Twenty breathtaking minutes. “It was a magnificent flight. Above, then through and below the clouds. » Pierre Carter set off last week for the first time legally near the summit of Everest, the highest mountain in the world, for a rare flight.
The 55-year-old South African paraglider flew from the southern pass of Everest, at around 8,000 meters above sea level, said Tuesday, May 24, the organizer of the expedition. In total, only twenty minutes were needed for him to reach the village of Gorakshep, located at a distance of 5,164 meters.
The weather conditions dissuaded him from launching from the summit of Everest, at an altitude of 8,849 meters above sea level. “The higher you are, the more difficult it is to take off, because the air pressure becomes more important, and your sail no longer flies as easily”, explained Peter Carter to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
This performance is remarkable, according to Dawa Steven Sherpa, of Asian Trekking, an expedition company based in Nepal, interviewed by AFP : “This is the first time Nepal has issued a flight permit on its mountains. » This experience, according to him, should inspire more than one climber next season, now that the Nepalese authorities seem ready to allow flights from the peaks of the Himalayas. Indeed, so far, only three flights had been recorded from Everest, all carried out without government permission.
A regular of exploits
The first, the French climber and pilot Jean-Marc Boivin, had descended the summit by paragliding, in 1988. In 2001, a French couple had imitated it in tandem, a feat repeated ten years later by two Nepalese mountaineers.
“The authorities are now seeing that this can boost the tourism industry in Nepal, especially after Covid”, claimed Dawa Steven Sherpa. The country reopened its peaks to climbers only last year, after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Carter is not on his trial run. He started climbing as a teenager and quickly became interested in paragliding, a discipline in which he later multiplied his exploits. Since 2005, he has soared from five of the seven highest peaks of different continents, starting with Mount Elbrus, in Russia.
In 2016, Carter reached the summit of Denali, Alaska, but was not allowed to fly. His next goal would be to repeat the feat at the summit of Mount Vinson, Antarctica. Since the beginning of the season, at least three climbers, including one Russian and two Nepalese, have died trying to climb Everest.