the landing, studying exactly where I needed to land, I would turn around in the landing area [and] study horizon landmarks, so I could visualize, place myself up on the cliff, skiing towards the take-off, find my horizon landmark [and] send it aimed dead-on to that landmark trajectory. These things were what I was processing as I went up the chairlift.
My crew was Nick Greener. I instructed him to ski to me right after I landed, regardless of anything, just ski to me and check on me. So he took the next chairlift up, skied around the zone [and] was tucked up underneath the cliff on standby. I had Sky Pinnick filming for Rage Films. Photographer Oskar Enander. And the ultimate wingman, Tom Wayes. We all seamlessly chatted logistics on the chairlift, then we all headed for our respective locations. Once off the chairlift, I attempted to find my entrance to the cliff, but couldn’t find it. The guys on the radio attempted to talk me into it, but there was a maze of cliffs in the area, I couldn’t wrap my head around it, no margin for error. I skied back down, re-study how to get to the top of my cliff, it was a tricky entrance. [Then I] Took the lift back up.
I had to make a ski down a side ramp above a small cliff band. Once around the cliff band, I had to make a hop turn above some serious exposure, then start tracking left. As I tracked left, that is when I knew I would find my bushes on the take-off I had studied, so I knew exactly where to take-off, find horizon landmark for visual body aim trajectory. Tricky, tricky. Intense.
Once I was 100% in the right entrance area, it had been more than an hour, I was radio’d that about four or five people had skied through the landing slope, it was a big slope, it was beyond deep, I was still 100% the landing was mega green light regardless. I was focused, it was intense.
I got on the radio, gave my “1-minute” countdown. I made sure all my boots were buckled, all my straps intact on my pack, made sure the goggles weren’t fogging. And visualized my ski line, visualized locating my horizon landmark, visualized a long, beautiful swan dive in open space, absolute serenity in the sky, find my center, find my ultimate point of relaxful meditation as I sliced though the sky to the deep snow below. “10 seconds”, I put away my radio, took a deep breath, let it out very slowly, waved my arms, and dropped into the ramp. It was super deep, I was sloughing snow like crazy over the small cliff into the powder field below. I remember taking the most focused breaths of my life, studying each & every snow particle as I skied towards my hop turn zone, I was now in the red zone, no mistakes. I reached my hop turn zone, made the single most scary hop turn of my life, the edge, if I were to make a mistake, was about 20 feet below me, w no chance of survival. I made the hop turn, maintained the focus, kept the breath, maintained the composure, started tracking left, all the while the snow is deep, I’m sloughing a ton of snow over the cliff edge just to the right of where I would be jumping. I locate my exit point, I locate my horizon point, all systems go, it’s point of no return, but I already knew that the second I saw this cliff weeks earlier, I had a destiny with this cliff, all systems aligned as I made my final few turns leading up to the edge, it felt like I was a NBA point guard, dribbling through defenders, seeing all obstacles in slow motion heading towards the basket for the score. I became one w my skis, one w the cliff, one w my exit point. The area I just skied through to get to my exit point was so intense, I wanted to get the hell out of there, get me in the air already!
I hit the exit point, let me tell you, when I first popped out into the open sky, the ground was so impossibly far away, I was in a time portal, I experienced minutes of internal conversation in my head in that split second, multiple conversations, multiple perspectives, so many thoughts fully thought out in slow motion, minutes & minutes of flow of consciousness.
All the slough looked like an avalanche was cascading like a waterfall to my right, I was going slightly left, I’d always wanted an aerial view of a mini-avalanche cascading over a 200’+ foot cliff. I believe that time is a construct that is relative, because I lived a layered, long experience, in a split second.
And the ground, the ground was impossibly far away.
I came back into earth time, realized the height I was seeing was considerably higher than the highest I’d seen yet, biggest cliff I’d jumped up to this point, which was 170 feet, not to self, I’m much higher than 170 feet in the air right now, one of many conversations I had in that split second.
I initiated the rotation of my front flip just a shade faster than perfect, as I started the rotation of my flip-
I just instantly knew I was flipping a hair too fast, that hair would be a risk to my life if it panned out.
I knew I needed to make some auto-adjustments on the fly. I elongated my body immediately, all instinctual, for I needed to slow my rotation down, I didn’t think about any of this, although I was having self-internal dialogue narration the entire time, amongst other conversations occurring the entire time in the air. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
I wasn’t doing enough to slow my rotation, my body knew this and kind of went into code red. My body tensed, I started breathing rapidly.
I was not zen. I knew I had better find zen, or else I’d likely die.
I forced myself to keep my head and shoulder energy to start heading inwards, so the forward momentum of the flip would start to rotate me inward VS keeping my head coming back up & forward, putting me square on my feet, once I switched the energy in my shoulders and head to start turning me inwards w the rotation instead of upwards/forwards, i just knew, I could feel it was perfect, I told myself –
‘Ok, now you have to relax.’
Because even if my body position was perfect, if I wasn’t completely calm, complete liquid w my body being relaxed, if my mind wasn’t relaxed, I needed to be total water.. otherwise I would splat, my insides would explode. If I had any air in my body or even one tense muscle, I would detonate on impact.
I visualized a deep starry night, billions of stars in the sky, I was amongst those stars in the sky, I found the peace of mind, I found the exhale of breath, found absolute state of relaxation in my full body, mind, spirit. I came upon the snow and shared energies, shared my rich electro-magnetic spectrum with that of the snow, I effortlessly, non-vioently, had a non-collission with the snow.
The landing was deep, perfect, my mind, body came to a state of snapping back to non-meditation, all I could do was laugh, I was laughing, my safety guy, Nick, skied up to me, they told me all of them were radio’ing to me asking if I was alright, I just remember laughing. Nick radio’d to the crew I was fine & I was laughing. My ski came off on impact, I got my ski back on, skied down and met up with the crew. Lots of high-fives, lots of smiles, it was a bonkers experience. Truly such a rich experience from A-Z, not just those 4 or 5 seconds, for it was an eternity in an instant.
One thing we were all curious about, how high was the cliff? All I knew it was way higher than 170 feet. We took the chair up, skied to the landing zone, pulled out the camera, we were going to point the camera to the take-off, get a measurement, but the camera died. Tom Wayes, used to climb big forest trees for a living, he’d get called in to slowly take-down problematic huge trees in forests, neighborhoods, etc. He was routinely climbing trees over 200 feet tall. I said to him, all I know is that cliff is at least 200 feet, “Do I have the Tom Wayes stamp of approval?” He instantly said I did. So we called it 210 feet.