Legend Lucky Chance dies in Blue Mountains

Posted by Alex Messenger on 09/09/2015
Lucky Chance - aka Toby Benham. Photo: Alex Messenger.
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Climber, basejumper, circus performer and legend Lucky Chance –formerly known as Toby Benham – has died in the Blue Mountains, Australia, aged 32.

Lucky Chance first blipped onto the UK radar ten years ago when, after bumping in to Rich Simpson in Siurana, decided to come over and show us just how to climb hard grit. The grit liked Toby, and he loved it back. Hard solos without the feeble security of bouldering mats were his meat and gravy, including End of The Affair (E8), Soul Doubt (E8), The Zone (E9), Stampede (E8) and Drummond Base (E8).

The small UK grit climbing scene couldn’t contain Lucky for long though, and he moved on to work as a circus performer and develop his interest in basejumping. Fortune remained, firmly, on his side. His closest moment was whilst filming a series of jumps from a death swing: an insane-looking rope swing off the edge of a cliff in the Blue Mountains. You swing, you let go, you somersault and you pull your shute. On the last jump of the day, his chute tangled never fully deployed. He fell nearly 600 feet: "I don't know how I managed to survive," he said afterwards.

Not long after the rules of physics finally caught up with Lucky in the French Alps. A basejump went terribly, predictably, wrong. He survived – somehow – but in a coma with a shattered pelvis and jaw, open fractures in his femur and foot, collapsed lungs and a serious brain injury. His family – who admitted they'd been half-expecting this call for years – rushed to France. Then reported dead by some UK climbers, rumours of his condition floated over the web, but Lucky pulled off his biggest trick to date: after two weeks in a coma, he came around.

However, this Tuesday, life took a cruel twist. He’d booked a ticket back to France to be with the woman who had nursed him back to life from the coma, when he headed back to the Blue Mountains and the death swing.

The rope swing went wrong, but this time there would be no escape, and he hit a ledge. Police and a NSW Ambulance helicopter with a doctor and paramedic were called to the spot at 1pm but efforts to stabilise him failed and he died about 3.25pm.

I’ll always remember him in the evening darkness at Curbar. He was teetering up a blank grit slab, so way past his gear as he slapped for holds that his belayer looked ready to be sick. Yet he looked alive, and the happiest we’d seen him all day. Happiest when walking the line. 

Farewell Lucky. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

READ MORE: About Lucky Chance in this Outside article

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