Cities are where most free runners perform their trickery, so the Verzasca Valley in southern Switzerland is quite a change of scenery for them. Here, four world-class free runners give nature's very own obstacle course a go.
The Valle Verzasca is a small valley in Ticino, the southernmost canton of Switzerland. It is known for its roiling river, which crashes down over the rocky landscape and steep hillsides. This is nature at its purest.
Four parkour athletes proceed with obvious caution out here in the wild; they are also not sure whether the jumps they usually perform in urban landscapes will work in this setting. Nevertheless, they enjoy the fact that they have plenty of time and room to adapt their moves to the Verzasca landscape.
The second these free runners – Ryan Doyle from England, Yoann Leroux from France, plus Chris Harmat and Kevin Fluri from Basel, Switzerland – reach the river they begin leaping from rock to rock like a herd of wild goats. They test out the terrain with an agility and deftness that the rest of us can only marvel at.
The scenery in Switzerland's southernmost canton is incomparable: rocks as big as elephants, and even houses, tower over the foaming turquoise and emerald Verzasca river as it roars over the valley floor.
Between precision jumps and climbing exercises, they start throwing in somersaults and rolls. Not that they are trying to show off – anyone looking on can see that these guys are totally immersed in the task at hand: crossing the river.
It had seemed easy enough to Liverpool native Ryan, one of the world's leading free runners. But now, he hesitates to take the leap, his gaze fixed on the sheer, vertical wall facing him on the other side. This situation feels all too reminiscent of his slip into the nippy 12° water the day before. Waiting on the other side are the other three, who by now have the challenge comfortably behind them.
Perhaps the three grinning faces on the riverbank have something to do with Ryan's sudden decision to finally take the leap: he lands problem-free, and the hand Kevin extends is unneeded.
Photos © klauskranebitter.com/Red Bull Content Pool