Skydive Mount Everest

Drop in on Everest Base Camp – from above

Fotos: Paul-Henry De Baere 

The average skydive takes place at an altitude of 4,000m, but this is no average skydive. The airport runway is already 3,800m above sea level, and it requires three days of ascent just to acclimatise. When you jump, you’re more than 7,000m up, looking across at the tallest mountain on Earth. This is the world’s highest commercial skydive and, with zero experience, you could take the plunge.

“Everest is actually a goddess. Her name is Sagarmatha or Chomolungma, dependingon the language, and she protects the people and the land. When we go in there, we do it to celebrate not ourselves but Mount Everest and her willingness to allow us to do what we do.”

So says Tom Noonan, and he should know: as chief jump instructor of Everest Skydive, the mountain has consumed the last nine years of his life. In that time, he’s performed more than 120 skydives above her colossal earthly form – without incident. Sagarmatha has been good to him.

It hasn’t always been this way. When Noonan first came over in 2008, “our jackets said ‘Everest Skydrive’, and that wasn’t a misspelling – the Nepali hadno concept of what skydiving was”. Within a year, the UK-based company had imploded. But instead of going home, Noonan and his elite teammates banded together to create a new company with one difference: it was Nepali-owned.

Check out their official website for more info:

© Youtube // Explore Himalaya

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“We’re using Nepali-owned aircraft and Nepali pilots, we’ve trained three local guides to skydive solo, and 100 per cent of the profits stay within the country,” he says. Leaving behind more than you take – I call it the social responsibility of adventure tourism.” The Nepali call it good karma.

“Leaving behind more than you take – I call it the social responsibility of adventure tourism.”
Tom Noonan

It’s something you need plenty of for this adventure. For starters, the airport, Syangboche, is 3,800m up. “We’re taking off from the same altitude most skydivers exit their aircraft from,” says Noonan. “We can’t fly in, as we have to acclimatise, so we’re looking at the physical challenges of climbing from 2,600m. Weather conditions change on an hourly basis; if the mountain doesn’t want skydiving that day, we’re closed in. It could snow, or it might be as warm as 26°C.”

Skydive Mount Everest
“People have been skydiving with mild levels of hypoxia [oxygen starvation] for many years to no ill effect, but because of the extreme heights we need bailout systems,” says Noonan. “When you’re hypoxic, you don’t recognise the signs, but others might.”

And then there’s the jump itself. “We’re not getting out over a flat drop, we’re dealing with the changing altitudes of topography in the Himalaya. Placing the aircraft in the right point above the drop zone is critical, based on wind drift.”

Jumping solo obviously requires some degree of experience – 200 leaps is the minimum recommendation –but for your first tandem jump you only need to be in reasonable health, 95kg or lighter, and have a body free from metal (a spinal fusion can shatter vertebrae on a hard landing).

Skydiving Abenteuer Mount Everest

You also need the funds – two solo jumps cost US$22,000 – but then, there are few more unique experiences you could blow your money on.

“Thousands of people trek to base camp every year, but will never have the opportunity to experience the Himalaya the way we present it – at altitude with the mountains without being on them,” says Noonan. “To exit the aircraft and find yourself in freefall beside these massive monoliths; to have the parachute open and go from a noisy, high-speed environment to a calm quiet where you’re soaring like a bird and gazing at the south face of Everest… I’ve never had a jump where I didn’t appreciate that moment.”

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12 2016 The Red Bulletin

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