18-24 November 2016 #833

Skydiving off the roof of the world

An adventure so adventurous that it has been listed as one of the 50 ways to be a daredevil by CNN
Samriddhi Rai

Pics: Paul-Henry De Baere

After I started Sammy Adventures fortnightly series in Nepali Times, people have asked me what my most crazy stunt has been. Without doubt, it is the time I sky dove from near Mt Everest. It is an adventure so adventurous that the Everest Skydive has been listed as one of the 50 ways to be a daredevil by CNN. The Explore Himalaya Everest Skydive — an elite jump conducted twice in a year in spring and autumn. This is quickly followed by more affordable dives in Pokhara each year. 

1. Meeting the team 

After signing up, the first thing on the to-do list is meeting the team in Thamel. The first thing that strikes you in that roomful of professional skydivers is how big they are. They need to be since most have to make tandem dives as instructors. Ryan Jackson was my instructor pilot for the big dive and has been closely allied with Everest Skydive expeditions since its inception in the year 2008. Led by Team Leader and veteran skydiver Tom Noonan, the team was complete with experienced divers, engineers and a filmmaker. 

2. The walk

Apart from the fact that you dive right into the lap of the highest mountain in the world, what makes Everest Skydive special is also how you tune in to the surroundings before making the jump. After a flight to Lukla, the team walks down to Phakding (2,640m) on the first day, and treks up to Namche Bazar (3,440m). The next few days are spent getting to know the place and acclimatising by going on short hikes to Khunde, Khumjung or Thame. It is only on the 5th day that the team reaches its skydiving headquarters and primary landing zone in Syangboche (3,780 m). 

3. Jumping off

I was instructed by Ryan to put on my jumpsuit and get rigged for the dive. The previous day we learnt some tips and tricks when up in the air, like safety features, the ideal body posture and how to pose for selfies and videos. At the controls of the Fishtail Air helicopter is ace Italian pilot Maurizio Follini and he coaxes the A350 to climb to 6,000m. With Ama Dablam almost at eye-level I am told to jump off. Surprisingly, I was overcome by a sense of calm and composure. 

As Ryan got to the edge of the chopper, with me buckled like a baby kangaroo, I could see Namche Bazar below looking like an anthill. Then at the count of three, off we went flying down. It felt like I was floating in a beautiful dream that would never end. There was a brief few seconds of fear during the free fall with the wind roaring in my ears. Because the landing zone itself is at quite a height, the free fall did not last more than 13-15 seconds, but it was more than enough to completely push me into a zone of ecstatic in-the-moment living. I doubt anything I do for the rest of my life will ever come close to the Everest Skydive experience. 

Facts and figures 

Apart from the Syangboche Airport  landing zone, Everest Skydive also makes Ama Dablam Base Camp and Gorak Shep landings.  

Price: $22,000 (solo) and $25,000 (tandem)

While Everest Skydive is mostly targeted towards international professional divers, for homegrown adventure-seekers the team organises the annual Pokhara Skydive priced at an average of Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 per dive. 

www.everest-skydive.com

Read more:

Come fly with me, Ted Atkins

Chitlang Heritage Trail, Samriddhi Rai

Mustang in march, Cynthia Choo and Kenji Kwok

Thrill and chill in Pokhara, Samriddhi Rai

Falling with water, Samriddi Rai

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