World’s Fastest Flying Woman

By Ellen Brennan.

Since cleaning up at this year’s World Base Race in Norway, Ellen Brennan has earned the title of the world’s fastest flying woman. Here’s her report on a recent wingsuit flight from Le Pleureur in the Swiss Alps.

“3704m with a 2000m flight! And I would be lying if I said it is an easy jump to get. Last fall, Laurent [Frat] and I tried to reach the summit of Le Pleureur alone with just some beta from a friend. ‘Ya sure, it’s easy, just climb the ladder, follow the trail, then climb the arête.’ Sounded easy enough. But we were wrong. After following a ‘trail’ for 4 hours, we found ourselves scrambling up some shaley exposed face, and we were not even half way there. We knew the hike should take around 4-5 hours, so we knew we had taken a wrong turn. This was not easy. We hiked back down to search for a different way up, but we were running out of daylight. We decided to ditch the big jump and jump the 200m dam down below.

Photo by Kontizas Dimitrios/FAO Photography.
Photo by Kontizas Dimitrios/FAO Photography.

Because this jump is a 3704m, conditions have to be ideal. There needs to be little to no snow, no wind, and no clouds … it is a rare jump to get.

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There are a few things that make jumps especially special to me. The highest on this list is a jump that is difficult to get.  This can be because of its high altitude, or it requires some mountaineering, or because it’s in the middle of nowhere. After that it is the access to the jump. A beautiful hike, maybe some climbing, in an amazing place with few people always feels very special to me. Lastly, the flight – after all the hard work of getting there, it’s a huge bonus to have some beautiful terrain to fly on.

We tried a few times to jump Le Pleureur this summer, but every day we planned on, the conditions weren’t ideal. But finally, it looked like we had our window. It hadn’t snowed in over a week; there was a high pressure, few clouds, and no wind.

Photo courtesy Five Ten.
Photo courtesy Five Ten.

We went for it. Luckily this time we went with a friend who lives just below this cliff; he has jumped it many times, and he was able to guide us on the 2000m approach. We started at 0630, from our car, hiked up to the dam, climbed the ladder, followed the trail … and then we learned where we messed up the year before.  At a point on this trail, you veer off, and hike to a rock wall. And on that wall there is a chain that guides you up the steep ascent. Unfortunately if you don’t know where to go to look for this chain you will most likely not find it.

We continued our hike up to the top. We were the only ones on the mountain with a beautiful view of massive mountains and glaciers surrounding us. I was in heaven. When we reached the top I was elated; I had been thinking about being on top of this mountain for a year and I had finally made it! And even better – there was no wind, and no clouds! We relaxed on top, enjoyed the view, and then we geared up.

With a 2000m flight, it’s nice to have an idea on where to fly, otherwise you will end up doing what feels like a skydive. So I decided to follow our friend Julian off. He has done this jump many times, and I knew he would know the best line to take.

It was absolutely amazing the sensation of leaving the summit of the mountain I had worked so hard to get up, and flying down over some of the most incredible terrain while watching Julian fly a beautiful line right below me.

I have a rule for new jumps. I have to take a recon flight before flying close to anything. I jump off, with a camera, take a nice scenic flight, and then review the footage so I know exactly the line I want to fly and the best way to get there. On this jump, I was able to take a scenic flight while at the same time having Julian point out to me an amazing line. It was perfect!

When we all landed safely we had smiles permanently glued to our faces. We were so happy, and hot – it was 19 degrees warmer in the landing area compared to the exit point. I even had to pop my ears when I landed because of the altitude difference.

I am so happy to get to go to these amazing places with people I enjoy. I feel so lucky to have the life I have, and I never take it for granted.”

About Five Ten athlete Ellen Brennan:

As a young girl Ellen was inspired watching her father flying his paraglider in the skies above her. As she grew older she embraced this passion of free flight as her own and took it to the next level. Whether flying her wingsuit in the mountains, soaring her paraglider or training for her next adventure, Ellen is an incredibly driven athlete. If she is not climbing and jumping from cliffs in Moab, UT, you will likely find her exploring the Alps in her wingsuit. Within the B.A.S.E community Ellen is known not only for her amazing performance but also as a very safe and vigilant individual. Ellen prides herself as an ambassador to her sports and has mentored many new jumpers. More on Five Ten’s athletes here.

Photo courtesy Five Ten.
Brennan and a hang-gliding friend in Moab. Photo courtesy Five Ten.