- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Backcountry
- Published: December 02, 2014
- Last Updated: December 03, 2014
Kjell Sporseen died Sunday, November 30 in a speed-flying accident in the Columbia River Gorge.
Sporseen, an Army veteran who flew from the summit of Mount Hood several times, lived in Hood River and worked at Cloud Cap Technologies. He was 32.
“Everything he did, he did the way he wanted to,” said his older brother Aaron Sporseen. “He just lived life to the fullest. His life was proof that if you can dream it, you can do it.”
Sporseen served in the US Army as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Battalion Maintenance Officer from 2005 to 2009. The first thing he did after leaving the military was to ride his bicycle from Anchorage to San Diego.
Sporseen earned degrees in mathematics from Ripon College and in renewable energy technology from Columbia Gorge Community College. He was an avid motorcyclist and an accomplished runner who completed several marathons. Just a month before his death he finished 12th out of 634 finishers in the 2014 Columbia Gorge Half Marathon.
But it was the sport of speed-flying that got Sporseen’s adrenaline pumping. For anyone unfamiliar with the sport, speed-flying is similar to parachuting, but it is much, much faster and more daring. The latest Warren Miller film features thrilling footage of JT Holms and Ueli Kestenholz shredding powder through the Alps and leaping off cliffs to buzz past rocks and spines at rocket-like speeds.
Sporseen took up speed-flying after his military service, and while he never combined his flights with skiing, he certainly compiled some epic adventures. His Facebook page is like an illustrated adventure journal, with numerous videos from his adventures in Oregon, including several flights from the summit of Mount Hood.
He was a member of the Speedflying Worldwide Official Facebook Forum.
Asit Rathod, a Mount Hood ski mountaineering legend who spent some time with Sporseen at the summit, hailed him as a “True Oregon Badass.”
"I have never known anyone like him," said Ben Bliesner, a skier and climber who was friends with Sporseen. "He was the man... He was going to teach me to fly."
Sporseen’s last Facebook post on November 26 shows him with his friends David Connolly and Michael Cook, soaring over the Columbia River Gorge on a beautiful morning.
He died several days later after a similar flight went awry.
“He always played the game to its limit, and I always respected him for that,” wrote his brother Aaron. “Kid packed a whole lot of life into his short 32 years.”
Here is a first-person video of Kjell Sporseen speed-flying from the summit of Mount Hood: