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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Point of No Return?

You may have already seen these, on flickr, where Hans says more than 120,000 people have viewed the pages so far. If you haven't, I hope you're not afraid of heights, or it may be too strong for the start of your day! Words and photographs by Hans van de Vorst, reposted here with the photographer's permission. —MJ

This is a case of photographer photographing photographer. The following photographs were taken by photographer Hans van de Vorst at the Grand Canyon, Arizona. The descriptions are his own. The identity of the photographer in the photos is unknown.

I was simply stunned seeing this guy standing on this solitary rock in the Grand Canyon. The canyon's depth is 900 meters here. The rock on the right is next to the canyon and safe.

Watching this guy on his thong sandals, with a camera and a tripod I asked myself 3 questions:

1. How did he climb that rock?

2. Why not taking that sunset picture on that rock to the right, which is perfectly safe?

3. How will he get back?

This is the point of no return.

After the sun set behind the canyon's horizon he packed his things (having only one hand available) and prepared himself for the jump. This took about 2 minutes. At that point he had the full attention of the crowd.

After that, he jumped on his thong sandals...The canyon's depth is 900 meters here.

Now you can see that the adjacent rock is higher so he tried to land lower, which is quite steep and tried to use his one hand to grab the rock.

We've come to the end of this story. Look carefully at the photographer. He has a camera, a tripod and also a plastic bag, all on his shoulder or in his left hand. Only his right hand is available to grab the rock and the weight of his stuff is a problem.

He lands low on his flip flops; both his right hand and right foot slips away. At that moment I take this shot.

He pushes his body against the rock. He waits for a few seconds, throws his stuff on the rock, climbs and walks away.

Hans van de Vorst's websites:

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with thanks to John B.

UPDATE: As with so much that appears to be impossibly dramatic, it turns out that Hans—I will assume good-naturedly (he did link the picture below to his Flickr site)—is not being completely honest with his description. True, the depth of the canyon is many hundreds of meters at that point; but the fact that is conveniently omitted is that these two rocks are connected only slightly below the bottom edge of these pictures, and the jumper is actually risking a fall of only a few feet—which accounts adequately for his casual attitude (although the jump would still terrify me!). You can read more at a website that is absolutely essential for web surfers, and that I probably should have checked before posting this— (You can click on the photo below to see it bigger. The photo is from, and should be attributed to Baumer1781.) Thanks to Matthew Miller, Jeremy Kezer, and others for revealing all.


Blogger Matthew Miller said...

This is making the e-mail forward rounds. Be aware that it's not quite as crazy as it looks from this cropping.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Kezer said...

You are aware that this is a figment of perspective, right? By positioning himself to hide a ledge, the photographer taking these pictures seems to show a drop to the canyon floor if the jumper misses. But it's only ten feet or so to the ledge: See for the details.

So it's a myth.


7:22 AM  
Blogger Mikko J. Kalavainen said...

Holy carp. That made my knees hurt. Which is what happens when I see stuff like this. Do not try this at home, I think.
Amazing, thank you for bringing this up, I wasn't one of those 120,000 poeple.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Player said...


It was like a cliff-hanging adventure movie only with still photographs, but more interesting because you had to use your imagination to fill-in the missing frames.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Ballistic said...

Suicidal stuff!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

A really good example of how thoughtful cropping can dramatize a photo immeasurably. Makes me want to revisit all my boring photographs. I have lots.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I think the kids these days would say you were "PWNED," Mike. :-)

10:41 AM  
Blogger Charlie Didrickson said...

Perception is reality

11:49 AM  
Blogger Max said...

From the overall movement and control I'd say this guy is an experienced climber. The way he leans against the rock, the arm position, there's no improvisation there.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Supasnapper said...

So he would'nt really fall that far.Even so why risk falling at all?
Surely he could have got the same shot from the rock on the left, just setting the camera lower!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Yem said...

I really wouldn't call that a short fall. 10ft or so, probably landing messily having slipped off the landing spot with an armload of gear. And if he happened to tumble a few ft to either side then it really would be a long way down.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I have to agree with yem. That is a foolhardy move even if you do drop "just" 10 feet. And once you've fallen you lose control and falling, bouncing to one side or the other really would mean death.

And what portion of the scoffers would even STAND out there if they had a safe way of getting there and back?

4:41 PM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

With all the discussion on this site about having the "proper equipment", I'm surprised no one has brought up his choice of footwear for hiking or rock climbing. Flip-flops?

5:13 AM  
Blogger Donncha said...

Hehe. That's a great story, and yes, I was worried too at the description given.

Chances are the photos were completely innocent shots made by a tourist but had the story added afterwards.
That's what happened to one of my shots - The Thieving Duck. Someone took my image of a woman being robbed by a duck, added a story warning about money being stolen from women and the rest is history.
Snopes picked up on it afterwards, and I'm chuffed that one of my photos is now an urban legend! :)

1:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Heh, heh! you try it!! Then we'll see how risk-free the short distance is... from his head --> to the rock behind him, he was just standing on. It's still a long way down, only inches in either direction. You gotta feel in prime condition. And, FLIP FLOPs??? Gutz!

I just came from the south rim of The Canyon, myself, during december '06. Thanks, hubby! Isn't it amazing??!!? Again, I challenge the nay-sayers to try that gap...

12:13 PM  
Blogger barbandy said...

Did anybody notice that he is wearing different color pants after the first shot, and in the 3rd picture he is not wearing flip flops?

10:53 AM  
Blogger alt said...

Does anyone have any information about where exactly this spot is in the Grand Canyon. Does it have a specific name or can it be located on a map. I am planning a trip to the canyon in the near future and would love to visit this spot to take some photos. Any help would be appreciated...

2:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Check with Hans.

Anyway, there are tons of amazing places at the GC. We drove along the South end from section to section. Don't even worry about it!!
Just enjoy, and hike! Its not as bad as it looks, and bring lots of water! We liked going in December, although check ahead for rooms. A lot is closed because its low season, but they will open a room just for you. But, it was a nice reasonable temp for hiking. Bring a light pack so you can take clothes off and bag them. ~ k

10:42 AM  
Blogger alt said...


I actually emailed Hans through his website but unfortunately did not get any response. I have come across a couple of other photographs of this same spot and had no response when I emailed those photographers either. I just keep hoping that someone who knows where this specific spot is and is kind enough to send me some information. I have had one reply on another board by an individual who suggested that it was on the South Rim. Did you see it there? Were there many people at all visiting during that time of year? Have a good day.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Many years ago I was in a submarine accident in the outer
harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. That horrifying experience, trapped underwater, left me with several phobias including
claustrophobia and fear of heights. Twenty years later I was on a press junket from Delta Airlines and stopped at the Grand Canyon. I fearfully looked over the edge and saw a wondrous sight - a ledge about five feet wide and about four feet beneath beneath the rim. I was younger and cocky. I felt I had beaten my fear of heights. I asked another reporter to take my picture, then stepped over the edge and posed with my hands over the edge making up I was climbing back up. That's when I heard a strange sound...the ledge was falling into the Grand Canyon. Somehow, grasping twiggs and roots on the top of the Canyon wall I managed to crawl back and up and save
myself. I crawled some thirty feet away from the rim and lay on my back trying to get my heart to slow down. I got all my phobias back especially my fear of heights and never
went back to the Grand Canton again.
Ron Laytner, president of Edit International
News Agency. www.editinternational.comp

4:11 PM  

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