Skydivers make unprecedented jump over Everest

Sun Oct 5, 2008 1:21am EDT
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Three skydivers made the first ever parachute jump over Mount Everest on Sunday, organizers and participants said, culminating years of preparation.

About 32 skydivers from more than 10 countries including Britain, Canada, the United States and New Zealand have been in the Everest region since last week to jump from an aircraft flying 465 feet higher than the Everest summit.

On Sunday, Wendy Smith of New Zealand, Holly Budge of Britain and Neil Jones (Canadian/British) made the leap, said Krishna Aryal, an official of the Explore Himalaya, the agency that provided the logistics.

"They looked like tiny birds flying in the blue sky as they jumped from the plane," Aryal, who saw the jump from Syangboche in the Everest region, told Reuters. "This is the first of its kind and has never been tried before."

All three were in freefall for nearly half a minute and then opened their canopies before landing at a flat drop zone after cruising over the mountain, Aryal said.

They used parachutes that were larger than normal size to help them cruise and descend fast through the thin air of the world's highest drop zone. All three wore oxygen masks.

New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first climbed Mount Everest's 8,850-meter (29,035 feet) peak 55 years ago.

More than 3,000 climbers, among them a 16-year-old boy, a 76-year-old man, a man with an artificial limb and a blind person, have since reached the top of the mountain.   Continued...

<p>The summit of Mount Everest, also known as Qomolangma, is surrounded by clouds in the Tibet Autonomous Region May 3, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray</p>