However, this challenge is a new one… 7 Summits … yeah, we know about that, but 7 Flights? Well, of course we can only be talking about Pierre Carter, Peter Friedmann and photographer Marianne Schwankhart, who have elected to climb the summits of the highest mountains on seven continents and paraglide off the top. Marianne will fly in tandem with paragliding adventurer, Pierre, to photograph and document the journey and the mountains, thus providing a unique view of the adventure. Guy Hubbard and Kyle O’Donoghue complete the team.
Although this feat has been tried before it has never been accomplished successfully so this time round it’s an all South African team who hope that the time and effort invested in their endeavour will inspire others to achieve their goals. They are also raising money for a charity, The Trust, back in South Africa to help those in need. The Trust is a reputable and accountable web portal which streamlines the act of giving by creating a single access point for a range of causes.
“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” said Sir Edmund Hillary and to this team of three the challenge is a chance in a lifetime to realize the limits of the human body in extreme situations and the opportunity to witness the sublime difference and beauty of these 7 Summits on 7 continents.
In addition to enriching their own lives, their motivation for this endeavour is to translate their life changing experience into changing the lives of thousands of less fortunate South Africans and at the same time doing their best to raise climate awareness – something they feel very strongly about in light of our current climate change crisis.
The project was launched with the successful conquering of Mount Elbrus, 5642m (18,510 ft) in July 2010 – “height has nothing to do with it (Elbrus); it is your strength that counts” says Lynn Hill… and this proved to be the point:
With Elbrus successfully, if painfully, behind them they continued to Mount Aconcagua – the highest mountain outside of Asia at 6, 959m (22,830 ft) and the highest in the Southern Hemisphere. Aconcagua is a difficult mountain to conquer and on average two to three people are killed each year making the attempt. To date only 2 people have paraglided off the summit of this formidable peak – Pierre Carter was one of them, Guy Pitman the other – both South Africans. We blogged about this , and showed the video, back in January 2009.
The 7 Summits – 7 Flights team booked to climb Aconcagua and had given themselves 20-25 days to summit between December and January 2011.
Hauling horrendous amount of baggage, they reached the summit successfully on 11th January, but the wind was gusty and very unpredictable. Aconcagua is considered a very windy mountain but during their time there the winds were even stronger and more relentless than usual. On 7th January, they twittered this: “The tricky thing about flying off big mountains, is that its not just about getting to the top and flying off, its about getting to the top in the right conditions to fly off. We’d hauled gear to camp 2, the launch pad for the summit of Ac, and were poised to up, only to hit a week of strong winds.It now seems summit day will only be Wednesday next week…”
In fact they summited on the Tuesday and it took all 4 of them to hold the glider down, but although occasionally a lull would happen it was never long enough for a launch to be considered an option. “Eventually, late in the afternoon, with frozen fingers and aching heads we gave in….. Wrapped up the glider and started the long walk down to camp 2.” Pierre and Guy (the fourth member of the team) got to fly down from Camp 2 to Base Camp but even that was pretty hairy.
Since Pierre had already flown successfully off the summit of Aconcagua in 2008, and the main purpose in returning was to film the flight, the trip was not considered a failure and 7 Summits – 7 Flights is still on track.
Mount Denali, otherwise known as Mount McKinlay, is next. Denali is in Alaska, North America’s highest peak, and is known as the world’s coldest mountain. However, the team are at the moment in the process of raising money for an attempt at the summit of Kili (Mount Kilimanjaro) – remember, this whole project (7 summits – 7 Flights) is organised around the idea of raising money to help others…
Standing at 5,895 m (19,340 ft ), Mount Kilimanjaro, in north-eastern Tanzania, is the African continents’ tallest peak, and the worlds highest freestanding mountain. The word Kilimanjaro means ‘shining (or white) mountain’ in Swahili. The mountain was first summited in 1889.