Today, ie, 29th May, 2012 marks the Fifth International Sagarmatha (Everest) Day. The Nepalese Himalayan mountaineering fraternity celebrates this day to mark the first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on 29th May, 1953. To celebrate the day Namche Festival is being held in Namche Bazaar in Everest Region and the world’s highest marathon Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon which began from Everest Base Camp is underway. In the capital, various mountaineering and tourism organizations are holding special programs to celebrate the special day.
Everest Skydive is fast becoming a ‘mecca’ for skydiving enthusiasts. According to those who have done it, nothing beats the thrill of freefalling from above Mt. Everest amidst the magnificent Himalayan environment. Bill Booth, veteran skydiver(6100 jumps (including 6 at North Pole) under his belt) from Florida and a participant of Everest Skydive 2011, has led skydiving expeditions to some of the world’s remote corners (Table Top mountain in South America, North Pole etc). According to him, “skydiving in the North Pole and Everest Skydive are the two greatest skydiving experiences in the world.”
Sharing an uncanny resemblance to famous American guitarist Billy Gibbons (of American rock band ZZ Top), warm, affable, and articulate William Ross Booth, aka Bill graciously took time out to share his experience with us.
Bill Booth (Pic: Explore Himalaya)
Excerpts from the interview: EH:How does it feel having skydived at the World’s Highest drop zone? Bill: It is overwhelming. I have got 6100 jumps. I have been to the North Pole 6 times, I have jumped on the mountain tops in South America but the beauty of this is beyond belief. After I landed I thought I was looking at the world on television. It was an amazing feeling. At that certain time your mind is trying to take in so much stuff, that you feel overwhelmed. …you call it sensory overwhelming. It’s so beautiful and the terrain is just so amazing …I have been to the Alps, the Rockies but there’s nothing quite like being near Everest. It’s gorgeous and I would say it’s an absolutely overwhelming experience and pretty much tops anything I have done…and I have done a lot!
EH: Trekking high up in the mountains on your first visit to Nepal. How did it feel?
Will: The trekking was good. It’s really hard coming from Florida after just two days. But you feel like you earned it and you deserved it. I feel you have got to earn the right to get up there. You can’t just fly in a helicopter… it wouldn’t be the same. When you trek you earn the right to get there, you work hard especially the last ascent into Namche. The trek was gorgeous. It’s the best trek I have done so far. I have trekked in Milford Sound in New Zealand, I have walked over the Rockies and the highest mountains in the US, but this experience was on a different scale. It’s very far and exotic and there’s a magic in Everest. For some reason you know, you get a tear in your eye when you see it (Mount Everest) finally ….
Bill’s solo jump from about 30,000 feet (Pic courtesy: Bill Booth), photograph taken by ESD Photographer
EH: What thoughts crossed your mind while you were freefalling? Bill: I made a solo jump from about 30,000 feet. I saw Everest while I made my exit but then I turned my back to it and paid attention to the photographers, so that they may get my pictures right ha ha ha… It was slightly nerve racking because of the terrain. Everywhere you look there are mountains. But I had three guys who had jumped there many times and I saw the way they were heading and turned my parachute the same way. Within 15 seconds I saw the drop zone. I was scheduled to make two jumps, but unfortunately we had to cancel the second jump as we ran out of time.
EH: Will you do this again? Bill: Yeah, of course. I would love to. There are a lot of places I want to go but this has been an unbeatable experience. When I first heard about it, I was like “no way, you can’t do it at that altitude… you are gonna break your limb.” But after I looked at the videos of the first year (ESD 2008), I thought I wanna do that and I finally got it on my schedule.
I recommend everybody to do it (Everest Skydive)because there’s no skydive like this. I have skydived in all the great places that you can skydive in but this experience is unbeatable! Even someone who has never made a jump can easily do it. To see that tandem works here is gratifying!!
2011’s edition of the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon 2011 was held on May 29, 2011 in the Everest Region. Athletes had to cover a distance of 42.19 km stretching from the Everest Base Camp to Namche. Sudip Kulung from Solukhumbu emerged as the winner of the marathon by completing the race in 3 hours 49 mins. 6 secs. Ram Kumar Rajbhandari from Khotang finished second while three-time winner Deepak Raj Rai, clinched the third spot. The winner of the women´s category was Ang Futi Sherpa who finished the marathon in 4 hours 46 minutes 14 seconds. Mingma Lohmu Sherpa came second and Cheechee Sherpa was third.The top three winners in the men´s category bagged a purse of Rs 80,000, Rs 40,000 and Rs 25,000 while the prize for the women´s category was Rs 40,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 16,000 respectively.
In the foreign category, Sylvia Zaskowiee became the first woman to win the title and create a new record in the Everest Marathon. The cross-country skier from Poland finished the marathon in 5 hours 34 mins 6 secs. Christopher Suggit finished second and Tomaz Kulinski came third. Raju Sindhu from India claimed the title of the half-marathon with a timing of 2 hours 44 minutes 15 seconds. The top three winners in both foreign and half-marathon´ categories bagged a purse of Rs 35,000, Rs 21,000 and 14,000.
The Seven Summits Foundation with the support of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 Committee is organizing concerts in the Everest Region to raise awareness about the effects of climate change in the mountains. The concert will be held at Everest Base Camp on March 23rd, at Namche Bazaar on March 26th and at Solu Salleri on April 2nd. Local as well as international artists will be performing at the concert.
Trek to Everest Base Camp
We had an excellent and unusually good weather during our Kailash kora, Rongbuk and Lhasa visit.