Wimmer Makes World History With The First Ever Tandem Sky Dive Over Mount Everest

At 06.13 local Nepalese time, Per Wimmer and his tandem instructor Ralph Mitchell took off in a small Pilatus Porter plane from the narrow and bumpy runway at 12.350 feet of altitude on a mountainside near the town of Syangboche in the Himalayans. About forty five minutes later they jumped from the plane becoming the first two humans ever to tandem jump from above the Everest summit and land in the Himalayans. The HALO-jump with oxygen masks took place from 29.500 feet (ca. 9 km) just above the peak of Mount Everest (29.035 feet) at a temperature of minus 60 degree C (incl. windchill).  As part of the adventure, forty year old Per Wimmer raised money for his charities in support of children in Nepal.   Click to read more..

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Everest Blog: Mount Everest Sky Dive, Sept 22 - Oct 8, 2008



Syangboche, October 6, 2008  

Yeaaaarrrrhhhhhhhhh! I did it! And it was beautiful! Amazing! And absolutely mind blowing! Okay, okay. From the beginning. Another 4 o’clock wake up and another decent in the dark with my headlight. But today the Drop Zoned was crystal clear. Every body stood ready to suit me up, and around six o’clock I was boarding the plane while the sun was painting the mountain tops yellow. The ascent to 29.500 feet was absolutely breath taking. The mountains glittered in the early morning and we got hooked up to the oxygen supply. I tried to go trough the exit procedure in my head but my mind kept wandering out the window to the best view in the world. The roof of the world was right below us.

3-2-1 – roll out – arc – yearrrhhhhh! Rushing down at a speed of 200 km/h I was feeling the whole thing coming together. This was what I’d been waiting for all these foggy days. Now every thing was clear and the mountains around us silently witnessed our historic journey. Behind me Ralph Mitchell kept every thing in control and the sound of the wind roaring in my ears was replaced with the soft hissing of the wind in the strings after the pop of the canapé. We were sailing the sky of the highest mountains of the world.

It didn’t matter at all that we did a butt sliding landing and got tangled in the canapé. We’d done it. Made history as the first tandem sky divers ever to jump from above the summit of Mt. Everest. More later … there is some champagne I have to drink … Yiiiihaaaaaaaaaa!

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Syangboche, October 5, 2008  

I was all suited up! I know I risk repeating myself but today I got REALLY close to jumping. There I was: jumpsuit and parachute gear on, plane humming in the background and a cloudy but jumpable sky. I had trekked down the mountain at 4.30 in the morning in utter darkness with only a headlamp to guide me - only to see the Drop Zone once again turn in to at milky haze, when I got there. But now - just about four hours later – I was closer than ever. It cleared up and a familiarization jump from 18.000 feet and the historic never done before 29.500 feet sky dive for three experienced solo jumpers had taken place.

Now it’s my turn. I’m going up to 29.500 feet to become the first ever tandem sky diver in the whole world to jump from above the summit of Mt. Everest. I turn around and see the face of Henri, the pilot, who stands right behind me. He looked sad. As if he was apologizing. And then I see it. And I can’t believe it. The fog is creeping up the end of the runway and rolling towards us. Fast. In fact, within ten minutes the small runway had gone from “green light” for flying to completely closed. It was over. It was unbearable. I had just finished my last TV interviews in full gear and was ready to head for the plane. Yet, the runway remained closed for the rest of the day I later learned.

After an hour I took my parachute gear off. After three hours I took my jumpsuit off and went for a coffee. And then I waited for another four hours doing nothing but waiting in the hazy, moist and cold surroundings we’ve gotten so used to by now. When Dave, the jumpmaster. called it a day it was time sum up: A four day delay and two times of getting within inches of my historic first time ever jump. Clearly, the weather and other conditions are pushing my patience to the limit. Now, we need to get our airline tickets changed and if this luck continues, we might spend Christmas in the Himalayas. But I’m first on the jump list for tomorrow morning … fingers crossed….


 


Syangboche, October 4, 2008

Ohhhh, so close and yet so far! It is almost unbearable! Another hour of clear skies and I would have jumped today! But let me start from the beginning. The morning again provided for blue skies and sparkling white mountain tops. Due to lessons learned from the previous days, the sky diving started at six o’clock. Equipment test jumps got completed and the 18.000 feet familiarization solo jumps got well under way … we only needed one more jump when the clouds again showed their absolute power and put a hold to the whole operation. And worse: I was next in line to do my record breaking 29.500 feet jump when the familiarization jumps was put to a hold. That’s about an hour away from the world history books! And this was the day I really wanted to jump due to the special significance of Oct 4. But well … tomorrow I’ll be on the first flight up in to the sky around 05.00 a.m., and I’ll still be the first human ever to sky dive from above the Everest summit and land in the Himalayas. Even if it is on the Oct 5th  … !

So now I’m sitting here looking out in to the hazy fog and trying to visualize the experience I’ll have tomorrow. Stand by for the champagne to pop!


Syangboche, October 3, 2008  

It looked so promising! A beautiful sky provided its blue and white mountain smile at me when I looked out the window at 6.15 this morning. I tried hard to pick up any sound of a plane engine buzzing in the sky but I couldn’t hear anything but the ever present crows and the soft hissing sound of the wind between the mountain sides. Yet, the view was promising. Before long the canapés opened above us on a background of clear blue sky when the staff started their low altitude equipment test jumps.

After breakfast, I rushed down to the Drop Zone, while the first four canapés were surfing the sky above me. Before arriving there, the next four parachutes were already in the air.

Yet, suddenly it all ended! The clouds that had covered the valley below us all morning crept up the mountains filling up all cracks and holes between the mountain sides and at 9.15 the drop zone was nothing but a milky white haze of moist fog. This was close to a catastrophe for keen sky divers! Among the members of the expedition, there had already been a bit of mumbling about the tight schedule that didn’t allow much margin for error or bad weather conditions. Now, everybody felt the jump program tightening around them as another day went by without any substantial progress. Plane tickets out of Kathmandu might have to be rescheduled and meetings at home cancelled. The organizers had a hard time calming everybody down, and for all you reading this – please send a small prayer to the mountain gods for good weather around Syangboche in the Himalayas tomorrow. We start at six o’clock, and if all goes well, I’ll do my historic jump a couple of hours later, importantly for me personally, on the one year anniversary of my bank, Wimmer Financial, and the 51st  anniversary of the launch of Sputnik and thereby the beginning of the space era. That would be the ultimate climax of a historic adventure which is, for now, paused by the unforgiving weather.


Syangboche, October 2, 2008

At 10.13, the long awaited sound of a Pilatus Porter P6 Turbine distantly echoed through the mountain sides of the Khumbu Valley and we all ran to the terrace of the Everest View Hotel to see the small red and yellow plane appear. First as a little dot between the giant mountains and, later, as the silhouette of a real plane that circled a couple of times above the Drop Zone before taking a giant swing for landing. All went well despite the clouds. Just minutes later, the characteristic sound of a chopper indicated that things were beginning to come together a couple of hundred meters below us on the other side of the ridge. Despite Nepalese bureaucracy and delays, the Drop Zone was now fully operational. We packed our backpacks and headed downwards but, as we approached the Drop Zone, the clouds gathered and grabbed the whole area in a thick fog that made any test jumps impossible.

So, now, I’m sitting in a lodge by the Drop Zone, eating French toast and looking out in to the milky white nothingness outside the windows. The hours are ticking away faster than the toast on my plate, and the staff still needs to do equipment test jumps and the solo sky divers need to do familiarization jumps from 18.000 feet before the real jumps from 29.500 feet of altitude can begin. Frustrating, now that everything else is ready! Yet, there is nothing we can do. Here, the weather is the undisputed champion and ruler and we just have to be patient. When the mountain Gods wants us to jump they will give us a sign – a clear blue sky! I am very keenly awaiting, hoping that will be first thing tomorrow morning – meaning that I’ll probably be able to jump on Saturday Oct 4 – which would be fantastic since it would mark exactly the one year anniversary of Wimmer Financial and the 51st year anniversary of Sputnik and the launch of the space era….. 


Syangboche, October 1, 2008

Tyangboche treated us with the best of the Himalayans when we got up at six o’clock to be greeted by clear blue skies and the most spectacular view of the highest summits in the world, Everest, Lothse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam  and all the other 6000+ peaks around the monastery town. We were only reluctant to leave such amazing sight behind but we had to be in Syangboche by the Drop Zone at noon to get settled in and relax before the test jump program gets underway tomorrow. Well, this means - we hope (!!) – since we learned after our five hours of fast trekking that the Pilatus Porter aircraft was caught in Nepalese bureaucracy in Kathmandu and that our two very experienced pilots - who had just flown the plane in from Switzerland - were suddenly required a nine hour flight test and a two hour written exam before they could get their permits to fly in Nepal.

Meanwhile, we anxiously spent the waiting time in the (Nepalese rated) five star luxurious Everest View Hotel where everything suddenly is possible – except for hot showers. There’s a huge gap between the accommodation I experienced at the local hut two days ago and this Japanese inspired luxury hotel with the perfect view of Mt. Everest, but I have no sense for the sudden accommodation improvements. I just want to get the jump program underway and just minutes ago I was told that the pilots had passed their ‘exam’ and everything pointed to an arrival of the plane tomorrow at 7.30 local time. I think I’ll ask the staff to bring me a bucket of hot water so that I can get my first ‘real’ bath in three days …


Tyangboche, September 30, 2008 

I woke up this morning tucked in between eight locals and porters and with the remains of dancing in my body and the taste of local rice liquor in my mouth. And the priceless memories of having cooked local Nepalese food together with two of the locals – culturally and socially interesting, let alone cooking a home cooked meal – something I don’t do that often in any case.

I had slept like a baby. In spite of the snoring of one of my eight immediate sleeping companions and the light being turned on at 05.00 a.m. The small cottage with the wood fired stove in the corner still smelled a bit of the fried potatoes, rice and vegetables we prepared last night but the ‘dancing floor’ had now been turned in to a chaos of human bodies, blankets and sleeping bags. None of us had noticed that the temperatures dropped to minus five during the night (!).

After a warm goodbye, I started the day with a small warm up trek to a view point above Pheriche, and just as we got there the clouds lifted and gave us the most beautiful view of the 22.493 feet Ama Dablam towering above us. We hiked a bit further up just to break the 15.000 feet mark and, thereby, reaching the absolute highest point of our expedition before starting the real trek of the day that would take us back down to Tyangboche for the last night before returning to the Drop Zone on Wednesday to get ready for the big jump.

So, that is where I’m at now. A bit tired but also eager to trek on early tomorrow morning and take this adventure to the next level. I fell like the countdown has begun. Until now we’ve been hiking and getting used to the altitude – and it’s been great – but now my mind is starting to focus on the primary target: The big jump.


Pheriche, September 29, 2008

13,950 feet! We’ve reached the highest point of our trekking and are lodged at the Himalayan Hotel which has only been open for 15 days. The trek was supposed to be one of the easier ones but again the rain followed us for most of the day and we trekked in the clouds forcing the temperatures down. We really feel we’re in the mountains now. The hotel is powered only by solar energy and we’re staying just next to a hospital clinic that has a daily lecture of altitude sickness for foreigners coming here. Even though the hotel is nice – we can even get a hot shower here – I’ve decided to spend the night at the house of some local porters. They have agreed to house me and show me a little bit of the local costumes but now just before leaving the hotel, I’m getting a bit of cold feet. Outside the fogged windows the temperatures has dropped to around five degrees and it’s still raining. On the other hand I don’t want to do this trip on first class – not all the way anyway. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow …


Tyangboche, September 28, 2008 

We left the last bit of civilization and two knee injured members of the expedition behind this morning. Leaving Namche Bazar to climb about 1500 feet to Tyangboche we also started our ascent in to the 12000+ feet altitude area and thereby leaving behind most of the accommodation "luxury" we’ve been used to. From now on, we are ‘in the wild’ and our sleeping bags need to come out.

Tyangboche sits on top of a steep hill. After five hours of relatively easy trekking, we started our ascent after lunch leaving us well worn out when arriving at the little village that houses the biggest Buddhist monastery in the Khumbu Valley. We got there in time for the daily Puja ceremony after which I was invited to visit one of the monks in his private small room where I was blessed for good luck on my adventure and given a scarf, a necklace and a little bag of coffee from the chief Lama of the monastery.

In the late afternoon the clouds that had threatened us with the possibility of rain all day made real of the threats and buried us first in a thick fog and then opened up for the water. Yet, sitting here with a warm cup of coffee in my hand listening to the rain on the roof just next to a hot wood fired stove, I can’t help thinking that this is actually what the Himalayan is all about. Tomorrow, we will be trekking to Pehriche and climb another 1200 feet to the highest stop of our expedition before we descent back to the Drop Zone for the big jump and the day we write history.


Namche Bazar, September 27, 2008

We had an early start today. At five o’clock we were trekking up one of the steep hills surrounding Namche Bazar to catch the sunrise of Mt. Everest on film. It was cold and dark but our one hour effort was more than repaid when we saw night turn into day around the highest mountain in the world. Different parts of the mountains was hit by sun, and when the first beams slipped trough and came our way we were almost blinded and al talk stopped. As if nature wanted to remind us of our own insignificance in these surroundings it laid a painting out in front of us that will never be equaled by anything man made.

After a couple of hours at the Everest view point we trekked back to the Drop Zone, where we did an equipment and jump procedures check. The sun was beaming and it was my sight of landing strip from where we are going to take off and land after jumping out at nine kilometers of altitude. The landing strip is basically a 400 meter flat by rocky and bumpy stretch of mountain side, and the last plane to land here touched down in 1992. That was when a commercial operation was attempted to fly rich Japanese tourists there to enjoy the view and stay at the nearby and newly build Everest View Hotel. Predictably, most tourists got sick and the operation was stopped when two tourists died from altitude sickness. Since then, no plane has ever landed on the strip until the Everest Sky Dive plane landed earlier this year as part of the preparations and the luxurious Everest View Hotel has had a hard time filling up all the guestrooms.

Now, we are cleaning up the old runway but for totally different purposes and after today I’m confident that everything will come together even though it has never been tried before. Fingers crossed….!


Namche Bazar, September 26, 2008

On this first rest day of our expedition, we woke up to clear blue skies and a breathtaking view of the towering peaks around us. For the last two days, we’ve been trekking in the valleys of the Himalayas in rain and moist – resembling more of a jungle than mountains. Most views were hidden by the clouds and the vegetation. Now, we’ve reached an altitude where most of the clouds is below us and both views and the air are super. The moist is gone, the level of oxygen has dropped dramatically, and we have had our first real glimpse of the ultimate target for every mountaineer in the world, Mt. Everest. Even in the distance behind other 6000+ peaks, it seems enormous. It has a magnetic feel to it and standing there looking we all knew that, in a week, we would look down on it from above while falling through the air at 200 kilometers an hour.

In the afternoon the clouds came back and hid the scenery as if Mother Nature didn’t want us to get an overdose – but, now, we know it is there. We’ve seen the object of our dreams and we are more determined than ever to sky dive this tallest mountain in the world for the first time in history.


Namche Bazaar, September 25, 2008

Yesterdays trek was a “walk in the park.” It didn’t fell like that at the time but I know better now. After trekking for three hours up the Namche Hill this afternoon, I have parked yesterdays trek from Lukla to Phanding in my memory as a light day at the office. Yesterday we didn’t trek that far. We had plenty of time to film, talk to the locals and enjoy the unbelievable scenery around us. It didn’t even matter much that the rain came and we got completely trenched. We were happy, and we didn’t even climb in altitude. We did today! And we trekked for almost twice as long. And the rain was with us again - all throughout until the “treat of the day:” Namche hill. That “hill” – which is more appropriately labeled a small mountain - has broken the spirit of better men than me, but now the cloudy weather and the low temperatures came in handy.

We climbed more than 800 meter in altitude in three hours on rocky steps and muddy trails. And we were proud! All members of the expedition have come through the day with high spirits and are even more determined to go through with this expedition. In exactly a week, the first of us will jump out of the aircraft in an altitude of nine kilometer – looking down on the summit of the highest mountain in the world


Lukla, September 24, 2008

The incredible short and narrow landing strip emerges from the clouds between two mountains. Rumour has it, that this was the landing strip used for the opening scene in the James Bond movie Golden Eye, and now we can se why. It seems like the landing strip and the whole airport is just hanging on to the mountain side by the needles. The runway runs straight in to nothing! It ends in a vertical drop and the pilot has to turn straight after takeoff to avoid the mountain side just in front of him. Now we are coming in the other way, and the runway looks like a thin needle tucked in between the massive mountains that are towering on all sides of the plane. We hit the asphalt and we hit it hard. The breaks are on when the wheels touch and after less than 200 meters we turn in to the holding spot.

Welcome to the Himalaya a sign says and we can feel it already. After two days caught up in the chaos of Kathmandu we have now landed in the middle of the most beautiful scenery in the world. All around us the mountains reach up and disappear in to the clouds and we stand in one of the most well known spots in the world  if you are a mountaineer. Surrounded by scarcely put up bob wire and guesthouses, Lukla Airport is the place everybody comes through, if they want to go visit Sagarmatha as the locals call Mt. Everest. It is nothing but a small spot of almost even asphalt in the middle of an area where everything else is sloped. Indeed, the runway slopes downwards to give the planes enough speed to take off before the big drop, and the sloping also help them break before they reach the vertical end of the asphalt. Every take off and landing reminds me of the pictures I´ve seen of big aircraft carriers.

I´m packed and ready. My jumpsuit arrived only an hour later than promised so I could get packed and hit my bed around midnight. Four hours of sleep, and we were off. But it´s plenty. Just being here avoids any risk off sleepiness and in front of us lies about six hours of hiking, before we can unpack at Phakding. 


Kathmandu, September 23, 2008 

My jumpsuit is gone! My tailor made, perfectly measured, fitted and customized jumpsuit hasn’t arrived. Or rather – has never been made. All members of the expedition has had a personal jumpsuit made – the first of mine I left in a taxi somewhere in the world – and now the newly ordered suit hasn’t been made. The tailor has misunderstood the order and made me a new nametag instead (!!!). And, yet, we are flying up in the mountains at 5 in the morning…..(!!!).

I spent my day at a small tailor parlor in Kathmandu. He promised to have the suit ready by 10 o’clock tonight so I’m sitting here in the hotel lobby waiting … hoping. And feeling the annoying irritation to the fact that all the small practical things can steel attention from the big picture. Tomorrow, I’m going into some of the most beautiful and dramatic landscape in the world to embark on the adventure of my life. And all I can think about is a missing suit! Because without it I can’t jump!! Sometimes the world seems a little unfair. I hope I’ll get my long vision-goggles back on at 10 o’clock.


Kathmandu, September 22, 2008 

The streets of Kathmandu are a roaring contrast to the crisp and calm majestic beauty that overwhelmed me when my plane was put on hold and we circled for 45 minutes above the highest summits in the world. From almost 30.000 feet in the air, Nepal looks like a study of quiet harmony. Down here, the world looks a little different. Rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, people and dogs are tumbling around in an apparent incurable chaos. Yet, as if by magic and with good help from a variety of vehicle horns, things seem to be moving along. Slowly and absolutely never in at straight line – but they are moving.

The setting of low hanging power lines, a jungle of neon signs, uneasy looking balconies and people trying to sell everything from postcards with holy pictures, hashish, gold watches and scarves just adds to the surreal and very unique charm of this city.

I just arrived this morning. Now I’m trying to get settled in the city and embrace the fact of finally being in Nepal getting ready for the big jump. Only a few of the other sky divers have arrived and while getting acquainted with the new surroundings, my mind keeps wandering forward towards the day – the day that I’m going to be one of the first people in the world to ever freefall from somewhere above the summit of the highest mountain in the world.

In two days, we fly up to the mountains and leave all this chaos behind. I can’t wait; yet, for now, my mind and attention is fully absorbed by a myriad of final details and preparations.