6th JAN 2014 at 23:45 BBC Four Endeavour: By Balloon
Skydiving in the Shadow of Everest – ’where the earth meets the sky’
It was the thought of jumping that held my attention. Gorak Shep was 9000ft below me and like most landing areas looked tiny from this altitude even though its own altitude is almost 17,000ft. I was right over the top of it pondering what to do. To jump or not to jump – that was the question – ‘whether it is nobler in the eyes of man….’ At that point I forgot my Shakespeare and stared at Everest. Our balloon was heading straight for the South West Face and 3000ft beneath the summit. My pilot was unsure if we would clear it. I was in no doubt – if we would not then I was out of here.
That was then – this is now
Eighteen years later I was back with Ralph Mitchel and Wing Commander Ramesh Tripathi an Indian skydiver who had already climbed Everest and done several jumps from the same height. The Nepalese Tourist Authority had given us a permit to make three test jumps from a helicopter over Gorak Shep. Suddenly Everest was there filling my vision and it was all of it. From ground level it is partly obscured by the ridge running up to Nuptse but here at 20,500ft I could see the bottom where it sank into the Western Cwm, that huge glacier that feeds the notorious Khumbu Icefall and the twelve mile long Khumbu Glacier that runs past our new DZ.
“That’s it.” The pilot said, “Now what?”
“Well if we can open the door I’ll leave you two gentlemen up here.”
As far as we know we’d shattered the existing record for a high altitude landing set in Switzerland by over 4000ft. For the honour of his country the Nepalese Tourist Minister would like us to get this into the Guinness book of Records. We’ll see but what we do know is that if anyone wants to skydive past Everest next spring we hope to organise an expedition to take tandems and solo jumpers alike. It’s absolutely made for a flock of Wing Suit fliers. Interested?
Visit our website for details www.skydivemounteverest.com
Text and photos courtesy of Leo Dickinson …