There’s always a new challenge for some adventurer somewhere…
This time it is the turn of 29-year old tandem paraglilder pilot Babu Sunuwar who works with Blue Sky Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal, and experienced Everest mountain climber, Lakpa Tshering Sherpa, 35. They intend to become the first to paraglide off the top of Everest, kayak down the Sun Khosi River and then cycle through India to the coast. From the highest point of the world to sea level.
The pair summited Everest on 21st May from the classic South Col route which is on the Nepal side of the mountain. To find a good launch site they went over the top to the north side of the mountain, and slightly down the other side. The flight took them back across the Western Ridge crossing the flank of Nupste and the summit of 5,806m Pokalde Peak and into the Everest basin where they landed safely, and as scheduled, on the Syangboche airstrip which lies at an altitude of 3,750m.
Babu Sunuwar is an experienced paraglider and kayaker but he had never previously been into the high mountains before – 6,400m was the highest he had ever climbed. Lakpa Tshering however is an experienced high altitude climber who has climbed Everest at least five times.
They timed their trip well. The 20th/21st May are traditionally summit days when the ever-present jetstream lifts a little and allows a perfect weather window for Everest climbers. This meant hopefully perfect conditions for paraglider pilots too.
They reached the summit at 8.23 a.m. and then spent over an hour finding a suitable launch site and preparing the wing. Their flight lasted 42 minutes. 9 hours up and 42 minutes down – and what a view they must have had although the weather was described by Babu as “not too bad but also not too good”!
Two other attempts to fly off the top of Everest were also made this month. British climber, ‘Squash’ Falconer was aiming to become the first woman to solo pilot a paraglider from the top of Mt Everest. She summited at 8.30am on the 12th May, but was unable to paraglide off the top because of 50km/h winds and 10 m visibility.
She’s quite a lass is Ms. Falconer…
Squash only started climbing mountains 5 years ago and she chose the formidable Aconcagua as her kick-off one merely because her friends were off to climb it “and I wanted to go too. I had very little experience but I was reasonably fit and very determined.”
After Aconcagua came Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world and in October 2009 she became the first woman to climb and paraglide off the top of Mont Blanc. This proved to her “that flying from the top of mountains was possible and also a most excellent option!”
Sadly she was unable to complete her latest challenge because of poor weather conditions, but that doesn’t mean to say she’s given up…
Rodrigo Raineri from Brazil was attempting to hang-glide off the summit of Everest. He summited on 20th May for the second time, but had to abort the flight due to poor weather conditions. He has now had to abandon his bid after experiencing frostbite on his toes in C4.
What a May it has been for Everest… including:
82-year-old former Nepalese foreign minister has died on the slopes of Everest while attempting to become the oldest person to climb the world’s highest mountain. He was trying to break the record set by a Nepalese climber who scaled Everest at the age of 76. He is the second person to die on Everest this season.
American guide Michael Horst summited Everest on 14th May, descended to C4 for an afternoon of rest before traversing the South Col again and summiting nearby 8,516m Lhotse. He climbed both mountains in just 21 hours.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn notched his 13th Everest summit on 20th May.
May is considered the best time to climb Everest and this year 26 expeditions consisting of 251 climbers are scheduled to attempt its ascent. Summit attempts are usually launched towards the end of the month. According to Nepal’s ministry of tourism and civil aviation, 704 climbing permits have been issued to 83 expeditions for dozens of different peaks in the Himalayas in the 2011 climbing season. There are continuing concerns about the environmental damage caused by this large number of climbers, their support teams and the waste they leave behind.
The Saving Mount Everest Project Clean-up expedition team have just returned from a garbage collecting mission on the trekking trail up to South Col (7,920m) and South Summit (8,750m). The shocking thing is that they have collected about 5 tonnes of rubbish, some from as high up as the summits. The garbage includes abandoned oxygen cylinders, old tents and ropes amongst other junk and day-to-day trash. The weather conditions are harsh, it has been snowing in Everest Base Camp and above and the temperature falls below – 30 degrees C at night, but the team are continuing their estimable work.
It’s a catch 22 situation, the permits will bring in more than £2.25m in mountaineering royalties for poverty struck Nepal. The fee for climbing the world’s highest peak ranges from £17,000 to £48,000 per expedition, depending on the number of members and the route.
The solution is that ALL climbers and their support teams sort out their own trash and REMOVE it off the mountain. This is a sacred place to many and a special place to all of us – honour that principle… and clean up behind you. As I’ve said many times before: LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND BUT YOUR FOOTPRINTS.
Why not? It’s not our mountain.
Back to the beginning of our story – best of luck to Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tshering Sherpa for the rest of their adventure.