Monday, October 6, 2008

British skydiver makes first jump over Mount Everest

By Alastair Jamieson

Everest Skydive team member plummets to earth over Shyangboche airport some 120 kilometers (69 miles) north east of Kathmandu
A skydiver plummets to earth near Kathmandu Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Adventurer Holly Budge, 29, described the experience as "amazing, just spectacular" after making a safe landing at 3,900 metres (12,870 feet).

The Hampshire camerawoman was one of three skydivers in Nepal to make the first plunge from above the world's highest peak.

"We had one minute of freefall and while we were above the clouds you could see Everest and the other high mountains popping out of the top," she said.

The trio, described by onlookers are looking "like tiny birds flying in the blue sky", faced sub-zero temperatures and fast-changing weather when they touched down in the foothills of the mountain.

The event, organised by British adventure travel company High and Wild, will see up to 30 more skydivers from around the world perform the same feat in the coming days. Each of its clients have paid about £13,500 for the experience.

"It was worth the money - it is something that has never been done before," Ms Budge, who has completed 2,500 skydives and who jumped to raise money for charities in Britain and Nepal.

Skydiving at altitudes just higher than the summit of Mount Everest created numerous challenges for the project.

Due to the thin air, their parachutes were three times the size of regular ones, and the jumpers used oxygen tanks strapped to their waists.

They also wore neoprene undersuits and thermal gear to keep out the freezing temperatures as they leapt out at about 8,940 metres (29,500 feet).

"The organisers have brought a plane over from Switzerland, and the permits have been very expensive, as has getting everyone to the jump site," said Budge.

The oldest client slated to make the jump in the coming days is Alan Walton, a 72-year-old British partner in a bioscience company, organiser Nigel Gifford said.

"Although many are very experienced, others are making their first ever skydive and will be going in tandem with experts," said Gifford, whose company has permission to operate in the area for another 13 days.

The "Everest Skydive" is an event that has been 15 years in the making for Mr Gifford.

"It came about because I have been a Himalayan mountaineer and took up skydiving. I love doing both and I thought it would be good to marry the two," he said.

Krishna Aryal, an official with the logistical support agency Explore Himalaya, said: "They looked like tiny birds flying in the blue sky as they jumped from the plane. This is the first of its kind and has never been tried before."

Along with Ms Budge, the New Zealander Wendy Smith and Canadian Neil Jones were in freefall for nearly half a minute and then opened their canopies before landing at a flat drop zone after cruising over Everest.

New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first climbed Mount Everest's 8,850-metre (29,035 feet) peak 55 years ago.

More than 3,000 climbers, among them a 16-year-old boy, a 76-year-old man, a man with an artificial limb and a blind person, have since reached the top of the mountain.

"It was stunning. I had never seen so many mountains before," said Ms Smith. "To be on top of the world was simply stunning. Thank you."

Original here

No comments: