Namche Bazaar, known as the Sherpa Capital, is located at 11,287ft and lies along the Everest Base Camp trek. It is the main town of the Khumba Region. Over the last few decades it has become one of the major tourist towns in the region, catering for the increasing number of tourists now able to make the trip to the Everest Massive. Namche sits on the old trade route to Tibet and most of the local Sherpas were originally traders. In more modern times the Sherpas have taken to farming, but the tourist industry is by far the biggest earner in the region.
THE DROP ZONE
On a hill overlooking Namche is the Syangboche Airstrip 12,350ft. It is about a 30 minute trek from the town but it is not generally used as its surface is made of loose pebbles and considered unsuitable for fixed-wing aircraft – unless you are a skydiver! It is from here that the team will embark on the first ever skydive over Mount Everest.
To qualify for this historic event, the skydivers must have at least 200 logged jumps. Tandem passengers however do not have to have any previous experience – what an introduction to skydiving!
The jump will take place in early October 2008, the date chosen to take advantage of the best known high altitude weather patterns in the Everest region. The weather at this time of year is reasonably predictable and mountaineers frequently use the calm conditions to make summit ‘pushes’.
Ordinarily, skydivers are lifted to a height of 13-14,000ft where they jump and experience about 60 seconds of free-fall before deploying their canopy at approximately 3000ft. The Everest Skydivers will be lifted to approximately 29,500ft and free-fall past Everest and some of the other highest mountains on the planet. Due to the thin atmosphere at this height they will have to deploy between 16-18,000ft, allowing about double the normal time under canopy.
XXX pic a XXX
Skydivers free-fall at what is known as terminal velocity (TV), the speed when air resistance will not allow the body to fall any faster. For an average-sized man, TV is approximately 120mph. At the altitude over Everest the effect of air resistance is going to be greatly reduced resulting in the TV being increased considerably. Imagine this speed combined with the extreme cold temperature, it is estimated the skydivers are going to be subjected a wind chill factor of about -50°C. That’s cold!!!!
SAFETY AND EQUIPMENT
Due to the extremes that the skydivers are going to experience, specialist parachute equipment is going to be required as well as an oxygen system. Chris normally jumps with a 135ft² canopy but the high altitude demands a far larger main parachute of 300-400ft² with a reserve canopy of the same size in case of emergency. The oxygen system being used is well proven at high altitude and his head will be protected with specialist thermal protection. Each skydiver has to wear a custom-made jump-suit designed to cope with the high altitude and extreme cold temperature.
All skydivers are also going to carry a small personal survival kit in case of landing off the DZ. The DZ safety ‘vehicles’ are an Equirrel B3 helicopter or, if the distance is not too far, a yak and yak man. The yak will be fitted with ‘blues and twos’ (ok only joking!). But it’s still a long walk if you overshoot the beer line!!
'Blues and Twos'
The High and Wild team includes 7 men experienced with most of the conditions that the skydivers are going to face. Some have previous Everest experience, some have high altitude low opening (HALO) expertise, including military training and design of equipment for HALO, some are world record holders in their particular fields. The team supporting the Everest Skydive is the best that there is and the safety of the skydivers in their charge is paramount.
The aircraft being used in the venture are both fixed and rotary-wing, including a Russian MI-17 helicopter, French Equirrel B3 helicopter, Polish M-28 Skytruck and the skydiver’s workhorse, the P3 Pilatus Porter.
XXX pic b XXXX
The skydivers and support team will travel independently and all meet for the first time in Kathmandu. After a day of briefings and training on the high altitude and oxygen systems the team travels to Lukla (9,100ft), the airstrip where most of the visitors to the region start their treks. The team will then commence the 6-day acclimatisation trek to Namche, using yaks to carry the equipment. Before the actual Everest jump, the skydivers will carry out familiarisation jumps with the equipment they will be using on the ‘Big One’. Two days have been earmarked for the Everest jump in case of inclement weather in the region. We know the weather will be kind! Blue skies!!
The first ever Everest skydive season is going to be filmed for world-wide distribution. It has already been signed up by the National Geographic Television Channel, some "lads" magazines and possibly a UK Sunday newspaper. Skydive Everest is being supported by Breitling. For those of you who may be interested in sponsoring us, we will be in front of the cameras at every opportunity getting publicity for your company as well as getting publicity and raising money for our charity, the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. Remember that ALL donations will go directly to the Poppy Appeal. If you want to sponsor Chris, 75% of sponsorship funding will go to the Poppy Appeal the remaining 25% will go towards the cost of the sky dive only. We will personally be funding all our travel costs and expenses.Please help raise as much money as we can to help our servicemen and their families. Why not get friends and neighbours involved by running an event such as a raffle or quiz night. Let’s make a big difference to the lives of these men and women who serve our country with such dedication and loyalty.
Photo by kind permission of Shunnka.
To see some more of Shunnka's amazing images visit his website at www.shunnka.com