This is the obituary I wrote for Xaver Bongard
XAVER BONGARD OBITUARY
Xaver Bongard died in the evening on April 15, 1994 while jumping his favorite cliff, Staubbach, a 300 meter BASE jump near his home town of Interlaken. Both his main and reserve parachutes failed.
It is hard to describe Xaver in words. On first impressions he seemed borderline insane, always with an extreme project/event brewing, and telling of it with a fiery glint in his eye.
Imaginative, with people and the way he lived life, Xaver lived each moment in sync with his surroundings, modest and at ease with everyone. You could count on Xaver to be the life of the party. On the other hand it was impossible to predict Xaver. After Xaver and I spent 5 days on the Swiss-American route in Zion, he ran over to our unsuspecting female hiking friends on the top of Angel's Landing with a "Hello babies" and a big kiss. When he and I ascended our fixed line on the Cyclops's Eye, a 100 foot roof on El Cap, he cut loose from the belay unannounced, swung 150 feet out from the wall, and became a tangled mess with the haul line. He always displayed the same unpredictability with his conversation too, which was always positive and usually funny. One thing you could always count on, however, was Xaver's unfailing adherence to paying respects before sharing a drink with a friend with a "Proust!"
Xaver always inspired.
When I first met Xaver in Yosemite, he getting gearing for El Cap solo ascents. He began his Yosemite climbs with one-day ascents of the Salathe and the Nose. Then he jumped right in with the hardest nailing routes. After he soloed Lost in America, he pegged me as knowledgeable on the walls of Yosemite, and asked, "I want to solo the hardest route on El Cap. Which one is it, do you think?" That year he soloed The Sea of Dreams. I met him again the next year, he was back for more action on El Cap. He asked, "What is the hardest now?" I suggested Jolly Roger and he was off. The third year I got to know Xaver, in 1989, he was planning a solo of the Wyoming Sheep Ranch. After fixing a few pitches, he decided he was tired of soloing and invited me for his ascent. I learned a lot from our first climb together. We had totally different methods, Xaver with always the strangest self-taught and ingenious systems for dealing with big wall organizational hell. Somehow, our systems complimented rather than collided.
While traveling in his orange Monte Carlomobile throughout the climbing areas in the US one year, Xaver once sent homemade cards to all his friends back in Europe. It was a xeroxed folded sheet, with the words, "Wot does a man need to be happy in life?" with drawings of shoes and rope, a parachute, a bottle of beer, and a big heart with "love and sex", and finished with "Greeting from Amerika" with a scrawled letter about his adventures inside. The card typifies Xaver's pure happiness with his passions.
Xaver had his dark side, in which his jokes about death often uncovered a glimpse of. In Rawalpindi before our expedition to the Karakoram, he stopped in a gravestone shop and picked his favorite. In a video he and Will Oxx made about their jumps in Switzerland, Xaver marked out some spots in the snowy graveyard which doubled as their landing zone, and said to Will, "Will, I get a reservation here for you. I like this one. What do you want, with a view of Staubbach, what could be better?" He knew exactly what he was doing. Climbing and jumping were his passions, and he took them both to the extreme. Proud yet without pride, he would fearlessly go for it whenever the opportunity arose.
Xaver was a machinist by trade. He only recently finished his UIAA guides training at age 29, and was making a living from climbing: guiding, writing about expeditions, and making films. But BASE jumping became his main passion. He wrote to me recently, "In January I did a little guiding jobs. I only did a few iceclimbing. The season was not very good. I was more interested in being a jumping Mother fucker! I jumpt 10 new spots. Very steep stuff. I'm waiting for a visit of you to drop you off the STAUBBACH, the steepest cliff in town." I think, by jumping off cliffs, Xaver tested his own immortality while getting the added bonus of adrenaline..
With Xaver's death, I think of others who were close: my sister, Kevin Dippy, Ted Johnson, Derek Hersey, Mugs Stump, who have all died doing the thing they each loved the most, and I think of my friends who still live, who also test their limits of immortality, and hope I we can remember that living the extreme may eventually meet with inescapable death, and not forget what a loss death is.
Xaver is survived by his girlfriend Annabelle, and family.
Xaver, we hope you are in a better place, climbing and jumping the walls of your dreams. But we will miss you here.