A brave base jumper has become the first person ever to fly a wingsuit from the top of a British mountain.
Former Royal Marine Tim Howell, 31, leapt from the 4,000ft peak of An Teallach in the northwest Highlands in Scotland.
He plunged down a steep gully for 30 seconds before deploying his parachute and landing safely on the banks of Loch Toll an Lochain.
The UK is challenging for wing suit jumps because our mountains lack the altitude, vertical profile and safe landing spots needed to perform a safe jump.
But Tim, from Martock, Somerset, has spent years researching UK base jumping sites and there are now over 200 known to enthusiasts.
Most base jumps involve leaping from the hilltop and briefly free-falling before deploying a parachute.
But Tim has become the first to complete a wingsuit jump – which involves a longer period of freefall aided by the suit before deploying the parachute.
He said: “There are maybe three main things that you need to find a wingsuit base jump site.
“You need an initial vertical drop of at least 100m (330ft), usually more like 150m (490ft) that is steep enough to fly over after the start height.
“Then you need enough overall altitude to make the flight last more than a few seconds – so usually more than 500m (1,650ft).
“And of course, you need a good place to land.
“If any of these things are missing or slightly lacking, then you need one of the other variables to have more margin.
“For example, if your start height is less than 100m (330ft) then you want the terrain to be very steep underneath so you can have a greater margin if you fly at a greater ratio than the slope.”
Tim, who is married to fellow base jumper Ewa Kalisiewicz but has no children, says the UK is “undiscovered” in terms of base jumping sites.
When he started researching them and wrote a book on the subject four years ago there were only 30 known locations. Now there are over 200.
His research lead him to discover that the dramatic overhanging pinnacle of An Teallach known as ‘Lord Berkeley’s Seat’ had all the prerequisites for a wingsuit jump.
He made the three-hour ascent to the peak several times before making the jump on August 18, so he could be sure it was safe.
“We had done the hike many times before to recce the location,” he said. “The more time I can spend measuring and calculating if the flight is possible the more I can feel confident in it all going smoothly.
“A technical aspect of the jump is that you are flying straight into a gully, so there is no ‘escape’ if you have a bad heading.
“I needed to fly out of the gully before turning and flying to the lake to pull my parachute. The only good landing spot was beside the lake.
“Before the jump I was just trying to calm my nerves, knowing that the calculations added up and my training and experience was enough to make this flight with a big enough margin.
“I’m so happy it went smoothly. It’s one thing to pull something off but it’s another to pull it off with enough of a safe margin- that’s what I’m most happy about.”
Tim was accompanied on his mission by professional photographer Hamish Frost, 32 from Glasgow.
He said: “There was no recklessness or maybes here, just a perfect display of training, preparation, and faultless execution, all coming together to produce something which was truly special to watch.
“Tim and others involved in making the jump happen spent endless time in the buildup and surveying the exit point, checking slope profiles and crunching the numbers – it was going to be tight, but Tim was completely confident it would work.
“In the end Tim made it look comfortable, easily clearing the crux sections of the flight – a testament to the many highly technical training flights he’d accrued in preparation for this project.“
Tim believes there will be other locations in the UK that are suitable for wingsuit base jumps – but is not in a hurry to try them out.
“Yes, there may be other locations, but they might be even more technical than this one though – so I’m not rushing to do them,” he said.