Triumphing over extreme cold, treacherous ice and people dismissing him as mad, Slovenian Davo Karnicar (pronounced "kar-nee-char") on 7 October became the first person to ski non-stop down Mount Everest. The 38-year-old Karnicar emerged exhausted but exhilarated in his base camp after five hours of skiing which is a world record for the fastest-ever descent of Everest.
At one stage he had to speed over stretches of ice that collapsed and broke underneath him and could have sent him tumbling into the deep crevasses that dot the mountain. "I feel only absolute happiness and absolute fatigue," he said after his successful run landed him in the record books and notched another in a series of bizarre firsts for conquerors of Everest that already includes launching a paraglider from the 8,850-metre summit. The descent by the father of three had been seen by many as insanely dangerous. The Darwin Awards website, which documents and applauds foolhardy deaths, called the descent "madness".
However, the only body to make news on 7 October was a corpse of an unknown mountaineer which Karnicar zipped past as he descended, one of an estimated 120 cadavers thought to litter the slopes. For Karnicar it was a reminder of the potential perils of his sport, but it did not stop him. "This mountain is always full of surprises, seeing a dead man out there was a really shocking experience," he said.
Thanks to strategically placed cameras on the mountain and one attached to his safety helmet, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 70 countries witnessed his descent on the internet. At one stage Karnicar prompted deep concern after he failed to radio in to his support team just before he negotiated a notorious outcrop called the Hillary Step. But it was just the extreme weather hampering the operation of his radio batteries.
In fact conditions were so severe that he abandoned plans to rest on the summit before attempting to descend. Instead, suffering from fatigue, as soon as he reached the top he put on his skis and flung himself back down the mountain. Karnicar has already skied down Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, the Eiger and Annapurna, but Everest was the last great challenge. "My next goal is to ski down Mt Elburz in the Caucusus," Karnicar told us Tuesday on return to Kathmandu. "Once I get sponsors, I want to ski all seven summits within a year."
Tackling Everest had already cost Karnica two fingers in 1996 when a failed attempt saw him get frostbite as a fierce storm lashed the peak. Karnicar comes from an illustrious skiing family in Slovenia and took part in his first Himalayan skiing expedition in 1989. He says: "I have captured my dream, I'm very happy. Extreme skiing, is my sport, my thinking and life itself." Now, the Slovenian wants to open a ski school in the Khumbu. "I want Nepali children to enjoy the joys of skiing just as I did. Who knows, there may be a great hidden talent in Nepal."